Reopening Update: Decision on Fall Start, End Dates-A Message to New and Continuing Students

May 27, 2020

Dear New and Continuing Students,

I hope this finds you healthy and well. New students, we look forward to you beginning your education at Seattle University in the fall and we are preparing to welcome you. Continuing students, together we have worked to successfully navigate, as well as possible, the immediate challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in order for you to continue your education and progress toward your degrees. We appreciate your patience, understanding and the ways in which you have adapted to this temporary reality.

A Jesuit education is about meeting students where they are through a highly personalized, values-based approach that is rooted in care, excellence and inclusion. I am most grateful to our faculty for demonstrating how this commitment sets us apart regardless of the mode of delivery and I was pleased to see it affirmed by the high level of satisfaction expressed by students in a recent survey on the transition to remote learning.

As we approach the conclusion of the spring quarter, I am writing to update you on our plans for reopening and the return of students to campus this fall, with a modified structure of in-person classes and learning experiences supported by a mix of hybrid and virtual instruction.

More details about our ongoing planning will be shared later in June. For now, I want to share that we have made the decision to move the start of the 2020 fall quarter forward two weeks to begin on Wednesday, September 9 and end before Thanksgiving on Tuesday, November 24. (The School of Law, which is on a semester system, will start as scheduled on August 24 and end on November 25.) Students residing on campus this fall will be invited to move in the week of August 31.

By moving up the start and conclusion of our fall term we seek to significantly reduce the number of students needing to travel back and forth in November and December and being exposed to and potentially spreading infectious diseases like the flu and COVID-19.

All our planning is being carried out consistent with Governor Inslee’s Safe Start phased plan for reopening the state of Washington and public health guidance from the CDC, state and county, including guidance specific to higher education. Washington state has acted based on science and data throughout the crisis and has emphasized it will continue doing so in seeking to strike the right balance with a phased and gradual approach to reopening. It is a path Seattle University will continue to follow and adhere to closely.

The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and the public with which we interact will remain our first priority. As society reopens to the new normal, we must all work to manage and minimize the risks of COVID-19 while treatments are being developed to reduce its severity and duration and we await a widely available vaccine.

University planning teams are making good progress on our reopening plan for de-densifying campus, implementing physical distancing, enhanced safety measures (e.g., PPE, face coverings, additional hand sanitizing stations, frequent cleaning and disinfecting) and protocols for screening, testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine. We look forward to sharing more in our June update about how we are modifying classrooms, residential halls, dining areas and campus gathering spaces to enforce distancing, limit capacity and create lower density environments. Not an easy task but we will get it done.

We are carefully considering accommodations to help protect our most at-risk and vulnerable community members and their families, as well as to serve students who may need to be in isolation or quarantine. Caring for one another is a part of who we are and will continue to be a key consideration in our decision making.

Let me reiterate that we are preparing for whatever the scenario. There remains a high degree of uncertainty and unpredictability about the virus. This temporary situation requires flexibility, nimbleness, creativity and innovative approaches. If we need to again transition to fully virtual instruction due to a resurgence of COVID-19, we will adapt as necessary.

A recent Zoom conversation I participated in with students underscored for me how much we miss having you on campus. This has been a beautiful spring season at Seattle U and in Seattle. While the usual uplifting sounds and scenes of a vibrant and lively campus filled with students are temporarily absent, I find hope and promise in what is to come as we prepare for the fall, construction continues on the new Center for Science and Innovation and the many ways our campus community is caring for one another during this time.

We look forward to seeing you all in the fall. Please know that you and your loved ones are in my prayers and have my best wishes.


Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.