Fall 2021 semester update from President Daniels and Provost Akridge
Dear Purdue Community,
As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic amidst this frigid Indiana winter, we also are actively planning for fall 2021, approaching the upcoming academic year just as we have all of our COVID-19 decisions to date, knowing we have to be flexible and adapt quickly when circumstances warrant. We will rely on the very best science and public health guidance available and build upon lessons learned from our experiences and those of our peers, with the ultimate goal to keep the Purdue community safe while delivering on our teaching, research, and engagement missions.
Most important as we look forward is our best forecast of the state of the current pandemic and how it may evolve into an endemic. Our Medical Advisory Team (MAT) believes that by late August everyone in the U.S. who wants to be vaccinated will have been vaccinated. In addition, epidemiological projections estimate that a large proportion of the population will have contracted COVID-19 by that point in time, also leading to a significant level of immunity. This projection is one we will continue to evaluate carefully as we move into late spring and summer, given uncertainties with regard to vaccine availability and the impact of COVID-19 variants.
With this outlook and our understanding of the significant impact of modified instruction on student success, instructor workload, and community well-being, our intent is to take another step toward full restoration of our residential instruction model for fall 2021, starting with our fall calendar. Our current plan is to follow our traditional fall calendar, with normal start and end dates and our typical breaks. If conditions change and we need to pivot to a different calendar, we will.
With the current assumptions, we expect classroom density will be increased, including larger lectures, permitting more face-to-face instruction in the fall. We expect masks to still be required as well as additional PPE where necessary. To this point, we have no evidence of classroom transmission — mask wearing is the primary reason for this. (Note: None of our Big Ten peers have reported any classroom transmission either.) We also expect more relaxed restrictions on student activities, consistent with local public health and CDC guidance. We will continue to take every step we can to protect those who are vulnerable in whatever way is appropriate at a given time.
Our Medical Advisory Team is currently bullish on our ability to move closer to a typical residential instruction experience by late August while they study the state of the pandemic and learn more about vaccine deployment, variants, levels of herd immunity, any new science on mitigation practices, etc. We look forward to working together to plan our fall semester using this set of planning assumptions. Should we need to pivot away from any of these plans or decisions, we will let you know as soon as possible.
Our thanks for all each of you continue to do to help us successfully navigate this challenging time.
Jay T. Akridge
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Diversity