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Spring Plan 2021

As we prepare for the spring 2021 semester, the following key FAQs will provide initial information regarding health and safety, academics, residential opportunities, student experiences, workforce guidance, and more. Additional FAQs will be added in the coming weeks.

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General Information

Health and Safety 

Academics

Campus Facilities and Services

Finances

Travel and Study Abroad

Faculty and Staff

General Information

Will any classes have an in-person component?

AU will be offering an increased number of classes for in-person instruction this spring, specifically in the sciences, visual and performing arts, and film and media studies. This increase will nearly double the number of in-person classes offered in the fall. Select additional academic areas are under consideration as well.

What classes will have an in-person component?

Additional classes in the sciences, visual and performing arts, and film and media studies will have in-person instruction. Also under consideration are small classes that could be taught safety in a physically distant manner in a large classroom. Our specialized facilities, such as the Hall of Science, Don Myers Building, and Media Innovation Lab can be utilized for these classes in compliance with health and safety guidelines. Our goal for the spring is to increase in-person curricular and co-curricular opportunities in a safe manner. Class modalities will be indicated in Eagle Service when spring registration opens on November 2.

What course modalities will be followed for the spring (e.g. live/synchronous, asynchronous, etc.)?

Online classes will follow the modalities offered during the fall. However, our faculty will work to incorporate student feedback and adjust the amount of live/synchronous and asynchronous content.

Will spring course days/times remain the same as they are on the schedule?

Yes, classes will follow the schedule as published by the registrar.

If my class is offered in person, can I still participate online?

We are seeking to avoid simulcast situations, where some students are in person while others are online, as we know this arrangement does not generally work well for students or faculty. The majority of courses offered for the spring semester will be online. We are committed to making sure that all students can progress their degree. If you have a question about a course offered in person, please check with your academic advisor for help and additional information.

Will there be online options in the spring for students who are currently outside DC?

Yes. We will continue to have a robust online learning experience. For students who continue to reside outside of the DC area, we will continue to provide online options for continuing their studies and staying on track to complete their degrees.

Is there any change to the calendar for the spring semester?

For health and safety reasons, we will adjust the spring semester calendar. It is likely that case counts and community spread will continue at high levels throughout the winter months and the following changes will help maintain the health and safety of our community. Spring classes will begin on January 19, one week later than originally planned. Spring break will be canceled to avoid a situation where travel and social gatherings can cause an increase in cases locally and communities around the country.

Does the revised spring semester calendar affect the four term graduate course calendar?

No, for programs running on the four term academic calendar, the start date for Term 1 remains on January 11, 2021.

How does the spring decision affect international students?

We are awaiting final guidance from the Department of Homeland Security about international students during the spring 2021 semester. We will have more information after DHS finalizes its guidance.

Has AU changed the health and safety protocols for the spring semester?

No, the same the health and safety protocols put in place for fall semester remain in place for spring 2021.

Will there be any events allowed on campus?

We are working to create spaces for small groups to gather while continuing to observe all health and safety protocols. Additional buildings and campus spaces will be available for studying, small group meetings that comply with safety guidelines, and other in-person activity. Recently, we launched a reservation system for students to book meetings of up to three people in select rooms in the Mary Graydon Center and Don Myers Building. In November, we will expand available spaces on the ground floor of the SIS building and pilot limited, reservation-based access to the Cassell Fitness Center. As conditions improve, we will revisit gatherings according to the ReOpen DC plan and guidance. All community members must wear face coverings and practice physical distancing while using any facilities. If you are planning to visit the campus for any reason, please complete the required daily self-screening questionnaire prior to reporting to AU’s campus.

What is the status of spring 2021 commencement?

The university will continue to evaluate the best approach for the May 2021 commencement ceremonies, based on safety conditions and health guidance, and will provide updates as soon as possible.

Health and Safety

Will there be COVID testing for students?

There will be expanded COVID-19 testing for students for Spring 2021 through the student health center. Students living on campus or coming to spend time on campus will be required to have regular COVID-19 testing.

Will the university provide COVID testing for faculty and staff?

Faculty and staff who are required to work on campus, depending on the nature of work and potential exposure, will have access to testing.

What ongoing and new support services will be available to help students thrive academically and emotionally in spring 2021?

AU has a robust system in place to support all of our students. We have comprehensive academic support including a writing center, quantitative support center, academic coaching and peer tutoring. We are also supporting the overall health and well-being of our students, ensuring that systems are in place to meet their technology needs and continuing to build community. We have added a comprehensive online wellness resource, YOU@American, that all AU students have access to and create their own confidential and private account to connect to a wide range of resources.

Fostering a sense of community and belonging for students is a vital part of the AU experience. Our goal is to increase curricular, co-curricular, and residential opportunities over the course of the spring. As we carefully watch the fundamental indicators of the pandemic and evolving public health conditions, we intend to ramp up activity and student engagement. Please visit the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) website for more information about the student experience at AU. In addition to the activities provided by CSI, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), Center for Community Engagement & Service (CCES) and Kay Spiritual Life Center, our newly formed Campus Activism Committee provides additional virtual programming and events for students this semester. Links to these offices and their programming schedules can be found on the Office of Campus Life’s (OCL) webpage.

OCL has created new partnerships across departments at AU to provide additional engagement tools needed for students to succeed during this virtual environment. An example of one of these enriching experiences allows students the opportunity to connect with other students wherever they are located across the world. This initiative is called AU Together—Eagles Everywhere and offers a platform for students to connect with each other and with local alumni in their areas. It is a dynamic virtual engagement space and allows students to build community across affinity groups and regions.

Academics

Will there be pass/fail grading options for classes?

Yes. Undergraduate students can take two classes pass/fail for both the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. If a student elects this option, only one P/F course may be counted for major, minor, or AU Core/Gen Ed credit (each semester).

Graduate students can take one course pass/fail for both fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. The decision to take a course pass/fail will be made after final grades are submitted. 

This option is not available to students at the Washington College of Law or in the International or Master’s Accelerator Program. Furthermore, some students may have unique circumstances—including, but not limited to, federal financial aid or scholarship regulations and probation or progression standards) that will impact their ability to move a course to pass/fail. We strongly encourage you to consult with your academic advisor to explore these issues.

Why do I have to wait until after the semester (or term) is over to select the pass/fail option?

We are asking you to make the pass/fail option after the semester (or term) is complete so that you have full information about your progress and have ample time to consider the pros and cons of electing a grade type change to consult with advisors and faculty in making your decision. We want you to carefully weigh the impact of one or more pass/fail grades on your immediate academic profile and progress, as well as on career opportunities in your field of study (e.g., in applications to graduate/professional schools and future jobs). 

What are the pass/fail grading options during fall 2020 and spring 2021 for undergraduate students?

During both the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, undergraduate students may exercise the option for pass/fail grades in two courses per semester.

Per current regulationsone of these pass/fail grades may be an elective course.

  • With the policy change, you may also elect a grade type change for one additional elective/major/minor/Gen Ed/Core course.
  • Both of these grade type changes can be made after the grade for the course has been entered (using a grade type change form that will be available to you after the semester ends, in the beginning of January). 
  • If you have already opted for pass/fail in a course in the fall 2020 semester, it will count as one of the two permitted pass/fail courses for this semester. You will not be able to select the second course until after final grades have posted.

Some students may have unique circumstances (including, but not limited to, requirements related to the International Accelerator Program, federal financial aid or scholarship regulations, and probation or progression standards) that will impact their ability to move a course to pass/fail. We strongly encourage you to consult with your financial aid and academic advisors to explore these issues.

We also want to remind you of a prior policy change that provides additional flexibility. In recognition of the challenges students may face this year, the Faculty Senate has approved changes to the previously named Freshman Forgiveness Policy, now known as the Course Repetition and Grade Replacement Policy. In addition to the deliberate name change to remove gendered language, the expanded policy allows undergraduate students to retake any two AU courses (over the course of their time at AU) in which they have earned a C- or lower for a grade replacement at any point during their undergraduate career at AU (the previous policy limited grade replacement to courses taken in the first 30 credits). The policy has also been expanded to permit transfer students and part-time degree-seeking students to retake a course for a grade replacement. For complete regulation details, please refer to Regulation 4.4 of the Undergraduate Academic Rules and Regulations.

Please also remember that, if you have personal or medical circumstances that are impacting your academic progress, you can work with your advisor and the Dean of Students Office to review academic options.

What are the pass/fail grading options during fall 2020 and spring 2021 for graduate students?

During both the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, most graduate students may convert one course from an A-F grade to a pass/fail grade after each semester is complete and final grades have been posted. For graduate students in an online program that is comprised of four terms or a fall I and fall II semester, students will be able to select one course across the two relevant terms (for fall 2020 either fall I & II or T3 & T4) to convert to a pass in the period designated in January.

This option is not available to students at the Washington College of Law or in the Master’s Accelerator Program. Furthermore, other students may have unique circumstances (including, but not limited to, federal financial aid or scholarship regulations, and probation or progression standards) that will impact their ability to move a course to pass/fail. We strongly encourage you to consult with your academic advisor to explore these issues.

While most graduate courses will convert a C grade to a pass, several courses, such as many graduate capstone courses, explicitly require a grade higher than a C. These courses will continue to require that higher grade to receive a pass.

Please also remember that, if you have personal or medical circumstances that are impacting your academic progress, you can work with your advisor and the Dean of Students Office to review academic options.

Can I convert a course a course to pass/fail that will double count for my combined bachelor’s/master’s degree? 

If you are completing coursework for a combined bachelor’s/master’s degree, please consult with your graduate advisor before converting a course to pass/fail that you plan to double count for both degrees. Assuming there are no other progression standards or requirements of the master’s degree, it may be possible for you to convert one undergraduate course per semester that would double count for your master’s degree. 

Can I convert a course to pass/fail if I am on probation?

If you are on probation and need the grade in the course to get your GPA to the required GPA, then you will not be able to convert the course. If you do not need the letter grade to increase your GPA to the necessary level, you can convert the course to a pass/fail grade. However, we ask that you please consult your advisor.

Is temporary leave available to students for the spring semester?

Yes.

Undergraduate regulations are:

13.2. General Temporary Leave

13.2.1. Students desiring a temporary leave for reasons other than study at another collegiate institution should meet with their academic advisor. At the academic unit’s discretion, based on whether or not it seems desirable to guarantee the student an automatic readmission, the academic unit will notify the Office of the University Registrar to issue a temporary leave. The temporary leave will specify the duration of the leave (one or two semesters) as well as a limitation of one-year maximum automatic continuance in the same undergraduate program. Students must request the leave no later than within the first two weeks in the term in which the leave will begin. The academic unit may extend the leave only once and must notify the Office of the University Registrar accordingly.

13.2.2. The temporary leave becomes void if the student attends any domestic or foreign collegiate institution during the period of leave, unless the student obtains a permit to study at another institution or a medical permit to study from the academic unit.

For graduate students on a four-term calendar:

10.3.15. Changes in Course Registration Once a Term Begins for Students Enrolled in Four-Term Calendar Courses

Students who desire a temporary leave to study at another education institution are directed to the permit to study section. Students who desire a temporary leave for reasons other than study at another educational institution must obtain approval from the associate dean of their academic units. This permit will specify the duration of the temporary leave and must comply with university academic regulations. Students must request the leave no later than add/drop date in the term in which the temporary leave will begin.

To extend the temporary leave, students must apply directly to the associate dean of their academic units. Degree seeking graduate students are allowed no more than four terms of general temporary leave, either consecutive or non-consecutive, to remain enrolled in the same program. This limit does not apply to leave accrued while enrolled in a previous degree program. However, a student may take up to six terms of leave if at least two of the terms are medical leave with approval of the associate dean.

The permit becomes void if the student attends any domestic or foreign educational institution during the period of temporary leave, unless the student obtains a permit to study at another institution from the associate dean of the academic unit.

Will students know modalities before they register for spring classes?

Our faculty and staff are working to get as many in-person course offerings up on the schedule of classes before spring registration begins November 2. Class modalities will be indicated in Eagle Service.

Campus Facilities and Services

Will any students live on campus?

We will increase university housing in a limited way for students with specific programmatic requirements to be on-campus and/or acute housing needs. We are also exploring a residential “mini-mester” where several hundred additional first-year students could live on campus for the latter half of the semester and prepare for even more residential opportunities in the summer.

Details on how to apply for emergency housing can be found on the Housing and Residential Life website.

Will resident assistants be on campus in the spring?

AU will not have resident assistants for the Spring 2021 semester. See our Spring Emergency Housing FAQs for more information about support for our residents.

What dining services will be available on campus?

Most dining facilities will remain closed with select take away options such as the Bridge and the Davenport continuing to operate. Additional dining information will be provided to students living on campus.

Will visitors be allowed on campus?

AU is not allowing visitors at this time. We will continue to monitor health and safety conditions and guidance from health and government officials, including the ReOpen DC plan, and will revisit accordingly.

All employees and students are required to complete a daily self-screening questionnaire prior to reporting to AU’s campus and follow all health and safety protocols.

Will there be additional buildings open on campus?

Yes. Additional buildings and campus spaces will be available for studying and small group meetings that comply with safety guidelines. Recently we instituted a reservation system for students to book meetings of no more than three people in select rooms in the Mary Graydon Center and Don Myers Building. In November, we will expand access to the ground floor of the SIS building and pilot limited access to the fitness center with a reservation system.

Will athletic facilities and campus recreational facilities be reopened to students in the Spring semester?

In November, AU will pilot limited, reservation-based access to the Cassell Fitness Center. We hope to expand operating hours and will evaluate whether other facilities (i.e. Jacobs Fitness Center and Frailey Pool) will open to students as the semester progresses. Using this space and others on campus for in-person activity remains predicated on health and safety conditions. If case counts increase significantly or local public health guidelines require a change, we will use caution and adjust operations accordingly.

Will there be a discounted parking rate for commuters during the Spring semester?

Parking rates will not change in Spring 2021. See Parking and Commuter Services for more information.

Finances

Will there be any impact on financial aid for spring 2021?

Most students will not experience any change to financial aid for spring 2021. However, financial aid packages will be update as applicable to reflect tuition discounts and adjusted fees.

Will the tuition and fee discounts continue for the spring?

The AU Community of Care spring tuition discount will be 10 percent for undergraduate students and graduate students, and 5 percent for WCL students. These efforts continue our commitment to support students and families in these challenging times.

Student activity fee discounts remain the same: 25 percent for the Graduate Leadership fee and 30 percent for the AU Student Government fee. Fees for the Washington College of Law Student Bar Association will be further reduced from 18 percent to 22 percent. The sports center fee will be waived again. The university is in current discussion with WMATA regarding U∙PASS Program options for the spring 2021 semester.

The tuition rate in the student’s Spring 2021 bill will reflect the discounted tuition amount.

Travel and Study Abroad

What is AU’s current policy on student/faculty/staff travel?

All official university travel outside of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area will remain suspended until February 6th, 2021. The policy will be reviewed again in November 2020. Additionally, all Spring 2021 study abroad programs have been suspended. Future travel policies will be based on Centers’ for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government agencies’ guidance, and the university’s risk assessment of travel conditions and exposure risks.

I am a faculty member or graduate student who needs to travel in order to conduct research, what should I do?

A petition can be made for an exception to the moratorium on travel by contacting the Vice Provost for Research at VPR@american.edu. The petition should include: AU research participants; travel details including location, timeframe, and mode of transportation; a brief description of the purpose of travel and a rationale for the exception that explains why delaying this research will harm the effort; and grant or funding source, if applicable. 

For human subject's research, the petition should also include the status of AU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). Researchers are reminded that all requests to restart human subjects research must be submitted directly to IRB for consideration and approval. For more information, see the IRB website.

Are there COVID-19 related reentry restrictions to the U.S.?

At the moment there are travel restrictions for certain countries, including the US. For travel inquiries and up-to-date information on travel restrictions, please visit the US Department of State's COVID-19 Country Specific Information page, and for travel health guidance, visit CDC's COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Country page

What is the university doing about study abroad programs?

American University’s goal is to run our programs if it is safe to do so. Unfortunately, this is a rapidly evolving situation that may warrant suspending or canceling current or future programs. At this time, the University has made the difficult decision to suspend all Spring 2021 study abroad programs. 

What criteria does AU use to determine when it is safe to resume international travel associated with its programming?

American University has implemented a comprehensive approach led by a cross-functional emergency response team to respond to the COVID-19 situation and support our community. 

This team continues to monitor the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation in the United States and around the world. We continue to follow guidance of global, national, and local health and government officials. Any decisions regarding the continuation or cancellation of our study abroad programs will be made by the emergency response team in accordance with this guidance. 

What does it mean when a program is suspended?

A program suspension means that a particular program has been temporarily canceled for that term only. This suspension will not be re-evaluated, and the decision of AU is final. 

What about my health and safety?

AU monitors health and safety conditions daily and works with our on-site staff to ensure compliance with local regulations, including COVID-19 precautions and protocols. The University is committed to ensuring students’ safety while on our programs and will update students regularly in the pre-departure phase. Specifics of entry requirements, testing, distancing, and other health and safety measures will be updated and shared with participants as procedures are finalized for each study abroad program. 

Do I get my money back now that my program is suspended?

Any student who has committed to a spring 2021 semester study abroad program has the option to defer their study abroad program to the fall 2021 semester. If the student would rather withdraw completely from study abroad, they will receive a refund of their deposit back to the original form of payment. 

What if I decide not to go?

You must notify your AU Abroad advisor if you wish to defer your study abroad to another semester or if you wish to withdraw completely. If you withdraw, AU Abroad will refund your deposit. Students planning to participate in a study abroad program managed by a different academic unit or office at AU should contact that unit directly for guidance. 

If a payment or deposit is made directly to a partner institution or third party, those payments are not recoverable by American University and, therefore, cannot be refunded by AU. Instead, such payments are subject to the partner institution’s cancellation and refund policies.

Can I defer my study abroad to fall 2021?

You may defer participation in your AU Abroad program until the fall 2021 semester. Contact your AU Abroad advisor to notify us officially of your request to defer. Your AU Abroad advisor will then work with you and your program abroad to arrange for the deferral of your application. In general, many application materials can carry over to fall 2021. Depending on the program, however, some items may need to be resubmitted.  

Students who want to defer for a study abroad program managed by a different academic unit or offices at AU should contact that unit directly for guidance. 

I was planning to study abroad with an approved program provider or at a partner university. What do I need to do to withdraw my application or defer to another semester?

Once you notify your AU Abroad advisor or the study abroad advisor in the academic units, they will email your program provider or partner university letting them know that AU has suspended participation in your study abroad program for the spring 2021 semester and inform them of your decision to defer or withdraw. If you choose to defer, this email will also include the next steps you should take and the materials you may need to re-submit. 

Students planning to participate in a study abroad program managed by a different academic unit or office at AU should contact that unit directly for guidance. 

I’m not able to study abroad in a future semester. Can I still take courses through an AU Centers program in spring 2021?

Yes! Courses (including internships) from our AU Centers in Madrid, Brussels, and Nairobi will also be offered online by our faculty on the ground.  You can enroll in these classes and learn from our overseas experts. See the virtual offerings page for more information and use EagleService to register for these courses on your spring 2021 schedule. Please let AU Abroad know if you have any problems registering for one of our courses.  

If my study abroad program is being offered virtually, can I still participate and get credit at AU?

If your program has procedures in place to offer a full semester of course work virtually, it may be possible to enroll in a full semester of coursework remotely. If you choose to participate in a virtual study abroad semester, you do not have authorization to travel across borders to participate in the program.  

If you intend to take courses virtually with your study abroad program, you must enroll in a full-time course load with that program or partner. You will need to be approved by your AU Abroad Advisor to participate in a virtual semester abroad and you should contact your advisor directly with questions. AU Abroad will register you for your virtual full-time semester abroad. 

Also keep in mind that our AU Centers in Madrid, Brussels, and Nairobi are offering online classes, so if you’d like to take courses from an interesting international perspective, we encourage you to explore those options at the virtual offerings page

Students planning to participate in a study abroad program managed by a different academic unit or office at AU should contact that unit directly for guidance. 

Can I take a leave of absence to participate in a program independently from AU?

No. AU Academic regulations don’t allow you to enroll in another institution during an official leave of absence. 

I received an AU Abroad Grant for fall 2020 and now I am deferring to fall 2021. Can I defer the grant as well?

Unfortunately, no. You would need to reapply for the AU Abroad Grant for fall 2021. 

Will incoming exchange programs run in spring 2021?

American University has suspended all in-person exchanges for the Spring 2021 semester.  If an incoming exchange student would like to participate in a fully virtual semester exchange program, they should contact the office that manages their program at American University. 

Faculty and Staff

Will faculty and staff be required to come to campus at all?

The vast majority of faculty and staff will continue to telework during the spring semester. The temporary provision of the Out-of-State Staffing Policy will be extended through the end of the Spring semester. Human Resources and individual departments will work with individual faculty and staff who may need to come to campus to support in-person classes and activities. Any faculty and staff required to come to campus regularly for work requirements will have access to COVID-19 testing. Faculty and staff can learn more about our telework arrangement policies and procedures on HR's COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions page.

AU Forward: Health & Safety

  • Health Status Report: If you are experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms, you are in quarantine, or you tested positive for COVID-19, submit a Self Report to confidentially notify the University.

  • Daily Self-Screening is required for any community member with a physical presence on campus. The screening will be completed via the AU Forward portal.

  • The Fall 2020 Health and Safety Plan has been amended in accordance with ReOpen DC guidelines. See the Amended Plan.