First-year students and select upperclassmen will be allowed to live on campus during the fall semester, Georgetown University administrators announced in an email Monday detailing the plan for fall 2020.
The announcement follows months of uncertainty about the university’s fall reopening plans and mounting student frustration. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to climb across the country, forcing many cities and states to back into lockdown and jeopardizing business and university reopening efforts.
Students with complicated home situations, some resident assistants and some seniors who must be on campus to complete graduation requirements will be allowed to return to campus. Nursing students, ROTC cadets and seniors enrolled in a 5-year master’s program will also be granted on-campus residence, according to a follow up email from Provost Robert Groves. Students already living on campus will not need to apply again to remain on campus during the fall. Every student will live in a single-occupancy room.
“If the conditions of the pandemic permit, we will look at the possibility of moving to a next stage—welcoming additional students back to campus residence halls, beginning with members of our senior class,” University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) wrote in an email to students.
Classes will be held in hybrid-flexible or entirely virtual formats. The plan offers no details on grading policies, tuition changes or a possible extension of the deferral deadline. The plan also did not disclose details about policies concerning international students.
The fall reopening plan includes a slate of health protocols for on-campus activity. All members of the Georgetown community will be tested upon returning to campus; the university will send test kits to all campus-bound students located in the United States. All students living on or near campus will be provided with reusable masks and additional personal protective equipment. Symptomatic people or people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus will be tested on an “ongoing basis.” Additionally, members of the community will be required to routinely document symptoms through a mobile app or questionnaire.
The fall plan also included some financial aid reforms. Students in need of financial assistance but living off campus will receive a “modest living allowance,” as a part of their financial aid package, according to a July 7 email from Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson. Additionally, the Office of Student Employment is working to increase the number of remote work opportunities, according to administrators.
University officials strongly discouraged upperclassmen from leasing homes in the neighborhoods surrounding campus. Any rising junior who rents a home in the area will be required to live on campus their senior year, according to the plan. Most undergraduates will be required to leave on-campus residences by Nov. 20.
In-person dining will be available but will be restricted to minimize occupancy of the dining hall. The university plans on implementing a mobile ordering system, allowing students to order and pick up meals.
Most student activities will be required to transition to virtual formats. New Student Orientation will be hosted completely online, and some in-person activities will be allowed to be held outdoors with significant health restrictions. No decision has yet been made about the resumption of athletics.
“Our planning assumptions have emphasized the importance of flexibility, and the possibility of needing to significantly adjust campus life as local or national guidance changes and as the conditions of the pandemic evolve,” DeGioia wrote. “We will continue to share updates and information as soon as they are available. In the coming days, we will be announcing virtual forums for members of our community—including incoming students and parents—to provide further details and answer questions.”
University administrators were previously considering four possible reopening plans for the fall, according to official slides obtained by The Hoya. Three of the plans entailed bringing some students back to campus; however, campus life and classroom learning would have transformed dramatically given measures for enforcing strict health guidelines. Administrators scrapped those plans July 1, according to notes from a meeting between administrators and student leaders.
Washington, D.C., began Phase Two of reopening June 22, allowing schools, businesses and some public services to resume limited in-person operations. Despite a recent small jumps in community spread of the virus in the District, the city has seen a steady, sustained decrease in community spread of the virus. Georgetown’s reopening plan has yet to be approved by the city.
This is a developing story.