Reed will bring students back to campus and continue to offer a mix of in-person and online classes during the spring 2021 semester. Reed College President Audrey Bilger announced the plans on Wednesday, Oct. 28 in an email to Reed community members. Bilger praised Reed students, faculty, and staff for their resilience, dedication, and commitment in the face of COVID-related challenges during the fall semester, stating that, “Our operational plan has worked to date because of these collective, collaborative measures, and together, we will be able to forge ahead.”
The announcement outlined a tentative plan for the spring semester and provided information on a variety of topics including the updated spring 2021 Academic Calendar and 2021 Commencement plans. Overall, the spring plan did not contain any drastic policy modifications from the fall; the college will stick to a hybrid model of both in-person and online classes, COVID surveillance testing will continue throughout the spring semester, the campus will remain closed to the public, in-person gatherings will be limited, and students will be expected to follow protocols outlined in the Reed College Prevention and Response Plan, which will be updated prior to the start of the spring semester.
Changes to the spring semester academic calendar may be most consequential to current students and community members. Spring semester classes will begin on Jan. 25, and all students, faculty, and staff who will be on campus during the spring semester will have to complete COVID surveillance tests during Jan. 14-15 or Jan. 20-21. Much like the fall semester, students will be asked to complete a 14-day quarantine at home prior to their return to campus and will be required to remain quarantined until they receive a negative test result. As was done with Thanksgiving break, classes will be exclusively online following spring break, which has been moved from the end of March to April 12-18. All in-person instruction will conclude on April 9, and students will have to leave campus by April 11 for spring break. Online classes will resume on Monday, April 19, and final exams will be held from May 10-13.
Furthermore, Reed will continue to offer on-campus housing options during the spring semester, and according to Bilger’s announcement, the college has the capacity to offer single-occupancy residential options to all students interested in living on campus. Housing assignments for the spring will be finalized by the end of the fall semester, and there will be an application process available in March 2021 for students who need to remain on campus past April 11.
The plan provides accommodations for seniors who need continued access to the campus to complete their thesis projects following spring break. Furthermore, seniors who receive approval to remain on campus following the March application process will also be able to stay on campus throughout the 2021 Commencement.
Once their theses are submitted and approved, seniors will likely have the chance to don a cap and gown and fasten their tassels to attend their graduation ceremony. In contrast to the 2020 Commencement, which was held entirely online, Reed plans to host a limited, in-person commencement ceremony for graduating seniors on May 17. Given that Oregon’s statewide gathering restrictions will likely remain in effect during the spring, the possibility of hosting a full, in-person ceremony appears unlikely. Thus, while seniors will be invited to attend Commencement in small, in-person groups, families and guests will only be able to attend the event virtually.
Finally, those with the burning desire to exhibit their erudite knowledge of basket weaving or anarchist political theory should breathe a sigh of relief; students and community members interested in teaching classes on topics of personal interest will have the opportunity to do so during Paideia, which will be held virtually and will start on Jan. 16.
Some students may be disappointed in several aspects of the spring plans, including Reed’s decision to push back spring break. Senior Tabia Schmitt, co-chair of the Student Committee on Academic Policy and Planning, (SCAPP), expressed concerns about the spring semester plan.
“I was personally a little disappointed with the school’s decision to opt for a delayed spring break,” Scmitt wrote in an email to the Quest. “Students experiencing burnout and exhaustion typically experience some relief during spring break, but a spring break that comes so late fails to fulfill this purpose, not to mention it also doesn’t allow seniors that extra breathing time to finish up their theses. I was also disappointed to see that, though SCAPP brought concerns about international students who are experiencing increased hardship and alienation to [the Committee on Academic Policy and Planning] and administrators, the only way in which the calendar announcement email addressed this concern was that [the Office of International Student Services] can ‘offer guidance.’”
The college’s plans to pursue a hybrid model in the spring undoubtedly stems from Reed’s relative success in combating the coronavirus during the fall semester. Unlike institutions such as University of Alabama or Ohio State, Reed has managed to avert a major COVID outbreak during the fall, and the campus has remained open despite the pessimistic predictions at the start of the current semester. According to Reed’s COVID Dashboard, Reed has only recorded 14 total COVID cases as of Oct. 28, and community members appear to largely be following mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines.
But national COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to reach new highs — with close to nine million reported cases and 230,000 deaths as of Oct. 28 — and the disease shows no obvious signs of slowing down. Cases in Oregon also appear to be on the rise, and the Oregon Health Authority recorded 2,642 new cases of COVID-19 during the week of Oct. 19-25, which represents a 14% increase from the previous week and a record-high for the pandemic. If Oregon or Reed experience a sudden spike of cases in the coming months, the spring semester plans will likely be subject to change.
For those interested in learning more about the college’s spring semester plans, Reed will host virtual information sessions for students and their families concerning spring semester academics, COVID-19 guidelines, student engagement programming, and summer planning on Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. and Nov. 12 at 1 p.m.