Miami announces plans for fall 2020 return

In a letter to the Miami Community, Miami University President Gregory Crawford announces plans for fall 2020 return.

June 5, 2020

Dear Miami Community,

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all and has created great uncertainty, and all of us are asking what the fall will look like. Today I write to update you on our planning and preparations.

We expect that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future and are planning accordingly. This fall, we plan to welcome our returning students and incoming first-year students to our campuses, our residence halls and to our classrooms. Our dedicated faculty are developing a full range of flexible and engaging curriculum delivery options to ensure the best possible experience for our students.

While our primary emphasis will always be on in-person, personal interaction, we must be creative and adaptable to meet public health measures such as face-coverings and physical distancing requirements. We will selectively employ high quality, evidence-based hybrid approaches where needed, particularly to accommodate students who may need to self-isolate, and those whose health conditions prevent a return to the classroom. In some cases, we may need to have courses online due to social distancing and space limitations. Regardless of the method of delivery, we are committed to providing a Miami-quality education, continuing our relationship-driven, liberal arts foundation, experiential-rich education, founded on character and intellect.

After reviewing our academic calendar and considering scenarios to provide the highest probability of a full and healthy semester on campus, we determined that eliminating travel back and forth to campus at Thanksgiving is the best option for the safety and health of our students and their families, and for our faculty and staff. Therefore, we are planning to begin the fall semester one week early on Monday, August 17, 2020 and to complete all classes before Thanksgiving break, eliminating the need for students to return to complete the semester. Following Thanksgiving, all final examinations will be completed remotely. On campus accommodations will be made for those students in the residence halls who cannot depart. Information on December Commencement will be provided at a later date.

As health and safety are always paramount, we continue to work with local public health officials and follow the guidance and directives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Governor Mike DeWine, and the Ohio Department of Health to safeguard the health of students, faculty, staff and visitors to our campuses. We are also working closely with all of Ohio’s public universities to develop safety guidelines to facilitate the return to our campuses. Among other actions, we are planning to implement physical distancing requirements, daily health self-assessments, the use of face coverings, enhanced cleaning, partitions where appropriate, and take-out dining options. We will provide appropriate education and training on these and other actions we will be implementing.

We are also working with TriHealth, our local hospital and healthcare provider, to develop a plan for testing and have set up a system to isolate and/or quarantine residential students who may be exposed to the virus so they can continue their studies in place while protecting our students, faculty, and staff.

We have already begun a phased return to research and we will soon begin to provide more information for a phased return for other work areas as well. Coordinating our efforts is the Safe Return to Campus Planning and Coordinating Committee, co-chaired by the Chair of the Senate Executive Committee, Dana Cox, and by Gwen Fears, Assistant Vice President of Student Life. The committee is a highly accomplished and experienced team of faculty, staff and students from across our campuses, along with internal and external advisors. The committee will coordinate communication and actions among units on our campuses, and is charged to:

  1. Gather and share ideas and concerns from our community about the return of our campuses.
  2. Develop an ongoing environmental scan on other universities’ actions and national trends.
  3. Review guidance and health practices from government and agency experts for the return to face-to-face instruction, student life and activities.
  4. Provide guidance and serve as a sounding board for many ideas that are proposed around scheduling, events, logistics, equipment, testing and other issues.
  5. Investigate, track and record lessons learned from the crisis.

The committee co-chairs will provide us with weekly updates, the first of which was sent earlier this week. I encourage you to review their updates and visit the committee's website to stay up-to-date on our plans to return in the fall.

Miami is a caring, supportive community, and I thank you again for your support, your understanding, your patience, and especially your collaborative spirit, as we plan for the return to our campuses in the fall. We will continue to keep you updated as more becomes certain.

In Love and Honor,

Gregory P. Crawford