You are here: American University President Announcements March 12, 2020

AU Memo Letterhead

Dear AU Community,

We are facing a complex and rapidly changing situation with COVID-19, both in our local community and around the world. There are almost constant developments, and we are making decisions based on the best available information. I know you have received a great deal of information, and it is a time of uncertainty. It is easy to start feeling overwhelmed, but I hope that through continued communication, we can do our part to help reduce anxiety and provide support as we move forward. I so appreciate how our community has come together to manage this situation and care for everyone in the AU family.

Within the last 24 hours, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. There are now more than 124,000 cases in 118 countries, and the WHO expects the number of cases and affected countries to grow. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency for the District, and the DC Department of Health recommended that non-essential mass gatherings, including conferences and conventions, be postponed or cancelled. 

Based on this new information, and in the best interests of our community, we are announcing the following actions:

Online Classes:

The previously announced transition to online classes beginning on Wednesday, March 18 will now continue through the rest of the spring semester. There will be no on-campus instruction for the remainder of this semester, and courses will be completed remotely. This includes the Washington College of Law (WCL), where online classes will begin Monday, March 23. Faculty will update students with specific instructions. As previously announced, services such as counseling, advising, and academic support will be available online.

On Campus Housing:

Students currently remaining in the residence halls are instructed to leave campus by Monday, March 23 and return to their permanent addresses for the remainder of the semester. We strongly encourage students to depart campus as soon as possible to help reduce the potential risk of transmission or spread of COVID-19. We know this is challenging and stressful for students and their families and can cause financial and other hardships. American University will work with students to provide support to facilitate this transition. Further details will be forthcoming, including emails and webinars. We know some students may not be able to depart the residence halls due to extraordinary circumstances, and they should contact the Office of Campus Life for help at

University Operations:

The university will transition to an expanded telework environment for the majority of operations beginning Monday, March 16 and continuing through Sunday, April 5. The university will not be closed, and services will be available on campus with limitations. To the extent possible, many services will be provided remotely. University employees will continue to be paid as normal. University leaders in the President’s Council will coordinate telework arrangements throughout their organizations based on the following framework:

  • Faculty and staff members with high-risk conditions related to COVID-19 are recommended to begin teleworking immediately. Please communicate with Employee Relations ( if you are part of this high-risk class so arrangements can be made.
  • Faculty and staff members with roles and responsibilities that require an in-person presence on campus will continue to report to work as normal. President’s Council members will inform these staff of their status based on information from their internal operations. Additionally, as the transition on campus occurs in the coming days, there will be multiple needs for in-person support for our students, and President’s Council members will work with team members to meet these requirements.
  • Faculty and staff members with functions that can be completed remotely will begin teleworking on Monday, March 16. President’s Council members will work with their leadership teams to identify team members with critical functions that can be performed remotely and ensure they have the necessary infrastructure to complete their work as soon as possible. Following this, President’s Council members will work with their remaining team members to establish telework arrangements appropriate to their roles and/or in support of the transition to online classes.
  • These arrangements will be in place through Sunday, April 5 and will be re-evaluated and updated as appropriate.
  • These categories will also apply to part-time workers. If their functions do not require an in-person presence on campus and cannot be performed remotely, Human Resources will work with schools and administrative units to evaluate if there are other responsibilities they can support. Further guidance on student workers will be forthcoming.
  • To support faculty research, the Office of the Provost will be providing additional guidance on continuity protocols and arrangements.

Study Abroad Programs:

All study abroad programs are canceled, and all students are being instructed to return immediately to their permanent addresses. Students are not to return to campus. The university will work with these students on academic arrangements and financial matters. 

University Travel:

All domestic travel for official university business and university-sponsored student and recognized student group trips is suspended through May 5 (the last scheduled day of exams this semester). This includes all travel that has been previously approved. The ongoing suspension of all university-sponsored international travel announced on March 5 remains in effect. 


University-sponsored public events, both on and off campus, are suspended through May 5 (the last scheduled day of exams this semester). This includes events organized by students, all academic and administrative units, and all external individuals and organizations utilizing campus space for events such as conferences. This is necessary to limit close contact among large groups of people, consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on social distancing. Event organizers should inform the involved parties and invitees of this development. For private meetings, the university is strongly encouraging department offices, student organizations, and other operations to use teleconferences and virtual meeting tools, limit face-to-face meetings as appropriate, and conduct activity via email and instant messaging. In-person meetings that must occur should follow social distancing guidelines.

  • While the Washington College of Law (WCL) operates on a different calendar, the travel and event guidance and timeline apply to all WCL faculty, staff, and students as well. 
  • A very limited number of exceptions to the travel and event suspensions may be made for select activities, considered on a case-by-case basis. Exceptions will require the approval of the AU president, provost, and/or the appropriate vice president, depending on the exact circumstances. 

We understand these are significant disruptions. However, today’s actions will support the safety of our students, faculty, and staff, and also the broader public. Limiting in-person interactions, travel, and events will help reduce the possibility of transmission and spread of COVID-19 both to and from our community. 

I know you have many questions, and we will continue to answer them as thoroughly and quickly as we can. Please visit our COVID-19 Resources website, which is being updated as new information becomes available. Right now, we want our students to return safely to their families and loved ones and focus on continuing their studies.

As we address the ongoing situation, I am so grateful for the dedication of everyone in our community. To our students, your academic success and overall well-being are paramount, and we appreciate you taking these steps and maintaining your academic progress. To our faculty and staff, thank you for your hard work and commitment to our educational and research mission, to our students, and to one another. It is truly a community effort and one that we can all be proud of. 

COVID-19 challenges us in many ways, but the teamwork, agility, understanding, and collaboration we have seen across our campus is not only remarkable, it is the hallmark of who we are as Eagles.