Update on Brandeis' Near-term Plans

May 20, 2020

Dear Members of the Brandeis Community,

I hope that you are all healthy and finding ways to retain positivity in these challenging times.

I am writing to provide an update on our planning related to COVID-19, especially in light of Governor Baker's recently released plans for "reopening" Massachusetts.

First, to remove any question to the contrary, Brandeis will be holding classes come the fall semester. While we hope to resume classes in person and on campus, there are a number of factors that will determine whether classes will be in person, by remote learning, or a mixed hybrid format. Many of these factors depend on state and federal guidelines. And as we make sure to adhere to these guidelines, we will keep the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff as our top priority.

As a sign of Brandeis "scaling up" its operations in accordance with Governor Baker's plans, the university intends to start re-opening its science labs beginning May 26, subject to finalizing an operations plan as required by the state. This activity is part of "Phase 1" of a four-phase plan to reopen the Commonwealth that was presented earlier this week. Provost Lynch will provide greater detail for faculty and staff related to the university's operational plan for our labs and research activity in a forthcoming email.

As I reported in my May 1 message, an academic working group made up of faculty, staff, and administrators is considering multiple scenarios for the fall, and will present recommendations to the university’s COVID-19 Task Force and senior administration in the coming weeks. Our guiding principles include maintaining our standards of academic rigor in our scholarship and teaching, providing extensive student support services, and ensuring opportunities for social engagement among students.  

Our final determination on the fall semester will be based on a number of thresholds set by state and federal government and guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control. The availability of effective therapies for COVID-19, the reliability, availability, and extent of testing, a system of effective contact tracing, the ability to maintain public health standards of physical distancing in our residence halls, classrooms, and dining facilities, and the securing of rooms for isolation or quarantine will all factor into fall semester planning. Under every scenario, we will support our dedicated faculty so that they can remain flexible in their teaching and accommodate those who may not be able to take classes in person.

I very much understand that we would all like to know today exactly what the fall semester will look like, but there remain many unanswered questions. We will provide further details and answers to those questions by early July so all of us can plan and remove the uncertainty that I know weighs heavily on so many.

We will continue to provide you with updates in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, I thank you for your patience, and I wish you good health.