Making Sense of Fall 2021

Dear Kent State University Students, Faculty and Staff,

Questions and answers go together. We call it Q&A, after all. All of us have questions, and we want answers to understand how to arrange our days, how to make decisions going forward and how to gain some control over our lives and our futures.

One dynamic of the pandemic is that it is both fast moving and maddingly stubborn – fast moving in its spread, and fast moving in our increased understanding of how it is transmitted and how best to treat it. Vaccines were developed and given emergency approval in record time, but the rollout has not been as fast as any of us would like. On the other hand, our state-of-the-art COVID-19 testing plan is in place and is paying dividends with low positivity rates in the Kent State community.

In this environment, we continue to plan for the 2021 Summer and Fall Semesters at Kent State. I don’t have specific answers to all questions, but I can express today a series of operating assumptions and expectations. Yes, these may change, but these assumptions and expectations will inform our planning and preparation going forward. As I said in a previous message, our goal is to approach a more normal level of operations in the fall semester with more in-person opportunities for living, learning and working. Even as we approach normal in the fall, we know that significant differences generated by the pandemic will remain.

Our planning is driven by the fundamental assumption that all adults (including our students) who want to be vaccinated will have been vaccinated by the start of classes in August. Even with widespread vaccinations, though, we should expect to continue wearing face coverings, and it is possible that some level of classroom physical distancing will remain in place through 2021.

What will approaching normal, but not yet a full return to pre-pandemic practices, look like at Kent State? We expect our residence halls will operate at near capacity, but we will not return to the pre-pandemic practice of assigning three students to a room. In-person cocurricular activities will reappear, and we look forward to holding intercollegiate athletic events with at least some attendance permitted. More of our employees will be working on campus, but we know that physical distancing requirements will mean that some university work will continue to be performed remotely.

Students can expect to see noticeably more face-to-face courses during the 2021-2022 academic year. To accommodate more in-person classes safely, we will look to expand the number of rooms on campus that host classes. You can expect study abroad programs to recommence, although with fewer students. We will do our best to ensure that all students have more opportunities for in-person learning, as we know this is important for many of our students.

In short, we will control what we can control. If vaccines are fully available, we expect the upcoming academic year to feature more in-person classes and a more normal level of residence hall living. We will cheer on our Golden Flashes athletic squads and attend cocurricular events and activities. We won’t go back to normal; we will instead strive to approach normal and do things better – applying lessons learned during the pandemic to make us an even more student-ready, caring and supportive university.

In the days and weeks ahead, you will hear much more from us about the importance of being vaccinated. When supplies are readily available and shots are being administered, please “Flash your arm” and be vaccinated. We are in this together, and together, we will make Kent State an even better place to learn, live and grow.

Sincerely,

Todd Diacon
President

POSTED: Monday, February 15, 2021 - 11:15am
UPDATED: Monday, February 15, 2021 - 11:56am
WRITTEN BY:
President Todd Diacon