Reopening Campus: Our Six-Point Plan

Reopening Campus: Our Six-Point Plan

University of San Diego President James T. Harris, DEd, announces the university's six-point plan for bringing students back to campus this fall, state and county orders permitting.

Hello Toreros.

These past few months have been unlike anything anyone has ever experienced. At the University of San Diego, our vibrant campus culture and high-impact learning experiences have been disrupted, and for many of us, our lives feel like they are on hold.

During these unprecedented times, Toreros have demonstrated great resilience and a Changemaker attitude as we have confronted the most urgent challenge facing humanity — the Coronavirus pandemic.

It has been inspiring to watch our campus community come together to address this crisis while never forgetting our Catholic values, especially care for the most vulnerable among us. Now that we have weathered the first wave of the pandemic, we must now focus our attention on the future. The most pressing question on everyone’s mind has been, when will we return to campus in the fall?

We intend to reopen our campus for the fall semester, including on-campus classes, provided this is allowed by state and county orders. Today, I am announcing our six-point plan to reopen the campus in mid-August:

  1. The health and safety of our campus is paramount, and we will make data-informed decisions based on the research, advice and regulatory protocols from state and county health officials, our own internal expertise and national best practices. We will remain committed to the mental health of our students through our Counseling Center and University Ministry outreach efforts;
  2. We will deliver a rigorous and innovative academic experience for all students regardless of the mode of delivery. USD will continue to:
    1. Set the highest academic standards grounded in our Catholic intellectual tradition
    2. Offer high-impact learning experiences both in person and remotely, if necessary
    3. Provide students with one-on-one experiences with faculty members who teach their classes
    4. Invest in the future of our students by offering USD’s unique career-readiness programs — Compass, Passport and Connect. Our students’ professional journey will begin their first semester at USD;
  3. We will have access to testing for the virus on our campus and will be deeply engaged in county-wide initiatives to trace and monitor the spread of the virus;
  4. We will be converting our campus into a low-density model of campus life:
    1. We will ensure all of our residence halls have only one or two students per room
    2. We have identified spaces on campus for isolating any students who may need to be quarantined
    3. We will adhere to the best standards of social distancing both on campus and in the classroom. One of the advantages of the University of San Diego is that we already have a lower student-to-faculty ratio than most of our peers, and that will allow our students to be in a classroom while continuing to practice social distancing
    4. We will be doubling down on our cleaning rotations for classrooms, public spaces and restrooms to ensure the cleanest possible environment
  5. In preparation for the fall semester, we are installing new IT equipment in 125 classrooms to ensure we have the latest technology for high-quality instruction across campus;
  6. We are changing the academic calendar for undergraduates to start early — on August 17 – so that we can end the fall semester before Thanksgiving and before the beginning of the flu season in San Diego.

We believe this six-point plan can work and is the best way to ensure the health and safety of our campus community while maintaining the high-quality education experience you have come to expect from the University of San Diego.

In the meantime, our faculty will be preparing to deliver their courses this fall both in person, remotely and through a hybrid model. We have built in key pivot points in the semester, so if the spread of the virus does require us to transition fully to remote learning, we will be prepared to do so.

To reiterate, we believe this six-point plan is achievable and reasonable as we:

  1. Put your health and safety first;
  2. Deliver a high-impact learning experience grounded in the Catholic intellectual tradition;
  3. Ensure access to testing and monitoring for the virus;
  4. Convert our campus into a low-density model;
  5. Install the latest technology into our classrooms; and
  6. Adjust the academic calendar to mitigate risk.

These steps will allow us to return safely to campus this fall and have the best possible experience.
While we can’t predict the future impact of the COVID-19 virus, I am optimistic that if conditions allow us to gather this fall, we will be prepared and ready.

In the coming weeks and months, you will be receiving updates on our progress to prepare for the fall semester, and we will share specific information about what you can do to prepare to return to campus. Please refer to our frequently asked questions and answers.

We are a resilient community of Changemakers, and I know we have what it takes as a campus community to ride out this wave together and navigate these uncharted waters. After all, we are the University of San Diego!


James T. Harris III