Johns Hopkins leaders provide status update for spring semester planning

In a message to undergraduate students, Provost Sunil Kumar and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Alanna Shanahan discuss the principles guiding academic decision-making

Plans for Johns Hopkins University's spring semester—including options that allow for in-person instruction to resume if it is safe to do so—are still being developed, university leaders announced today in a message that described the principles and commitments guiding their decision-making.

While spring plans are in development, the leaders also announced that the university's Intersession Program, which offers academic and enrichment courses to undergraduate students during the break between the fall and spring semesters, will take place entirely online Jan. 4–22.

"We are learning more every day about how we can best keep ourselves and those around us safe and also help our tens of thousands of students, faculty, and staff pursue their academic, research, teaching, public service, and work goals across numerous campuses," Johns Hopkins Provost Sunil Kumar and Alanna Shanahan, vice provost for student affairs, wrote in an email to undergraduates. "We have important and difficult decisions ahead of us as we look to the spring semester, and right now we can tell you how we are approaching them, if not where we will ultimately land."

University leaders are considering a wide range of options for the spring semester, Kumar and Shanahan said, including plans that allow all or some students to return for in-person instruction. The university will announce a plan for the spring semester by Thanksgiving, with the understanding that those plans will be re-evaluated closer to the start of the semester and may require a course change if coronavirus cases surge locally or nationally. Interim planning decisions will be announced at least every other week.

The planning process includes input from the university's own public health and medical experts, as well as the Johns Hopkins Health Advisory Group. Planning decisions are guided by the following principles:

  • To seek input from faculty, staff, and students and their families to understand their wishes and priorities for the spring semester. Periodic surveys will be conducted and feedback will be solicited through an online form.
  • To prepare for all the necessary aspects of university operations, including broad-based COVID testing, physical distancing in classrooms and labs, requirements for self-reporting symptoms, and housing and dining approaches that reduce risk.
  • To partner with the Student Advisory Group; Academic Advisory Group; and faculty, deans, and staff to ensure a high-quality experience both virtually and in person.
  • To allow students to maintain their academic progress on a fully remote basis and permit students and faculty who wish to continue remote instruction to do so.
  • To ensure that the community bonds between those who come to campus and those who are remote remain strong.
  • To support graduate and professional schools and programs in determining the best approach for their students while observing the highest possible safety precautions, understanding they may pursue a variety of approaches.
  • To closely monitor peer institutions to learn and implement best practices related to containing the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

A series of town halls will be held to gain insights on the needs of the Hopkins academic community as the spring planning process unfolds. The first will take place as part of Family Weekend from 6 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2. Planning updates will also be posted to the university's Coronavirus Information website.