University announces six-phase plan for a return to campus


Catherine Buchaniec

Rebecca Crown Center. The University outlined plans for a phased return to campus in an email sent to the Northwestern community.

James Pollard, Campus Editor

In a Friday morning email to the Northwestern community, Interim Provost Kathleen Hagerty outlined the University’s plans for a phased return to campus. The six-part plan, dependent on factors like the pandemic’s containment as well as state and local orders, ultimately involves required face masks and social distancing on campus, among other precautions.

A group of faculty and staff from across schools and units has been putting together a plan to repopulate campus, Hagerty said. The University has also expanded its COVID-19 and Campus Updates website, according to the email, where more updates will be available.

“Our goal is to return as much of our community to campus as possible, while continuing to protect the health of our students, faculty and staff through social distancing,” the email said. “Even if students and faculty may safely return to campus, some courses will be delivered remotely. We also recognize that there may be students who cannot return to campus for a variety of reasons, and we bear this in mind in our planning.”
The email outlined “core responsibilities” that will guide the return to campus. According to this set, community members will be required to wear face masks in all public and shared environments on campus. Community members will also receive a set of reusable face masks.

Shared spaces will feature protocols and reminders to keep at least six feet of space between others. Social distancing measures might include limiting meetings, postponing non-essential meetings and events, reducing occupant density, removing seats from shared spaces, or physical barriers in public areas.

While the University hopes to have testing and screening available, it does not plan to centrally track health statuses or daily temperatures of employees or students, citing the dimensions and locations of the campuses. If reliable testing becomes more accessible, community members may be tested consistent with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The University is currently in step 1 of a six-phase plan, Hagerty said, which will continue through the end of the Illinois stay-at-home-order, currently scheduled to be lifted June 1.

Under Step 1, which has been in effect since March, classes are delivered remotely, only essential staff are permitted on campus and only essential research is allowed onsite.

Step 2, estimated to begin in June or whenever the stay-at-home order is lifted, involves bringing research operations and laboratories back to campus. The period would serve as a pilot stage to test return implementation. Only undergraduate students who remained in campus housing for spring quarter would be allowed on campus, with a decision about undergraduate student athletes not yet made. Graduate students involved in research would be allowed back voluntarily.

After “completion of successful pilot stage,” estimated from late June to early July, Step 3 would begin. This part of the process involves selectively bringing back other key research, educational or support functions. According to the expanded website, that could include teaching some remote classes from campus facilities and certain education cohorts returning for pilot educational experiences. Travel, events and visitors would continue to be restricted.

More information on what Step 3 means for faculty, staff, students and others will be determined in early June, according to the website.

The final three steps are a little less detailed, given the many factors necessary for their implementation. Step 4, “Summer Stabilization,” involves a closely monitored expansion of activity. Conditions permitting, pilot in-classroom experiences for certain early-start graduate programs could begin.

Step 5, estimated to occur mid-August through early September, involves returning core educational and support functions to prepare for the arrival of larger numbers of students. This would only occur if conditions allow and the prospects for fall quarter “proceed as planned.”

The final step in the University’s phased plan would involve “safely” beginning the academic year on campus “for most undergraduate and graduate students.” While key conditions have yet to be determined, this move could include most undergraduate and graduate students on campus as well as most staff and faculty on campus. All campus buildings would be open and functioning, with limited restrictions on travel, events and visitors.

The email also outlined changes to the summer. All Summer programming for undergraduates scheduled to end before the Fall quarter begins must be offered remotely, postponed or cancelled, the email said.

Plans for the fall quarter will be announced in the Summer, the email said, with the University trying to give the community as much time as possible to prepare.
“There is still significant planning to be done, and this process will include engagement across the University,” the email said.

Email: [email protected]

Related stories:
In Interview, Interim Provost Kathleen Hagerty talks fall quarter