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Brown undergraduate classes will be fully online until at least Oct. 5

In updated fall reopening plan, most students may not return to campus until ‘phase two’

Updated 12:06 P.M. August 11, 2020

The University is implementing a “phased approach” to in-person undergraduate instruction and student returns to campus in light of the shifting public health landscape, according to the Healthy Brown website.

As part of this approach, all undergraduate courses will be taught remotely until the week of Oct. 5, meaning in-person teaching will resume at least two weeks later than initially planned — or not at all.

A limited number of students will be allowed back on campus prior to this date, as part of phase one of the fall term. Most undergraduates will likely be invited back to campus in phase two. The University will make a decision by Sept. 11 about proceeding with phase two or shifting to a fully remote semester.

Students invited to campus for phase two of reopening may choose to continue to study remotely, and faculty members may choose to teach their courses remotely if they have health concerns even if in-person classes begin in phase two. Employees who are able to continue their work remotely in the coming months will do so, according to the Healthy Brown website.

Graduate and medical students will still return to campus before Sept. 7 for in person instruction in most cases, Paxson wrote.

Undergraduate students living off-campus are “discouraged from returning to campus until late September,” Paxson wrote.

Public health conditions

The beginning of the second phase will depend on whether the in-state severity of the virus has sufficiently declined.

“If by September 11, COVID-19 cases in Rhode Island have declined from their current level over a 14-day period and the number of students who test positive for COVID-19 is sufficiently low, then we will follow our current plan to offer many smaller undergraduate courses (with no more than 20 students) in person beginning on October 5,”  President Christina Paxson P’19 wrote in an Tuesday email to community members.

“If these conditions are not met by September 11, the remainder of the semester will be remote,” she wrote.

Undergraduates who live in environments that are unsafe or unconducive to remote study, who have planned research and laboratory work or who cannot return home because of international status will be able to apply to return to residence halls before Labor Day.

Paxson’s email follows a wave of announcements from institutions across the country who have altered plans to bring students back to campus — or reversed those plans altogether. Howard University and Princeton University were among the institutions that announced they will be moving completely online for the fall semester last week. In their decisions, both cite difficulty in quarantine procedures for students, health risks for surrounding communities and diminished quality of on-campus experience.

Following months of successful efforts to reduce the number of coronavirus cases in the state, new infections began to gradually increase over the past month. Governor Gina Raimondo announced the extension of Phase 3 and a reduction in size of social gatherings to 15 people on July 29.

“It is unclear whether cases will decline or continue to rise in the coming week,” Paxson wrote. “We must confront the reality that bringing students back in smaller numbers is the safer course,” she added.

Academics, campus life

This newly-adopted phased approach to the start of in-person instructions does not impact the tri-semester model announced last month, Paxson wrote. “The expectation is that first-year students will still arrive for the spring term and continue to the summer term,” she added.

The pre-registration process will continue as planned, with students receiving their initial course registrations on Aug. 14 and the add/drop period following from Aug. 17 to Sept. 22. Students can order physical or digital course materials through the Brown Bookstore website beginning Aug. 24.

From Aug. 22 to Sept, 15, students living both on- and off-campus will be expected to adhere to the University’s quiet period. During this time, students are “expected to remain in their residents halls except for a limited number of specific essential activities,” wrote Eric Estes, Vice President for Campus Life, and Rashid Zia, Dean of the College, in a campus-wide email Tuesday.

During this time the University will be following quarantine requirements put in place by the Rhode Island Department of Health. This includes “wearing masks, social distancing, testing, contact tracing, and limiting the size of social gatherings for attendees and especially hosts,” Estes and Zia wrote. Failure to comply with these requirements will be considered a violation of the University Code of Student Conduct.

The new staggered arrival plan means previous housing requests by students to live with friends on campus no longer apply. “Returning to campus before Labor Day will invalidate any prior requests for specific neighbors unless they also apply for and receive permission to move in at the end of August,” Estes and Zia wrote. Students who return in the first phase will likely be reassigned to a new room upon the return of the remaining students in the second phase depending on the public health situation.


Jack Walker

Jack Walker served as senior editor of multimedia, social media and post- magazine for The Herald’s 132nd Editorial Board. Jack is an archaeology and literary arts concentrator from Thurmont, Maryland who previously covered the Grad School and staff and student labor beats.


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