Union announces plan for 2020-21

Publication Date

Union will welcome students for the fall term with a unique combination of in-person and remote classes – plus service learning, internships and interdisciplinary online courses focused on large-scale societal challenges – all supported by broad safety measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, College officials announced Tuesday.

A view of the Nott Memorial

Called “Union Where You Are,” the plan shared Tuesday outlines a series of academic offerings, residential options and health measures that advance the College’s mission while emphasizing the safety of the campus community. The plan was informed by a working group, “Planning for Multiple Tomorrows,” consisting of faculty, staff and students.

“‘Union Where You Are’ provides a flexible, nimble framework that accommodates the many different situations members of our community face as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” President David R. Harris said in an email to the campus community. “Where possible, Union students, faculty and staff have choices - all without sacrificing academic rigor or excellence in delivery. Our planning committee made recommendations guided by public health considerations for Union and our surrounding communities, alignment with our strategic plan goals, and considerations for the short- and long-term financial sustainability of the College.”

Among the highlights:

  • First-year students will live on campus and take classes in person and online. All members of the Class of 2024 will have the option of a single room, but can choose to have a roommate if they are comfortable doing so.
  • Sophomores, juniors and seniors will have the option to return to campus and take in-person and online classes. Like first-year students, singles will be the default for on-campus housing unless students opt for doubles. Students can also apply to live in off-campus housing.
  • The College will offer two new bold options for sophomores, juniors and seniors who choose to take all of their courses remotely. Minervas Online is a suite of interdisciplinary courses designed to help students understand the complexity of and develop solutions to large-scale societal challenges. The other is Experiential Education. Through external partnerships and opportunities identified by students and others, students will be able to pursue a number of experiential opportunities for academic credit in areas including political engagement, the arts, business and healthcare. Participating students will receive a Robert J. Moser ’99 Experiential Learning Award of $2,000 to help offset any expenses.
  • All students and employees will receive a care kit consisting of two cloth masks, an oral digital thermometer and a two-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer. The bottles can be refilled at stations on campus.
  • Students and staff will be required to wear facial coverings, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings. There will also be weekly virus testing for students; employees will be tested at regular intervals. Seating capacity will be reduced to ensure students and instructors are all at least six feet from each other. There will be extensive daily cleaning of all campus spaces.
  • Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be transferred to designated isolation rooms until they can safely return to normal activities.
  • Union College Hospitality will focus on an enhanced take-out program with pre-order options that will reduce crowds in dining facilities.
  • No decisions have been made regarding athletics, club sports or intramurals. The College is awaiting guidance from state government as well as the respective leagues.

Earlier, the College released its Return to Campus Plan for employees.

In his email, President Harris said having people return to campus this fall is not without risk. He reminded the campus community of its shared responsibility for following federal and state health guidelines in dealing with the pandemic.

“Choosing to be on campus this fall means agreeing to a ‘Commitment to the Union Community,’ whereby everyone - students, staff, and faculty - commits to protecting one another with their behaviors and actions, and understands the consequences of not doing so,” he wrote. “The only way for Union to thrive as a residential college this year is to take responsibility not only for our own actions, but to encourage proper behavior among those around us.”

In a video message to campus, he cautioned that conditions in the country related to COVID-19 could affect the plans outlined in “Union Where You Are.”

The fall term is scheduled to begin Sept. 9. Final exams end Nov. 24.

For more details on the “Union Where You Are” plan, visit the website.