Campus Report

COVID-19 Update: Fall semester to begin August 24

Office of Communications
June 15, 2020

Dear members of the Kenyon College community,

I am writing to update you on our planning for next academic year. The events of the past three weeks, including the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black men and women, and the continued national reckoning with police violence and racial injustice, weigh heavy on our minds. We must look urgently at our systems and structures through the lens of antiracism in order to recommit ourselves to a more just and equitable future. You will hear more soon on this work, with specific initiatives for next year.

In the meantime, our work continues to reimagine operations at Kenyon in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is much progress to report on, and yet still many questions to be answered. We will host livestreamed Q&A sessions for students, families and employees on Thursday, June 18; you may submit questions in advance using the form link provided in the email. You may also visit our website or email at any time.

Guiding Principles
In-person instruction is important to our mission, as is the residential experience that is so central to building a strong Kenyon community. Together with a dozen working groups that include faculty, staff and students, we are designing a program to carry out this mission in the presence of COVID-19. We are drawing on the best science and expert guidance available to balance three overarching goals: lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission and illness; preserve the Kenyon academic experience; and create a familiar, albeit modified, campus experience.

Academic Calendar
Fall semester
classes will begin on Monday, August 24, and run through Tuesday, November 24, when students will depart for a longer-than-normal winter break. By eliminating fall break and concluding classes prior to Thanksgiving, we limit travel to and from campus and minimize the risk of transmission. To ensure a full 14 weeks of instruction, instructors may schedule one or two class sessions outside of normal meeting times. Final exams will take place remotely in December, dates to be announced.

While it is too early to settle plans for the spring semester, our preliminary schedule has classes beginning on February 4 and running uninterrupted for 14 weeks. In this model, Commencement would proceed as scheduled in May.

During the winter intersession, we are excited to offer specially designed curricular and co-curricular opportunities that enhance and extend offerings beyond the traditional academic semester.

We expect to schedule a phased move-in with assigned time slots in order to administer COVID-19 testing of all students upon arrival (see below). Move-in details will be available in July, including schedules for student-athletes and new students. Orientation is being reimagined to include components delivered online over the summer, in person upon arrival and into the fall semester. Watch your Kenyon email for details in July.

Testing, Tracing and Isolation
Our testing program is part of an overall strategy of containing transmission that includes masking, distancing, personal health hygiene and enhanced cleaning routines. We are finalizing a contract with LabCorp to conduct an initial screening of all students, faculty and staff (details will follow). Those who test positive will be isolated, and their contacts traced. Those suspected of infection will be quarantined and tested by the Knox County Health Department. Throughout the year, LabCorp will conduct periodic testing within the community as well as routine testing of those engaged in activities that are at higher risk for transmission, such as varsity student-athletes, to track changes from our baseline. Finally, the College will participate in a program to monitor wastewater for the presence of the coronavirus, which could provide an early warning sign of possible new infections. We will provide the community with regular updates on the COVID-19 infection status of its members (in aggregate).

We recognize that students choose Kenyon for the intensive learning experience the College offers. We aim to retain as much of that experience as possible in the coming year. No doubt, wearing masks and keeping a safe, 6-foot distance from others — which the State of Ohio recommends for classrooms, laboratories and studios — will require some getting used to. However, we have heard from both students and faculty that in-person instruction is their strong preference, even with these modifications. Over the next two months, we will make any adjustments to the course schedule and classroom layouts that are necessary to meet safe distancing guidelines across a full schedule of courses. Some spaces not typically used as classrooms may be equipped for instructional use.

Housing, Dining and Residential Life
We are doing similar work to configure our student residences to meet distancing guidelines, and we appreciate your patience as we finalize those plans. We expect to be able to begin the housing selection process in early July; please watch your Kenyon email for details about housing options and selection. New students will receive their housing assignments by mid-July.

We have engaged students in the work of reimagining dining, recreation and social gatherings within the realities of a COVID-19 world. We will share more on this work in July, including our commitments and responsibilities to each other to maintain a safe and healthy community. There is no question that campus life will be different; there is also no question that the Kenyon community has the imagination and the compassion to create a vibrant and fulfilling campus experience that keeps health and safety at the center.

Athletic schedules remain to be determined by the North Coast Athletic Conference. In accordance with NCAA guidelines for Division III athletics, teams will be allowed to practice beginning August 10. With that date in mind, we are developing a phased move-in schedule and the implementation of specific health and safety measures for fall student-athletes. We expect updates from the conference in the coming weeks.

We recognize that some students may not be able to join us in person because of health concerns, travel restrictions or other considerations, and we will reach out in a separate communication to gather information on challenges students face in returning, including financial hardship. We also know that there is a chance that students may have to be isolated or quarantined for a time if they or someone with whom they had significant interaction tests positive for coronavirus. Faculty will be preparing so that they can make allowances for a student who is in quarantine or isolation, whether that be recording lectures/discussions, bringing the student into a seminar discussion using a remote camera or computer, or making other arrangements.

Likewise, we know that some members of our faculty and staff are at higher risk of serious illness because of age or underlying medical conditions. Employees who need a variance from any workplace requirement should reach out to the Office of Human Resources (staff) or the Office of the Provost (faculty) to request an accommodation. The request must be submitted in writing and employees will be required to provide written documentation to support their request.  

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I am deeply grateful for the care and imagination that has gone into this planning. We have much work ahead of us, and still more in adopting and embracing new practices, but I have every confidence in our ability to achieve our shared aspirations.


Sean Decatur

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