Fall Semester - Protect KU and You

Barbara A. Bichelmeyer Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor
Thursday, July 2, 2020, 11:43 a.m.
All KU Lawrence and Edwards Students,KU Lawrence Faculty Staff and Affiliates

This message pertains primarily to students, however staff and faculty may also find the information helpful.

Dear Undergraduate and Graduate Students,

Thank you for your patience as we work through the many arrangements needed to prepare for the start of classes this fall. This has been a challenging time for many, if not all of us, and I sincerely hope you and your family and friends are well in every respect.

We know you have many questions and our staff and faculty are developing not simply answers, we’re making changes that strive to reduce the risk of viral transmission while we return to campus as we also work to meet the needs of students who can’t attend class in person. Earlier this week we announced the Protect KU Plan that outlines many of the steps being taken that may serve to protect the people who study, work and live on our campuses.

Here are several changes and adjustments we want you to know.

Academic calendar

One of the known risks in transmission of COVID-19 comes when individuals travel to other areas that may be experiencing a spike in positive tests. Because no one can predict where or when those hotspots will emerge, it is important for members of the campus community to remain here as much as possible after they arrive. Therefore, we’ve made small but significant adjustments to the in-person academic calendar for fall.

Fall semester 16-week courses will begin on Aug. 24. Classes will be held on Labor Day and Veterans Day. Fall Break is canceled so that in-person class sessions can continue through Nov. 24, right before the traditional Thanksgiving holiday break. Nov. 30 - Dec. 6 will be a study week that students will be able to engage in from their permanent residence and will apply to most courses. More details about study week can be found at KU’s Coronavirus website. Final exams will be conducted remotely the week of Dec. 7-11.

Classroom scheduling

To help limit the density of students in classrooms and allow for frequent cleaning, we will schedule classes from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. Saturday courses will only be scheduled as a last resort. Courses may be moved to different classrooms or different buildings to better accommodate the number of students enrolled in a course and still follow recommended guidelines for physical distancing. Additionally, the time between MWF classes will be extended to 15 minutes in order to avoid congestion in buildings, walkways, buses and other areas. To accommodate these changes, KU faculty and staff are working behind the scenes to review and adjust the Fall 2020 schedule. Students may start to see some changes to class times, capacities, and locations in Enroll and Pay. We ask all students to hold on making any changes to their fall schedule until the Office of the University Registrar has finished updating the fall schedule later this month. Additional communication about the specific changes and actions students can take will be communicated throughout July.


Effective immediately, all faculty, staff, students, affiliates, visitors, vendors, and volunteers must wear a face covering (cloth face covering, surgical mask, etc.) over one’s mouth and nose when in common areas of a campus building and when within six (6) feet of another individual(s) anywhere on campus. Additional information about the mask policy will be made available prior to the start of the academic year and it will include information for students who may have extenuating circumstances that would make wearing a mask difficult.

Wearing a mask is an effective safety measure. This policy began as an effort on our campuses, and regional and state leaders soon followed suit. At this time in Kansas everyone over the age of two is expected to wear a mask in public spaces including in many kinds of privately held businesses. Research data show that masks reduce spread of contagion, so everyone on campus will be required to wear one. We are committed to taking measures to reduce the risk to the health of our employees, students and partners, especially those who are immune-compromised.

Campus preparation

Facilities Services is working this summer to deep clean all buildings, install signage and, where needed, plexiglass dividers. Elevators will be limited to one person at a time; hallways and staircases will have directional signage to help speed transitions to destinations; classrooms and common areas will be modified to support physical distancing guidelines. Many research laboratories and some of KU’s library structures are already open with these new modifications. This is simply the beginning of many changes you will notice when you are on-campus this fall.

Living on campus

Living on campus is an important part of the student experience and encouraging student success at KU. Student Housing remains dedicated to supporting residents. To help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, we are making some important adjustments to on-campus housing for 2020-21. All our decisions and policies are informed by the best available guidance from public health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our decisions are also designed to achieve the goal of an engaged living and learning experience for all residents.

Orientation & Hawk Week

New student orientation for undergraduates, international students, graduate students, and new graduate teaching assistants will all be conducted online. New Jayhawks will begin their KU career with Hawk Week, several days’ worth of in-person and virtual events that introduce students to foundational KU traditions and history, campus resources, and provide opportunities to meet members of the KU community. The Office of First-Year Experience and our campus partners are currently working on this year’s schedule of events and will follow public health guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. The full Hawk Week schedule will be available in early August.

Faculty preparation

Our goal for fall is to provide a quality and engaging educational experience that allows Jayhawks to continue their learning no matter their physical location. We also know some students may not be able to return to campus, and will need flexibility in course offerings to ensure they can continue to make progress towards their degree. We are going to unprecedented measures to make this happen, and to design courses that provide lots of interaction with faculty, active learning, and considerable feedback on assignments and tests. Students can expect to receive more information about modified course offerings in coming weeks.

Student organizations and activities

Student engagement on campus remains essential to student success.  New and returning Jayhawks will be able to remain active in campus activities both in person and through virtual spaces. We are committed to assisting our students in finding your communities within student organizations and leadership opportunities to ensure you have a sense of belonging at KU and so you can make a difference while learning vital leadership skills. Given current distancing guidelines for health and safety, student organizations and activities have become a more important conduit for the Jayhawk spirit and experience than ever before.  Engagement is the Jayhawk experience.

Campus programs and services

Our staff who provide campus resources and services have been working hard since we moved to remote work in March to stay connected and available to our students and community. We will continue to provide services and support following the best available guidance from public health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similar to our course offerings for the fall semester, we are working to establish services that can support our students no matter where they are – whether that be in-person or remotely. As we get closer to August, more information will be available about office hours and appointment availability. In the meantime, continue to reach out to campus resources – as we all remain open and available while working remotely this summer.

CVKey health assessment app

KU is participating in a project to encourage daily screening of COVID-19 symptoms prior to arriving at campus buildings. KU Research Professor and alumnus Brian McClendon is leading the nonprofit organization CVKey, which has developed an app that will allow our community members to complete a daily review of possible COVID-19 symptoms before leaving home. After logging the information, the app generates a barcode that either allows entry into KU buildings, or advises the user to stay home and consult with a health-care professional. The app does not collect or share the user’s personal information. Individuals who choose not to use the app will need to fill out a paper-based survey every time they enter a KU building.

Safety measures

While we are providing for your safety, we need to also ask that each of you participate in protecting your fellow Jayhawks, as well as protecting yourself. You can expect to be asked to: sign a pledge and commit to the socially responsible actions it describes -- wear a mask when you are inside or in a gathering with others who may be closer than six feet apart; adhere to physical distance guidelines put forward by public health agencies; and assess your personal health conditions every day.

Students, this is the first of a number of messages KU will share with you in the weeks ahead. Pandemic conditions continue to change and evolve and our efforts will be responsive to the latest medical guidance. We have dedicated this summer to preparing our campus with safety in mind and delivering our courses so you have a highly engaging experience this fall. There are many more things we will share as we confirm details.

Please share your questions and concerns with us. We look forward to learning from you.



Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor