June 3, 2020

Our Fall Academic Calendar

Dear Goucher students, faculty, and staff,

This is the first of a series of weekly emails we will be sending out this summer spelling out our plans for the fall. Subsequent emails will come from the Fall Re-Opening Taskforce, a group of thirty-five faculty, staff, and students who are working together to ensure that we can safely resume instruction on campus this fall. Each week we will try to focus on one major component of our plans and posting updates to our website.

This week’s topic: changes to our fall academic calendar and schedule.

Why Change our Academic Calendar?
One of the biggest changes we will be making this fall is to alter our academic calendar and move to a compressed schedule. The Taskforce’s primary job is to ensure for the safe return of our students, faculty, and staff to campus this fall, and one of the easiest ways we know how to reduce the incidence of community spread of any virus on campus is by eliminating breaks within the semester. This minimizes the times students and/or faculty might potentially fly home for a break with family and then return back to campus. By eliminating both the mid-semester fall break and ending the semester before Thanksgiving we can significantly reduce the potential for community spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on campus.

So, What Actually Changes?
To ensure that we allow for the same amount of course instruction and study time as would normally occur over the course of a typical 15-week semester but in a compressed time frame we first need to eliminate the fall mid-semester break as well as the Labor Day holiday. Additionally, if we want to complete the entire semester prior to Thanksgiving so no one needs to return to campus after Thanksgiving weekend we also need to start the semester earlier than normal. This allows us to complete an entire semester by Tuesday, November 24th. So, in total, the changes to the fall Academic Calendar would look like this:

  • The first day of classes moves from Thursday, August 27th to Monday, August 24th
  • Classes will meet on Labor Day, Monday, September 7th
  • Fall break is canceled and classes will be held on Thursday, October 15th and Friday, October 16th
  • The last day of classes now becomes Wednesday, November 18th
  • Final experiences/exams will be scheduled from Saturday, November 21st through Tuesday, November 24th

I have attached an abridged version of our Academic Calendar for 2020-21 (PDF) reflecting these changes for the Fall semester. This simplified version of the academic calendar does not include additional important dates such as move-in days, add/drop deadlines, etc. A complete version of our academic calendar will be posted to the Goucher website by next Monday, June 8th if not sooner.

Also, please note: we have not made any changes to the Winter Intersession or Spring 2021 semester academic calendar at this time. However, due to popular demand, we will be providing students with even more online course options over winter intersession. Stay tuned!

What About Class Times?
To make sure we can end the fall semester prior to Thanksgiving, we also needed to make some minor alterations to the daily class schedule. In most cases this consists of nothing more than extending each class session from five to fifteen minutes as needed to ensure that the total instructional time for the semester meets the minimum Federally mandated guidelines for a “credit hour.” As we compress the academic calendar we want to be sure we’re not short-changing anyone the education they came to Goucher to receive in the first place.

So, for example, a typical Monday/Wednesday/Friday class that previously ran from 8:00 am to 9:10 am will now run until 9:15 am, and a class that previously started at 9:20 am will now start at 9:25 am. You will be able to check out the entire class schedule once it is posted next week.

What About Class Locations?
In many cases, to allow for proper physical distancing, we may need to change class room assignments. We don’t want either our students or our faculty putting themselves at risk by meeting in spaces that are too confined given what we now know about how the virus spreads. Consequently, we are working with our campus operations staff this summer to make modifications to many of our classrooms to comply with physical distancing guidelines and in some cases are repurposing larger rooms in the Athenaeum, Heubeck, Kraushaar, and elsewhere on campus into use as classrooms for the fall semester so we can provide adequate meeting spaces for all our classes.

We are also installing webcams in every single classroom, and additional flat screen monitors where appropriate, to ensure that our faculty can teach in a hybrid fashion with some students who may be immunocompromised or unable to return to campus attending a class virtually while other students are physically in the classroom. We anticipate that we will continue to make adjustments throughout the summer based upon course-specific enrollments and the various needs of each faculty member.

Do I Need to Re-Register?
The simple answer is “no.” However, to ensure that we are adequately communicating the various changes we are making to the fall semester, both small and large, we are requiring all students to confirm their fall registration. All undergraduate students will receive an email next week with instructions on how to review and confirm your course schedule for the fall.

In a very small number of cases (28 at last count) we have identified potential class conflicts that will require the student to contact their academic advisor and discuss what options they might have for enrolling in (a) another section offered at a different time, or (b) possibly swapping out one course for another. We realize this is an inconvenience for these students and for that we apologize. With over 1,300 undergraduate students we were bound to have some scheduling conflicts and we feel fortunate it is only a small percentage (2%) of our total student population.

Additionally, when you confirm your course registration you will also be asked to read and confirm that you are willing to comply with our updated list of community standards that we are putting in place this fall. This includes an updated Addendum to the Student Code of Conduct that will require adherence to physical distancing standards we expect all our community members to respect while physically on campus.

If individuals do not feel comfortable returning to campus or do not feel that they can adhere to the guidelines, we will work with students to arrive at other alternative options to continue their education online, as much as possible.

What About Residence Halls?
The Fall Re-Opening Taskforce is finalizing its recommendations for how we’ll be operating residence halls and dining this fall and what changes you will see given the need to keep our community safe. We have also updated our residency requirements to provide our students with greater flexibility during this difficult time. Look forward to receiving additional information next week on how you will be able to confirm whether you intend to stay on campus, will be commuting, or joining classes remotely in the fall.

Until then, stay safe, and be strong with everything going on in the world and in our country right now. We are here for you, and we look forward to welcoming you back to campus in the fall.

– Kent

Kent Devereaux, President