A message to the Penn community regarding plans for the fall semester

Throughout the pandemic, protecting the health and safety of Penn faculty, staff, and students and pivoting to the least restrictive ways of supporting our core educational, research, and clinical missions have been our primary considerations. This past year we were able to move with extraordinary speed to establish a virtual learning environment that was accessible and effective in delivering world-class instruction, and then in developing protocols, such as the Student Campus Compact, that allowed the safe return to some on-campus operations.

Now, as we look forward to the fall semester, we want to share our current thinking so that students, families, faculty, and staff can begin to make plans. With the widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine now underway, with projections of more ample supply in the several months ahead, and with the many safeguards we have been able to establish on campus, at this time we expect to be able to return to an in-person teaching, research and residential environment for the fall of 2021. This will include the return to campus of staff who have been working remotely during the pandemic.

Specific details regarding the fall semester are still being developed and will be shared with students, faculty, staff, and parents in the coming weeks. It will be necessary to remain vigilant and flexible in our planning, as the pandemic could take unpredictable turns. But we are committed to a return to operations, to in-person research, and to an in-person living and learning experience for our students.

We are enormously grateful for the commitment and sacrifices that have been made by faculty and staff in seeing us through the most difficult days of the pandemic. During this time, we have learned a tremendous amount about the use of technology for the delivery of instruction. That knowledge makes possible complete access to course material for all students, including those who, for whatever reason, may not be able to be present on campus in the fall.

We are thrilled to be able to bring our academic community back together to continue our critically important missions of research, teaching, learning, and patient care. While this has been a challenging time, it has also been an inspiring time of discovery and innovation. There is no greater example of this than the groundbreaking work of Penn faculty members Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó, which has proved instrumental in the development of COVID-19 vaccines, making possible a return to normalcy in our lives. We look forward to the fall with anticipation and hope for the next great discoveries to come out of Penn’s labs and new opportunities to learn, connect, and grow here in Philadelphia.

For media inquiries, please contact: Ron Ozio at University Communications: 215-898-8658 ozio@upenn.edu