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A Return to Campus: Price Provides Update on Fall Semester

Benjamin Duke statue with a mask on

President Vincent Price updated the Duke community Tuesday on plans for the fall semester, reporting that Duke would continue on the path to resuming residential activity and outlining the changes in student and campus life that will enable students to safely return to campus.

The plan includes revising classroom space and that of residential and dining life to reduce congestion, initial testing of all students and daily monitoring of symptoms for all students, faculty and staff.

A team of Duke medical and public health experts has been involved in developing the new plans.  At its core is the belief that the greatest protection can come from several changes in behavior – particularly physical distancing and wearing a face covering in public spaces – and a strong, personal commitment from the Duke community to follow these practices.

As a word of concern, Price noted the rising numbers of COVID infections and hospitalizations in the state and in the country and cautioned “we may need to change our plans based on public health and other considerations.”

“We all know that COVID-19 presents a rapidly changing set of circumstances in North Carolina and across the country,” Price wrote. “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.” (Read the full message here.)

Price said the most important piece of the campus reopening 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.

As previously announced, fall classes will begin on Aug. 17, with exams ending before Thanksgiving. There will be no fall break.

Other parts of the plan include:

  • 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. 
  • 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.  Students who test positive will be placed in quarantine on campus, and contact tracing will be used to identify other potential positive cases. 
  • All members of the Duke community who come to campus will be required to complete daily symptom monitoring, wear face coverings in classroom and public settings and practice physical distancing.  
  • All students living in on-campus or off-campus housing are expected to stay in the Durham area throughout the semester.  
  • Student-athletes will begin a phased to return to campus on July 12 and must follow additional health and hygiene protocols that have been developed by Duke and national medical experts.

In his message, Price said the unprecedented conditions of the semester would require a commitment from the Duke community to take care of each other. But while much of campus life will look different, Price added the core mission of the university remains unchanged and is as valuable to society as ever.

“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,” Price said.