In a blog post today, Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced loose plans for the Fall 2021 semester and said there are hopeful signs of a ‘new beginning’, such as vaccination clinics, low infection rates and in-person graduation.
According to the UW COVID Dashboard, the 7-day average positivity rate is down to 0.1% and 10,959 people have received at least one dose of either the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
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Nearly all courses that offered in-person in Fall 2019 will return to in-person instruction in Fall 2021 and there will be more focus on the integration of technology into an in-person learning experience. Additionally, UW is preparing contingencies for international students who may face challenges obtaining visas to return to the United States.
Dining facilities, academic and research resources will all be open and residence halls will be fully occupied, according to the post.
In an email statement, Associated Students of Madison Press Office Director Jacob Broehm said ASM is cooperating with the university in making this transition, primarily with leaders on the Covid Planning Committee.
“These members then report back to us at meetings, ASM Hearings and other events where they receive student input to then report back to the committee,” Broehm said. “The Campus Relations Committee of ASM has hosted two such ASM Hearings so far this semester to gather student input and answer questions.”
In the blog post, Chancellor Blank strongly urged everybody who is eligible to take advantage of vaccine availability, claiming they are “the surest way to protect yourself and others.”
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Students who share their vaccination record with UW will be exempt from COVID-19 testing and their Badger Badge will remain green, as of yesterday. Answers to general questions about student and faculty vaccine eligibility can be found at the UW News website.
Despite the hope for a vaccinated student population, Chancellor Blank said though next semester will feel much more normal than this year, certain carryovers from the COVID-19 era will remain.
For example, according to Broehm, masks may become commonplace.
“We would not be surprised if mask-wearing, for example, stays in place, however, we are unsure about any other measures that will also be used the next academic year,” Broehm said.
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According to the blog post, UW is preparing a set of principles and policy guidance that will inform the implementation of equitable remote work practices in a post-COVID environment, though details are not fully known yet.
Despite the many uncertainties, ASM and the Madison community should embrace a safe return to normalcy, according to Broehm.
“While we cannot determine if 2021-2022 will look more like previous years, we hope for and welcome the idea of a return so that students can get the full UW experience. But we highlight that this needs to be done in a safe way and with student input,” Broehm said. “Students do want a return to in-person instruction, Badger games and other university events that are commonplace in any other year.”