Plans for Autumn Quarter

To: Members of the University Community
From: Robert J. Zimmer, President, and Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost
Subject: Plans for Autumn Quarter
Date: March 29, 2021

Over the past year, people from across the University have worked diligently to help adjust our processes involving research, education and medical care to accommodate the individual and public health issues raised by the pandemic. These efforts have succeeded in greatly limiting the spread of COVID-19 on campus, even before the distribution of vaccines began in December.

The vast majority of our community has upheld the public health precautions in the UChicago Health Pact, and we have developed effective responses to the cases that have emerged, including through contact tracing and isolation of infected individuals. As vaccination has progressed on our campus and in surrounding communities, we have seen even fewer cases emerge, and we often have no students in on-campus isolation housing. We are hopeful that growing vaccination efforts across the country will help this trend continue.

These are some of the reasons why we currently feel confident in planning for a full resumption of activities on campus by the start of the new academic year in September. We intend to invite our full population of students to be in residence, classrooms and labs for the 2021 Autumn Quarter, if the state of the pandemic and the health of our community allow.

Reaching this goal fully will depend on many factors – some of which are within our control, and some of which are not. They include:

  • Continuing efforts to vaccinate a large portion of the U.S. population, including as many members of the UChicago community as possible
  • Wearing face coverings, limiting close contacts, and maintaining high rates of compliance with other public health precautions
  • Aligning our campus plans with public health guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, city and state authorities, and the guidance of experts from the University of Chicago Medicine
  • Continued low rates of infection in Chicago and beyond, which should reduce the chances of viral spread on our campus
  • Avoiding major new outbreaks of coronavirus variants

The Laboratory Schools have previously announced their commitment to bringing all students back for full-time, in-person education this fall. In addition, our goal is to return to campus all University staff employees in time for the Autumn Quarter, to support the full range of in-person activities and functions. The specific timing and processes for achieving in-person work may vary across schools, divisions, and offices, with an intention of returning all employees to campus in time for the Autumn Quarter.

After a year of remarkable upheaval, it is a welcome change to plan for the return to in-person engagement at the University of Chicago. We must keep precautions in place to prevent COVID-19 from overtaking these plans. But with everyone’s continued commitment, we will succeed in this next important task.

We will communicate more soon about plans for Autumn Quarter, along with additional details to come from schools, divisions, and the College. Thank you for supporting each other and our University community as we look forward to the next academic year.