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An Action Plan for DU's Fall Return to Campus

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Jeremy Haefner

News  •

En español.

July 15, 2020

Dear DU Community,

Earlier this year, after we quickly moved to an online format for the spring term, I made a promise that by July 15 I would share a detailed action plan for how the University of Denver community would safely return to campus for the fall term. Today, I am pleased to share that plan with you. I will highlight the most significant dimensions of our return in this message, but the entire planCreating a Community of Care: An Action Plan for DU’s Fall Return to Campus, is available for you to reference at any time.

This is a living document. As the consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic continue to shift, we will regularly update our plan, guided by the wisdom of our community task forces, our newly established health partner, the leading science, and federal, state, and local ordinances. We are also actively monitoring the spread of the virus throughout the country and world and fully recognize that we may need to pivot quickly.

I invite you to share feedback on any aspect of the plan as we refine and adjust to the evolving landscape before the fall term. Please submit your feedback by emailing by Wednesday, July 22, 2020.


After countless hours of research and consultation, we have organized our plan into four major categories: (1) Health, safety and wellbeing (2) Academics, research and creative work (3) Housing, dining, and residential life and (4) Co-curricular life and general information. The fact that I can only cover the broad strokes of each of these categories speaks to the breadth and depth of the action plan and the level of detail our task forces have considered.

I encourage you to read this letter carefully and follow the links that point to specific sections of the plan, as well as additional FAQs.

If you are able, consider attending one of two upcoming town halls planned for community members:

  • For faculty and staff: Thursday, July 16 from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. MDT. Connect via Zoom.
  • For students and families: Tuesday, July 21 from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. MDT. Zoom link to come via email soon.


Since the pandemic first affected our day-to-day lives, we have kept the health, safety, and well-being of everyone in our community at the forefront of our planning. This has been, and will continue to be, our true north star.

I am very pleased to share the news that we are establishing a partnership with National Jewish Health, the #1-ranked respiratory hospital in the United States. National Jewish Health is the only hospital in the world solely dedicated to groundbreaking medical research and treatment of patients with respiratory, cardiac, immune, and other disorders. We will rely on National Jewish Health as a strategic partner as we develop and refine monitoring, testing, isolation, and contact-tracing protocols. We selected them because of the depth of their research and treatment expertise in infectious diseases and epidemiology. Specifically, National Jewish Health has over 100 years of practical experience in the treatment of severe respiratory illnesses. We could not have found a better health care provider to partner with as we move through the different stages of our reopening and return to classes.

As we work with National Jewish Health in the coming weeks, we will develop specific protocols for the return of the DU community to campus, including return-to-campus quarantine protocols. Those plans will be shared broadly and will also be added to our COVID-19 website. We will send a separate communication about our quarantine protocols no later than July 23.

Our individual commitments and choices will play a vital role in determining how successful we are at mitigating the spread of the Coronavirus at DU. We will expect community members and visitors to properly socially distance, wear face coverings, and keep personal spaces disinfected. It is incredibly important that we all do our part.

While we cannot prevent every COVID-19 infection, we are confident we can mitigate spread significantly by implementing several parallel tactics:

  • Testing – National Jewish Health will work with us to select the highest quality testing protocol for the virus causing COVID-19. They will help the University determine the specific testing type and frequency that is optimal for the safety and health of our community.
  • Contact Tracing – To minimize outbreaks, we will employ personal human outreach and digital contact tracing measures. We will increase the number of DU-centered and trained contact tracers, following the guidance of National Jewish Health and under the leadership of our director of environmental health and safety. To increase speed and efficiency, we will also license an application that we can download on our devices. The guiding principles for selection of this app are that it provides accurate information regarding contact with others in the DU community and that it maximizes protection of privacy and data security.
  • Symptom monitoring – In place since May, everyone who intends to enter the campus must complete an online symptom survey each day, with the results determining whether that individual is indeed allowed on campus. As students return to campus, a ramped-up monitoring protocol will help determine whether community members need to seek medical care or testing and, ultimately, whether they may need to quarantine for a period of time.
  • Prevention – We will continue our increased disinfection frequency, paying special attention to high-touch points and common areas. We are also employing hundreds of additional hand sanitizer dispensers and disinfectant wipe stations. We’ve installed plexiglass barriers at transactional counters, procured electrostatic disinfection equipment, increased ventilation, and we are actively investigating HVAC improvements in each building. Additionally, space modifications are underway to enable six-foot distancing and reduce the maximum occupancy of spaces across campus.

In the fall, we will continue to offer telehealth services via our on-campus clinics to serve the community. The DU Mental Health & Wellness Collaborative employs licensed clinicians to assist in providing free public mental health support. Students will have access to both in-person and/or telehealthcare at the Health & Counseling Center and faculty and staff can use our partnership with SupportLinc.

You can find additional information on health, safety, and wellbeing here.


The University is committed to providing an exceptional educational experience to our students. This has always been true and remains so during this global pandemic. While the changes to our classroom modalities require flexibility on the part of our students and our faculty, the quality of a DU education will not waver.

DU’s faculty have worked to develop new coursework specifically designed for this unsure and dynamic time. Our Office of Teaching and Learning has held many trainings on online and hybrid learning, helping our faculty translate their expertise and distinct teaching methods from face-to-face to online, as well as a mix of the two.

We’ve developed a four-modal approach for DU classes in fall.

  • In-person classes – In this modality, faculty determined that they have course material that can only be acquired through in-person instruction (Though all classes will include remote learning adaptations for those who cannot attend in-person for a host of reasons. Our disability services programis also available to assist students who disclose that they have an underlying medical condition, treatment plan, or medication regimen and need accommodations.) We will make use of over 200 classrooms and event spaces to ensure our in-person classes adhere to proper social distancing. Each room features clear markings, and the furniture has been signed, removed, or rearranged to allow for six feet of separation. New maximum occupancies are posted outside each room, and hand sanitizer and wipes are placed at the entrance of each room so that each student can disinfect their own space before class. Students will be required to wear face coverings while attending in-person classes.
  • Online classes – In this modality, faculty have course material that will translate well to the online environment. Some classes will be synchronous, where students and their professors meet together virtually at a specified day and time. Others will be asynchronous and can be experienced at any time.
  • Hybrid classes – Faculty have determined that some courses will be held both in-person and online. The schedule for these courses will be determined class-by-class, with many choosing to have one face-to-face session and one synchronous or asynchronous meeting each week.
  • Hyflex classes – In these classes, students can choose, or will be assigned, a mode of engagement each class day—either in-person or online. Students will be able to switch between modalities throughout the term, and instructors can use both modalities flexibly to present interactive course content.

For all classes, our IT staff has secured state-of-the-art technology to equip all learning spaces on campus with the audio/visual components they need for successful hybrid and hyflex teaching. In addition, all courses will have a continuity plan should a designated teaching partner need to take over in the event of instructor illness or emergency. And every course has a plan for switching to a fully online modality in the event of another full campus closure.

The research, scholarship, and creative work of our faculty and students is the foundation of DU. It impacts lives, improves the public good, and provides our students with the mentorship they need to build successful lives and careers. It’s essential this work continues. All research teams and clinics have approved protocols in line with our action plan. We’ve also considered the unique needs of these units. For example, research participants and clients must complete a visitor questionnaire, labs will employ staggered work schedules, and non-essential travel for fieldwork has been temporarily discontinued.

For our arts programs, while we have had to discontinue public performances through the end of the year; however, small internal events that maintain social distancing and include streaming options will continue to allow our performing and studio artists to showcase their creative work.

Leaning into our creativity and on-campus expertise, we are also launching a pilot on-campus screening lab for the virus that causes COVID-19. We may bring this project to scale following a successful pilot to increase our flexibility for rapid screening, including for asymptomatic individuals.

You can find additional information on academics, research, and creative work here.


Living on campus is an integral part of the college experience—most especially for our first-year students. While prioritizing the safety of our community, we are also committed to providing an on-campus living experience for all first-year students and for most second-year students who wish to remain on campus.

We are now offering single-occupancy rooms to first-year students in residential communities with communal bathrooms. Our suite-style accommodations are a combination of single- and double-occupancy rooms. The residential communities in Towers/Nagel/Nelson Halls have a bathroom in each suite or apartment.

In order to house our full first-year class and much of our second on campus, we have also leased additional space with close proximity to campus and the light rail at UHouse and Vista. Additional space has also been leased at Auraria Student Lofts for third- and fourth-year students, graduate students, and law students. We will provide resident assistants (RAs), programming and security in these off-campus housing units.

Students who are interested in finding housing can still secure a space in the Auraria Student Lofts and should fill out the 2020-21 Academic Year Housing Application. There are also limited spaces available in UHouse and Vista. Information about these residential spaces can be found at off-campus residential living.

Importantly, in the event of an outbreak, we have also designated an entire dorm, Hilltop Hall, for students living on-campus who test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. These students can use Hilltop to quarantine and focus on getting well in those instances in which greater medical attention or care is not needed.

Other housing, dining, and residential policies and procedures include:

  • Moving in – We have developed a staggered schedule with a no-contact check-in process. We encourage all students living on campus this fall to pack lightly, bringing only the essentials, in case we experience an escalated caseload in the region again and students must leave campus quickly.
  • Dining – Our Sodexo team is currently developing plans in alignment with our action plan and CDC guidelines.
  • Shared bathrooms – We have minimized student-to-bathroom ratios for this year. Cleaning and disinfection of community bathroom spaces is increasing to three disinfections every 24 hours. Students will receive more information closer to move-in, including the maximum number of students in a bathroom at a time and assigned fixtures in community bathrooms.
  • Community spaces – We have increased our custodial staffing to allow for daily—or even more frequent—disinfection in common areas. Front desk areas will feature plexiglass and distancing guidelines. And we will provide disinfection stations in communal spaces such as lounges, game rooms, and kitchenettes.
  • Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) – We are working in partnership with our FSL community and chapter leaders to align the plans of University-owned and/or operated FSL facilities with the protocols of our action plan. This would include FSL dining and events. We are also sharing the University’s protocols and strongly recommending non-University owned or operated facilities follow them to promote the health and safety of the University community.

You can find additional information on housing, dining, and residential life here.


This final category relates to the variety and breadth of programming at DU. During our time of remote working and learning, it has been our co-curricular activities—our sports, clubs, events, programming, and participation in organizations—that many have missed most. These activities add texture to the lives of our students, staff, and faculty, and DU doesn’t feel quite like DU without them. While we cannot, and indeed, should not, promise a full return to these activities, we are determined to provide our students with both physical and digital co-curricular options when we return this fall.

We are studying the use of outside spaces on campus to support safe congregation between classes and to offer outdoor events, activities, and programs. Staff and student programmers are planning for a hybrid experience of in-person and virtual activities, events, and programs.

A few additional highlights of our planning thus far:

  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – Knowing that COVID-19 has disproportionately and deeply affected communities of color and other minoritized communities, we have created a resource list of campus support for your reference as our community navigates our re-opening in the coming months. You can find more information on the ODEI website. As I shared earlier this summer, I am committed to the development of a full and concrete DEI action plan. I will share a draft of that plan with the community, for comment, by August 15.
  • Orientation – Our Discoveries Orientation will be virtual through August. During these virtual sessions, families will meet leadership and learn about our support services. Students can learn more about our orientation plan here.
  • Athletics and recreation - The University remains committed to the physical health and wellbeing of our students. The Ritchie Center and the El Pomar swimming pool will be open for students, faculty, and staff. Our athletics and recreation division has resumed student-athlete training with health and safety protocols in place. We have also resumed youth recreation in limited numbers, and pilot camps are underway to build capacity when our students return.
  • The bookstore – The bookstore will encourage online purchasing with in-store pickup or delivery to select sites on campus.
  • The library - The reference desk of the library will remain open, and academic services will be available virtually with curbside pickup and drop-off.

You can find additional information about our co-curricular life and general information here.

Although the pandemic has challenged us in truly unprecedented ways, I can say unequivocally that the DU community has met this moment with incredible courage, creativity, agility, and resilience. While these are traits I always knew DU possessed, this once-in-a-generation crisis has proven it beyond a doubt.

More than 100 people—faculty, staff, and students—have come together and worked tirelessly on our COVID-19 task forces, in working groups, and on specific projects, to ensure we continue to provide a high-quality education, conduct research, serve the public good and enjoy our beautiful campus. They have stayed abreast of the most up-to-date science and consulted with peers and expert partners around the country as well as within the governor’s and mayor’s offices. They have looked for creative solutions and set aside their “regular” work to lead the way forward in a situation we could never have fully anticipated and one which changes every day. To say I am grateful and proud, doesn’t fully capture the depth of my feeling. Thank you, all of you, for this work.

One last thing. To keep this community as safe as possible, every single one of us must be wholly committed to the effort to limit the spread of the virus. We must look after one another and make choices that serve the public good—our driving value at DU, as vital today as ever.

We commit to being fully transparent about our process and to clearly outline what is expected of us all. Going into the fall, we will have designated COVID-19 Education Ambassadors who will help reinforce how we can reduce risk to ourselves and one another. Every returning student, faculty member, and staff member will be required to take a Canvas course covering the goals and details of this action plan. And we have a host of resources in place if a community member becomes sick or needs accommodations.

In our plan, Creating a Community of Care, we outline how we plan to minimize the transmission of the virus while also remaining dedicated to our faculty, students, staff, and to the broader public good. While this places considerable responsibility on each of us, I am confident that the DU community will meet this challenge and come through it stronger and more united than ever. I look forward to seeing you all on campus again this fall.


Jeremy Haefner