Week of June 15, 2020

Plans for Fall Semester 

Sent: June 16, 2020

To the Dickinson community: 

Thank you all for your patience as we have carefully worked through a variety of reopening scenarios. Like every other college and university in the country, Dickinson has been challenged by a situation without precedent in our history.

I am pleased to announce that we intend to bring all students back to campus, with the fall semester now scheduled to begin August 17. Our framework for fall was shaped by our guiding principles of protecting the health and safety of our entire community, while still providing a rigorous Dickinson education.

Since the pandemic began, our decisions have been based on state health guidance and regulations, as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other national public health experts with whom we have been in constant consultation. It is important to note that the plan I outline here is based on the best currently available information from public health officials. If the course of the virus changes, we may be forced to change our decisions as well. This is a new virus and we must all remain flexible as we work to combat it.

Under our framework, Fall Pause will be suspended this year. In-person classes will end November 20, with a remote exam period the week following Thanksgiving. We are ending the in-person portion of the semester early and ask that students move out early because public health experts predict that there could be a resurgence of the pandemic in late fall and winter. We will also be ready to move to remote instruction at any time during the semester should that become necessary.

I thank the teams of faculty, staff and students who have been working through various committees to develop our plan. Our Fall Reopening Committee evaluated various scenarios for the fall, while our Ready For Fall Academic Working Group has worked to make sure that our academic programs will remain excellent whether we are in-person or remote. Now, our Fall Implementation Committee, chaired by Neil Weissman, provost and dean of the college, and Bronte Burleigh-Jones, vice president for finance & administration, is working through the many complex details we need to coordinate for a safe and successful reopening.

Much more information will be forthcoming for staff, faculty and students in the coming weeks. Information on housing selection for students can be found below. The Centennial Conference, in which our athletics teams compete, is expected to announce a decision about fall athletics in early July, and we will let you know as soon as we have it.

Some students will be unable to return to campus because of travel restrictions or underlying health concerns. We will work with you to make sure that you can continue your academic progress through Dickinson.

We are confident that we will have the necessary testing available, as well as a robust contact tracing program in place. We will have designated space for students who may contract COVID-19, as well as for those who may have been in close contact with someone who becomes ill. We are fortunate to have several large health-care systems in the area, and we are working in partnership with them on developing testing and tracing procedures.

In addition, we have implemented extensive and robust cleaning protocols throughout campus and are following all public health guidelines on reopening.

As you know, advice and regulations concerning COVID-19 have shifted frequently during this pandemic. This plan will change if advice from public health officials or the course of the pandemic necessitates a different approach.

A Resilient Community

Each member of our community has an important responsibility to act in a way that will prevent the spread of COVID-19. Campus life will have to look quite different, and we will all be required to make changes in our behavior for the time being.


We will be required to carefully monitor our health, to wear masks when we are in common spaces, to follow proper hand-washing practices, and to follow social distancing guidelines. We must start from a position of mutual respect, understanding that the decisions we make, the things we do, impact those around us. And we must continue our work together to be sure that everyone feels safe on this campus, that everyone has a voice, and that we can learn and practice civic engagement safely. COVID-19 will not prevent us from our continuing work to be a more inclusive campus, to root out racism and to continue to help build a more just, equitable and sustainable society.

Health and Safety

Throughout our planning process, the health and safety of our community has been at the forefront of our priorities, of course. The Fall Implementation Committee of staff and faculty, including Wellness Center staff, is working to create a comprehensive health plan, and we are leaning on local hospital systems for assistance.

It bears repeating: we will have strategies in place to monitor the health of our community, isolate those who are suspected or confirmed to have the virus, and track those who have been in contact with those individuals.

Universal precautions, such as expanded cleaning protocols, social distancing and wearing face coverings, will be required on campus.

Only essential travel will be permitted during the semester.


The academic experience will be significantly different than normal. A Dickinson education centers on in-person interaction. While that remains our goal, it will be modified. Social distancing in classrooms will limit the in-person dimension of many classes. Many classes will have a large remote component. Some, particularly where faculty are, for health reasons, not doing in-person instruction, will be fully remote. And we will likely have to expand the daily schedule into evening hours. Students can count on faculty to do their best to find ways to connect with them and enrich their learning experience, albeit within health parameters set by the pandemic.

As I said before, should health considerations dictate, we will be prepared to move to remote instruction quickly if such a change is warranted.

Student Life

Life outside of the classroom will look different, too. Rather than gather in indoor social spaces as in the past, more activities will be held outside, and social distancing will be practiced.

Room selection will take place July 7 through July 9. Rising seniors will select July 7, rising juniors July 8 and rising sophomores July 9. Students who do not have internet access at the time of their selection will be able to designate a proxy to select for them. Residence Life & Housing will send more information on this in the next week.

First-year housing assignments will be available by July 24. First-year students who would like to request a roommate should do so on their roommate preferences form (under student forms in Gateway) by July 1. Requests must be mutual to be honored, and they are not guaranteed.

Student Leadership & Campus Engagement staff will be in touch in the next week to share changes being made for new-student orientation and to provide more information about what to expect.

Many Student Life resources and services will be available in the fall. However, consideration must be given for the health and safety of the community. Therefore, students should expect an increased offering of virtual events and outdoor activities in an effort to reduce personal contact and limit large group gatherings.

Dining, too, will look different. Students will be divided into cohorts and provided instructions on where, when and how they can access dining services. Increased grab-and-go options will be available.

Students, please carefully consider the belongings that you bring with you. While we are planning to end the semester before Thanksgiving, if the course of the pandemic changes, you may be faced with having to leave campus quickly.

Dickinson Strong

I know that this email does not answer all questions you may have, but I wanted to update you about where we are so that you can begin your planning. These past few months have been very challenging for everyone, and I have been inspired by the way Dickinsonians have come together to meet those challenges. Your flexibility, resilience and goodwill during the past four months have been remarkable. I am enormously grateful. I know, as you know, that together we will continue to provide the Dickinson education for which we have been so long renowned, and to educate the civic leaders we so desperately need at this moment in our history.

Stay safe and stay Dickinson strong.


Margee M. Ensign