October 6, 2020
Dear OU Norman Community,
Through your extraordinary effort, we are approaching the halfway mark of the fall semester. I am grateful for the collective efforts to limit the spread of the virus while ensuring that our academic purpose and our unique traditions continue to flourish. Although we are still very much in the midst of uncharted territory, your enduring spirit and generous goodwill remind me each day why OU is so special.
As we look to the future, our success in containing the virus relies on our continued best efforts and responsible planning. In keeping with our robust mitigation efforts, under the guidance of Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler, we are making several modifications to the Norman campus academic calendar to maximize our opportunity to continue our in-person education while protecting the health and safety of our community.
Fall Instruction Following Thanksgiving
Instruction for Norman campus-based programs will move entirely online following Thanksgiving break through the end of the fall 2020 semester, with lectures and final exams to be offered online. This covers the week of regular instruction following the holiday, the finals preparation week that follows, and the week of final exams. Norman campus programs that are delivered at OU-Tulsa are also included in this calendar change. All university facilities, including housing and library services, as well as research operations, will remain open.
We know a large portion of our residential students will return home for the Thanksgiving holiday – many to locations that do not have strict masking regulations like we do in Norman and at OU. By moving instruction online and providing the option for students to return home and stay there after Thanksgiving, we will reduce the infection risks associated with travel and subsequently, bringing it back to campus.
End-of-semester instruction and the final exam period are extremely important to students and require maximum stability, minimal disruptions, as well as very clear expectations. Students and instructors can now plan for the rest of the fall, and we can ensure that the semester ends with more certainty.
Furthermore, as the seasons change, the risk of co-infection with influenza will increase – a combined impact that could be detrimental to the surrounding community. By taking these steps, we can help protect the overall health of the greater Norman area from potential issues that could be exacerbated by the traditional flu season.
Students who choose not to remain in OU Housing for the remainder of the semester may make arrangements accordingly. Information on this process is forthcoming from OU Housing.
Residential students who plan to travel home for Thanksgiving are encouraged to test through OU’s voluntary surveillance testing before returning home to their families. Those returning to OU following the Thanksgiving holiday will also be encouraged to test upon their arrival to campus.
Spring 2021 Semester and Spring Break
The Norman campus, including Norman campus programs in Tulsa, will extend winter break by one week, with classes now beginning Monday, January 25, 2021. We will not offer a traditional Spring Break in 2021. With these changes, we will stay on track to end the spring semester as planned on May 14. Additionally, we are exploring the possibility of offering an instructional break day during the semester.
We understand the change in the spring schedule may be disappointing and disruptive for many, and this decision is not made lightly. In the face of the pandemic, we are forced to take all steps that maximize our ability to continue to provide in-person education and that minimize the health risks to our community. Based upon the best expertise available, this step is necessary to do so. Ultimately, these changes provide us with instructional and operational certainty. It is important that our teams and our instructors know what to expect for the coming months and how best to prepare.
Adding an extra week before the spring 2021 semester allows more time for operational readiness. Our spring semester courses will be structured in much the same way as we have the current semester.
OU Health Sciences Center Programs
At this time, the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters are continuing as planned for our OU Health Sciences Center programs in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The unique characteristics of these programs – the generally non-residential environments, small class sizes, and health care instruction components – do not require schedule modifications at this time. Should the circumstances necessitate a change, the university will keep all students, faculty, and staff in these programs informed of any new developments.
From the very beginning, our community has stood together with remarkable strength and purpose. The great strides we have taken together have helped us get this far, but our work continues. Practicing healthy behaviors, not letting down our guard, and graciously supporting each other have never been more important. As in everything we do, we will make it through this extraordinary challenge together.
Live On, University,
Joseph Harroz, Jr.