Tulane announces revised spring semester

Tulane+announces+revised+spring+semester

Courtesy of Tulane Public Relations

Amy Nankin, News Editor

Friday morning, Tulane administrators sent an email to the Tulane community regarding the schedule for the spring semester. Barring any unforeseen complications, the first day of classes will be Jan. 19, Mardi Gras break will still be observed Feb. 15-16, there will be no spring break, the last day of classes will be May 3. Commencement will take place on the originally scheduled date of May 22. 

While classes begin Jan. 19, students are expected to return the week before for COVID-19 screening at the Arrival Center, beginning Jan. 8. In place of spring break, the semester will have three days of no classes spread throughout the semester. Final exams will be held in-person from May 6-11. 

These are the broad brushstrokes of our upcoming semester,” the administrators wrote in the email. “There will be many more details to come in following weeks and all of our plans are contingent on local, state and federal safety recommendations and requirements.”

There was an increase in the number of positive cases earlier in the semester, resulting in a change in the action alert level from yellow to orange. The university increased testing to twice a week for all students and sent out twice-daily COVID-19 self check text messages. Now that the cases have decreased, the self-check text messages will be decreased to once a day. 

“However, we are not letting our guard down,” the email said. “All of our health safety protocols, including face coverings, social distancing, hand hygiene and restrictions on large gatherings will continue as before — they are the means that keep us safe. We will maintain our recently increased testing schedule for students (twice weekly for undergraduates both on and off-campus and every other week for graduate/professional students both on and off-campus).” 

The planning for the spring semester was in part reliant on students’ answers to the fall survey, which remains open for responses. The survey asked students about the most successful aspects of the semester, the biggest challenges and other feedback on the fall semester. Over 1,800 responses were submitted.

The survey had three open-ended questions for students to answer: “What are some of the most successful aspects of your semester?”, “What were the biggest challenges of your semester?” and “What other feedback would you like to provide as we plan for the Spring semester?” The survey summary highlights key issues raised by the most people in their responses. 

“These surveys have been extremely helpful as we have been planning our Spring semester,” Provost Robin Forman said in an Oct. 22 email to the undergraduate student body. “Even though we did not limit your responses to predefined topics, several larger themes emerged, that I will review in this letter. When appropriate, I will also tell you how we are responding to some of the issues you raise.”

The summary explained students’ thoughts and the administration response on modality, spring break, social engagement, acoustics in temporary classrooms, hybrid courses, Zoom-optional attendance, pass/fail grading and an observation that professors had assigned more homework than usual this semester. 

Student responses varied from wanting more in-person classes to wanting more remote learning options, to confusion regarding the nature of the hybrid model. Students expressed concerns over the lack of breaks and the hardships endured by less options for social engagement. Faculty members echoed many of these concerns as well in their responses and the provost assured that there will be further conversation between the administration and faculty on how to best navigate the spring semester. 

“Even with these frustrations, challenges, and desires for improvement, the responses were, overall, very positive,” Forman said. According to Forman, students reported success with in-person classes and meeting new people, and expressed praise for their professors. 

Members of the faculty share these sentiments. “In fact, the faculty identify as their greatest success that their students are amazing,” Forman said. “As long as that remains true, we are going to have a great semester together, and — since we’ve learned so much this semester — the spring will be even better — both academically and socially — than the fall.”