We are filled with hope by the University’s recently announced plan for more in-person experiences for fall 2021.

Fall 2021 in Pullman

February 4, 2021

To our WSU Pullman community,

We are filled with hope by the University’s recently announced plan for more in‑person experiences for fall 2021. The COVID‑19 pandemic has challenged all of us in ways that were previously unimaginable. Like you, we’ve been missing in‑person connections with our friends, families, and fellow Cougs. And also like you, we are doing all we can to reconnect on campus in the fall.

While many details are still to be worked out, and with consideration for the health of our community, we expect to see an increased number of students living on campus, more in‑person instruction, and expanded student services and activities. Course schedules for the 2021 fall semester will be available by early April.

We are in regular consultation with health officials and university groups. By implementing a phased increase of in‑person operations in the spring and summer semesters, we can assess options for the fall. For example, the 2021 summer session will incorporate both in‑person and remote course delivery. This synchronous delivery schedule will allow us to shift quickly to remote instruction if even temporarily necessary.

Similarly, the Coug experience will continue to create more in‑person opportunities for students throughout the spring and summer. Guided by the Washington State Roadmap for Recovery and guidelines for higher education, we are already expanding capacity in our facilities, creating reservation systems for students to use campus spaces with small groups, and increasing activities and services with options for in‑person and remote access.

We are also approaching our plans with access and equity in mind, fully recognizing that COVID‑19 has not just isolated us—it has also exposed the racial, class, and gender inequities that permeate our society. These inequities require us to be attentive and respond to individual circumstances as well as the ever-changing nature of the pandemic. Meeting the unique needs of all members of our Cougar family is our top priority.

We’ve learned a lot over this past year. Whatever happens between now and fall, we are prepared, and we will adapt.

Our current COVID‑19 positivity rates on campus are low due in large part to the spring 2021 COVID‑19 testing plan. We have seen minimal transmission of the COVID‑19 virus associated with on‑campus living, in‑person instruction, University research operations, or other University-organized activities where policies and protocols were in place.

We’ve created entirely new systems and redefined existing services to better support our campus community. Faculty and staff took advantage of 34 unique learning innovations courses focused on maintaining high levels of student engagement while utilizing available technology. We’ve doubled the number of in‑person courses from the fall 2020 to spring 2021 semester and we are paving the way for increased and more robust on‑campus experiences this fall.

Our physical spaces have been evaluated to meet public health guidelines. To date, 135 general university classrooms, 400 laboratories and instructional meeting rooms, and more than 100 student and auxiliary spaces have been reconfigured for in‑person opportunities. All WSU departments are required to complete an Environmental Health & Safety Distancing and Disinfection Plan prior to returning to in‑person activities. More than 100 plans have already been approved.

Student organizations have met, led, and hosted programming for thousands of students remotely, including musicians, artists, speakers, magicians, comedians, and more. During the election season, more than 600 Cougs used the on‑campus voting hub to register or cast their vote in the national election and many more participated in more than 44 election- and voting-related events. Our multicultural and community-based student centers maintained virtual office hours and programming and have recently expanded to include small-group, in‑person activities in the Compton Union Building.

We’ve continued care and services for the most foundational needs of student health and well‑being. This academic year, students enjoyed over 95,000 on‑campus meals and our pantries provided nearly 300 bags of food and essential items to students in need. Students received medical and professional care, participating in over 3,300 telehealth appointments and approximately 4,000 tele‑mental health appointments. That is in addition to in‑person medical care, pharmacy, and vision clinic services. We’ve delivered scores of virtual and in‑person health and recreation programs, at times facilitating nearly 200 individual fitness classes per week, running intramural clinics, renting outdoor recreation gear, leading 100 outdoor trips and clinics, and advising sport clubs as they maintained rigorous, remote practice schedules.

The Cougar Community is strong, and we will navigate the coming months together. While ongoing vaccine distribution promises a brighter future, we must all continue to wear our masks, wash our hands, limit group sizes, and keep physical distancing. Each of these small behaviors helps Cougs Cancel COVID and has a profound impact on our ability to come together this fall.

Stay healthy and Go Cougs,

Elizabeth S. Chilton
Provost and Executive Vice President

Mary Jo Gonzales
Vice President of Student Affairs