Looking Ahead to the Fall Semester: An Overview
July 7, 2020
To all Students, Staff, and Faculty:
I have heard from students, colleagues, friends, and family alike that over the last few months, time has worked in mysterious ways. Some days seem to last an eternity, yet entire months—whole seasons, in fact—have gone by in the blink of an eye.
But time has moved forward. Now, we are just two short months away from the start of the fall semester, when many students, faculty, and staff will return to campus for in-person and hybrid education. Other community members will continue to learn, teach, and work from home. In a sense, our campus is expanding — radiating out from Long Island, into homes across the nation and around the world — because that is what this moment requires.
I’m writing to you today to share updates on issues we all care deeply about: the education and opportunities at Stony Brook, and what the fall semester will look like for our campus community in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In planning for the fall semester, we drew upon the knowledge and expertise of our working groups that included faculty, staff, and health care experts, while closely following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and state and local health and administrative leadership. All of our planning efforts have been in line with New York State (NYS) guidelines and timing.
Stony Brook is a university with a diverse and engaged student population, cutting-edge research, and an established commitment to progress. Going forward, Stony Brook will continue to be exactly this. But it will also be a dynamic, adaptable university: able to reimagine itself as the COVID-19 situation evolves. With online academics, detailed safety and health protocols, hybrid learning, dynamic mental health and wellness support, and a campus life reengineered for 2020, Stony Brook is committed to its mission of being a university of academic excellence, integrity, and accessibility, while making clear that the health and well-being of our community is our highest priority.
Because of this, I want to be clear: Stony Brook leadership is closely watching and monitoring the scientific data and medical recommendations of our public health officials. New York was one of the early epicenters of the pandemic in this country. It has now significantly reduced the incidence and spread of COVID-19, but the United States is nowhere close to controlling the disease. Our plans for the fall will be refined as the situation evolves, and we will keep you informed. As such, the information we are sharing today may change as the facts change and will remain in accordance with CDC and NYS guidelines and assessment.
Below, you will find a detailed outline of how we plan to reopen in Fall 2020 with your health and safety at the forefront. Further information can be found on the Stony Brook COVID-19 FAQ page.
Sustaining a Healthy Campus
While we navigate this pandemic, we absolutely must take care of one another and implement practices and policies to protect students, faculty, and staff at Stony Brook. This begins before any of us even set foot on campus, when adherence to CDC guidelines is critical.
As we continue to receive new information on testing availability and regional spread, we will be updating our testing plans. We intend to have a finalized outline for testing requirements by August 1. Students who plan to return to campus in the fall may be required to take a COVID-19 test and self-quarantine during the 14 days prior to returning to campus. Close attention to our pre-testing protocol will be especially important for students who are coming from or have traveled to a high-risk state before coming to campus. It is expected that those who live in or have visited a high-risk state follow appropriate 14-day quarantine guidelines before returning in fall.
If you test positive for COVID-19 prior to returning to campus, please remain at home, take care of yourself and monitor your condition, and work with the leadership in your departments to develop academic accommodations.
Once on campus, we will require you to maintain a safe social distance of six feet from one another, aligning with guidance from the CDC and NYS. We will require all community members to wear facial coverings. This is our standard and we expect all community members to respect these guidelines except in the following, specific circumstances: when eating or drinking; occupying a personal residence or workspace where six feet of distance is possible; showering or brushing teeth in changing rooms; and engaging in specific academic activities, rehearsals, or performances in which wearing a mask is not feasible. Masks will not be required in outdoor spaces where six feet of social distancing can be maintained.
All community members—including students, faculty, and staff—are required to do a daily health screening that monitors for infection and symptoms. Such screenings must be performed prior to coming to class, research, or work and must utilize our newly developed app, which is currently in its testing phase and will be released soon. If a community member demonstrates symptoms, they will “screen-in” and be directed to a COVID-19 test, which can be done at any available provider, including Stony Brook Medicine outpatient clinics and the NYS campus testing site. There continues to be local availability for testing.
Employees should refer to their unit’s Return to Work Plan for more information on social distancing and scheduling. These plans include staggered schedules, extended hours and considerable telecommuting options, and the addition of plexiglass and other engineered solutions to certain work areas.
Facilities will be cleaned consistently and thoroughly throughout the day. More details about that process can be found here.
We have also implemented a confidential telephone information number as a resource for employees who have general and work-related questions about COVID-19. This number includes the Health Information Line (HIL), Health Resources Information Line (HRIL), and FSA Employee Information Line (FSAIL). This number is available to all employees of the West Campus, Southampton, Health Sciences Center, and the School of Medicine, and can be accessed by calling (631) 632-5000 (on campus 2-5000). Stony Brook University Hospital employees and clinical faculty in the Renaissance School of Medicine should contact HR at (631) 444-4700. Long Island State Veterans Home employees should contact HR at (631) 444-8617.
If you have more questions about our health practices for the fall, please call the appropriate number above or visit our COVID-19 FAQ.
Online, In-Person, and Hybrid Learning
To control for travel and potential spread, the fall break scheduled for October will be eliminated. All on-campus classes will end just before Thanksgiving. The last week of all classes and exams, including finals, will take place remotely after Thanksgiving. The Health Sciences schools have calendars that differ from this schedule based on factors that include professional training and clinical activities that cannot be performed off-campus. The first day of class begins August 24. The Thanksgiving break (and vacation of campus for those not in Health Sciences schools) begins November 23, and (for those not in Health Sciences schools) classes and finals will be conducted online thereafter.
In planning their academic schedules, students will be able to choose from courses in different formats. This is to enable each individual to make the decision that best serves them and their progress toward graduation. Some courses will be entirely online, others will be in person, and still others will be hybrid, meaning that some students may attend in person while others participate remotely.
Our schools and colleges are working to ensure that we can provide a robust range of courses to meet the needs of our students. Class formats will be determined by individual schools, colleges, and academic units. Our faculty and staff have been working to enhance online and hybrid learning so that they reflect the high standards of academic rigor we’ve come to expect at Stony Brook. We will have more information on these offerings in the coming days.
All larger lecture classes will be done remotely, and there is a 45-person maximum cap on all in-person classes. Small on-campus classes will meet in person in larger venues to allow for social distancing. Students will be required to wear face coverings in on-campus classes. Each available classroom and venue has been evaluated to ensure that we can maintain appropriate social distancing, and layout changes have been made to seating to accommodate safety protocols.
Additionally, our academic planning guidelines include an offering of asynchronous coursework that can be assigned and completed for full credit during times of isolation, quarantine, or other health-related scheduling issues for those taking on-campus courses.
Our course offerings and class schedule will be set on July 10. The revised Fall 2020 schedule will be available on SOLAR by that date. Courses will be clearly identified on SOLAR as in person, online, or hybrid, as well as synchronous or asynchronous. We will be in touch with you around that date to share all of the new information.
Life On Campus
Residence halls will be opened with strict health, sanitation, and security guidelines in place. A maximum of two students will live in a given room, and there will be no non-SBU visitors or any overnight guests permitted in residence halls. Additionally, we will reserve residence units to serve as quarantine housing as needed throughout the academic year. We have accelerated and redesigned our move-in schedule to allow for a phased approach and to manage different levels of quarantine and out-of-state travel.
Dining halls will be operational and will follow CDC and NYS guidelines to clean, sanitize, and provide socially distanced dining. We will be considerably leveraging our grab-and-go food options and decreasing seating substantially.
Our safety guidelines for dining halls include but are not limited to: reformulated seating and spacing design, contactless transactions, sneeze guards, socially distanced staff, outside queuing areas with social distance protocol in place, and centrally located food service to avoid overcrowding.
While we will have many opportunities to build community, celebrate, discuss, and engage in the kind of critical, empathetic dialogues that define the Stony Brook community, all in-person campus events have been canceled until August 23. Most such events will be canceled in the fall as well, with the exception of some small group activities that adhere to group size limits permitted by NYS. We will continue to support online lectures and arts and cultural events throughout the semester and to find ways to build on our traditions. Additionally, to avoid spread, all campus tours will be handled virtually for the foreseeable future.
We have also made the very difficult decision to hold our December commencement ceremony online. We will do all we can to celebrate the achievements of our fall graduates who have worked so hard throughout their academic careers. More information will be available in the coming months.
Guidelines for Faculty and Staff
Our faculty and staff are the foundation of this university. Their ability to help lead Stony Brook through this fall semester is absolutely essential, and they will only be able to do this if their health needs are accommodated and accounted for. If a faculty or staff member has concerns about teaching or working in person, they should follow the procedure set out in the June 30 Return to Campus directive.
As previously stated, faculty and staff will be required to perform daily health screenings via our newly developed app and to follow all the necessary protocols if there is a possibility of infection. This new tool is in a testing phase and mirrors the screening being used currently by our researchers.
Faculty and instructors will also be required to wear a face covering while teaching in person.
Graduate Student Teaching
If you are a graduate student currently serving as a TA, GSA, or under a teaching fellowship, and you are concerned about teaching in person, please follow the procedure set out in the June 30 Return to Campus directive.
International Students and Study Abroad
Our protocol for international and study abroad students will be consistent with current World Health Organizaiton and CDC guidelines. Although our finalized, detailed plan for pre-testing will be released on August 1, all individuals enterning from abroad may have to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the U.S. and immediately before arriving on campus.
As per the SEVP guidance provided on July 6, 2020, SBU is considered a hybrid model institution. As such, F-1 students currently inside the U.S. may remain, but must enroll in at least one in-person class. Given the current guidance, F-1 students outside of the U.S. and who cannot arrive to SBU for the fall semester will not be allowed to maintain F-1 status while abroad. Students participating in the SBU Home Abroad program or authorized for Graduate Research Abroad will maintain F-1 status while abroad.
More detailed information will be provided to international students regarding the impact of this updated guidance.
As previously stated, our revised course offerings and class schedule will be set on July 10 when phased registration will begin. Courses will be clearly identified in SOLAR as in person, online, or hybrid, as well as synchronous or asynchronous. We will be in touch with you around that date to share all of the new information.
The Return of Research
Consistent with NYS guidelines, researchers have been returning to campus in a phased schedule and are following our new social distance and health protocols. More information on this research plan can be found here.
The Return of Student Athletes
The situation and possibilities for Stony Brook athletics are being closely monitored. We continue to review the guidance of the NCAA, the leadership of our athletic conferences, the CDC, and NYS, and will message our community with information as the athletics plan evolves in the coming days.
When possible, including in trainings and competition, athletes will be required to maintain a six-foot distance. This will be made easier by a required decrease in density to all shared athletic spaces, such as locker rooms and meeting rooms. Additionally, all student athletes and athletics staff will be required to wear face coverings indoors and within common areas, wash hands frequently, and follow all CDC hygiene guidelines.
Frequently used facility surfaces will be disinfected daily, and equipment will be disinfected after each use. In order to further reduce contamination, athletics spaces will be strictly limited to current student-athletes and staff. No visitors will be permitted to use the facilities, and all staff and student-athletes will be required to participate in route mapping before entry and exit in order to eliminate unnecessary cross-traffic and congregation.
As it stands today, student-athletes will return in a phased approach, with the arrival of football players in small groups starting in mid-July, followed by other fall sports in early- to mid-August.
What You Can Do Between Now and Fall Semester
Every day, week, and month has been critical in stopping the spread of COVID-19, but the next six weeks will be especially important to all of those returning to our campus in the fall. At Stony Brook, we take care of each other. We empower each other. We work, change, and strive together, which means that over the next six weeks, each of us will be individually responsible for following all CDC guidelines and keeping healthy and informed before returning to campus. This will allow us to offer the best possible education we can this coming semester.
This is our current path forward. It’s been a long road getting here and there’s an even longer road ahead. As I stated before, Stony Brook is closely watching for medical and scientific updates, and is both ready and able to adjust fall semester plans based on official health recommendations. We are all continuing to learn, plan, organize, and evolve for the future, but we can take pride in how we’ve adapted during the journey thus far.
These past few months have been difficult for many, but they have also helped spur evolution and change—quickly. Our times demand new thinking, new solutions, and new dialogue, all of which we have and will continue to cultivate at Stony Brook. And that is my focus as President: to enable you to meet this moment as thinkers, as teachers, and as leaders—which is what our world needs right now.
I am confident that we can work together to build a better, safer, more accessible, richer society, with you and our academic community leading the way.
Together, we are Stony Brook Strong!