The University of Delaware is considering multiple options for bringing students back to campus in the fall, including pushing the start date to early October.
As university leaders across the country grapple with decisions about reopening, UD President Dennis Assanis laid out his plans to 1300 members of the UD community last week, when he said the priority in all decision making is ensuring the health and safety of UD students and workers.
Key takeaways from Assanis’ briefing include:
- The school’s goal is to begin a phased reactivation of campus activities beginning June 1, with a return to in-person instruction for the fall semester.
- Multiple contingency measures will be considered, including the possibility of a delayed start to the fall semester of “around Oct. 1,” which could cause the cancellation of UD’s Winter Session.
- A decision on the plan “will likely be made in July.”
- COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment would need to be readily available on campus, with spaces designated for isolating positive (or presumed positive) cases. Contact tracing protocols would also need to be in place.
- New safety procedures would include increased sanitation of public spaces and, an adjusted course schedule allowing for more than 15 minutes between classes, to avoid crowding. In many cases, the structure or format of individual courses will need to be adjusted to avoid having too many students in one classroom at a time.
- “Triples” in residential housing units “are likely out of the question.”
“Right now, we know that we will have significant limitations on the number of students we can put in our classrooms safely,” Assanis said. “So that means large classes that were held in auditoriums would need to transition to a hybrid model, with lectures delivered online and possibly recitations in smaller settings. Also, those courses that simply work better in a digital format might continue operating online.”
“In many cases, the paradigm has changed,” Assanis remarked about use of physical space on campus. “We don’t need as many compartmentalized offices and small labs. We need to … make sure there are lots of spaces for students to interact and intermingle with professors.”
Assanis said this spring UD had been able to quickly transition more than 6400 classes online, but the school is facing a significant financial impact of $52 million so far, a number that accounts for the $6 million given to UD in federal CARES Act funding and $16 million the school has saved with cost cutting.
Assanis and other senior UD officials are taking a 10 percent pay cut – which amounts to $87,000 for the president’s $870,000 annual salary. Other top UD personnel are taking a voluntary 5 percent pay cut.
In his address Assanis acknowledged future budget uncertainty, including the impact of lost fundraising, uncompleted research, athletic programs, state appropriations and enrollment.
The full presentation and discussion can be viewed here.