To the Lafayette community:

As I promised in my Sept. 28 memo to you, I am writing today to share our plan for the spring 2021 semester. 

We will welcome to campus any student who wants to be here.

Throughout the COVID crisis, our top priorities have been the health and safety of the community, and delivering a high-quality education. This semester, we believed those goals were best accomplished by limiting the population density on campus and offering remote-only instruction. I want to thank faculty and students for bringing such creativity and intellectual energy to their work this semester. I know that it takes tremendous commitment to bring the needed focus to online teaching and learning. I am also very grateful to the dedicated staff who have worked both on campus and remotely to keep the College running smoothly under these circumstances.

While some campuses have struggled with their decision to be fully open this fall, we are encouraged to see that many of our peers have been successful in bringing students back to campus and offering some proportion of in-person classes. We believe we can do the same. We know that students want to be together, and we as an institution want to fulfill our mission as a learning community. 

It is important to recognize that bringing more students to campus and offering some classes in person during the winter months when most activity will be driven indoors will present greater challenges than the fall term. We are already seeing an increase in cases nationwide, in Pennsylvania, and this week, on our own campus. But given our own experience and the lessons learned from other institutions, we believe the increased risk will be manageable. We cannot expect to create a disease-free environment, but together we can create an environment in which total cases will fall within our capacity to quarantine or isolate students who become ill. 

The most important lesson we have learned from other colleges is that the success of any plan is dependent on community commitment and cooperation. We will need every member of our community to step up to the challenge.

I am very grateful to the campus groups, including the Faculty Academic Policy Committee, the Curriculum and Educational Policy Committee, the Administrative Council, the Operational Planning Group, and faculty committee chairs, who have offered and will continue to offer advice on the development of this plan. Many details remain to be resolved, and we will share them with you as they become available. 

Here are the major elements of spring 2021:

  • All students will choose whether to study from home or come to campus. Those who choose to study from home will receive a 10 percent reduction on their tuition. Students will receive an email and link to a survey later today to confirm their choice by Nov. 2.
  • All faculty will choose whether to teach in the classroom or remotely. Course formats will be identified prior to registration with the understanding that some changes are likely to occur before the start of the spring semester.
  • We expect that some employees will continue to work remotely, but we will ensure appropriate staffing to promote community health and safety, support campus operations and the academic program, and meet the needs of students.
  • All students, faculty, and staff who come to campus will be required to participate in testing protocols and contact tracing.
  • Students will have the capacity to engage in meaningful campus experiences, but they should not expect all the activities and services of a typical semester.
  • With a larger population on campus, there will be an increased need for and emphasis on compliance with all protocols. Student movements and activities will be significantly restricted in the spring semester, more than for the cohort on campus right now. Students who choose to study on campus should expect to be forbidden to travel, to quarantine whenever contact tracing requires, and to be held to the safety protocols we have publicized.
  • To promote the health and well-being of our entire community, everyone on campus must abide by physical distancing restrictions, mask-wearing requirements, and other safety obligations, such as frequent handwashing. The entire community will be responsible for holding each other accountable.
  • The current version of the 2020-21 academic calendar is available on the registrar’s website, and classes are scheduled to begin Jan. 25. There may be further adjustments to the spring calendar with regard to the start date or breaks. 

I know this is welcome news for many students, and I also am excited at the idea of having you back on campus this spring! I’d like to close with a note of realism, however. It is important that we all recognize the challenge we will be undertaking. We have seen this semester that frequent testing and weeks without cases have led some students to relax their vigilance about safety protocols. We will not have room for complacency or coronavirus fatigue this spring. 

We all wish we could have a normal semester, but that is not what we are promising here. Everyone must accept the limitations and compromises that will be necessary to maintain a safe environment. I ask students for your patience when you are required to quarantine for two weeks, or refused permission to go home, or told an in-person class has suddenly been moved online. I ask families for your understanding when your student complains that some favorite activity is unavailable, or they are tired of boxed to-go meals, or they have been sanctioned because someone reported them at an off-campus party. I ask faculty and staff for your flexibility as we continue to adjust processes and procedures to meet changing circumstances throughout the term. I ask everyone to be prepared to negotiate together a complicated landscape in which we all wish to feel safe, but nobody wants to feel they are under surveillance. We will each be responsible for making decisions that allow the semester to be a success. I look forward to working with all of you to make that happen. 

I know this community is up to the challenge. Many thanks for your continued support.

Alison R. Byerly

Key Dates: Spring Planning


Spring plan announced; student survey sent


Student and family town hall


Second student and family town hall


Initial deadline to indicate a desire to study from home


Course registration begins; students register for classes


Housing registration begins


Faculty and staff town hall


Interim session begins


Interim session ends


Spring semester begins