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Emory announces plan for spring 2021 semester

The following message was sent by President Gregory L. Fenves to the Emory community on Oct. 15, 2020.

Dear Emory community,

We are now halfway through the semester, and I’m proud of the many ways Emory’s faculty, staff, and students have come together to protect the health of our community and support each other both inside and outside the classroom. You have taken to heart our goal of keeping COVID-19 off campus, so we can stay on campus.

I am writing to share news about the spring semester and to look ahead at the possibilities for summer and fall 2021. Since early in this fall semester, I’ve worked closely with the provost, deans, public health experts and leaders from across campus on the plans for the spring semester. The strategy we developed was based on projected COVID-19 cases, forecasts for flu in the coming months, and the possibility of safely accommodating more students on campus.

Today, I’m pleased to announce Emory’s plan for spring 2021, as described below.

What is different for the spring semester:

  • Spring 2021 calendar. For most Emory colleges and schools, the spring semester will begin on January 25, with medical school classes resuming on January 4. Classes will conclude by May 3, with most final exams held between May 4 and May 14. Students will receive information from their respective dean with specific dates, further details, and any college or school-specific differences from the university’s calendar. To accommodate this compressed schedule and limit COVID-19 exposure, we will not have spring break this year. With this change, please know we have heard requests for additional mental health offerings and have added and will add additional resources and services for all members of our community.

    View Oxford-specific details

  • Additional residential students. The university will modestly increase the number of students in residence on campus while maintaining one student per room.
    • For the Atlanta campus, the categories of students who will be considered for housing in university residence halls are: students in ECAS Undergraduate Research Programs, first-year students not presently living on campus, experiential learners engaged in professional development necessary for spring degree completion, and international students unable to return for the fall semester. Students meeting one of these criteria will receive an email with information by the end of next week if they are eligible for on-campus housing in the spring semester.
    • For the Oxford campus, the housing density will increase slightly while still maintaining single occupancy per room. In addition to those already on campus, first-year students and international students who are studying remotely this fall will have the opportunity to live on campus in the spring. A very limited number of sophomores may be invited to campus for specific academic or other reasons. Housing details will be outlined in additional communications from Oxford College.

      View Oxford Housing Updates

      I know this announcement is difficult for many of our undergraduate students who were hoping to return to campus in the spring. We would have liked to bring more students back, but this decision was based on the importance of students living in single occupancy rooms, the rate of transmission in the Atlanta area, and the health of all of our students, staff, and faculty.
  • COVID-19 testing. Testing of residential students at frequent intervals has helped us maintain the health of our community this semester. The university plans to move to a saliva-based COVID-19 test this spring, which will allow the tests to be done more frequently and with much less discomfort. Additional information about the testing format, protocols, and frequency of required testing will be communicated once they are established for the coming semester.

    View Oxford Health & Safety Updates

What will remain the same this spring:

  • Class formats. For most undergraduate students, courses will continue as a mixture of in-person and remote classes, and many students will still have a majority, and possibly all, of their courses taught remotely. Students will be allowed to take a full course load remotely should they so choose. For most graduate and professional students, we anticipate course formats in the spring will be similar or the same as course formats this fall.

    View Oxford Academic Updates

  • Campus access and testing.
    • All students in the residence halls will be required to take a COVID-19 test on a consistent basis. Students who take in-person classes, visit university buildings, or access in-person campus resources will be required to perform an onboarding process this spring and take a COVID-19 test upon returning in January, whether or not they live in the residence halls.
    • Undergraduate students living off campus who take in-person classes, visit university buildings, or access in-person campus resources will be required to perform an onboarding process and take a COVID-19 test upon returning in January for the spring semester.
    • All professional and graduate students who take in-person classes, visit university buildings, or access in-person campus resources will be required to perform an onboarding process and take a COVID-19 test upon returning in January for the spring semester.
    • All faculty and staff who will be visiting university buildings or accessing in-person campus resources will be required to perform an onboarding process and take a COVID-19 test upon returning to campus in January for the spring semester. Faculty and staff who have completed the onboarding process and are asymptomatic will have access to optional COVID-19 testing as capacity permits.

      View Oxford Health & Safety Updates

  • Gathering and visitor guidelines. This fall, the university implemented a gathering policy and will soon share a visitor policy that outlines what events can occur on campus and who is allowed to visit campus. We anticipate those policies will remain in place this spring.
  • Students currently housed in residence halls. Those students who currently live in the residence halls, have maintained their COVID-19 testing schedule, and abide by the campus compact will be invited back to their original rooms in their current residence halls for the spring semester. International students and students who need to remain on campus during the winter break will be housed on the Clairmont campus and will return to their original rooms following the break. These students will receive direct communications from Residence Life (or Oxford RES) with further details in the coming weeks.

What is evolving:

  • A working group will be formed to review if and how intercollegiate athletics, club sports, and intramurals will be reintroduced in the spring. An update will be shared with the community once this group’s review is complete.
  • We intend to have events in mid-May to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2021 and the milestone of graduation from Emory University. Planning for a socially distanced, limited attendance event is underway, and we will keep you posted in the coming months once details are finalized.

We are already looking ahead to the summer session and fall semester 2021. The summer will be an opportunity to further increase the number of students on campus, and we are committed to providing the hallmark programming vital to many of our academic experiences. If our increased campus presence is implemented successfully this spring and summer, our current plan is to have all students return to campus by fall 2021.

If you have any questions, please email or contact your dean’s office (

Thank you for your commitment this semester to making Emory a healthy and vibrant community in spite of the unprecedented challenges we’ve faced. You’ve done an outstanding job and because of you, we have a very bright future of learning, discovery, and creativity to look forward to in the year ahead.


Gregory L. Fenves

View Oxford Forward pages

View Emory Forward pages

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