Today, Southwestern University Interim President Dale Knobel announced the 2020 fall semester will start as scheduled on Monday, August 24. In-person instruction will end and residence halls will close when we dismiss for Thanksgiving break. After Thanksgiving, students will participate in distance study and learning sessions, and then take their final exams remotely the week of December 7.

Based on research and advice from medical and public-health experts, all indications are that the threat posed by COVID-19 may peak for a second time in Central Texas sometime in late fall. The University hopes to avoid infections of students, faculty, and staff by beginning on time and dismissing classes before Thanksgiving.

The revised fall schedule also eliminates the Labor Day holiday and fall break in an attempt to reduce the risk of virus exposure by curbing student travel to and from campus. This approach also maximizes students’ time on campus and in the classroom as the University operates under the condensed schedule.

In April, President Knobel appointed members of senior staff, staff subject-matter experts, and representatives of the faculty to the Campus Readiness Task Force.

“I charged the Campus Readiness Task Force with researching all of the information surrounding the current public-health crisis and asked them to come back to me with their recommendations to start and complete the fall semester,” says Knobel. “I also asked the task force to ensure that their recommendations considered the unique educational offering of Southwestern by taking into account the University’s academic and student life programs, as well as its residential campus.”

The task force has met weekly since its inception. Its first recommendation is the on-time start in the fall. The work of the task force will now turn to addressing the protocols and processes the University must have in place to ensure that students, faculty, staff, and visitors are kept healthy and safe as they return to campus in August. Their work will include recommendations for several contingency plans should the rate of COVID-19 infections change dramatically over the summer. 

“Keeping our fall start date gives us a marker to ensure we can now get into the details of getting ready for our campus to reopen,” Knobel adds. “There are still many decisions that need to be made, including course offerings, food services, residential-hall living, classroom accommodations, and required health protocols and monitoring, but I am certain we will continue to make decisions in a way that protects our students, faculty, and staff.”

For more information about Southwestern University’s COVID-19 response, visit www.southwestern.edu/covid19.