Starting this fall, Stanford University will alternate bringing half of its undergraduate students to campus during different quarters, with the majority of courses still happening online — even for students who are living there in person.
The university announced its plans for the next school year in a message to undergraduate students on Monday. Under the new schedule, which is subject to change given local health conditions, freshmen, sophomores and new transfer students will live on campus for the fall quarter and then learn remotely until the Summer 2021 quarter. Juniors and seniors can return to campus in person for winter and spring quarters next year.
A limited amount of housing will be available for undergraduate students who need to live on campus longer than their designated quarters due to special circumstances, including international students who may face travel or visa complications; students experiencing homelessness; students with home environments that prevent them from being able to participate in a remote learning environment or are unsafe; and student-athletes approved to prepare for and compete in their intercollegiate seasons, Stanford said.
No student will be required to return to Stanford for in-person instruction.
In the message to students, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Sarah Church cautioned that campus life won't look or feel the same when they return to Stanford.
"While we very much look forward to welcoming undergraduates back to campus, we need to be clear about what you should expect: The safeguards we will need to implement will fundamentally change the student experience," they wrote. "We are working with a group of students this summer to start creating ways to help students get acquainted and spend time with friends; however, there will be significant restrictions on in-person classroom use, dorm life, social life, guests and travel."
Most if not all classes will still be offered online, even for students living on campus, the administrators wrote. It is "highly unlikely" that Stanford will allow campus events and parties next school year, they said, and even small gatherings could be limited. All undergraduates will live in single rooms or two-room doubles on campus. The university is encouraging students to bring to campus only "essential items, things they can carry on their own if the need arises," given the alternating housing schedule and "the uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic," Brubaker-Cole and Church wrote.
Students will have to wear masks whenever they leave their rooms, including in the common areas of dorms and anywhere on campus.
"COVID testing, contact tracing, and quarantine/isolation will become a regular part of student life," they wrote.
The Studio 2 building in Escondido Village will house any undergraduate and graduate students who are required to quarantine and residences on the Row will serve as isolation housing for students who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Stanford is working to make the in-person experience special for freshmen and sophomores as well as offer "community building and support" while they're not at Stanford. The university is developing public service, internship and job shadowing opportunities that students will be able to participate in when they're not on campus.
The university said student, staff and faculty input helped to shape the plan, including most students' desire to to be on campus with students in their cohort year and seniors and many juniors have the least flexibility in course choices given they're closer to graduating. With commencement in the spring, it would also be "impractical" for seniors to live on campus in the summer.
Stanford's fall quarter will begin on Sept. 14. The university plans to announce soon the start and end dates for winter, spring and summer quarters.
For students who are eligible for financial aid, assistance will be available for three quarters of enrollment.
Stanford is still determining move-in dates for early September and how to bring students in while adhering to social distancing and other public health requirements.
Other "things we're still working on," Brubaker-Cole and Church wrote, include determining a grading policy for the academic year, creating processes for required testing, contact tracing and quarantine/isolation and figuring out how campus organizations like fraternities and sororities will operate.
Stanford will continue to update undergraduates and their parents about the 2020-21 academic year through a series of weekly newsletters.
"As with all planning for next academic year, this plan is dependent on our ability to safely reopen in alignment with county orders and with the guidance of public health officials," Brubaker-Cole and Church wrote. "We may change this plan if there is a surge in COVID cases, or if there is, for example, a vaccine that allows us to bring more students to campus safely."
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.