After several months of uncertainty, Drexel University has officially canceled its hybrid reopening plan Wednesday, Aug. 19, in favor of a fully-remote fall term, President John A. Fry told the Drexel community in an email statement.
The University also announced its plan to implement a tuition freeze after facing months of backlash from students, who requested partial tuition reimbursements while learning remains virtual.
The decision to shift away from Drexel’s plan for a hybrid reopening comes, in part, after several local universities attempted a similar reopening plan. Drexel likely reassessed its own situation after seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases on their campuses.
“We had all hoped to stage our gradual return to campus, but the shifting nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on other colleges and universities has necessitated a change in course for Drexel,” Fry said. “After much consultation and a frank assessment of the situation at large universities that have brought undergraduate students back to campus, we have made the decision that undergraduate courses will continue remotely for the fall quarter.”
Drexel’s final hybrid reopening plan included mandatory testing and safety training for students, implementing mask requirements in all of the University’s facilities, utilizing a Drexel Health Tracker app to monitor symptoms, posting signage reminding students, faculty and staff to socially distance and using heightened sanitation methods. The hybrid reopening plan announced June 10 was put together by Drexel’s Fall 2020 COVID-19 Task Force, which spent months researching and evaluating all possible options and made a formal recommendation to the University that a hybrid reopening was the best choice.
However, Fry says that flexibility was a hallmark of the plan, knowing “[it] would need to be continually assessed, taking into account new data and changing conditions.” Recent trends showing a sharp increase in cases on college campuses, despite having precautionary measures similar to those that Drexel planned to implement, contributed to the upending of the University’s hybrid reopening plan.
“There are reports of nationwide campus-based disease outbreaks and cases rising among college-age individuals,” Fry said. “Such reports are on the rise exponentially and they greatly concern us. What we see happening across the nation on university campuses — outbreaks coupled with high rates of quarantine and isolation — we do not want to happen here.”
In addition to the virtual undergraduate courses — both synchronous and asynchronous — that Drexel is offering for fall term, the University had planned to offer a selection of in-person courses, favoring those best taught face-to-face. All in-person classes have since moved to a virtual setting.
Exceptions to this change are graduate courses from the Kline School of Law, the College of Medicine and several clinical programs within the College of Nursing and Health Professions, which may still be offered face-to-face.
Fry also announced the decision to close all University housing, excluding the American Campus Communities properties Chestnut Square, University Crossings and The Summit, which will honor student leases. All residence halls will remain closed, and students who planned to live there will not be permitted to stay on campus, except in emergency or hardship situations.
All on-campus events for undergraduate students are also cancelled, either being shifted to a virtual setting or postponed until winter term. In his statement made Wednesday, Fry said students can expect to hear from Student Life in the coming weeks about opportunities for engagement.
Also announced was the University’s plan to implement a tuition freeze for undergraduate students for the fall term.
“I am aware of the significant economic hardships COVID-19 has caused for students and their families,” Fry said. “It is our hope to assist students and help them stay on track with their academic journey. In recognition of these challenges, Drexel will cancel [its] tuition increase.”
Students who are planning to assume co-op positions for fall term will still do so, Fry said. These students will follow each employer’s individual COVID-19 safety plans in place.
Fry reinforced that the University’s first priority is always the health and safety of all members of the Drexel community.
“My sincere hope is that we will be able to welcome all students back to campus as soon as possible,” Fry said. “While no one can control the virus, my promise is that I will do everything I can to work toward the goal of bringing us all together again as a community.”
Drexel has not yet shared any information of plans regarding the University’s winter term, though President Fry said the university is hoping for a return in January.