Looking forward to Fall 2020

Published: July 31, 2020 Author: Staff reports

The following message was shared with the campus community July 31, 2020.

Editor’s Note: This message was updated Aug. 5, 2020, to include further detail on the implementation of Phase 1 and plans for Phase 2.

Dear University Community:

Last week, as we shared our latest on plans for our Fall Semester, I also indicated a collective concern about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases that we have seen in the communities where our campuses are located, in our state, and across the nation. In May and early June, as our work groups were creating our plan for the fall semester, our nation and our state were seeing decreases in daily case counts. Beginning in late June, we have seen a sharp increase in cases in almost every state. Like many universities across the country, the reality of the pandemic has led us to reconsider our approach to the fall semester.

Recognizing the changing situation, we’ve determined that the health of our students, faculty, staff, and communities is best supported by a phased return to our Athens campus and a hybrid approach for regional campuses. Our approach is informed following consultation with public health and medical partners who support the need to reduce the density of students, faculty and staff.

With this in mind, our fall semester will begin as scheduled on August 24, 2020, with the following approaches:

Athens Campus: Multi-Phased return
In Phase 1, a limited number of graduate and undergraduate students in a carefully selected set of academic programs will be permitted to return to the Athens campus. These programs require in-person experiences throughout the semester to meet accreditation or require access to essential, on-campus equipment or facilities. Undergraduate students included in Phase 1 programs will be notified as soon as possible but no later than August 4. Graduate students will be notified no later than August 7. Students in all other programs will begin their fall classes remotely on August 24 and continue remotely through September 27.

  • Update: All undergraduate students included in Phase 1 have been notified, and all graduate students eligible to return will be notified by Aug. 7.

Throughout this first phase, we will implement our safety protocols, including requiring face coverings for students, faculty, staff, and all members of the University community will sign the OHIO Pledge, committing to safe practices. We will continue to monitor conditions and seek the advice of public health officials to inform a second phase, beginning September 28. Leveraging what we learn during Phase I, we will increase face-to-face course offerings in Phase 2 as much as possible while working hard to ensure the safety of our campus and community.

  • Update: Ohio University is committed to notifying all students enrolled in Fall 2020 courses of their eligibility to return Sept. 28 as part of Phase 2 no later than Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Regional Campuses: Hybrid
On our regional campuses, which do not have on-campus housing, we will begin the semester as planned on August 24, and we will reduce density by offering face-to-face instruction only for clinical, practica, or lab-based classes. All other courses will be offered through remote instruction. Clinical, practica, and lab-based classes that do remain in person will be small, ensure social distancing, and face coverings will be required for all faculty, staff and students on all campuses.

Regional campus students will receive additional details from Executive Dean Nicole Pennington following this communication.

Online Option
Undergraduate students on all campuses who would like to arrange a fully online fall semester will have the option to do so.  Graduate students will be accommodated to the extent possible, with the exception of medical students in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. We have formed a Core Advising Team to help students understand their options and any impacts if they wish to make course changes to accommodate an all-online option. 

Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (HCOM)
HCOM successfully began classes on the Athens, Dublin and Cleveland campuses in July using a hybrid approach and will continue with the same approach throughout the fall semester. Students, faculty and staff learning activities that require onsite instruction and clinical experience are strictly observing CDC-informed guidelines for frequent handwashing, face covering, use of space, and appropriate distancing. 

Moving Forward
To our students, I know that our decision to move to a phased return to campus in Athens and to expand our hybrid approach on our regional campuses will have significant impacts on your own planning. We also recognize that you may be facing a variety of additional hardships in the midst of this public health crisis. With that in mind, the OHIO CARES Relief Fund will be modified to include eligible students enrolled in fall 2020 until funds expire, and Ohio University will commit an additional $5 million to assist even more undergraduate students who have demonstrated financial need during these unexpected transitions.

I want to thank our faculty and staff as well as community leaders and public health partners who have continued to play a role in our evolving fall plans. I also would like to thank Governor DeWine for his leadership and continued support of higher education, as we adjust to the latest public health realities.

As we move forward, we will continue to base decisions on our commitment both to the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and the communities we serve as well as our mission to deliver a nationally recognized, transformational academic experience. These two priorities cannot be separated. 

Achieving both of these goals will continue to require us all to be flexible and to support one another in the midst of uncertainty. Our Bobcat community is full of creative problem solvers – students, faculty and staff – ready to roll up their sleeves and learn and grow together through this next challenge, which will likely not be the last that this pandemic will bring to our lives.

I know you likely have many questions about the changes I have shared, and I have included many details below along with contact information for additional follow up.

We’ll see you all, virtually, on August 24. In the meantime, be safe, Bobcats.

With gratitude,

M. Duane Nellis


Detailed information about the Phased Fall Plan

Core Advising Team

A new Core Advising Team is prepared to assist students with questions about their schedule, the academic calendar, or other information about resuming learning as we approach fall semester.

  • Contact the Core Advising Team by e-mail at advisingcenter@ohio.edu or phone at 740.566.0340 as follows:
    •  hours: The Core Advising Team will be available for special hours on July 31 and August 1 from noon to 5 p.m. Eastern.
    • Regular hours: Beginning Monday, August 3, the Core Advising Team’s hours of operation will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern, Monday–Friday.
  • Regional campus students can also reach out to their campus Student Services office.


Academic Planning

  • Regardless of modality or location, fall semester will begin, as previously announced, on August 24.
  • Labor Day and Veterans Day will be observed as holidays, however we will eliminate Fall Break as previously announced.
  • Students on all campuses will be notified by the Office of the University Registrar on Monday, August 3, when updates to class details such as location, modality, and class notes have been finalized.
    • Athens classes that may be delivered in person in Phase 2 will still include classroom details at this time, even though most classes will begin remotely in Phase 1.
    • Regional campus classes will be updated to indicate how classes will be delivered for the duration of the semester.
  • November 20, 2020 will be the last day of in-person instruction for fall semester for most classes, except for regional campus clinical, practica and lab-based classes, HCOM, and a limited number of classes that have been granted an exception. The final weeks of instruction and examination/assessment week will be conducted remotely.


Housing and Dining

  • Athens Campus Housing and Residence Life and Culinary Services are committed to providing housing and dining accommodations to students who are approved to reside on campus during each phase of the campus return.
  • In the coming week, Housing and Residence Life will communicate directly to impacted students regarding adjustments to their housing and dining contracts, assignments, and associated charges.
  • Students approved for Phase 1 will receive an updated fall semester housing assignment, with charge adjustments as appropriate. Dining plans will remain as currently selected.
  • The University will automatically exempt any student not included in Phase 1 from the fall semester portion of their annual housing and dining contract at this time and will reverse those charges.
  • For students who require housing for an extenuating circumstance, there will be a process to submit a request to receive approval to return to campus for academic success. Students without a permanent place of residence and other students who have a demonstrated need will be allowed to apply for on-campus housing. An application for consideration to reside on campus must be submitted and can be found at ohio.edu/myhousing under Contracts and Applications.
  • Students who are eligible and choose to return to campus in Phase 2 will receive an updated housing assignment, and revised housing and dining charges will be assessed accordingly.


Student Life

  • Student support services and engagement opportunities will be offered virtually, including services such as tutoring, mental health counseling and more. Athens Campus Recreation is working to reopen facilities and programs with physical distancing and safety measures in place.
  • Student organizations, including fraternities and sororities, will receive support to move operations virtually so that students can participate from any location.
  • The Baker University Center and the University Libraries will reopen with limited hours to provide on-campus study and research space.
  • Regional campuses will have designated, safely distanced study spaces available for students.


Tuition, Billing and Financial Aid

  • Ohio University will continue to deliver the high-quality education you expect and deserve regardless of modality, and tuition will be consistent with the students’ Guarantee cohort, campus and/or program rate, according to existing rate tables.
  • The fall semester payment due date will be changed from August 21 to September 21 to allow time for adjustments to course schedules, housing and dining charges, or student financial aid.
  • The Office of the Bursar and the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships will communicate directly to impacted students regarding their account details over the next few weeks.

In recognition of the ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic, the OHIO CARES Relief Fund will be modified to include eligible students enrolled in fall 2020 until funds expire. Additionally, OHIO will commit $5 million in additional one-time institutional funding to assist even more undergraduate students who have demonstrated financial need during these unexpected transitions. Information about eligibility for these funds is forthcoming, and students eligible to request funding will be notified when the application becomes available