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AU Forward: American University Announces Operating Plan for Fall Semester

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AU Forward

American University unveiled its comprehensive plan for fall 2020, which features extensive health and safety protocols and a residential campus experience, with a blend of in-person/online and purely online classes.  

AU Forward, the university’s detailed framework, outlines procedures for classes and instruction, student housing and dining, the next phase of how faculty and staff will work, and other key elements that will shape the experience for the AU community. The plan includes opportunities for students to enhance their skills, connect to Washington, D.C., and foster community. It will enable AU students to achieve their academic goals and maximize access to interactive learning experiences. The plan is designed to meet the students where they are and to enable them to continue their education even if they are not able to return to campus when the fall semester begins.

“AU Forward is designed to safeguard our community's health and safety, and advance our education and research mission," said AU President Sylvia M. Burwell. "While the fall semester will look different, we are working to safely welcome our community back to campus and deliver the innovative educational experience that is the hallmark of American University."

The fall semester will begin on schedule, with move-in week starting on August 15. Classes for the students in the Washington College of Law will begin on August 21, while undergraduate and graduate classes begin on August 24. Before returning to the AU campus this summer, all students, faculty, and staff will participate in health and safety training.

Fall break (October 9-11) will be transformed into a series of programs and workshops to help students develop market-relevant skills, with symposiums and community events both in-person and online. On-campus instruction and activities for the fall semester will conclude at the Thanksgiving break so that students can return home and will not need to travel back to campus. The remaining classes and finals will be conducted online.

AU has developed a detailed plan to help ensure the health, safety, and well-being of students, faculty, and staff and the broader community. When on-campus activity resumes, members of the AU community will be required to wear facial coverings and maintain physical distancing. Enhanced cleaning protocols will be followed.

First-year students and sophomores living on campus will utilize single-occupancy rooms, while off-campus housing search resources will be made available to upper class students and graduate students. In all locations around campus, permitted occupancy levels will be reduced and non-classroom spaces will be repurposed to support in-person instruction. COVID-19 testing will be conducted in accordance with health guidelines, symptomatic individuals will be tested, and voluntary tests will be available.

The Student Health Center will have testing capabilities for students and faculty. Faculty and staff will be tested through their primary health care providers with AU covering 100 percent of the cost. Self-monitoring protocols will be instituted with an online questionnaire that community members must complete.

AU Athletics and Recreation will begin a phased resumption of its operations that will adhere to all university and D.C. health guidelines, to ensure the safety of student-athletes, coaches, staff and the broader AU Community.

AU is planning a phased return of faculty and staff to campus for the fall semester. To protect the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students, the way AU works will differ significantly from the pre-COVID-19 period. To keep density low, faculty and staff returning to campus may have adjusted schedules, and many will continue to telework much or all of the time in the initial phases. Although classroom time and space will be limited due to physical distancing, nearly all faculty members (unless they receive an accommodation or modification) will be expected to ensure that their students benefit from periodic in-person, face-to-face sessions during the semester. Business meetings will continue to be conducted using videoconferencing tools.

AU Forward, the plan for fall 2020, is currently under review by the District of Columbia, in accordance with the ReOpen DC plan.

American University shifted to online education on March 18 and offered online summer classes featuring an expanded catalogue of courses. The university remained open and continued with its critical functions for teaching, research, and other services during this global pandemic.