Revised Academic Calendar for Fall 2020
June 15, 2020
Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,
Over the past several months, we have been working hard to prepare for the fall semester. Our goal is to provide our students with the best possible in-person experience, while protecting the health and safety of all members of our community, on campus and in the Village of Clinton.
We continue to await New York State’s authorization for reopening higher education and guidance on how residential colleges like ours should operate in a world of physical distancing. Once we hear from the state, we can finalize our plans for the fall. Nevertheless, I wanted to share with you some of our current thinking, particularly a change in our academic calendar, so that you have as much time as possible to make arrangements for the semester. You can expect to receive additional and much more detailed information in the coming weeks.
Multiple committees are developing plans and making preparations to reopen the campus. Many things will look different this fall, and all members of the community will be asked to accept some level of inconvenience to protect everyone’s safety. We expect, for example, to put in place a multi-layered system to minimize health risks to our community while still retaining as much of the academic and cocurricular experience as possible. That system will include physical distancing, wearing face coverings, diagnostic testing, routine symptom-checking, extensive cleaning and disinfecting of common spaces, and space for isolation and quarantine, should that prove necessary. We will also modify options for housing and dining.
One of the changes we will make involves the academic calendar. Our first day of classes will be Monday, Aug. 24 (previously August 27), although arrival dates and times for new and continuing students will be staggered to increase physical distancing. A revised Orientation for new students will be held Thursday, Aug. 20, through Sunday, Aug. 23. The Hamilton traditions of matriculation and convocation will be preserved, but the format will change, also to allow appropriate physical distancing.
The last day of fall classes will be Tuesday, Nov. 24. Exams will be conducted remotely the week following the Thanksgiving holiday. International and U.S. students who feel they need to remain on campus will be invited to make a formal request closer to the end of the semester.
This compressed calendar will require that some classes be held on Saturdays and some on weekday evenings. The Academic Continuity Advisory Group has been working hard on developing resources to support both hybrid (i.e., a combination of in-person and asynchronous instruction) and blended (i.e., some people are present while others are engaged remotely) teaching to support physical distancing and to prepare for a change in plans if necessary due to a resurgence of COVID-19. It was a difficult but necessary decision to eliminate fall break. On-campus activities designed to adhere to physical-distancing requirements will be emphasized to encourage students to maximize their time on campus and minimize travel in order to keep our community safe.
Based on the information currently available to us, the modified fall calendar we are adopting is the most responsible and best option for preserving the integrity and richness of a Hamilton education – and doing so safely – in light of the complexities we face. It allows us to open in the fall with minimal disruption to the initial calendar and complete in-person instruction before the flu season fully overlaps with the continuing challenge of COVID-19.
We will provide much greater detail on our plans in a few weeks, with the understanding that the course of the pandemic may force major changes at any point. With that in mind, we are continuing to make contingency plans for a range of possibilities, including a return to remote instruction.
I appreciate your patience as we sort through the remaining issues. We will send out soon an invitation to a virtual town hall, where we will invite questions on fall plans.