Fall 2021 Return to Campus Plans
April 6, 2021
To Stony Brook University students, faculty, and staff,
I’m pleased to write with the exciting news that Stony Brook University plans to return to primarily in-person learning, working, and research in the Fall 2021 semester. Recent developments on several fronts, including vaccination availability and evolving state, federal, and CDC guidelines, have made it possible to begin to restore the traditional campus experience — an experience that many of us have been eagerly awaiting for more than a year.
Certainly, as a president who began my tenure just last summer, I have missed the unique energy and creative spirit of a bustling campus. But more important, I know that a return to in-person learning is necessary for Stony Brook to continue to deliver the exceptional education that we are known for as one of the nation’s top public research universities. I have been incredibly proud of the way our students, faculty, and staff have adapted to remote work and met this challenge with such talent and skill, but our institution’s vitality benefits from a concrete, physical space in which we can collaborate, share, innovate, and challenge one another. There is much to plan, and we will do so with a focus on our university mission and a responsibility to create an atmosphere most conducive to the kind of creativity, reciprocity, interdisciplinary dialogue, and discovery that will define Stony Brook’s future.
Returning to in-person experiences will not be immediate. Instead, we will proceed in gradual steps that transition us from primarily virtual to primarily face-to-face activities, consistent with evolving guidance from the CDC and state officials. We have been able to offer vaccinations to our faculty and staff who are teaching in person, who are 30 years old or older, and who work in front-facing student service roles. The State of New York has declared residents aged 16 and older to be eligible for vaccination, effective today, and this is another significant milestone in our plan to return safely to campus. Today, alone, we expect to vaccinate 1,400 students, and we plan to do much more in the weeks to come.
Our current schedule of classes for Fall 2021 reflects offerings that are more than 80 percent in person. Courses that will remain online for 2021 include those that were designed to be online, as well as larger classes that cannot be offered in person during the scheduled renovation of the Jacob K. Javits Center lecture hall, which will be ongoing from 2021 to 2023. The vast majority of researchers have already returned to labs at lower density following a phased plan, and will soon move to the final phase. Many employees have begun to come back to their campus offices in Phase 5 of our plan to return to in-person work. We anticipate substantially easing our restrictions on density for the fall semester. Faculty and staff who believe they may be eligible for a leave under the FMLA or for an ADA accommodation can use the normal processes that existed prior to the pandemic. Questions about these processes can be addressed to the Health Information Line at (631) 632-5000.
In fall, our residence halls will return to near full capacity, and athletics and student activities will be restored, consistent with state and federal guidance. As we have learned during the past year, we will continue to be responsive and adaptable to the evolving public health guidance related to physical distance, masking, and vaccinations.
We are committed to learning from the experience of the pandemic and the new knowledge gleaned from our transition to remote work. I’ve heard from many of you that some aspects of our virtual interactions over the past year actually strengthened our engagements by providing greater access to advising and office hours and enhancing commuter student participation in events. I believe these lessons are an invitation to redesign our campus culture for the better, and I hope you, too, will consider how we might continue virtual activities that will amend or fortify, but not replace, in-person experiences.
Clearly there is much to do as we prepare for our Fall 2021 semester, and you can stay abreast of our progress on the Coming Back Safe and Strong website and through regular email updates. It has been my goal as president to maintain a clear and responsive dialogue with our campus, and in the coming months you can count on our plans being transparent and our communication frequent. The past year has been one of vast extremes — trying and inspiring, hectic and still, lonely and enlightening. But one sentiment I’ve heard throughout is that our community can’t wait to get together again. It’s spring on Stony Brook’s campus, and the air is buzzing with new life and a sense of possibility. We’re optimistic about our ability to welcome you safely back.