Update on campus reopening plans for Transylvania (June 2, 2020)

As we begin the month of June, I wanted to provide an update on the work we have been doing to reopen the Transylvania campus for instruction and cocurricular activities in the fall semester. Transylvania’s faculty and staff have been working diligently and thoughtfully to identify issues surrounding three scenarios under which we might return to classroom instruction, adjust our academic calendar and courses, and build a sense of shared responsibility among our community. 

In May, we announced our move to a modular curriculum for the 2020-21 academic calendar. Transylvania’s academic year will be structured in six modules. First-year students will participate in Module 1, a one-week First Engagements seminar beginning Aug. 23. In Modules 2-5, most students will take two courses over seven weeks, with classes beginning Aug. 31. Transylvania’s traditional four-week May term is Module 6. 

We also announced that six Reopening Working Teams began identifying critical questions and possible responses to three reopening scenarios for the coming academic year. Focusing on key areas — including academics, athletics, facilities, human resources, student life and health and safety — these teams submitted their final reports June 1. 

Reopening Steering Committee

Now, our Reopening Steering Committee will review the teams’ findings and recommendations, as well as all current health information, to advise me and President-Designate Lewis on a reopening scenario for fall 2020 based on the best evidence available. The steering committee consists of our current and incoming cabinet members, as well as faculty, staff, student and university health program representatives. The group’s primary goal is to determine how we can resume operations in a safe and healthy way for the best interest of the Transylvania community. 

The steering committee meets for the first time this week and hopes to have details on our reopening by mid-June. It is my hope that we can focus on opening Transylvania for this next academic year with instruction on campus and students in our residence halls, but doing so in a way that emphasizes the shared responsibility we all have to take steps to combat the ongoing pandemic. We are taking the time now to review multiple scenarios presented by our working groups so that we can be flexible and adapt to circumstances as they arise. 

Fall Academic Calendar and Registration

During the 2020-21 academic year, Transylvania will conduct six modules of course delivery. Students will take two courses in each of four modules (Modules 2-5) and one course in Module 6. First-year students will have an additional module: Module 1. The following outlines the fall 2020 academic calendar (subject to change): 

Module 1: First Engagements
August 21 Friday First-year move in
August 23Sunday First Engagements begins
August 27 ThursdayFirst Engagements ends
Module 2: August 31-October 25 
August 31 Monday Classes begin
September 7 Monday Labor Day holiday 
September 23 Wednesday Midterm progress reports due
October 16 Friday Last day of classes
October 19 Monday Final exams
October 20-25 Tuesday-Sunday Module break
Module 3: October 26-December 18
October 26 Monday Classes begin
November 18 Wednesday Midterm progress reports due
November 25-29 Wednesday-Sunday Thanksgiving break
December 16 Wednesday Last day of classes
December 17 Thursday Reading day
December 18 Friday Final exams
December 19-January 3 Saturday-Sunday Module break

The calendar for Modules 4-6 is currently being reviewed. Due to the change in course structure, registration for returning students is expected to begin later in June. Shortly after that, new students will begin their registration, completing it at the conclusion of Module 1, as is typical for incoming first-year students. 

Our campus experience this fall will be different than in years past. Across the board, we are working on plans for how to bring students back to campus in a safe manner — in housing, classroom setup, athletics and dining facilities. 

We are committed to ensuring our standards will not be compromised and our instructional content and support services are of the highest quality. It will take all of our constituencies working together to make that happen. Faculty, staff, students, alumni and campus visitors all share the responsibility of keeping our classrooms, residences and facilities safe. That will mean enhanced cleaning protocols, wearing masks, sanitizing work and living spaces and, in some cases, accommodating distance learning when needed. 

I value the resiliency the Transylvania community has demonstrated over the past three months as we have responded to unprecedented challenges. The commitment to our students has not wavered, and the support of our employees in dynamically adjusting to meet change has been impressive. It is my hope that we will continue to meet, if not exceed, these expectations as we plan our return to our classrooms this fall. 

Stay healthy and be well.

Dr. John N. Williams ’74
President