The University of Minnesota announced today that all of its campuses (Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester and the Twin Cities) are planning to return to fully on-campus operations this fall.
“Given projections on the number of Minnesotans who will be vaccinated, and relying on continued guidance from our public health colleagues, we are increasingly reassured that we can bring students, faculty and staff back to our campuses while effectively minimizing the risk to our community,'' said University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel.
The University has been operating in a hybrid mode, with both online and in-person classes, for the 2020-2021 school year. Some campuses had significantly more in-person engagement than others, but overall the hybrid approach provided ongoing education, research and service to Minnesota, but without the robust face-to-face engagement that means so much to members of the campus community and to all Minnesotans.
Returning to campus operations that will be more similar to those seen before the pandemic, including coursework and activities, will be consistent with state guidance and public health considerations related to the pandemic as autumn draws closer. With that in mind, today’s decision will help students, faculty and staff plan ahead for an increased number of classes being taught in person by the University’s nation-leading faculty and more activities taking place in-person throughout its five campuses this fall, ensuring that students have the greatest opportunity possible to experience the best of the University of Minnesota.
In the interest of ongoing support for public health and information-sharing in the coming months and into fall, the University will continue to provide widespread access to COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty and staff. Until further notice, the University will also continue to require face coverings and physical distancing, while also encouraging anyone who is feeling sick to stay home and for all to continue practicing good personal hygiene, such as regularly washing hands.
“The high level of compliance and compassion that our community has already exhibited by taking personal responsibility for reducing the spread of the pandemic has significantly lowered the positivity rate on our campuses,” said Jill DeBoer, director of the University’s Health Emergency Response Office. “In fact, several of our campuses have observed zero cases of COVID-19 over the past few weeks and we continue to have no record of cases spread in the classroom. This example is a testament to the shared commitment and actions of everyone at the University.”
While many may celebrate a decision to return, University leaders are aware that some members of the University community remain concerned about the effects COVID-19, for themselves, their loved ones and those around them.
“I want to reassure all members of our University community that we will continue to closely monitor the status of the pandemic, as well as vaccination rates, throughout this spring and summer,” Gabel said. “Unforeseen changes in the pandemic may cause us to adjust our planning, but for now we are confident that this decision is supported by the trends related to pandemic, vaccination rates and the high degree of compliance that Minnesotans overall have shown to reduce the spread of the virus.
“The University of Minnesota is proud of the way that our community has addressed the virus. Across our system, students, faculty, researchers and staff have stepped up with nation- and world-leading solutions to combat the virus and address the needs of fellow Minnesotans,” Gabel continued. “Our faculty transitioned to online education not in weeks, but literally in days, as we used technology and learning expertise to continue to advance the academic success of our students.”
University leaders, faculty and staff will continue the intense planning necessary to prepare for fall course registration in April, and on-campus courses and activities in the fall, as well as returning to pre-pandemic status in University residence halls, dining facilities and the variety of services offered through student life.
“We do this with deep appreciation for the enormous transitions that we have all endured in the past year and in recognition that our fall plans will restore a degree of normalcy for our community that so many seek,” Gabel said. “We will continue to use the expertise of our health sciences faculty and the guidance of state and federal public health experts as we plan for what we know will be a rewarding and exciting semester for our entire community.”
- Campus Affairs