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Executing the 2020–21 Academic Year: A Look Behind the Numbers

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Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

News  •

The 2020–21 academic year was unlike any year that the University of Denver or other colleges across the country have ever experienced. The COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to pivot multiple times and deploy new techniques and technology to keep campuses running for the entire year.


Providing an option for an in-person experience while ensuring the safety of students, faculty and staff was paramount to those who volunteered countless hours to the University of Denver. By the end of the spring quarter, 9,500 community members were cleared to be on campus. Only one week of classes between September 2020 and June 2021 had to be transitioned from in-person instruction to online, and a total of 4,282 class sections took place on-campus, just under half of what would occur in a normal year.



Achieving all of this required extensive testing, and eventually, once it was available, distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Last summer, the University installed a carepod dedicated to testing. Working in partnership with National Jewish Health, the University administered 87,194 nasal swab RT-PCR tests and 2,118 antigen tests on campus. In January, DU launched its own spit lab, which introduced salivary RT-PCR testing. The on-campus lab processed 79,340 saliva tests, tripling the level of testing conducted during the fall quarter. In total, 168,652 COVID-19 tests were performed on campus during the academic year. In addition, DU analyzed sewer samples from six residence halls multiple times per week. Along with the faculty and staff dedicated to these efforts, more than 100 graduate and undergraduate students benefited from the experiential learning associated with assisting in the labs and in the field.



In February, the University of Denver and National Jewish Health collaborated to offer the vaccine to underserved populations in the Denver community and eligible employees and students in the DU community. From February through June, these efforts resulted in 31 on-campus and 16 off-campus clinics where more than 31,000 doses of the vaccine were administered. In terms of the DU population with campus access, 90% of faculty, 77% of staff, 75% of graduate students and 67% of undergraduate students received their vaccine this spring.



Facilities Management did a lot of work to prepare campus last summer and then maintain conditions for students and employees throughout the year. Staff installed 3,760 MERV13 filters in 42 campus buildings to improve air filtration in classrooms and offices. Additionally, 66 portable in-room HEPA filtration units were installed throughout campus, while 37 in-room air purification units were installed at the Ricks Center for Gifted Children and Fisher Early Learning Center. Facilities purchased 56,400 disposable masks to have available for essential personnel. Upwards of 50,000 new signs and magnets were ordered and installed to inform those on campus of current COVID restrictions and mandatory procedures. To keep classrooms and public spaces as clean as possible, 627 hand sanitizer stations and 6,208 canisters of wipes were deployed across campus.



The staff at Sodexo worked to ensure that students living on campus and others in our community had meals. Some 418,101 meals were served this year in the Rebecca Chopp Grand Central Market and in Nelson, Nagel and Centennial Halls. Sodexo also helped those students who had to isolate or quarantine because of COVID-19, delivering 17,231 meals to students across 15 different properties both on and off campus.



The University of Denver’s COVID-19 website and dashboard served as a central place to share important information and updates related to the pandemic on campus. According to, DU’s dashboard received an A rating. Out of the 369 university dashboards that are rated, DU ranks in the top 11 and is one of only 42 universities to receive an A or better. In addition to the website, an email account was created for the DU community to send any questions they might have. During the academic year, the COVID response team answered 27,415 emails from students, parents, faculty, staff and others in the neighborhood surrounding campus. In addition, staff operated a 24/7 emergency line as well as an information line that was open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for seven days a week.



The pandemic made it necessary for some courses and many in our community to conduct business in the virtual world. The University’s IT department ensure that our technology was up for the challenge. During the fall, winter and spring quarters 456,147 zoom sessions took place with 3,940,735 participants. All the sessions accounted for 198,457,585 minutes.

The Coors Fitness Center opened in the fall and was available throughout the academic year for students. The facility operated for a total of 2,650 hours and had 65,263 visits by 2,567 unique students between September and June.

DU faculty and staff have continued to offer their expertise to local and national media on topics related to the pandemic. During the academic year, faculty and staff appeared in 95 newspaper articles, 43 television stories and 13 radio interviews.