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Start of Spring 2021 Message from the Provost

Published on Wed 01/13/21
Howdy!

I’m pleased to welcome you back to Texas A&M for the spring 2021 semester. I hope each of you had an enjoyable and restful holiday break.

Plans for Spring Semester 

After consulting with officials from the Brazos County Health District, classes for the majority of our 71,000+ students will begin as scheduled on Tuesday, Jan. 19, with no changes to mode of delivery. Although cases are elevated both throughout the country and in the Brazos Valley, this was expected by local and national experts. Adjustments were made months ago in preparation for the increase in cases. Several items factored into our decision to move forward as scheduled. 

First, in order to reduce transmission, Texas A&M required testing for employees and on-campus residents over the past two weeks. Students living off campus are welcome to come to any testing site, as well. We have expanded COVID-19 testing capability that will be available throughout the semester for all students and employees. 

Second, contact tracers and public health officials have reviewed six months of data and reported that transmission on campus has been minimal, which is in line with what other universities have also observed. Instead, most transmission occurs off campus in family gatherings, among residents in an apartment or home, or at social gatherings. This is why we are seeing a high number of cases resulting from the holiday season. 

Finally, we continue to implement a robust set of protocols to enhance safety, including increased air changes in classrooms, physical distancing, plexiglass in offices and classrooms, and required face coverings. I feel confident, as do public health officials, that moving forward with our spring semester as scheduled is the right decision.

COVID-19 Precautions Remain Important

We continue to rely on you to help keep the campus community as safe as possible.
If you are exposed or feel sick, do not attend class or work in person, follow the university’s guidance on isolation and quarantine, and get tested. If in doubt, stay home. We have increased the number of sites where free testing is available. Please check the main COVID-19 website regularly, as locations and hours of operation will change during the semester. 

Most importantly, continue to take the precautions that we are all familiar with, even if you have been vaccinated: wear a face covering, wash your hands frequently, keep physically distanced, and avoid off-campus gatherings.  

I am pleased that Texas A&M’s Student Health Services, the College of Pharmacy, and College of Medicine were recently approved as distributors for the vaccine. Although not yet available to the general public, we hope to share more information with you soon about Texas A&M’s role in administering the vaccine.

Reminders for Students and Employees

Finally, a few reminders:
  • Instructors should specify which learning management system will be used, ideally in the syllabus.
  • Instructors may enforce the requirements for face coverings and physical distancing in face-to-face classes.
  • Instructors can require that cameras remain turned on during class.
  • The last day to add/drop is Monday, Jan. 25, at 5 p.m.
  • No classes will be held on March 2, March 19, and April 2.
  • The student-based Keep Learning page and the employee-based Keep Teaching page provide valuable resources for online learning and instruction.  


We will continue to update the campus community if conditions change. I wish you a safe and productive spring semester.

Sincerely,
 
Mark Weichold
Interim Provost & Executive Vice President