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Message to A&S Undergraduate Students Regarding the Fall 2020 Semester

The following message was sent to Arts & Science undergraduate students from Dean John Geer on June 16, 2020. For more information about Vanderbilt’s Return to Campus plan, please visit . 

Dear A&S undergraduate students, 

As you saw in the email this morning from Incoming Chancellor Diermeier and Interim Chancellor and Provost Wente, Vanderbilt will, after careful deliberation, reopen our campus for in-person classes this fall. We are excited to welcome everyone back to campus—or, for our first-year and transfer students, to greet you for the first time! I strongly encourage you to read their email and the university’s Return to Campus website carefully, as they contain important information about the fall semester. 

Know that first and foremost, as we return to campus for in-person learning, the university is focused on protecting the health and safety of the Vanderbilt community. After extensive study and close consultation with the physicians and public health experts at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as well as national, state, and local officials, we successfully completed Phase 1 of our re-opening plan and transitioned into Phase 2 on June 8. Based on these effective actions, as well as further evaluations and deliberations that examined multiple scenarios and studied best practices, we have developed an approach that allows us to resume on-campus, in-person classes in August. 

I want to emphasize a few key points as we look to the fall:

  • Calendar Dates: The semester will begin on Monday, August 24 (note that this is two days earlier than the original start date). In-person classes will end on Friday, November 20, and classes will continue remotely until Friday, December 4. Reading days and exams will take place remotely from December 5-13.
  • Course Delivery: A&S remains committed to providing all students a world-class education. Course instruction will take place in three formats: 1) in-person; 2) online; and 3) hybrid or flex, in which courses are a combination of in-person and remote learning (synchronous and asynchronous). These different formats are necessary to accommodate the needs of faculty and students who are unable to participate in person. Please note that to maintain social distancing guidelines and protect the health of our community, there will be very few exclusively in-person classes.
  • Scheduling, Registration, and New Classes: The University is in the process of adjusting course schedules and offerings due to moving courses online. Once this is finalized later in the summer, students will be notified and will have an opportunity to adjust their schedules, in addition to regular open registration. These adjustments will include adding some new, exciting A&S classes that tackle pressing problems that have confronted the world over the last few months.
  • Acknowledgment Form: All faculty, staff, and students will be asked to sign a COVID-19 Return to Campus Acknowledgment form, explaining the risks and responsibilities of returning to campus. It is critical we build a supportive culture that rests on all of us following the needed safety protocols.
  • Remote Study: Students who wish to learn remotely due to their personal situation (e.g., health restrictions, travel visas issues, etc.) must notify Vanderbilt by June 26. You can access the Remote Study Selection application on your landing page in YES. If you decide to learn remotely for the fall semester, you may return to in-person for the spring semester but housing for the spring cannot be guaranteed.
  • Orientation: The university is working on revising orientation sessions for students—new and returning—that will share information needed to ensure a safe and productive semester. We will provide more information as it is available. 

Please contact the Vanderbilt Fall 2020 Helpline at 615-322-4357 if you have any questions about the plan for the fall semester, including:

  • Why the university made these changes
  • What the plan will be for the spring semester
  • Why you were or were not granted an accommodation, or questions about changing an accommodation
  • Tuition and fees
  • Housing
  • Financial aid

You should continue to contact the College of Arts and Science Office of Undergraduate Education at with any questions about your academic situation, including declaring or switching a major, substituting courses, or academic probation. 

The upcoming semester will not resemble any in Vanderbilt’s history. The way we teach, learn, interact, socialize, eat, and even move through campus will be different and will require all of us to take responsibility for our health and the health of others. Thank you for your understanding and flexibility during these highly unusual times. We truly look forward to seeing you in the fall. 

Stay safe and be well,

John Geer