Early Beginning for Fall Semester

Dr. Stanley T. Wearden

Dear Members of the Methodist University Community,

As I announced recently, Methodist University plans to reopen with in-person classes, residential students, athletics, and campus events on as normal a schedule as possible in the fall. After consulting with health officials and other university leaders around the state and nation, we have decided that, for campus undergraduate students only, we will move the first day of class up one week and begin the Methodist University fall 2020 semester on August 10. We will cancel fall break this year, and the semester will end on November 24, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Students will be encouraged to remain off campus after Thanksgiving. Any students who feel they need to reside on campus after Thanksgiving will be required to petition the Dean of Students with an explanation of their needs. The Methodist University commencement remains scheduled for Saturday, December 12. Graduating seniors who reside on campus will be permitted to leave their belongings in the residence halls and retrieve them when they return for commencement.

Because graduate students typically are not residential on campus and because of issues related to health care clinical residencies this summer, the graduate student semester start and end dates will remain as originally scheduled.

We are taking these extraordinary measures for two reasons. First, until there is an effective vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, effective social distancing will remain important. Having members of our community return to campus after traveling over Thanksgiving break and being in the presence of many other people may create a greater likelihood of virus transmission on campus after the holiday. Second, there is at least some preliminary evidence that the coronavirus may be seasonal in nature. Consequently, it is advisable not to have students return at the beginning of the traditional influenza season. Although the virus that causes COVID-19 is not an influenza virus, there is reason to believe that it may behave similarly in terms of seasonality.

I realize this email will raise many additional questions. Further details on the return to campus will be released in the very near future. We are still working on such details as testing of returning students (as well as faculty and staff), process and timing of return to residence halls, social distancing in classrooms and other campus spaces, fall athletics, requiring face masks or other effective facial coverings, etc. As we make decisions on these issues, we will announce them broadly. In the meantime, please address questions to the following individuals:

  • Dr. Suzanne Blum Malley, Provost – Course and final examination/project scheduling, social distancing in the classroom, classroom health and safety issues. (smalley@methoedist.edu)
  • Dr. William Walker, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students – New Student Orientation, residence halls, dining, student events on campus, intramural athletics, student health center, student counseling center (wwalker@methodist.edu)
  • Mr. Dave Eavenson, Vice President and Director of Athletics – intercollegiate athletics, athletic practice, athletic travel and lodging (deavenson@methodist.edu)
  • Mr. Rick Lowe, Vice President of Enrollment Services – New student admissions and expectations of new students, financial aid (rlowe@methodist.edu)
  • Ms. Sheila Kinsey, Chief of Staff and Vice President for Planning and Administration – Campus facilities, campus environment, general health and safety issues (skinsey@methodist.edu)
  • Ms. Dawn Ausborn, Vice President for Business Affairs – billing, budget, finance, and human resources (dausborn@methodist.edu)
  • Rev. Kelli Taylor, Vice President for Religious Life and Community Engagement and University Chaplain – Religious life on campus, worship, community engagement (ktaylor@methodist.edu)

We have three major priorities as a university at this time: 1. Doing our best to protect the health and safety of all members of the university community, 2. Providing a high quality and rigorous academic and co-curricular experience for our students, 3. Protecting the immediate and long-term financial health of MU. We will continue to do everything we can to offer our students the on-campus Monarch experience they desire, while closely monitoring public health issues locally, nationally, and internationally and adapting as necessary.

I thank you for your patience with Methodist University as we work through how best to respond to the extraordinary challenges of this time. And I will ask for your continued patience as well. COVID-19 is only beginning to be understood in the scientific and medical communities. There are likely to be unexpected outcomes in the days and months ahead. As a university, we will do our best to monitor and anticipate change and to protect our community. So, while we hope we are making firm plans now, as educators we have great humility about emergent knowledge and we recognize that we may need to change some of these plans, and these changes may sometimes need to happen quickly to maximize the effectiveness of our response to COVID-19.

Again, we will continue to communicate regularly as plans become finalized and as we see the need to adapt to changes in public health.

I wish you all good health and a happy summer.


Stanley T. Wearden, Ph.D.