The University announced Thursday morning that it will invite about 800 additional students back for in-person classes, cancel spring break and delay the semester’s start date to Jan. 25 and ending in early May.
“Since our cases have been small and we have been really pretty conservative up until now, we thought it was an opportunity to take a little more risk and have more students in person classes and more students in dorm rooms,” Interim Provost Jan Love told the Wheel.
Of the 800 additional students invited back, approximately 375 students are expected to live in residence halls. The invited students span four categories: those in formal research programs, those who require in-person classes to fulfill graduation requirements, first-year students who did not live on campus in the fall and international students.
Overall student compliance with the Emory Community Compact this fall was an important factor in deciding to bring back more students.
“I’m really proud of them and really delighted that student behavior has made it possible for us to expand the number of students we can bring to campus,” Love said.
All students who currently reside in on-campus housing can remain in their current rooms next semester, and the University will keep housing open over winter break for on-campus students experiencing hardship.
The College is still finalizing the course catalog, but there will likely be more in-person classes than the fall, Love said. A number of experiential learning courses in the business school will also be held in person.
The University made the decision to delay the spring semester to provide students, faculty and staff with a long break and to mitigate the flu season’s toll.
“It’s not really possible to wait to start classes until the flu season is over because the flu season lasts through February, but we thought we would start late enough as we could tolerate in January,” Love said.
On-campus residents will continue to receive frequent COVID-19 tests and the University is planning to move to saliva-based tests in the spring. The University is planning for an in-person commencement for graduating students in May 2021, but could not commit completely.
Regarding the detrimental mental health effects of no academic breaks and students’ pleas to implement them, Dean of Campus Life Enku Gelaye does not have specific plans to ameliorate the issue and pointed to expanded mental health resources.
“We know not having a spring break can be distressing for some students because it is not necessarily the travel which most folks associate with spring break, it’s just the downtime,” Gelaye said. “We’re working internally to figure out how we can create those downtimes.”
Love noted that the two-month long winter break was a “wonderful opportunity” for students to “take a very long break in terms of their own mental health and their physical and spiritual and cultural well being.”
Some logistics, like athletics, still have to be sorted out. Gelaye said a group of student athletes, coaches and trainers will form today to review the NCAA’s recently published guidelines and gauge the viability of athletics next semester.
Dining services and building access will likely remain the same as the fall, but “if it changes it will probably be less restrictive,” Gelaye said.