Transylvania announces changes to 2020-21 academic year, planning for campus reopening (May 8, 2020)

Transylvania University, as with all organizations across our state and nation, is planning for a reopening of our educational and cocurricular programs using the best evidence and thoughtful consideration to protect the health and safety of all members of the Transylvania community.  

As much of the information regarding the COVID-19 viral disease prevalence or virulence continues to be unclear at this time, we are making a number of planning assumptions with the goal of remaining nimble and adaptive to a changing environment.  

Guiding Principles

In planning, we will be guided by these key principles: 

  • To base all decisions on protecting the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors.
  • To make decisions consistent with our mission as an institution.
  • To sustain the quality and accessibility of our academic programs and student support services while remaining nimble and adaptive.
  • To base our plans on the benchmarks and guidelines established by the federal and Kentucky governments.

We will also seek input from and listen to our constituents as we communicate our plans to the Transylvania community and beyond.

Modular Curriculum and Academic Calendar

In order to not only plan for our upcoming academic year, but also facilitate a quick change in instruction if needed, the 2020-21 academic year will be structured as a modular curriculum. This will consist of six modules of course delivery. First-year students will participate in Module 1: First Engagements (one week). Most students will take two courses in each Module 2-5 (seven weeks each) and one course in Module 6 (May term — four weeks).

The modular academic calendar mirrors the beginning (Module 1: First Engagements — Aug. 24) and end (Module 6 — May term) of the current academic calendar. For upperclass students, Module 2 will begin Aug. 31, and our commencement is scheduled for Saturday, May 29, 2021. There will be breaks at the conclusion of Modules 2-5 before the next courses begin. A full academic calendar will be released prior to course registration. 

Reopening Working Teams

Over the next three weeks, the university is working with six Reopening Working Teams made up of faculty and staff led by a cabinet member or subject matter expert. These teams — Academics, Athletics, Facilities, Human Resources, Student Life and Health and Safety — are tasked with identifying critical questions and possible responses to three reopening scenarios for the coming academic year.

In each scenario we will be following the direction of state leadership, but it is our sincere intention to deliver our traditional, on-campus experience this fall and resume the individualized, personal instruction for which Transylvania has been known for 240 years. Ultimately, we will structure educational activities to ensure the healthiest environment that we can provide, and this could involve a combination of both remote and on-campus options.

Reopening Scenarios

The three reopening scenarios, adhering to strict public health protocols, include: 

  • A fall 2020 opening on campus with students in classrooms and in residence halls employing preventive health measures.
  • A hybrid fall term conducting instruction for all modules beginning on campus and converting to remote instruction if pandemic conditions necessitate (or vice versa).
  • Remote module instruction until health circumstances allow for a return to campus. 

All Response Working Teams will submit a preliminary report to the president by Wednesday, May 27, to be reviewed by the Reopening Steering Committee, chaired by the president and consisting of the president-designate, cabinet members and staff and faculty representatives. It is the university’s intention to have further clarity on the health situation in time to make an announcement of more specific plans for the 2020-21 academic year in early June. 

Stay healthy and be well.

Dr. John N. Williams ’74
Interim President