Brandeis Academic Calendar and Study Abroad Announcement

June 4, 2020

Dear Members of the Brandeis Community,

The work of the Brandeis University COVID-19 Task Force and its eight working groups continues to advance, including the review of alternative scenarios for the delivery of fall courses including online, in-person, and hybrid models of instruction.  While the final decision on the mode of instruction for the fall semester (in-person, online only, or a mix of both) will be announced by President Liebowitz in early July, the COVID-19 Task Force has recommended and we have accepted the following: 

Brandeis University will begin undergraduate and graduate classes on Wednesday August 26, 2020, one week earlier than originally planned.   

Classes will finish by December 3 and there will be an extended Thanksgiving break from Monday November 23 – Friday November 27.  Regardless of whether classes are in-person, online, or a mix of both from August 26 to November 20, all post-Thanksgiving activities, including the last week of instruction, study days, and the final exam period, will be online to reduce the need for additional travel and return back to campus. The new calendar for the fall semester for Brandeis University is available on the University Registrar website

We recognize that every change to the fall semester has an impact on all members of our community.  We are sharing information about the revised academic calendar now, even though we are not yet ready to announce a final decision on how we will be holding classes, to allow students, faculty, and staff to immediately begin planning for this new calendar start date for the fall semester.  These modifications to our academic calendar were carefully developed by the Academic working groups of the COVID-19 Task Force that includes faculty, staff, and student representation.  They were also reviewed and supported by the Committee on Academic Standards and Policy and the Faculty Senate.  

Work of the COVID-19 Task Force and the eight working groups continues to examine a wide range of issues including how to best support faculty so that they are prepared to offer both remote as well as in-person instruction, should circumstances allow for the latter.  By having faculty so prepared we will be able to support those students who might be delayed in arriving in person on campus due to visa issues, and those students or faculty who have health concerns that may limit their ability to participate face to face in class.  As a first step, the School of Arts and Sciences has decided to offer a suite of remote courses in the fall for first year undergraduate students who are unable to physically come to campus until the spring 2021 semester.  We will continue to update the campus community on the work of the Task Force, and encourage you to reach out to the respective chairs of the working groups or any of us with your ideas, questions, and concerns.

The second announcement I share today concerns fall study abroad programs.  Given the uncertain nature of the global health crisis’ continued effects on both public health and travel between countries, Brandeis University has made the difficult decision to suspend all study abroad for the fall 2020 semester and international student exchange programs that bring students from other universities to the Brandeis campus for the fall semester.  This includes all in-person and/or virtual programs, international or domestic, as well as the fall terms of all academic year-long programs.   

This decision was made in consideration of a number of factors, including, but not limited to: student health and safety, rapidly evolving travel restrictions, cessation of visa services, country-specific entry requirements, impacts on academic calendars around the world, and potential consequences of international students’ presence to local healthcare providers’ capacity should there be a resurgence of COVID-19. We announce this decision now to ensure that all students who had applied to participate in a study abroad program have ample time to adjust their plans to continue studies at Brandeis for the fall semester. 

While no Brandeis undergraduates will be permitted to study abroad for the fall, the university is fully committed to assisting students who were previously approved in revising fall plans and considering study abroad options for the semesters ahead. The Office of Study Abroad will be in touch with all students who planned to study abroad for the fall 2020 semester and academic year 2020-2021 to discuss next steps. Please note that the decision on study abroad does not impact international Brandeis students who could be taking Brandeis classes from their home countries should we have online or hybrid instruction in the fall. 

Additionally, given the fact that the world remains at a CDC Level 3 travel advisory, the Brandeis University travel ban remains in effect.  This means that there is still no university-sponsored travel (international or domestic) for students, faculty, and staff without approval by the Provost.  As soon as there is any change to this policy I will let you know.  

Last week, in alignment with Governor Baker’s Re-Opening Massachusetts guidelines, we began the process of re-opening our science research labs at Brandeis.  As of Friday May 29, many labs at Brandeis had successfully begun the process of re-starting their research work, and over 400 faculty, staff, and postdoctoral and graduate students had signed up for or already completed COVID-19 safety training.  The re-opening of our scientific research labs, albeit at reduced density and with new health and safety protocols in line with state and federal guidelines, could not have happened without the extraordinary dedication and hard work of staff and faculty.  I look forward to announcing in the coming weeks additional research and arts space openings on a limited basis.  

As always, our decisions on the pace at which we continue to re-open our campus research and arts facilities, and our plans for in-person, online, or hybrid instruction for the fall semester will be informed by data and science, and in compliance with state and federal guidelines.  In addition, we will work to mitigate COVID-19 health risks through attention to hygiene, physical distancing, screening, and mask usage, as well as a commitment to a culture of social solidarity that transforms the ways in which we live and work together. 

Sincerely,

Lisa M. Lynch
Provost and Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy