Stanford’s plan for fall quarter: Most classes online, half the students on campus

Stanford freshmen will have an extraordinary introduction to college in the 2020-21 academic year, spending the fall quarter on campus and not returning until the summer quarter begins about seven months later.
That’s one notable element of Monday’s announcement, in which school officials revealed more details of their effort to resume in-person classes amid the coronavirus pandemic. Stanford will stagger student attendance, to limit the on-campus population and allow for physical distancing.
Even then, school officials expect “the vast majority” of courses to be taught online, according to Monday’s letter to undergraduates.
Stanford is inviting only freshmen, sophomores, and new transfer students to come to campus for the fall quarter. Juniors and seniors will be permitted on campus for the winter and spring quarters, with freshmen and sophomores returning next summer.
Students who are not on campus for a particular quarter can take classes remotely.
Stanford’s plan counts as one of the more creative attempts to re-start campus life while mitigating the risk of COVID-19. The school outlined the framework of its plan earlier this month, including moving up the start of the fall quarter by one week, to Sept. 14.
Classes will end Nov. 20, six days before Thanksgiving, and undergraduates will take final exams online the following week. Many colleges and universities are ending in-person instruction before Thanksgiving, to reduce travel and the potential for spreading the virus.
Students at Stanford can take all their classes remotely for the 2020-21 academic year if they prefer.
Monday’s letter, from vice provost for student affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole and vice provost for undergraduate education Sarah Church, made few pretenses about traditional interaction among college students.
“The safeguards we need to implement will fundamentally change the student experience,” the vice provosts wrote. “ … There will be significant restrictions on in-person classroom use, dorm life, social life, guests, and travel.”
Limitations likely will include no campus events and parties; face coverings will be required whenever students leave their rooms, including dorm common areas and dining halls; and virus testing, contract tracing, and quarantine/isolation “will become a regular part of student life,” the letter read.
Stanford joined UC Berkeley and all 23 campuses of the California State University system in planning to hold most classes online this fall. Cal announced June 17 that nearly all courses will be available online and in-person classes will be limited to 25 or fewer students.
Cal will not offer a reduction in tuition, despite the emphasis on remote instruction. Stanford also will not reduce tuition for the upcoming school year.
USC, which will resume in-person classes in August, announced Monday some of the safety guidelines it plans to implement to help prevent the spread of coronavirus on campus.
USC Chief Health Officer Sarah Van Orman and Student Affairs Vice President Winston B. Crisp sent a letter addressed to students and families that shared details about how health, safety and wellbeing will be maintained during the fall semester, which starts Aug. 17 -- a week earlier than originally planned -- and ends before Thanksgiving, with no fall break.
"Our decisions for the fall semester require we remain nimble especially as COVID-19 cases in Southern California continue to rise," they wrote, later stating: "Students should consider whether being in a campus environment in the city of Los Angeles is right for them this semester."
The following health measures are planned for the fall:
-- daily symptom checks, to be completed online through trojancheck.usc.edu and required for anyone entering campus, including daily checks for students residing in USC Housing;
-- reconfigured campus housing with all rooms to be single occupancy;
-- physical distancing markers, reconfiguration of pedestrian traffic flow, and timed entrances for appointments to facilities;
-- hand sanitizing stations;
-- required face coverings;
-- a contact tracing team of health professionals in USC Student Health to identify, notify, trace and isolate positive cases;
-- regular testing for COVID-19, includes clinical testing for symptomatic and exposed students, faculty and staff on campuses as well as randomized community testing; and
-- limited class sizes to maintain physical distance.

University officials said they expect cases and outbreaks to occur, and they are asking that all students have "honest and thoughtful conversations about their personal health and wellbeing'' with their families and personal support networks to decide whether returning to campus life is right for them.

Students with high-risk medical conditions, such as underlying medical conditions, also should discuss their health with their current provider, according to the university.

"When the inevitable cases of COVID-19 occur, individuals who are exposed will be required to quarantine for 14 days and those who are ill will be required to isolate for a minimum of 10 days and sometimes longer,'' USC officials stated. "While USC is prepared to provide support through dedicated accommodations and regular check-ins, quarantine and isolation may be difficult for many students. Students should consider this impact when deciding to return."

Students also will be asked to complete a "Health, Hygiene and Safety" online training and show proof of their required immunizations, as well as a tuberculosis test for international students, and commit to getting a flu shot in the fall.

Most courses at USC will be available online, others may be classified as in-person or a hybrid, with university officials stating that remote learning will allow students to continue their progress toward a degree while remaining geographically remote.

"Campus life will be different this fall," officials wrote. "Students will need to limit the number of close contact exposures and avoid congregating with many friends at a time. Person-to-person contact poses the greatest risk of spreading infection. Large social gatherings will be strictly prohibited."

USC is mandating compliance with public health measures for all on campus.

"To prevent widespread infections and possible campus closure, all students must play a role and take these measures seriously,'' the university stated. "Students who put others at risk by violating these expectations will be subject to action that may lead to removal from campus. Coming to campus this fall is a community social contract, built on the trust and expectation that you and all other students, will make the health and safety of your fellow Trojans your top priority in all your actions -- every member of our community, their families and loved ones, are counting on each of us to keep them safe as we interact on campus.''