Top of page
Skip to main content
Main content

Fall 2020 and Emory College; Next Steps For Faculty

Dear Colleagues,

 By now you have seen Emory University’s announcement for the Fall 2020 semester and the framework for how we are planning to open safely for in-person classes and a residential community.

 I know that this announcement comes at a challenging time for our nation and our world. I also know that we are making this announcement at a time when many of you are unclear about how you will care for your children and your families given the uncertainty about local school schedules and other critical pieces of our social fabric.

 In the face of these challenges, we will work together to advance our mission at a time when it is more essential than ever. What we do this fall, and how we do it, will need to reflect our principles—our belief in the power of our work to advance the greater good and our commitment to the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and faculty. 

 We will stay grounded in these principles to provide the exceptional liberal arts education from Emory College that our students expect and the academic excellence we expect of ourselves, whether we are teaching in person or online. This ambitious goal will require us all to continue to be flexible, generous, and collegial with each other as we work collectively.  

 Below are several key points for how this decision will impact your instruction and course delivery. It will likely raise as many questions as it answers, and I want to be clear that I do not yet have answers to all of those questions.  I hope that you can attend a virtual Emory College Faculty Town Hall tomorrow afternoon, on Friday, June 12 from 1:30-2:30 (

 At that Faculty Town Hall, I will be available (with other members of the College administration) to hear concerns and answer questions with what we know in the current moment. In addition, you may consult the FAQ for faculty and staff the Emory College Forward site, which will continue to be updated as information becomes available.

 I also will continue to work with the College Faculty Senate, especially on matters of academic policy and curriculum. I have already met with the Executive Committee of the Senate to discuss this announcement, and we have set a Senate meeting time of Monday, June 15 at noon.

 To restate the key points from the University’s message:

  • The first day of class for the fall semester will be Wednesday, August 19, and classes will end on Tuesday, November 24. The final examination period will take place remotely following the Thanksgiving break.
  • Classes will take place on Labor Day (Monday, September 7) and there will be no Fall Break.
  • Classes will be offered in person or online. Faculty and student preferences for instruction modes will be honored. 
  • Physical distancing will be required for in-person sessions, with a 35-person in-class cap.

What does this mean for Emory College of Arts and Sciences?

  • The current class schedule is now cancelled. The new class schedule will be announced by July 1. A detailed calendar and more information and guidelines will be shared by Senior Associate Dean Joanne Brzinski today with academic department leadership. We will also be discussing the new course schedule with department chairs on Friday.
  • Classes will be held in-person OR online, and we will honor your preference. We do not expect faculty to create hybrid or flex courses. We will continue to support faculty who desire to teach online. We will also be working with departments and offices to arrange staffing schedules that decompress spaces and support remote work.
  • The new schedule calls for two 75-minute sessions on M/W or Tu/TH over an extended day, with 25 minutes between classes. Class start time options begin at 8 a.m. and end at 6 p.m. Friday class times will also be available for courses that need to meet more often, hold discussion groups, or meet other academic needs.
  • There will be no 50-minute class meeting times, and alternative non-standard schedules will not be permitted. There is time on Friday for one- and two-credit hour courses and for extended time for language and other classes requiring more meeting time.
  • For most courses, some things will remain the same, including: course numbers, cross-listings, max enrollments, tiered enrollment levels, and course content descriptions
  • The new class schedule will allow time for classroom cleaning, reduce crowding at entry and departures, and minimize the number of times faculty and students need to come to the classroom and pass through public spaces in classroom buildings
  • In person classes are capped at 35 students to allow for physical distancing. 
  • Most online courses will meet synchronously in one 75-minute meeting on M,W, Tu, Th, or F following the new schedule and provide asynchronous materials for the rest of the course content. 
  • The Registrar’s office will assign all courses based on new room occupancy limits that take into account physical distancing guidelines; departments will not be able to specify the rooms they want, which has been our practice. This means that faculty may be teaching in unfamiliar or more distant rooms.
  • Strict cleaning protocols for classroom spaces will be implemented. Students will be appropriately spaced in classrooms and will be required to follow protocols for entering/exiting classrooms to avoid overlap with other students.  
  • Academic departments should expect to have some faculty and staff available for advising in July as students re-register for their courses.

In the coming days you will receive more information from your department leadership and the central administration to guide you in preparing for your courses. Most of you are currently enrolled in ECOTS training, where the new class schedule and expectations will be addressed. You may also direct questions to

We have been anticipating and preparing for this decision for several weeks, and I realize the details and contingencies in how we will implement our plan may be overwhelming at the moment. The College administration, department chairs and staff, and the valued input of the Senate will support you throughout this process.

The spirit of collaboration, innovation, and dedication to our academic mission you have all shown thus far is critical for our success and will continue to be essential as we work to prepare for a fall semester like none other in our history. As I look at the world right now, our mission as scholars and teachers has never felt more urgent, nor more challenging. I remain grateful and proud of the Emory College faculty as we collectively work to meet this moment with humanity and compassion.


Michael A. Elliott
Dean, Emory College of Arts and Sciences