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Class of 2021


Earlier today, you received Emory University’s announcement from President Fenves about the decisions we have made for spring semester. I am following up with additional information for our students in Emory College of Arts and Sciences. I know that these difficult decisions bring a wide range of emotions for us all, particularly for you as a senior in what will be your final semester at Emory.

I am genuinely heartbroken that this ongoing pandemic means we cannot welcome back to campus the entire Class of 2021 for the spring as we had all hoped. As a graduating class, you are facing some of the most challenging circumstances of any class in Emory’s history, and I wish it were easier. As President Fenves noted in his message, we intend to have events in mid-May to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2021. Planning for a socially distanced, limited attendance event is underway, and we will keep you updated in the coming months once details are finalized.

Please know that the leaders of the University debated and discussed many different competing priorities and factors in reaching this decision. In a pandemic, there are no ideal options, and every plan involves risk. We are aware that other universities have come to different decisions; however, we are making the decisions that are best for our community.

At the heart of all of our decision-making is our commitment to the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff as COVID-19 continues to challenge us. In all of our decisions, we are guided by the University’s health and epidemiology experts, and we led with a strategy based on projected COVID-19 cases, forecasts for flu in the coming months, and the possibility of safely accommodating more students on campus.

Critical to the health and safety for our community is to keep our campus population density low. Essential to that strategy is maintaining single occupancy rooms, which limits the overall number of students who can be in residence. The need for in-person learning when an online option is not available has also been a University priority.

In the meantime, we have heard about the struggles and challenges our students have had this semester. We will continue to find ways to support you and help you flourish, whether on campus or elsewhere. We remain grounded in this commitment as we continue our work to provide the exceptional liberal arts education you expect from Emory College.

Please take a moment to watch this video from me to all of our seniors about our spring plans.

Please review the key decisions and critical Emory College information for the spring semester, which include:

  • Calendar: Spring semester will begin on January 25, 2020 and classes end on May 3, 2021. There will be no spring break, but we are currently reviewing how to incorporate mid-week “break days” from classes, to encourage mental health breaks and time to decompress. We are still confirming the final exam calendar for spring semester. It is anticipated that final exams will take place between May 4 and 14.
  • Additional residential students. We will continue to have lower than normal campus density. The university will modestly increase the number of students in residence on campus while maintaining one student per room. The groups of students who will be considered for housing in university residence halls are
    • Students in Emory College Undergraduate Research Programs
    • First-year students not presently living on campus
    • Experiential learners engaged in professional development necessary for spring degree completion
    • International students unable to return for the fall semester
  • Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning Criteria: A limited number of seniors, juniors and sophomores who are actively participating in research and/or experiential learning will be invited to live on campus. Departments and programs are identifying these students. Only students who have been accepted to a specific lab or other research space, or who need an experiential in-person class to maintain progress toward graduation, will be invited to campus.

If you are being invited to return to campus, you will be contacted by the Office for Undergraduate Education on Friday, October 16. Residential Life and Housing will provide more information about on-campus housing by Friday, October 23.

Please note that some students will be notified later than October 16 as it is determined that they have an on campus research or experiential learning need. Email oue.advising@emory.edu if you fit these criteria but do not receive communication about on campus housing.

Next Steps

On Monday, October 19, you will receive a communication from the Office for Undergraduate Education regarding registration for the spring semester. This message will replace the regular College Weekly communication and will include information on registration dates and times, as well as new features in the Course Atlas. The majority of our course offerings will remain online, but we are working to offer a limited number of additional in person courses. Please read this message carefully.

If you have questions, please reach out to my team at oue.advising@emory.edu. The faculty and staff of Emory College are fully committed to supporting you through this time.

The current moment has asked difficult things of all of us, and you have risen to the challenge. You have shown resilience, courage, and determination and I know you can continue to do so. As your Dean, I could not be prouder of you and all you have achieved so far.

Stay well and stay safe.

Sincerely yours,
Michael A. Elliott, PhD
Dean, Emory College of Arts and Sciences
Charles Howard Candler Professor of English