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President Price Provides Update on Fall Semester

Dear Duke Community,


In May I reported that Duke’s goal was to enable as many of our students who choose and are able to return to campus for the fall semester to do so. I also presented the changes in student and campus life that would be necessary to meet this goal.  Today I want to provide an update on our planning.

Over the past several months, our faculty and academic leadership, student affairs specialists, facilities and operations teams, health professionals, and countless others across the university have worked tirelessly to create the opportunity for Duke students to continue their education in the safest, most engaging way possible on our campus.  We have also been monitoring public health conditions in North Carolina and across the country.  

While the trends we see today are concerning, we believe that the many safety precautions we are putting in place will allow us to responsibly continue along the path towards opening Duke’s fall 2020 semester on campus in August.  We ask all members of the Duke community – students, parents, faculty and staff – to recognize and accept that we may need to change our plans based on public health and other considerations.  

We are proceeding on this path only after a rigorous internal process that continues to have as its highest priority the health and safety of the Duke community. Our process has been informed by, and decisions have been determined with, guidance from medical and public health leaders, and experts in infectious diseases, epidemiology, environmental health, and clinical care in the School of Medicine and the Duke University Health System.

To be sure, the upcoming semester will look very different, with an altered schedule, new ways of engaging with our work and each other, and unfamiliar sights on campus.  Even so, it will still be Duke, a community that is defined by outrageous ambitions, boundless passion, and a deep commitment to our core values of respect, trust, inclusion, discovery and excellence.

Let me provide an update on the changes in campus life that will be in place for the fall semester:

  • The Academic Calendar has been revised to concentrate our time together and minimize the risk of widespread travel.  The first day of class will be August 17, final exams will conclude by Thanksgiving and there will be no fall break.  First-year students will begin move-in in phases beginning the week of August 10.  Graduate and professional school schedules will be provided directly by those schools.
  • Classes will take place in one of four formats:  Face to face in newly configured classrooms and other spaces on campus; online (live with a regular meeting time); hybrid (face to face with significant online components) and online asynchronous, in which lectures are recorded for viewing at any time but discussion and lab work takes place online.
  • Undergraduate students living on campus will have revised housing and dining options to maximize residential safety.  First year students will be assigned to both East and West Campuses in dedicated first-year spaces, while returning students in Duke housing will be assigned to West Campus, 300 Swift Avenue, and to designated spaces in nearby hotels and apartment buildings.  
  • Upon arrival to Durham, all undergraduate students who are in residence on the Duke campus or in Durham will be tested for COVID-19 before they are permitted to begin classes or move into residence halls.  We have put in place both processes and facilities for contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, and support plans for those students who test positive for COVID-19. All students will complete daily symptom checks through a monitoring app and report concerning symptoms to Student Health.
  • All members of the Duke community who come to campus—faculty, students, staff, and visitors—will be required to complete daily symptom monitoring, wear face coverings in classroom and public settings and practice physical distancing.  COVID-19 follow-up, including testing, will be required for any members of the Duke community who are symptomatic or deemed at risk due to contact tracing.
  • All students living in on-campus or off-campus housing are expected to stay in the Durham area throughout the semester in accordance with current public health recommendations. 
  • Student-athletes will begin a phased to return to campus on July 12.  All student-athletes will be tested for COVID-19 on arrival and will be required to observe health and hygiene protocols that have been developed by Duke and national medical experts, consistent with the procedures for all undergraduate students.
  • Perhaps the most vital piece of these plans will be the Duke Compact, a statement of mutual commitment to community health and behavioral standards that every student, faculty, and staff member will be required to agree to before the start of the semester. At this moment as never before, we are a community of people who rely on one another not only for inspiration and support, but also for protection, respect, and accountability.  We will be here, for each other, as a community and a university.

Further information on these areas and many other aspects of the 2020-21 academic year is available at, which will be updated throughout the summer.  

Again, let me emphasize: we all know that COVID-19 presents a rapidly changing set of circumstances in North Carolina and across the country.  We will continue to monitor the situation closely and make adjustments to this plan as required by public health conditions and state and local regulations.

This is an unprecedented moment for Duke. There are tremendous challenges ahead, and there are also tremendous opportunities to rethink higher education for a new era, to ensure that our university is responsive to the needs of a changing world, to redouble our efforts to address racism and systemic injustice, and to find ways to better serve our students, faculty, staff, neighbors, and visitors. 

Now, in that same spirit of adaptation and innovation, we turn our attention to an academic year that will look unlike any other in Duke’s history. I look forward to joining with you in this effort, united with and for each other in this extraordinary time. 



Vincent E. Price