The Latest on Fall Planning

GW will continue to deliver on our core mission, and we will do so to the fullest “normal” extent that is safely possible, President LeBlanc and Provost Blake write.

May 04, 2020

To the George Washington University Community:

We hope that the end of the spring semester is finding you safe and well. Typically, early May finds few of us thinking much further into the future than final exams and summer vacations. But the past several weeks have been far from typical. Understandably, many have been focused on fall, and one of the most common questions we are hearing is: What is GW’s plan?

We do not have all the answers yet, but we are working hard to get them as we prioritize our community’s health and safety and continue to confer with public health authorities, local government and GW’s own internal experts. What we can assure you is that GW will be open.

This does not mean that we will be operating as if nothing in our world has changed since last fall. (Very few, if any, universities will be.) Rather, it means we will continue to deliver on our core mission, and we will do so to the fullest “normal” extent that is safely possible. Our faculty will be teaching, doing research and, in some cases, caring for patients. Our students will be learning, and our staff will be working. Will these activities be in person, virtual or a combination of both? There are simply too many unknowns to make this decision in an informed, responsible and safe manner today.

We continue to plan for in-person instruction and a residential academic experience for the fall, with classes beginning on August 31. This is our goal. However, we must consider all possibilities for GW. Our contingency planning teams of students, faculty, staff and leadership have been regularly discussing various fall operating scenarios and their impacts on enrollment and retention, academic programming, student life, public health, research and the budget.

The teams have discussed, for example, scenarios in which the need for virtual instruction in some form continues. If so, we will take your valuable input, along with our assessment, and use the extra time we have to determine changes we can make to enhance the learning experience. We will also look at what additional resources might be necessary to support health and safety while building community; what guidelines must be in place for social distancing in our residence halls, classrooms, labs and offices; and how we would handle events and larger classes.

Other planning underway includes developing the framework necessary for an eventual return to on-campus operations. One important priority is to ensure that we have the resources and protocols in place for testing, contact tracing and quarantining. It is impossible to imagine a return to campus without these basic public health measures in place.

It is also important to note that under any fall scenario we will need to continue to closely monitor the spread of the virus through the best available data and public health expertise, and we will remain aligned with local, regional and federal guidance. As we have cautioned throughout this pandemic, even the best plans developed now, or a month from now, may require changes as situations evolve. This of course applies to our fall planning as well.

While we do not have all the answers today, please know that we are looking comprehensively at our options, and we remain fortunate to have right here at GW some of the world’s foremost experts to advise on our decisions. As always, the safety and care of our community will drive every action we take. Stay well and wishing all of you the best.

We will send you another update on fall planning by the middle of May.

Sincerely,

Thomas J. LeBlanc
President

M. Brian Blake
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs