Looking Forward to Spring Semester

October 23, 2020

Dear Tulane Community:

We are now a little over a month away from the end of an on-ground, in-person semester that many believed would never happen. Over the past six months, we have faced many complex challenges – as a nation, as an institution and as individuals – and have persevered to find a productive path forward. It brings to mind the famous quote from Albert Einstein: In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

We have and will surely continue to encounter difficulties in the months ahead, but we remain committed to creating opportunities for our community to learn, live, work and teach in person and on campus. We continue to learn about the most effective COVID-19 protocols for our community and how to successfully implement them. And, we are using this knowledge and experience as we plan for the best possible spring for our students, faculty and staff.

Although we still have many details to clarify, we have set the spring academic calendar – for the most part, the calendar will adhere to our pre-COVID-19 schedule. The first day of classes will be Jan. 19, our original start day. However, students will be scheduled to return the week before to begin COVID-19 screening via our Arrival Center, which will begin operations on Jan. 8. We will observe the Carnival break Feb. 15 and 16, in keeping with our culture and the practices of our community. There will be no spring break but there will be two or three additional days with no classes spread throughout the semester. The last day of classes will be May 3. Final exams, which will be held in-person and not online like they were this semester, will take place May 6 - May 11. As usual, students in residence halls will be expected to stay until their last final is over. Commencement will take place May 22, as originally scheduled.

These are the broad brushstrokes of our upcoming semester. There will be many more details to come in following weeks and all of our plans are contingent on local, state and federal safety recommendations and requirements.

Throughout the current semester we have promoted safe practices on our campus to protect both the Tulane community and the city residents with whom we interact. Our actions are informed by guidance from local, state and federal health officials as well as data we have collected over the course of the semester and our community’s feedback and recommendations submitted through a campus-wide survey administered by our Provost. We are committed to continued improvement in our response and protocols.

Earlier in the semester, an increasing number of positive cases caused us to raise our Action Alert Level from yellow to orange. Our close management and your diligence and commitment to safety have paid off. Since we have had weeks of significantly lower positivity rates (lower than both the city and state), we are returning our Action Alert Level back to yellow. This means we will reduce the twice-daily COVID symptom self-check text messages to once-a-day reminders.

However, we are not letting our guard down. All of our health safety protocols, including face coverings, social distancing, hand hygiene and restrictions on large gatherings will continue as before – they are the means that keep us safe. We will maintain our recently increased testing schedule for students (twice weekly for undergraduates both on and off-campus and every other week for graduate/professional students both on and off-campus). We know that quickly identifying/isolating positive cases and quarantining close contacts is the best way, after health safety protocols, to reduce the spread of COVID. To maintain the low positivity rates we are now experiencing, we must be more vigilant than ever.

We want to end with a word of heartfelt thanks and admiration. All the planning, strategizing and effort that has gone into making this semester an on-ground, in-person reality would have been for naught if not for your commitment to your health and the health of others. Never before has our motto, “Not for one’s self, but for one’s own” rung truer or been more beautifully displayed than it has been over these past few unprecedented and challenging months. The Tulane spirit is alive and well, and will remain so, because of you.

Michael A. Fitts, President
Patrick Norton, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Robin Forman, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost