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Update on Academic Planning, Testing and Resources for Fall 2020

August 11, 2020

We hope this message finds you safe and healthy. I write to follow up on President Paxson’s letter from earlier today regarding Brown’s modified plans for the Fall 2020 semester. The president shared that Brown will take a phased approach to bringing students back for the fall term in light of the shifting public health conditions of the global pandemic. A commitment to the health and well-being of the campus community continues to drive all of our decisions.

To provide you with additional guidance as you plan for the fall semester, this message outlines details regarding courses, teaching and research, health and safety, and campus resources. Being on campus this fall will be a different experience. We will all need to work together as a community to follow guidelines for social distancing, face coverings, hand washing and self-monitoring for symptoms.

As communicated by the President earlier today, all undergraduate courses in the first phase of the fall term will be taught fully online from September 9 until the week of October 5, and only a limited number of undergraduates will be permitted to return and have access to campus beginning at the end of August. Fully graduate courses, those numbered 2000 and above, will be online during the “quiet period” from September 9 to September 15, as originally planned. As we shared previously, the start of classes each semester will be preceded by this period, during which students will mostly self-quarantine within their residences. Brown will be conducting mandatory COVID-19 testing during this period.

After the quiet period, courses numbered 2000 and above will proceed in either a hybrid or online format, depending on their designation in [email protected] These delivery modes may be updated in the coming weeks should instructors elect to change the mode of instruction. Please remember that even in hybrid courses, students may choose to participate remotely.

The decision to offer instruction fully online until October 5 for undergraduate classes impacts graduate students registered for courses that combine graduate students and undergraduate students (generally those numbered in the 1000s). These courses will be fully online for these 4 weeks. After that, they would be expected to revert to their currently planned delivery mode (hybrid or online) when undergraduate students return to campus in the second phase of the fall term, which is contingent upon public health conditions improving. The University will announce a decision by September 11, 2020, about proceeding with phase two of bringing the students back to campus.

International Students
We understand that the online and hybrid nature of courses has important consequences for new international students. Incoming students in “initial” status must be enrolled in at least one hybrid course to be in compliance with SEVP rules. The Graduate School and the School of Professional Studies are working with programs to ensure that all incoming international students will be able to register for at least one hybrid course to meet this requirement. When possible, this hybrid course will be among the required courses in your program. In addition, the School of Professional Studies is developing a half-credit, tuition-free course in Professional Development that will be delivered in a hybrid format and available to master’s students. For additional information on visas, please consult the Global Brown FAQ.

Research and Teaching
Brown’s status for resuming research remains at Stage 2. Graduate students who have been in labs or in the field this summer will be able to continue to make progress in their lab and field research. Additionally, the Research Ramp Up Task Force continues to review plans for lab and field research under Stage 2 guidelines, allowing new graduate students to be added to labs as well as continuing to expand approved lab and field research plans. All departments will include graduate students in their Return to Campus plans, so that whenever safely possible you will be able to complete necessary research in campus spaces.

Graduate students who will be teaching in the fall will teach fully online for the first four weeks of the semester, until the week of October 5. If it is decided that in-person undergraduate courses resume after that date, courses will revert to their currently planned delivery mode (hybrid or online). We do anticipate that all Brown courses will continue to have some remote participants. Graduate students serving as teaching assistants, fellows or independent instructors may also elect to continue to teach remotely for the full semester.

Healthy Campus and Workplace
To ensure the safety and wellness of our community, all students, as well as faculty and staff, must follow the COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy. The policy is an expansion of the original COVID-19 Workplace Safety Policy, and now encompasses all teaching, research, learning, work and other activities that are authorized to take place on campus. Students also will sign the Student Commitment to COVID-19 Community Health and Safety Requirements, while employees will sign a similar acknowledgment to follow health, prevention and safety protocols. To help promote adherence to public health protocols, the University is launching a new program of Healthy Ambassadors.

Quarantine Requirements
All new and returning students who will come to Rhode Island are required to follow state quarantine guidelines. If you are coming to Rhode Island from one of the states on the list with a COVID-19 positivity rate greater than 5%, or from outside of the United States, you are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. As an alternative, you may provide proof of a negative test for COVID-19 that was taken within 72 hours of your arrival.

COVID-19 testing will be mandatory for all Brown community members who are authorized to be regularly on campus (testing costs will be paid by Brown). Graduate students who will be on campus three or more days per week and/or have regular contact with students, faculty and staff will be tested twice (2X) per week. Graduate students who are on campus two days or less per week, have less regular contact with others, and are teaching remotely will be tested once (1X) per week.

Graduate students who will be taking courses fully online and who will not be on campus at any time during the fall semester do not need to be tested. A student’s status or authorization to be on campus may change during the course of the semester and thus the need to be tested may change as well. If you anticipate changing your level of presence on campus, you will need to notify your program in advance of any change in your status.

Testing will begin the week of August 24 in the OMAC (Olney Margolies Athletic Center) where there is ample space to accommodate the large number of students and employees who will need to be tested. All Brown community members who are authorized to be on campus and therefore subject to mandatory testing will receive information about how to enroll and schedule their baseline test, and further tests thereafter.

Brown is in the process of developing a dashboard that will show a range of COVID-19 indicators, reflecting positivity rates and the prevalence of novel coronavirus on campus. More information about the testing program is available on the Testing & Tracing section of the Healthy Brown website.

Campus Resources
All Brown resources and services will continue to be available remotely. This includes Health Services, CAPS, Student Accessibility Services and the Sheridan Center, among others. The University Library continues to make materials available electronically and through contactless circulation; for current information on library services, see the Brown University Library website. Access to campus buildings will be limited, including the Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center and dining facilities.

These various shifts in teaching and operations require all of us to continue to be flexible at a time when I know that our communities — locally, nationally and around the world — wish for certainty. I want to thank the many graduate students who have been integral in helping us plan for the coming year through your participation in planning groups, responding to surveys, and by sharing your thoughts and ideas. Your feedback is invaluable and we hope you will continue to share it with us as we move forward.

Should you have any questions or concerns on the above topics, please do not hesitate to reach out to [email protected]. We will also continue to expand our Fall 2020 FAQs for Graduate Students.


Andrew G. Campbell
Dean of the Graduate School
Professor of Medical Science
Molecular Microbiology & Immunology
Brown University