St. Olaf College | COVID-19

October 7, 2020 at 8:03 a.m.

Plans for the Interim and Spring

To St. Olaf College faculty and staffFrom President David Anderson

Dear Colleagues,

Thanks to all who responded to the poll regarding your thoughts about opening the College for Interim and spring semester. You’ve seen the results: 79% of faculty, 87% of staff, and 60% of students prefer Scenario 1 where Interim is online, followed by a two-week Interim break, followed by a return to campus, with the spring semester beginning with testing and quarantining as we did this fall. Because this scenario has such strong support in the community and because it is the scenario most likely to enable us to complete the spring semester in person, we have made the decision to go with it. Two quick notes: after the two-week Interim break, we will have three “rest days” sprinkled throughout the semester; also, we will treat December 28-30, 2020 as added holiday days for faculty and staff.

How did we come to this decision? That poll was one of many ways we sought people’s advice and opinions about how best to open safely, in person, in a way that would make it most likely for us to be able to continue operating safely through to commencement. The process began with the Emergency Academic Committee. Last summer, the EAC advised that we wait to make a call on how to open in the spring. Once we had successfully opened for the Fall and seen that the model we had chosen was working, the EAC drafted 4 scenarios (two main ones and two with slight variations on those) for Interim and Spring. These scenarios were shared for comment with the Deans Council, the Director of the Center for Advising and Academic Support, our colleagues in the Libraries and IT, the President’s Leadership Team, International and Off-Campus Studies, TRIO Student Support Services, our healthcare consultant, and the faculty’s Curriculum Committee. The President’s Leadership Team pared them back to two main scenarios and invited all students, staff, and faculty to comment on them and to express a preference for one or the other. Respondents weighed in with 60 pages of commentary. The results of the poll were shared with students, faculty, and staff, and then the scenarios were further discussed at a faculty meeting and an all-staff meeting. Following those meetings, the chair of the faculty’s Curriculum Committee invited further comment from committee members.

This is a consequential decision. It’s about more than the academic calendar. The welfare of students, faculty, and staff, not to mention the College, are at stake when we decide how and when to operate during a global pandemic. Thank you for helping us together come to the right decision for St. Olaf.