Fall semester announcement

Message sent June 22, 2020

President Iuliano announces that the College will return to residence in the fall, making the opportunity available to every student who wishes to return to campus.

Dear Members of the Gettysburg College Community,

Over the past several months, colleges and universities across the country have been asking whether higher education should return to a residential learning environment given the continued presence of COVID-19 in society. This question has been discussed in the national media, and it is one that we, here, at Gettysburg College have studied intensively. In the process, we have benefitted from the perspectives offered by our students, parents, faculty, staff, and alumni, and, perhaps most importantly, by the public health and medical experts advising the College.

As a result of this work, and our commitment to our educational mission, the College is pleased to share with you today that we will return to residence in the fall. We do so in part out of a firm conviction that a dynamic liberal arts education is best advanced in a residential setting. The very economic, cultural, and social issues presented by the pandemic help underscore why we believe it is essential for students to acquire the skills to make sense of an increasingly complex world and to evaluate their place in it. Quite simply, being together provides students the greatest opportunity to engage in curricular and co-curricular interactions that will amplify their learning and understanding and help develop those skills. While we recognize that not every student may be able to return to campus this fall, we know our students agree that they learn best when they live and study together on our campus.

By necessity, it will not be business as usual when we return in the fall. There will be changes to the way we live, study, and teach. There will be a heightened awareness of the responsibilities we owe to one another, as we seek to protect each other’s health and well-being. In short, it will require our collective sacrifice, patience, flexibility, and understanding.

The liberal arts education we offer challenges each of us to grow as socially responsible citizens, capable of seeing beyond ourselves in service of the greater good. It is this shared commitment that has long shaped who we are as a community, and I believe it will likewise position us to succeed in a year unlike any other in our College’s history.

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In my last fall planning communication to the community, I described the working groups we established to examine whether and how we might return residentially for the upcoming academic year. Since then—and thanks to the careful and studied efforts of our working groups—we have materially advanced our plans. We also have received the welcome news from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf that Adams County has moved into “green” status as of June 12, which means that while some precautions are still necessary, we are permitted to resume in-person instruction.

Our return to campus will continue to emphasize the health and safety of our community, which is why things at Gettysburg will be different this fall. Just as our society has changed in fundamental ways in response to COVID-19, so too will our campus experience. For example, we will wear masks and face coverings in campus buildings and when we are within six feet of one another; more classes will be held in the evenings and in alternate spaces to allow for smaller class sizes; and all community members will be responsible for monitoring their own health on a daily basis. These are essential commitments we must all make to enable us to be together this fall. This has long been a campus that looks out for and supports one another, and it is that sense of community that gives me confidence that we will adapt to the many changes in the way we will go about our work and studies.

Here is some additional information about what you can expect this semester:

  • We will return to our residential learning environment in the fall with adjustments to our academic calendar. We will start classes on August 17, two weeks earlier than usual. We will eliminate fall Reading Days and conclude on-campus instruction on November 20, prior to Thanksgiving. Given this approach, final exams will be administered remotely, with our fall semester ending on December 6.
  • Our faculty members are actively preparing for the academic year—through their participation in a Pedagogy Institute this summer—and will be ready to deliver flexible and diverse curricular offerings of the highest quality. Courses will be taught in various formats, some purely in person, some a mix of in person and online, and some purely online, even for students in residence. Should circumstances evolve such that we are required to move away from our residential model, we will be ready, and our courses are being designed with this possibility in mind.
  • On campus, we will abide by a community-wide commitment to physical distancing and other health guidelines. We do this with the understanding that social interaction remains a necessary component of the residential learning environment. The College also intends to engage in what public health experts call surveillance testing—both random and targeted testing of students—as a means of monitoring the health of our community. This will help us understand the conditions on campus and then to use established techniques of mitigation, contact tracing, isolation, quarantine, and further testing in response to any positive cases.
  • In this unusual year, we want to give students options for how they approach the fall. We will, of course, welcome every student who wants to study on campus. For those who are unable to return to campus, however, we will be offering course options that will enable them to continue their studies at the College. These course options will include a suite of online courses. Finally, we are working on a number of other alternatives, including College-endorsed gap semesters, for those who would prefer a different path for the fall.

The health and well-being of our community is paramount to a return to campus. To that end, we have established a partnership with Keeling & Associates—a higher education consulting firm whose focus is primarily in campus health-related issues. Keeling & Associates has been instrumental in our health and safety planning, and we will continue to engage with the firm throughout the summer and upcoming academic year as we refine our plans.

While this letter speaks broadly to our approach for the fall, our work continues. Many additional details about the 2020–2021 academic year—including those related to housing, academics, and tuition and fees—can be found on our website. Of course, there are many questions that have not yet been answered. We will continue to advance our planning in the weeks ahead with the understanding that—given the nature of the virus and the many variables beyond our control—we may need at a later date to further adapt our plans. Our plans will continue to be informed by guidance from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Centers for Disease Control; we will stay abreast of any new developments; and we will communicate important changes to our plans if and as they arise.

The College’s next fall planning update will be shared on or before July 7. We will also be regularly updating the website to provide additional information as it becomes available. For now, please familiarize yourself with our current fall plans—most of which speak to our updated academic calendar and the health and safety practices we are actively putting into place.

In my virtual town halls, I have spoken often about the uniqueness of our Gettysburg College community, and how we all have a stake in our response to COVID-19 and in a successful return to our residential environment. With our community at the forefront of our efforts, we want to continue to engage you in this process and to provide you with the forum to share your voice and your thoughts. Please email fallreturn@gettysburg.edu with your hopes and concerns for the months ahead. This will help to ensure we are considering our community’s wide variety of viewpoints on the complex scenarios before us.

As you know, any return to our residential program will come with its share of challenges, and we will likely experience some bumps along the way. It will be new. It will be different. It will be memorable. But as a community, we are Better Together, and I know we will rally as Gettysburgians—just as we always do—and continue to do great work in the year ahead.


Bob Iuliano