In interview, Interim Provost Kathleen Hagerty talks fall quarter

Interim provost Kathleen Hagerty. Hagerty spoke with The Daily about remote instruction, tuition reductions and other topics concerning Fall Quarter.

courtesy Northwestern Now

Interim provost Kathleen Hagerty. Hagerty spoke with The Daily about remote instruction, tuition reductions and other topics concerning Fall Quarter.

James Pollard, Campus Editor

Last week, members of The Daily’s editorial board sat down with Interim Provost Kathleen Hagerty for an interview. Hagerty’s answers to these questions have been edited for clarity.

The Daily: If we were to go back in the fall, are there discussions going on right now about whether we would go towards an ABCD system again, or whether we would keep up pass/fail?

Hagerty: Yeah, I think we’re discussing that. We made the pass/fail decision which I very much supported. I think there is going to be — at some point, we want to return to grades. People need the grades for various reasons. You know, why do you have grades? You have grades because you want to apply to graduate school, or you want to show it to employers. So, at some point, we’re going to have to go back to it. Now, when do we go back and how do we go back? There’s possibilities of returning to grades with a more flexible pass/fail policy or later drop dates or things like that. So I think we’re actively discussing it. So I think we haven’t decided and I think, again, we recognize that even if there are people on campus, not everybody’s going to be able to come back. There’s international students who can’t come back. There may be students, for various reasons, who don’t feel they can come back.

The Daily: What specific conditions should be met in order for administrators to feel comfortable opening campus in the fall? How are the needs of international students, immunocompromised students or people who are going to be off campus being considered?

Hagerty: We’re really working hard on that … I went to a presentation yesterday where we had an epidemiologist. I think people’s understanding of the virus is changing all the time. And so what the characteristics of that are and how contagious it is — there’s just the scientific part of it and people’s understanding that is just evolving so much. So it’s something that you thought maybe three weeks ago would work, maybe that’s just not gonna work. So part of it is just this understanding of just how it works and how it is transmitted. And that really kind of drives a lot of what we’re doing. Everything we do involves three, four or five scenarios. We go, ‘Well, if it goes this way, this is how we would do it. And if it goes this way, this is how we would do it.’ And so we have to sort of game out all these scenarios because there’s just so much uncertainty about how it’s going. So that’s part of it. I think there’s this recognition that there’s going to be some people who it’s going to be very hard to come back. And so some reliance on remote (learning) will always be part of the plan. And it’s really just (about) how much and what fraction.

The Daily: A lot of schools have said they’re planning to make a decision by June or July. Is there any sort of deadline that you feel like, at this point, we have to make a decision about the fall?

Hagerty: I think it’s gonna be some kind of mid-summer day… Now, part of picking a date is looking at what are hard constraints — so by what day do people have to know? Because of this reason, and that reason, and this reason — renting an apartment or financial aid, whatever it is. If it’s just an internal deadline, we can change around deadlines. But if there’s an external deadline, then that’s a hard deadline that we just have to conform to. So part of it is just looking for the deadline. Some schools, because they’re semester schools, they have to decide a little sooner because they’re going to come back at the end of August. We don’t really have to come back until the end of September. So we have a little bit more time.

The Daily: Also in regards to the fall, a lot of schools — including the University of Chicago — have seen tuition strikes and movements to reduce or at least freeze the cost of tuition if school continues online, especially considering a lot of families’ economic situations have changed or worsened. Would Northwestern consider a tuition reduction if fall is online?

Hagerty: We haven’t decided anything. I don’t know, at this point.

The Daily: You’ve said you are talking to epidemiologists, and the situation is super fluid and changing all the time. What are some concrete things you’d need to see happen in order to bring students back in the fall? Harvard said they need to have the ability to conduct contact tracing, have enough amounts of PPE. Are there any things like that that need to be in place if you’re going to bring students back?

Hagerty: We’ve considered — and you’d be here for an hour when we talk about all the things we’re thinking through. What’s going to happen in the dorms? What’s going to happen in the dining rooms? What kind of density could we have in the classrooms? How are people going to move around? What fraction would be remote? What about the international students? And then just aside from the students like the staff — what about our staff members? And how are they going to work? We have students who are all young but we have staff and faculty who are older. What are we going to do about them? So, I think there’s really just a whole lot of things we have to work through. Now, everybody in the world is working through that same set of things. Part of the other thing is just accessing what everybody else in the world has learned about this. I think what we’re hoping is that other places will be slowly opening up and we can learn a lot from their experience. And that’s what we’re really hoping for.

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