Dear AU Community,
It is an incredibly busy time as we reach the halfway point of the semester. We are embarking on Wellness Week, launching the mid-semester residential experience, and looking ahead to spring and summer activities. With so much going on, continuing to share the latest information with our community is an important part of moving forward and staying connected. This week’s update details these developments and reflects on sad news from last week.
I hope our students can find rest during Wellness Week and that our community embraces the intended opportunities for recharging. I know this has been an incredibly hard year, and this week is a time for your well-being.
While I wish spring break could have proceeded normally, the transition to Wellness Week supports the health and safety of our community at a critical junction in the pandemic. We are seeing progress against COVID-19 in the DC area and beyond. Case counts are down from the record highs of January and vaccinations are increasing rapidly. However, we are at a critical juncture where loosening our behaviors could lead to another surge in cases, and increase the number and penetration of more dangerous virus variants. We all need to keep following the public health guidance and doing our part to slow the spread of the virus.
The cabinet, the deans, and I hear and understand the student requests for classes to be canceled this week. However, classes must meet the established number of times throughout the semester to meet the required credit hours to ensure that we can grant credit for the class. Since we delayed the start of the semester by one week, we need to follow the existing schedule to meet our requirements. I know this is not the outcome many of our students want, but it is the safe and effective path for your health and education.
The Mid-Semester Residential Experience
The move-in process for the mid-semester residential experience is underway. This is an important milestone on our ramp up of activity and the path to full residential opportunities in the fall. It is exciting to see more students living on campus.
Students participating in the mid-semester residential experience are required to show a negative COVID-19 test prior to moving into the residence halls. Additionally, students will quarantine for 72 hours after move-in. These measures will help protect our students, faculty, staff, and the broader community.
Throughout the semester, I have also seen many students who live off campus as they come to the library, utilize study spaces, and safely engage with our community. With expanding activity across campus, we continue to carefully monitor COVID-19 cases in the AU community. Over the past several weeks, our case counts have remained low. But an increase in cases is possible with more people coming to campus, using the facilities, and interacting with members of our community and the broader DC region.
Our new Shield T3 testing system is operational and critical to the continued health and safety of the community. It will allow surveillance testing that we hope helps detect cases and prevent further spread. Additionally, everyone must follow the public health practices of masking, physical distancing, and hand washing, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 variants which can be more transmissible. These steps will contribute to a successful second half of the semester.
With signs of spring on our campus, anticipation for commencement is growing across our community. The finish line is in sight for our students who are about to become AU graduates. Let me be the first offer some early congratulations on all your hard work, and to send you the encouragement to finish the semester strong. You’ve got this!
To make the most of the opportunity to celebrate our graduates and their achievements, we are planning both an online commemoration and, if it is allowed by the DC government, an in-person recognition opportunity. As always, our approach is based on the health and safety of our community, and we continue to monitor the evolving trajectory of the pandemic and the local guidance from the DC government.
We will host a virtual university-wide Spring 2021 Commencement Celebration during our traditional commencement weekend of May 7–9. The celebration will be followed by online school-based online events. The Washington College of Law (WCL) online celebration will take place over the weekend of May 22–23 after the completion of their exams.
Concurrently, we are planning in-person recognition opportunities on May 8–9 for Spring 2021 graduates from main campus, and May 22 or 23 for WCL graduates. An in-person recognition for 2020 main campus graduates is planned for May 15–16 and May 22 or 23 for 2020 WCL graduates. Final determinations about these events will be made no later than the second week of April, based upon the direction we receive from the DC government.
More information will be available in the coming weeks. No matter the format, we are looking forward to a joyous celebration of our graduates and their achievements.
As the spring semester moves forward, I want to briefly update you about our plans for summer. The majority of summer courses will be online, with some labs and other experiential classes that require an in-person component taking place on campus. This is in line with our spring operations.
This year, we are allocating $1.2 million for summer financial aid. This pilot effort—the first time financial aid will be available for our traditional calendar summer courses—will help our current students and families, and inform our future efforts to expand summer educational opportunities as part of our lifelong learning strategic imperative. As previously announced, there will be no tuition increase for summer or the next academic year, and the AU Community of Care tuition discount will conclude at the end of the spring semester.
Finally, our community is saddened by the loss of AU student Eli Weinstock. To lose a promising young man is a tragedy. We are supporting Eli’s family and our community in this difficult time. If you need help, or someone to talk with, please reach out to the university’s resources. Students can contact the Counseling Center or crisis intervention services through ProtoCall 24 hours a day at 202-885-7979. Faculty and staff may access support through the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program by calling 202-885-2593. Please keep Eli’s family in your thoughts, please support one another, and please take care of yourselves.
Thank you for all that you continue to do under difficult circumstances. We have made important progress throughout the semester and our momentum will continue as work toward the full return of in-person activity later this year.
Be safe and be well.