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Ready for Anything: Fall Semester Health, Safety, and Calendar Updates

by President James J. Greenfield, OSFS '84 Jun 12, 2020

Dear University Community,

During these very trying days and weeks, as we continue to maintain health and safety in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic while working for racial justice, I share with you important information about our planning and preparation for the 2020-2021 academic year, particularly the upcoming fall semester. 

DeSales University is committed to returning to campus for in-class instruction for the fall semester.  However, we recognize this means there will be some modifications to how life on campus will take place.  We have implemented these changes with the health of our students, faculty, and staff in mind.  These adjustments have been enacted to make our campus even safer and our academic calendar tighter to be prepared for the possibility of a new wave of a coronavirus or flu outbreak.  Members of our administration, faculty, and staff have been planning a great deal, considering even greater uncertainties.  In response, we have adopted an energetic spirit to help us be ready for anything.

In this letter, I address the necessary changes in both our campus environment and academic calendar.

Ready for Anything: A Healthy Campus

In accord with the guidelines set by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Centers for Disease Control that aim to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, we will alter the culture of our on-campus engagement and protocols.  Alongside the interventions directed by the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs, the Office of Campus Environment has worked assiduously to make learning and living at DeSales an experience that is safe and enjoyable.  To this end, we:

  • Have procured COVID-19 testing equipment for use on our campus.  This test has the ability to provide results within one hour.  A reconfiguration to the Wellness Center in the Dorothy Day Student Union includes a COVID-19 suite with a separate outside entrance, examination room, and triage area.  St. Luke’s University Health Network will conduct training with our staff on the protocols of administering the test.
  • Will sanitize high-traffic areas such as restrooms, locker rooms, entrances/exits, and fitness equipment several times daily.  Additionally, frequently-touched surfaces, such as door knobs, keyboards, copiers, coffee machines, water coolers, etc. will be sanitized throughout each day. 
  • Will continue our long-standing best practice of cleaning every bathroom, sink, and vanity in student housing at least once every seven days, providing more frequent service to students upon request.
  • Will maintain strong inventories of personal protective equipment, soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, toilet paper, and cleaning products to ensure levels never run low.
  • Have converted all campus paper-towel dispensers and faucets to touchless equipment where feasible.
  • Have installed automatic door operators on high traffic building entrances and exits.  Doors can be actuated by touchless sensors.
  • Reconfigured classrooms and other learning spaces for decreased capacity in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
  • Will make masks available to all students.
  • Will create a centralized internal COVID-19 response team to include a contact tracing team.
  • Have available COVID-19 specific isolation housing.

It is our belief that these efforts—and more—will allow our students, faculty, and staff to learn and live in an environment grounded in reasonable precautions and cooperative conduct. 

Ready for Anything: An Updated Academic Calendar

As I mentioned above, the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs in collaboration with the Center for Educational Resources and Technology, has designed an updated academic calendar to complete a full fall semester of on-campus learning.  After consultation with the President’s Cabinet and the Academic Oversight Committee, I announce that in an effort to reduce risks of spreading the virus on campus, we will adopt a calendar where fall traditional undergraduate students will participate in on-campus instruction to conclude the Friday before Thanksgiving Day.  This will allow residential students to return home and have ample time to settle and prepare for final exams, to be conducted online.  The academic calendars for fall terms in the ACCESS and graduate programs, unless students are informed by individual program directors, remain unchanged. 

This updated calendar also considers the manner in which on-campus, in-class instruction will be conducted.  In order to provide a flexible and safe learning environment, traditional day undergraduate courses will include a blend of in-class instruction, remote student participation via Zoom as needed, and online engagement via the Blackboard learning management system.  Specific details on how courses will operate are forthcoming, but to ensure that students and faculty are equipped to be ready for anything, I call your attention to the technology requirements for all University courses. 

Specific details of the revised calendar include the following:

  • Freshmen Orientation will begin on Thursday, August 13, 2020.
  • To provide appropriate social/physical distancing for all students to move into residence halls, additional time will be scheduled for them to drop off belongings earlier in August.  Details on this, including dates and times, will be communicated through the Office of Student Life.
  • The first day of classes will be Monday, August 17, 2020.
  • Classes will be held on the Labor Day holiday, Monday, September 7, 2020, and there will be no Pacer Break, originally scheduled for October 12-13, 2020.
  • The last day of on-campus instruction will be Friday, November 20, 2020.
  • The Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving Day will be designated as Reading Days. On these two days, faculty may choose to hold online review sessions during regularly scheduled class times, or post additional virtual office hours, as students prepare for final exams and other assignments due at the conclusion of the semester. 
  • Final exams will be administered online and will be scheduled following the traditional procedures from Monday, November 30, 2020 until Saturday, December 5, 2020.
  • A revised academic calendar for Fall 2020 will be published next week on the University website; it will provide details about other key dates in the semester, such as the pre-registration schedule and deadlines for drop/add, withdrawal, and pass/fail.  

In closing, I am sure that many students may have various questions regarding dimensions of student life, from athletics and the arts to residence life and meal plans.  In the days and weeks ahead, respective leaders of these departments will be in touch with you about relevant details.  

Our ready-for-anything perspective, which I have discussed in this letter, reflects the nimble nature of our University community that emerges from our size and location.  It also springs from our Salesian spirit, grounded in the upbeat, joy-filled, optimistic vision of humanity, which we inherit from our patron, St. Francis de Sales.  During this season of challenge, his vast confidence in people is ours.  Our University community continues to rise to meet and defeat adversities.  I believe in us: Together, we are ready for anything! 

I look forward to seeing you in August.  Until then, enjoy the summer, be safe, and stay healthy.    


James J Greenfield OSFS

James J. Greenfield, OSFS, ‘84