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Planning Framework for Spring 2021, October 6, 2020

Dear students, staff and faculty:

Although it is still early in the fall semester, I know you are eager for clarity about the college’s plans for the spring term. I write to share the framework that is guiding our thinking and a general timeline for when we expect to be able to communicate concrete plans with the Smith community.

We hope conditions will allow us to have many more students on campus in the spring; however, given the continued volatility of public health conditions, we believe it is prudent to plan for a range of scenarios.

To that end, we are closely monitoring

  • The health and safety experiences of peer residential colleges, and some additional institutions, that are currently offering in-person instruction
  • Local, regional and national health data and trends
  • Prospects for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines
  • Changes in federal and Commonwealth public health regulations

To help students and advisers make informed course selections for the spring, Provost Michael Thurston will be asking faculty to designate the format in which they will deliver their courses; this information will be available for the upcoming registration period. As is the case this fall term, the core of most courses will be remote instruction; however, if we are able to have students on campus, a number of “enhanced remote” courses will incorporate some small-group in-person activities such as tutorial sessions, with synchronous remote versions of those activities available to students not on campus.

As we have done from the outset of the pandemic, we will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our community in every aspect of our planning. In order to inform our decision with the fullest information possible, we will not act in haste but rather will plan to reach and announce the spring plan shortly before the December break. And, as always, we will be prepared to pivot from that decision if pandemic conditions worsen.

Thank you for your understanding, adaptability, resilience and patience. And a special thanks to the departments and groups across the college that are hard at work developing a range of specific plans for all areas of our operation. We will continue to communicate actively and often in the lead-up to a spring decision.


Kathleen McCartney