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Preparations for fall quarter

In a letter to the campus community, Stanford Provost Persis Drell discusses the plans under way to prepare for fall quarter.

Dear Stanford community,

Across Stanford, work is under way to prepare for our fall quarter. Our facilities and residences are being readied, instructors are preparing their classes and staff are working hard to plan a return to campus that runs as smoothly and effectively as possible for everyone. It’s a busy and exciting time.

I know that it’s also a time of increased concern for many people, as we witness the recent rise in variant-driven COVID cases around the nation and world. I want to share with you how we are factoring the continually evolving public health situation into our planning for the fall.

We are proceeding with the resumption of in-person classes and other in-person activities at Stanford. But we’ve re-tightened health and safety protocols; our Testing and Vaccine Policy Committee continues to evaluate the latest developments in the public health situation, and we may adopt further changes in campus practices as a result. As we do this, we will continue to use a science-based approach to protecting our community’s health and wellbeing.

More information about these issues is below. In addition, to give you an opportunity to hear the latest on the public health situation and ask questions about it, we will be holding a Campus Conversation with Lloyd Minor, MD, the dean of our School of Medicine. This session will be livestreamed on Tuesday, Aug. 24, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. Pacific time. You can find information on this event page and submit questions in advance. I hope you’ll join.

In-person activities: Like our peer institutions, we continue to prepare for in-person teaching and research this fall. Instructors who wish to request an exemption from in-person teaching due to underlying medical concerns (e.g. immune-compromised) or where face coverings may interfere with learning (e.g. language courses) must receive approval from the department chair, dean and provost.

Staff employees provide vital support for our mission, and those who have been working off-site will generally be returning in September, with the details of the return process being guided by unit leaders. We’re approaching the staff return process in a way that tries to provide flexibility and opportunities for new ways of working wherever possible, balanced with the need for in-person work, based on the specifics of individuals’ roles.

Updated protocols: We’ve recently shared several updates. Of note:

  • We implemented the indoor face-covering mandate recently adopted by Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
  • All students are now required to resume weekly testing, regardless of vaccination status, and a two-step arrival testing sequence will be required for arriving students this fall.
  • We moved up the date for unvaccinated faculty, staff and postdocs coming to campus to begin required weekly testing. This requirement at Stanford is in effect now.
  • Our testing requirements may be further modified, as well, as we continue to evaluate the situation with the guidance of our medical professionals. We hope to have expanded guidance shortly.

Providing a strong protection system: Members of our community naturally have a range of concerns and questions as we go through this process, from office protocols to concerns for family members at home. We will continue working to answer your questions, and to factor the input we are hearing from you into our planning.

We know that the combination of vaccination, mask wearing and testing provides powerful protection against COVID. And we continue to see very high rates of vaccination in our community – 95% of employees and students who are coming to campus and using Health Check this summer report that they are vaccinated.

COVID is not immediately disappearing. But we believe the combination of science-based protocols we have developed and continue to evolve with our medical professionals will provide a strong protection system, just as they have over the last 18 months when we have had a significant proportion of our population still living and working on campus.

And, they will allow us to begin the necessary task of resuming in-person activities together as a community – moving ahead with the important work before us while adjusting to the new situations that COVID is always presenting.

I send the very best wishes for your health and wellbeing, and I look forward to seeing you soon.


Persis Drell