As vaccinations continue, fall 2021 begins to take shape

With the spring semester almost over, much of the Carnegie Mellon community's attention turns towards the upcoming fall semester. So far, Carnegie Mellon administrators have indicated that the fall semester will feature the return of mostly in-person instruction, and the university announced on Monday that COVID-19 vaccines will be required for all students enrolled in U.S.-based programs starting in the fall.

In an email to The Tartan, Provost Jim Garrett wrote, "In general, fall 2021 will look much more like fall 2019." He specified that the majority of classes will be offered in-person in the fall with limited remote classes.

Plans for the fall are still in flux. As of Sunday, the schedule of classes for fall 2021 still has not been released, and class registration has been delayed to the week starting June 7. Additionally, students will not be able to study remotely in some cases. For example, the electrical and computer engineering program emailed students that the fall would be fully in-person. They wrote, "If you are unable to return to campus for the Fall 2021 semester, please reach out to your academic advisor to discuss a leave of absence."

Travel restrictions have remained throughout the pandemic, most recently when President Biden barred certain groups of travelers from India due to COVID-19 concerns (students were exempted). Provost Garrett assured that Carnegie Mellon expects the majority of students to be able to study in person and on campus in the fall.

Garret added, "In light of the ongoing pandemic, we also recognize there may be some international students who will encounter visa challenges with consulates in their countries of origin that may preclude them from on-time arrival." The Office of International Education (OIE) will continue to work with students on visa issues, according to Garrett. He wrote that each department and program will work with international students to ensure they can continue their academic progress.

Garrett wrote that planning to have the fall semester in person was enabled by COVID-19 vaccines. In his email to The Tartan, he credited COVID-19 vaccines as "critical to our ability to protect community health and well-being as well as resume in-person operations in the fall." Carnegie Mellon has now joined multiple other colleges in requiring students to get COVID-19 vaccines to return to campus.

Even with vaccines, Garrett wrote, "We will still be using other mitigation tools to protect our community." Most Carnegie Mellon students in the U.S. have been able to get vaccines since all 50 states opened eligibility to all adults. Despite this, April 2021 set the record for most COVID-19 cases within Carnegie Mellon with over 100 cases. Vice President for Student Affairs Gina Casalegno and Chief of Staff Daryl Weinert acknowledged this record in an email, and wrote, "Failure to follow protocols puts our entire community at risk, jeopardizing students as they prepare for finals and impacting our thinking about hosting in-person events on campus, including Commencement in just three weeks."

In the email to The Tartan, Provost Garrett wrote, "We urge all students to continue to wear facial coverings; wash hands frequently; maintain physical distance from others; complete your daily self-assessment; and if you’re going to be on campus, remember to participate in Tartan Testing. It is essential to practice these precautions even after you are vaccinated."