Aug. 6, 2020
Dear Johns Hopkins Undergraduates:
We write today with a profound sense of regret and intense disappointment to share the news that we will not be able to return in person to campus this fall as we had hoped. With the full support of the board of trustees, we have come to the difficult but necessary decision that the fall semester will be entirely online for our undergraduates.
As you know, our faculty, staff, and students, including your colleagues on the Student Advisory Committee, have worked tirelessly over the past several months to explore and develop multiple options for a safe return. Unfortunately, the pandemic is clearly worsening. We are experiencing a second surge in cases in our region and in other areas of the country. At the end of June, the daily rate of new COVID infections in Baltimore was 9 per 100,000; now it is 27 per 100,000. The infection is now particularly prevalent among young adults. Additionally, more than 30% of our undergraduate student body lives in states designated as hot spots for COVID.
We have been operating successfully at a very low density in controlled environments such as research labs and clinical settings, subject to strict public health requirements, but classrooms, co-curricular activities, and residential settings, taken together, pose a substantially greater potential for spread of the disease. Therefore, based on extensive consultations with our faculty experts in public health and medicine, and emerging guidance from public health officials, we have concluded that returning in person would pose unacceptable risks for you, our faculty and staff, and our neighbors in Baltimore.
Additional information will be forthcoming from each of your schools, but here is what you can expect from the change in plans and what we are asking of you as members of the university community:
- Based on current public health circumstances, in Baltimore City and across the country, we strongly urge those of you who had planned to come to Baltimore this fall not to do so. Johns Hopkins will not be conducting in-person academic or co-curricular activities on campus.
- As in the spring, students who have a demonstrated hardship related to their living situation or educational needs can apply for an exception to live on campus while taking courses online. But all those who are able to complete their coursework from home should remain at home.
- Undergraduate research will be limited to that which can be conducted remotely, and students will not have access to the library, the recreation center, or other campus buildings.
We recognize that this change in plans may present real hardships for many of you, and the university is taking steps to alleviate the particular burdens undergraduate families face. Johns Hopkins will make a one-time reduction of 10% in its planned fall semester undergraduate tuition. In addition, the Office of Financial Aid has budgeted for a substantial increase in students’ aid packages in anticipation of many families’ changed circumstances. As we did in the spring, we will provide emergency aid to those students experiencing financial difficulties related to the switch to distance learning.
We know that many of you have already secured off-campus housing for this fall, but we do not want that to dissuade you from protecting your own health and that of the community by staying home. Students who receive need-based aid for off-campus housing and agree to stay home for the semester will continue to receive that aid and will also be given aid to cover the costs of living at home. Students who do not qualify for need-based aid but who demonstrate hardship can apply for assistance using an online form.
Although this is not the semester any of us had hoped for, the Hopkins community is dedicated to ensuring a compelling, impactful, and valuable educational experience for all of you this fall, including our newest Blue Jays in the Class of 2024 and our international students who join us from more than 60 countries around the world. We have constructed dozens of teaching studios across the Homewood campus so that our faculty can join you in a truly engaging virtual classroom environment, and we have designed new ways for our students to connect online, from a virtual Student Involvement Fair to online game nights. Our Student Affairs Office has already begun virtual orientation and mentoring for incoming first-year students, which will continue into the fall. Academic Support has been expanded to serve more students and will continue to be offered in the online format. Our long-standing campus traditions, including Hoptoberfest and Lighting of the Quads, will continue in virtual editions and we cannot wait to welcome the Class of 2024 and their parents at this year’s online Convocation on August 23. We hope you all will join us.
To address the additional questions you may have about this revised fall plan, we will hold a virtual town hall at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 11. Please join this event online and submit your questions in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have also added updated information to the university’s coronavirus information website.
We cannot thank you enough for your continued determination and support for one another and for all the members of the JHU community who are working with us to find the best path forward. Although we will not be together in person, the creative and thoughtful planning for in-person instruction has not been for naught. Thanks to all of you, we stand ready to welcome everyone safely to Baltimore when public health conditions permit. Until then, our community of learning and ideas will continue to flourish, and we are thrilled to have you as part of it.
Ronald J. Daniels
Vice Provost for Student Affairs