We are aware of the unique responsibility of Howard University from our mission to “provide an educational experience of exceptional quality at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels to students of high academic standing and potential, with emphasis on educational opportunities for Black students.” A recent survey of returning students highlighted student preferences with regards to offering both online and face to face choices.
There are complexities in Howard University’s planning that distinguishes the University from our academic peers. As you read our re-opening plan, it is important to bear these complexities in mind, as a solution that works for a peer institution may not work well for Howard University’s campus community. In addition to the hospital, the University has medical, dental, pharmacy, allied health and nursing colleges, all of which have specialized accreditation and graduation requirements that may not be ideally met in a remote learning environment. Laboratory, internship and clinical requirements for various disciplines were also considered.
This re-opening plan was framed around the following tenets:
- Howard University will make decisions guided primarily by considerations for the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community.
- Decisions about health and safety made by the University in the context of COVID-19 will be evidence- based and data-driven where data is available.
- Howard University will continue to deliver an exceptional education and optimal services, within the unavoidable constraints of the COVID-19 response.
- Howard University will be transparent when communicating to our entire University body and our community.
We are planning for a hybrid academic model this Fall where some students and faculty will be in the classroom and some will not. Specific arrangements will be informed based upon the academic discipline and course content, as well as risk to faculty, staff and students regarding underlying medical conditions or concerns over transmission.
We understand that some members of the Howard University community will not be comfortable engaging in face to face instruction or a residential campus environment this fall due to underlying medical conditions or a concern over transmission to friends or family members. To the extent possible, deans and department chairs will discuss with faculty and provide flexibility regarding course instructional format and teaching responsibilities. Staff supervisors will meet with staff to provide flexibility regarding work options, whenever possible. Academic advisors will consult with students to design plans to maximize learning opportunities.
Students who prefer to enroll only in fully online courses may do so, but may not have access to the same courses included in their original plans of study, in the event that these courses are in-person or a blend of in-person and online. Although we plan to offer a significant number of classes fully online, not all courses may have a remote option, particularly some laboratory, clinical, and performance-based courses. Additional details regarding course offerings will be provided no later than July 15, 2020.
The University will provide personal protective equipment (PPE) in the form of masks or face coverings and sanitizing agents to all faculty, staff and students as part of a Howard University Care Package. Additional provisions of PPE are being reviewed and will be announced at a later time.
This Fall preparation document and the COVID-19 awareness website contain valuable information that is relevant to the various campus stakeholders and should be used as a guide when traversing the campus and conducting business and academic operations.
Howard University will be physically re-opening in phases. Critically essential personnel never left the campus and have always had access to the physical campus. Pending approval of this plan by the District of Columbia government; the declaration that the District is in Phase 2 of reopening; and that testing, sanitation, and social distancing guidelines have been developed for workspaces, the University will begin a phased return to campus. A small number of essential personnel will start returning to campus on July 1st. We will use this first phase of opening to determine the University’s readiness for limited expansion of staffing.
Expanded staffing will be tightly controlled and coordinated to mitigate potential risks, considering the safety of faculty and staff, as well as the communities we serve. No unit or department should increase staffing levels beyond current needs to support essential on-site operations without approval from your respective supervisor. Once decisions to expand on-site staffing in certain areas have been made, staff should follow the policies and protocols detailed in this guide for returning to work on campus. Pending readiness, the plan is that other personnel will return in phases. Dates will be shared with the campus community once assessment and readiness is complete. The District’s Phase 2 of reopening limits the staffing of any office building to 25% of normal capacity. Supervisors will work with staff to determine workforce return that may include a combination of remote work, alternating days and staggered reporting/departing.
The University is making accommodations for faculty, staff, and students who are in high-risk groups, to teach, work and attend classes and, where feasible, work remotely even after the District’s policies and guidance allow a return to the campus. Following CDC guidance, these groups may include, but are not limited to individuals with chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious health conditions, immunocompromised conditions, severe obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and liver disease and those who are over the age of 65.
- The first day of classes for undergraduate students, and many graduate/professional programs will be on Monday, August 24, 2020, and run through Wednesday, November 25, 2020. Students will return home for Thanksgiving and not return to campus until the start of the spring term. The final examination period may be scheduled prior to, or after Thanksgiving. If the final exam period is scheduled after Thanksgiving, then they will be provided online.
- Details regarding move-in dates will be shared with our students via the division of student affairs.
This COVID-19 pandemic re-opening plan is intended to be a dynamic document. We will continue to update and revise the plan, in accordance with changes in guidance from the CDC and District of Columbia, and the latest available health data.