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U of M president to propose delaying return to campus for fall

Classes would still begin on time, but undergrad courses would move online-only for at least two weeks.


  • Proposal to be presented to the Board of Regents on Monday
  • Move-in dates would be delayed two weeks
  • Undergrad classes would begin as scheduled, but move online

University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel will ask the U of M Board of Regents to delay the return of undergraduate students at the Twin Cities, Duluth and Rochester campuses by at least two weeks this fall, citing ongoing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gabel will formally present her proposal at a special meeting scheduled for Monday morning.

In a letter to students and staff, Gabel cited recent coronavirus outbreaks at the campuses of UNC Chapel Hill, Notre Dame, and Michigan State.

"Minimizing transmission of COVID-19 has proven to be a formidable challenge for many communities, including college campuses," she said. 

Gabel also noted recent federal guidance suggests that higher education institutions should have the capacity to conduct up to 10,000 COVID-19 tests per day.

"While this is not formal policy, it is a harbinger of what may come—and it does not align with our current plans," Gabel said. "This is not the message I had hoped to send, but we are learning from our peers and tracking the change in testing protocols—and we are seeing how both impact our commitment to safety. " 

In the letter, Gabel announced she will propose that move-in dates be delayed by at least two weeks for all University housing at the Twin Cities, Duluth and Rochester campuses. The delay will give U of M officials time to evaluate the federal testing guidance and the U's efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

"This window helps us avoid moving large numbers of students into on-campus housing and then moving them out again if public health conditions eventually require distance learning for the remainder of the fall semester," Gabel said in her letter.

The letter states that exceptions to the housing delay may be made for international students and those for whom University housing is the safest or best option.

Students living off-campus are advised to limit any time on campus to necessary academic or personal health resources, and to maintain physical distancing while doing so.

In addition, the proposal will call for moving all undergraduate classes online for at least two weeks, with some limited exceptions. 

The move didn't catch U of M student Jackson Paradise by surprise.

"I feel like it's a good idea for the university," Paradise said. "We don't really know what to expect, and pushing it off two weeks will give us a better feel of what to do." 

Graduate and professional courses will be allowed to continue as previously planned by individual programs, due to the lower population densities in those programs.

The proposed delays would not affect the U of M campuses in Crookston or Morris, where move-in dates and classes are expected to continue as scheduled, due to lower COVID-19 case numbers in those communities, according to the letter.

Gabel said the University is considering several factors in deciding any adjustments to learning plans, including COVID-19 case numbers and demographics, testing availability, and changing state and federal guidelines.

The Board of Regents will meet at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, August 24 to discuss and vote on the proposal. That meeting will be streamed online on the U of M website.

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