William & Mary will be different this fall. We are adapting so you can do your best work.
The well-being of the William & Mary community is paramount as we plan to return to campus in the fall. To help safeguard the health of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and the surrounding community, we are systematically adapting the physical campus, operations and curriculum. Every community member is responsible to one another, committing fully to honor these safeguards out of respect for our close community of learning and work.
We are offering flexibility to provide the W&M community options in responding to their individual circumstances. William & Mary emphasizes wellness, equity and community, focusing on the elements of learning, working and campus life that matter most. By July 1, the provost and deans will offer information on curricular matters to faculty and staff, while the chief operating officer and chief human resources officer will address operational safety aspects of the Path Forward: Fall 2020.
Learning & Curriculum
William & Mary is adapting the academic calendar, class delivery and curriculum choices to protect the health of our community, to minimize travel and to reduce campus presence in peak flu season. Built-in flexibility also reflects W&M’s equity imperative — we provide options for community members with different health situations and changing family and financial circumstances. Our goals are to focus on what matters most in the Path Forward: excellence, mitigating stress and strengthening our community.
William & Mary will offer three semesters for academic year 2020-2021: an accelerated fall semester, plus spring and summer semesters. We will have no fall break.
The fall semester for undergraduates, Graduate Arts & Sciences, VIMS and School of Education will begin one week early on Aug. 19 and end before Thanksgiving. There will be no fall break. The last day of classes for undergraduates, Graduate Arts & Sciences and VIMS will be Nov. 13, and final exams will take place Nov. 16-24. Students will move out of residence halls Nov. 25. Grades are due Dec. 7. Additional program schedules will be announced soon.
Due to the compressed schedule, five extra instructional days will be added, and we will have no fall break. Delivery options include Saturday, evening or online sessions. Each course syllabus will note how and when the extra sessions will be delivered.
To ensure that our students have the opportunity to spend a full academic year on campus, a rich semester experience will be offered next summer. Summer 2021 will include courses that were not offered during the previous two semesters, courses that complement and expand our current programs and offerings, as well as unique programs that can be completed during the summer, such as the new Jump Start Data Science Program and Mason’s Summer Business Institute.
Each school will determine what they intend to offer during the summer, and the deans will work with the provost to ensure that the resulting summer 2021 is a fully coordinated and comprehensive semester. More details about summer 2021 will be announced.
The changes occurring this fall will require flexibility and creativity, including adaptations of learning spaces and modes of course delivery.
Most classes will need to be moved for sufficient physical distancing. The Deans’ offices will work with faculty to decide classroom accommodations. William & Mary is completing an inventory of large spaces available for instruction in the fall, which will allow for more physical distancing of at least six feet for up to 80 participants in a room. Virginia’s Phase 3 of reopening begins July 1; if maintained, this will allow meetings of more than 50 people, including some large lectures. Face coverings are required in all public or communal spaces, including classrooms, and will be provided by W&M. More frequent cleaning of classrooms will also be required.
All courses will be delivered in a format that maximizes meaningful interaction between faculty and student and reflects William & Mary’s high quality of teaching and learning. Almost all courses will be “blended” to some degree, with students learning in real time and instruction delivered both directly and via technology throughout the semester. Faculty are advised to prepare classes in a way that makes it possible to switch to fully remote learning on short notice if public health conditions require it. Instructional design support is available for technology-enhanced instruction.
The Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation is developing an online course, launching July 20, to guide faculty through blended teaching and learning strategies useful in flexible course design. Participants will work with others teaching in a similar modality and identify creative solutions to instructional challenges. The studio also anticipates training student partners to support faculty members by developing educational media, facilitating synchronous Zoom sessions and troubleshooting issues with asynchronous teaching approaches.
Led by the deans, each school will choose in-person and blended strategies, including but not limited to these options:
Credit hours in shortened semester
Because the semester has been shortened by a week of instruction, an additional 50 minutes’ worth of instruction per contact hour must be added. This can be scheduled as one or more additional in-person meetings or as technology-delivered content; any additional meeting dates and content must be listed on the course syllabus. Some examples for a three-credit course are listed:
Wellness in the Classroom
William & Mary is exploring a number of ways to mitigate the stresses of teaching and learning during a global pandemic. These initiatives include limits on course overloads with a process for approving exceptions, curriculum changes, empowering units to partner with students to develop guidelines for reducing stress, developing new ways to strengthen community through academic programs and promoting increased accountability for one another’s health.
Living & Working
Most W&M employees working remotely will continue through July 31. Under the supervision of Cabinet members and Human Resources, specific plans for each department or unit will be developed and shared by managers the week of July 20. While W&M will continue to emphasize telework to the maximum extent possible this fall, we will be increasing in-person work for employees. This will be combined with adaptations to our physical plant and workplace practices that protect community health. Consistent with CDC and VDH guidelines for workplaces, we will systematically rearrange the physical environment to provide for physical distancing, install plexiglass barriers and signage, require appropriate personal protective equipment of employees — and provide ample opportunities for manager training and employee feedback.
W&M will also provide a symptom-tracking app to community members that will issue a daily prompt to assess symptoms. W&M is also installing touchless thermometers on campus. William & Mary is developing a testing program that will likely require students test for COVID-19 upon arrival, and will allow employees to take advantage of optional testing services partially subsidized by the university.
Work Modes & Schedules
William & Mary will continue to emphasize telework to the maximum extent possible; most employees working remotely will continue through July 31. In July, each member of the President’s Cabinet, with their direct reports, will determine the appropriate mode of work for each unit to meet the university’s mission most effectively, while making modifications as needed, given the current public health context. For those required to work on campus, options for alternative work schedules and physical distancing within the workplace will be employed where appropriate.
A Cabinet member may determine that a department can continue working remotely, or blend modes of work, while meeting the university’s mission. As some employees continue to work remotely, work-related activities may require them to return to campus periodically. Thus, each plan for these departments should identify the extent to which employees will be expected to continue working remotely and what activities or circumstances will require employees to return to campus.
Plans should consider adjusting modes of work:
Core On-Campus Functions
William & Mary’s primary goal is to continue providing students an exceptional experience adapted to the realities of operating in the midst of a pandemic. Many core functions require direct contact with students and employees returning to campus to support those interactions. At minimum, core functions may include:
All academic departments and administrative departments that interact directly with students will be expected to develop plans to ensure that employees are available on campus to support student needs in ways that limit risk (pdf) to employees. Some functions may blend in-person and remote modes of work based on the university’s needs and public health conditions.
For areas that don’t require on-campus work, W&M will continue to encourage employees to work remotely through Dec. 31, 2020. Approval for W&M’s remote work policies have been temporarily expedited to enable remote work as determined by Cabinet members through the end of the calendar year.
An employee’s individual circumstances, such as child or elder care or medical condition, may require adjustments to their work schedules or modes of work. Faculty and staff should notify their department head if they have concerns about being able to work in the mode (on campus, remotely or a mix) designated in their department’s plan. The department head will coordinate with Human Resources and the appropriate Cabinet member, who will review the department plan and functional need in the employee’s domain of work.
Requests for Alternate Arrangements in Teaching
A clear, fair and consistent policy regarding expectations of faculty presence on campus for in-person teaching is being developed by the provost in consultation with the deans, Human Resources, Office of Diversity & Inclusion and Faculty Assembly.
Facilities & Work Spaces
To promote health and help prevent the spread of infection, employees are responsible for maintaining their personal offices and work spaces. William & Mary will provide cleaning materials. Face coverings are required in all public or communal spaces, including classrooms. Students will be responsible for cleaning class desk space before and after use.
Employees are asked to take their personal trash to a public space for disposal, which will protect custodial staff from needing to enter individual offices and facilitate more frequent cleaning of public, high-touch areas. Employees are advised to partner with Facilities Management for physical adjustments to public-facing areas and areas where physical distancing can not be maintained.
William & Mary is designing signs for use around campus to promote safe practices. Please contact Kristen Fagan, risk manager for finance and administration, to arrange for consistent signage.
The need for physical distancing in classrooms will require that instruction expand into spaces ordinarily available for student or administrative use. William & Mary is working on a system of centralized scheduling of spaces to support instruction.
Events & Travel
Campus gatherings, including university, school, department or student events and meetings, are subject to public health guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Virginia Department of Health and the governor. Current guidance (pdf) limits indoor and outdoor campus gatherings to 50% of a facility's capacity, or 50 people, whichever is less, so long as physical distancing can be maintained. External events and those with visitors should be converted to virtual gatherings. Exceptions will include a small set of university traditions, as approved by the President’s Executive Leadership Team.
Campus remains closed to the public through July 31. For fall 2020, use of space is dedicated to core mission activities – teaching, learning, research, student groups and activities – and restricted to the campus community.
No university-sponsored travel will take place this fall unless required to meet obligations of externally sponsored research or state scientific advisory services.
Our top priority for the Class of 2020 remains an in-person Commencement, with all the ritual, celebration and convening with friends that our graduates long for and deserve. Based on Virginia’s early summer projections, Oct. 9-11, 2020, falls within the governor’s loosening of in-person gatherings. If pandemic conditions prohibit convening in number, William & Mary has reserved May 23-25, 2021, as alternate dates. William & Mary will make a final decision on the timing of Commencement 2020 by July 31.
Health & Safety
While on campus, all members of the W&M community are expected to commit to specific safeguards for one another’s health.
Face coverings are required in all public or communal spaces, including classrooms. William & Mary will provide wellness kits to employees as they return to campus. These kits include cloth masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. Face shields and sneeze guards will also be provided as necessary. Hand sanitation stations will be placed strategically across campus. COVID-19 training may be mandatory.
Most W&M employees working remotely will continue through July 31. Extending telework into the fall as the norm for employees whenever possible is one step in limiting the spread of COVID virus. Realizing that more staff will return to campus along with our students, supervisors will determine the flexibility for units and individuals to telework as the campus reopens. For those required to work on campus, options for alternative work schedules and physical distancing within the workplace will be deployed where appropriate.
William & Mary is developing a testing program that will likely require students test for COVID-19 upon arrival, and will allow employees to take advantage of optional testing services partially subsidized by the university. Testing and contact-tracing protocols are being developed in partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia and other universities in our public higher education system.
Employees who belong to a more vulnerable group and have concerns about returning to work should first talk with their supervisors. Additional guidance for such cases will be forthcoming from Human Resources.
All employees should continue to monitor their own health. Do not come to work if you are sick, have COVID-like symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who may have the virus. If this is the case, tell your supervisor and contact a healthcare professional.
William & Mary is coordinating the COVID-19 response with leaders in the City of Williamsburg and Virginia Department of Health, and we are following public health guidelines (pdf) for university reopening. As public health officials improve our understanding of how to safeguard communities while returning to in-person life and work, we will evolve our practices.
Support & Engagement
Residential universities uniquely intertwine service work and knowledge work. To the extent that W&M can adapt to sustain this unique model, we can also sustain our economy and workforce through the shocks of a pandemic. As much as possible, W&M has an obligation to ensure the prosperity of our employees and region.