JHU Community: Changes to plans for fall semester

Aug. 6, 2020

Dear Johns Hopkins Community: 

We write today to share the deeply disappointing news that we will not be able to come back together on our campuses this fall as we had planned. We will instead offer the fall 2020 semester online for all undergraduates and online with minimal exceptions for graduate students

As you know, our community has been working tirelessly to ready ourselves for a safe return to on-campus activities, shaped by the current science and best practices outlined by our public health experts, including our Health Advisory Group, and local, state, and national guidance. Unfortunately, the pandemic is worsening with cases trending in the wrong direction in our region and in states across 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, with the infection becoming particularly prevalent among young adults. Of particular concern, more than 30% of our undergraduates come from states designated as COVID hot spots. 

We have been operating successfully at a 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, with the health and safety of our students, our faculty, and staff, and our neighbors in the broader Baltimore community foremost in mind, and after extensive consultation with our University Pandemic Academic Advisory Committee and Student Advisory Committee about a wide range of alternatives, we reluctantly made the very difficult but necessary decision to change course and move to virtual modalities. 

We will, of course, continue to follow the trajectory of the pandemic with the hope that we can convene together in the spring.

Here’s what you can expect with this change of plans: 

  • All undergraduate instruction and activities this semester will be online. We are asking all undergraduates not to come to Baltimore at this time, as we will not be conducting academic or co-curricular activities for them 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. 
  • Graduate and professional programs will continue to evaluate their own operations, but graduate student instruction is expected to remain in an online/remote modality with few exceptions beyond on-campus research permitted under our Phase 1 guidelines. Graduate schools will be permitted, with approval from the Provost’s Office, to offer limited, in-person activities such as instruction for specific student cohorts or clinical, internship, laboratory, or practicum experiences that can be conducted safely with appropriate precautions.
  • For both undergraduate and graduate students, the university is helping its divisions provide a range of financial supports and cost reductions for students and their families during this very difficult time, including a one-time 10% reduction in the planned fall tuition for undergraduates. These measures vary among programs based on students’ needs and will be communicated by each division. 
  • On-campus research activities will continue in accordance with the Phase 1 Return to Research Guidelines. This will include maintaining the occupancy rule in Hopkins laboratories at 400 gross square feet per person, or down to 200 gross square feet per person with an approved plan and use of nonlaboratory spaces when necessary while continuing to observe physical distance and other safety measures.
  • All employees who can work from home will continue to do so, and we expect that will be the case at least through the end of 2020. By working remotely, our staff are making a critical contribution to de-densifying our campuses so that we can safely resume critical in-person operations. Please look for resources and support programs on our HR website, including upcoming enhancements related to child care and other caregiving demands, which we know are placing tremendous strain on our community.
  • Health and safety remain our top priorities. We will issue updated guidance soon for those who have an exception or demonstrated hardship that requires them to be on campus. It will include updates on how to participate in daily self-monitoring of COVID-19 symptoms, protocols for required testing of those students with permission to live on campus. 

More detailed information on plans specific to each school will be shared in the coming days by your divisions, and we will continue to update the information on the university’s coronavirus information website.

We remain immensely grateful to our entire community for your persistence, creativity, and determination. We are particularly thankful to all of you who have worked so hard over the past four months to explore every possible permutation for a return to campus life and to prepare us to deliver a compelling and valuable Hopkins experience to all we serve. The thorough planning and innovative ideas mean that we are prepared to provide the Johns Hopkins experience that we all know is possible regardless of the circumstances in which it is delivered and stand ready to reconvene fully in person when public health conditions permit.

As ever, we are fortunate to be part of such an exceptional community and look forward to working alongside you once more this fall.    


Ronald J. Daniels  

Sunil Kumar  

Daniel Ennis  
Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations