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General Questions

Fall 2020 General Questions

Commencement


General Questions

What preparations has AU taken to handle COVID-19?

American University continues to take all necessary steps to protect the health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff as we closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and around the world. The university is now in the recovery and of our COVID-19 operations with a comprehensive effort to move AU forward chart our path for the fall semester and beyond.

We continue to follow guidance of global, national, and local health and government officials. Washington, DC is in phase two of reopening. Colleges and universities may reopen in accordance with the plans and processes they have had approved by District government.

What classes and events has the university canceled?

The previously announced transition to online classes began on Wednesday, March 18 will continue through the summer. There will be no on-campus instruction for the summer semester. This includes the Washington College of Law (WCL). As previously announced, services such as counseling, advising, and academic support will be available online.

University-sponsored public events, both on and off campus continue to be suspended. While a number of the summer conferences that usually take place on campus are canceled, we are exploring opportunities to safely support communities and organizations that may need facilities when social distancing guidelines allow for it. The travel and event guidance and timeline apply to all WCL faculty, staff, and students as well. 

Are there confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the DC area or at AU? Where can I find updated information about confirmed COVID-19 cases that get reported at AU?

As we transition to the summer and advance our fall planning, we have retired the regular reporting of confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the AU community effective May 11, 2020. We will provide updates to the AU community about confirmed cases as necessary in our episodic summer communications. For confirmed global cases, please visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Coronavirus COVID-19 page for the latest information.

Where should I report if I receive a confirmed positive test for COVID-19?

If you receive a confirmed test for COVID-19, please use the following emails to inform us. For students who were not seen or tested at the Student Health Center, please email prepared@american.edu. For faculty and staff, please email employeerelations@american.edu. All personal information will be kept confidential.

What should I do if I am concerned about being exposed?

While it is understandable to question if you have come into contact with someone who has a confirmed case, there are two important things to remember. First, the public health departments will determine who needs to be contacted based on their investigation of each case. Second, with ongoing community spread of COVID-19 around the region, country, and world, the most important thing for all of us to do is practice good health hygiene and social distancing and follow the guidance from US and local health authorities. If you have been in high risk countries or areas of the US, be vigilant about following CDC guidance for monitoring your health and self-isolating. Please keep these things in mind and help support both the individuals who have COVID-19 and our entire community.

It’s important to remember that confirmed cases do not always indicate active infections. In fact, many individuals who have tested positive have already recovered or are in the process of recovering.

What safety precautions is AU taking to clean and sanitize our community?

To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are working to keep our AU community safe through enhanced cleaning with a disinfecting agent of public areas and on high-touch surfaces, including in and around the residence halls for students in emergency housing, and precautions for our staff in the Health Center who are supporting students who have remained on campus.

What teaching and research support is available from Bender Library?

Since Monday, March 16, 2020, Bender Library has been closed to the public and will be operating in a virtual function. Detailed requests for materials can be placed through the library catalog or emailed to circulation@american.edu. As the university continues to monitor the developments around COVID-19, the Library will review its operating status and make adjustments accordingly. The most up to date information about available library resources and services can be found on the library website.

I have books from Bender Library that I need to return, what should I do?

The Bender Library book-drop is open and both books and videos can be returned there once the DC stay-at-home order is lifted. Students, faculty and staff don’t need to renew materials online that are already checked out as the due date for those materials has been extended until August 31, 2020. If you receive a notification in error, send an email to circulation@american.edu and the library staff will look into it. Should the due date need to extend beyond August 31, 2020, the library staff will update you with that information.

Are campus tours canceled?

Operations in the Admissions Welcome Center have been suspended, and, in concert with guidance from health officials, there are no group information sessions or tours at this time. We encourage everyone to enjoy a virtual tour of AU.

Are Fitness Center facilities available for use?

In our ongoing efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and in accordance with regional municipalities and national recommendations, American University has closed the Jacobs Fitness Center, the Cassell Fitness Center, Bender Arena, the Reeves Aquatics Center, and Frailey Pool until further notice. 

What do I need to do to pause deductions for the fitness center?

Payroll deductions for use of the fitness center were not paused automatically. Those who wished to drop their Fitness Center membership for April were asked to do so no later than April 8. If you still need to pause deductions, please contact Human Resources.

Will I have access to buildings on campus?

As physical access to campus continues to evolve daily, most university facilities are locked and restricted to access with an AU One Card until the beginning of the fall semester. A few buildings are available to all current students, faculty and staff with an AU One Card during specified hours, including Mary Graydon Center 24 hours per day and the School of International Service (SIS) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Most other buildings are restricted to authorized staff, faculty, and students who would otherwise have card access after-hours or on weekends. AU One cards have expired for May graduates.

In addition, some schools and departments have elected to restrict people’s card access to facilities to a select group of administrators to limit the number of people in the buildings. These measures being taken across campus will improve the safety of any occupants who need to access their offices, as well as maintain the security of the buildings and their contents. During this time, university police officers will continue to conduct routine patrols of the buildings across campus and provide updates on any additional university facilities.

Where can I get more information on COVID-19? 

For up-to-date information, please check the following websites:

What are the key security issues I need to consider when using Zoom?

Zoom is an easy way to teleconference with colleagues, but you need to be aware of several security issues and be aware that the Office of Information Technology continues to monitor the situation and identify best practices to safeguard the Zoom experiences of the AU user community. As of April 1, Zoom stopped work on all non-security related features and improvements for 90 days.

Security issues to consider are:

  • Zoom Bombing: Because Zoom meetings are easy to host and join, uninvited guests are disrupting meetings. Zoom bombing can be significantly mitigated by putting controls into place at the account level—like setting the waiting room to “on” by default--and providing hosts with bests practices and meeting controls training.
  • Software Vulnerability: Zoom has provided software patches to mitigate identified vulnerabilities in the Windows and Mac versions of its client software to prevent hackers from installing malware, launching small-scale phishing attacks or taking control of the cameras or microphones of devices.
  • Privacy Policy: Zoom has updated its privacy policy and posted about the changes.
  • Data to Facebook: Zoom updated its iPhone app to no longer send data to Facebook. The data sent included information about the user’s iPhone such as model and carrier, iOS version, and other technical specifications including processing power and available memory. No personal data was sent.
  • Encryption: Zoom is no longer using the term “end to end encryption” and has clarified the limitations of their encryption, which appears to be less secure than the complexity of the industry standard and not at the level required by government agencies. Meeting hosts can specify that all participants must have an “end point” (e.g. Zoom client app) to receive or send the meeting as encrypted, and meeting participants are not allowed to join without one. 

Fall 2020 General Questions

Will classes be held online or in person in the fall?

To provide safe and accessible educational opportunities, we will offer a residential campus experience with a blend of in-person/online and purely online classes. This provides flexibility to navigate changing health and safety guidelines and the ability to increase the number of in-person opportunities over time and as the guidelines allow.

When will I know the format of my fall courses?

Courses will be a mix of online only and blended, which will include a mix of online and face-to-face. Each faculty member will communicate how their course will be run and will include the planned number of face-to-face opportunities within the syllabus and other class communications. Given that our classrooms must be properly physically distanced and some students will have to be solely online, faculty will have to adjust their approach as enrollment information changes. The Deans of Schools and faculty are working diligently on these formats and the in-person components of each class and we expect to have additional information on class schedules by mid-July. We ask that you work with your professor to best understand the plan for their particular course.

Will my section be online or in person, and how can I tell?

You should plan for course content to be delivered online with in-person sessions mixed in. This is due to the reduced space in classrooms. However, we will provide a variety of opportunities for residential/local students to come to campus, use labs and other facilities, participate in skill development opportunities including career readiness classes, and meet with small projects groups.

Do I have an option in how I participate if one option is preferable to me or not available?

Yes, you will have options, and we ask that you communicate this with your professor so they can plan accordingly.

Will there be changes to the Academic Calendar in terms of add/drop or refund deadlines?

There are no changes to the Academic Calendar at this time. We will continue to monitor any changes in public health conditions and follow guidance of global, national and local health and government officials.

What can I do if I can’t connect to Zoom, Blackboard or other platforms during class time?

If you are having problems connecting during class, please email your professor to let them know and then contact the helpdesk, helpdesk@american.edu, or blackboard support, blackboard@american.edu.

I don’t have reliable access to internet and/or the university systems. What should I do?

Please contact your individual faculty members and instructors to discuss arrangements. Faculty are working to be flexible and provide support for students.

I don’t want to take courses through Zoom. Can I be guaranteed that I can take courses for my program in person?

Due to the vast number of student needs and preferences, we cannot guarantee that all courses for a program will be delivered in-person. However, our faculty are carefully designing each class to respond to student needs and deliver course materials in the best way possible. In addition, if you are residential/local to campus, you will have many opportunities to come to campus for learning opportunities and access to other resources such as labs, studios, etc.

What if I really want to come back to campus for a section, but I’m unable to get off that waitlist? (especially as it relates to buying plane tickets, signing leases, etc.)

As is the case during any semester, our advising team will work with students to register them for the courses where they are on a waitlist. However, it is important that students register as soon as possible, especially if the course is needed for a degree requirement, to increase the likelihood that the student will get a seat in the course.

How can I meet with my academic advisor in the fall 2020 semester?

For the most part, academic advisor meetings will continue online. You may schedule an appointment with your advisor online via each school.

What if I have a question about my fall 2020 course?

Professors will set virtual office hours and will also be available to set up virtual meetings and phone calls with students to answer questions. Our faculty understand the importance of being accessible for our students to answer questions. In addition, it will be possible to chat with professors before and after in-person sessions. There will not be any in-person office hours for any classes.

Will there be trainings or workshops to prepare for online learning?

Yes, we are developing resources for students to help with online learning.

What if I’m not back on campus and in another time zone, will I be beholden to the assigned time of my course?

Online courses will often use a mix of synchronous (live) and asynchronous (not-live) instruction and this mix will depend on the size and type of class. Faculty are aware that most students would like a live/synchronous component to their online course; however, we also understand that due to location and time zone differences some students will need more asynchronous content delivery. Therefore, our faculty are evaluating their course content and the students enrolled to determine the amount of synchronous and asynchronous delivery.

What if my section is scheduled to be in-person and I’m unable to come back to campus?

We do not intend for any class to be designated as solely in-person and we are very aware that some students will not be able to come back to campus this fall for a variety of reasons (family, medical, international visa, etc.). Therefore, our faculty are planning classes with this in mind and we will work with students to ensure they can fulfill their course requirements and have access to all content.

Why can’t online sections have unlimited seats?

Asynchronous online course delivery can be open to significantly more students; however, courses that have live/synchronous course components need to limit the number of seats so all students can appear on the screen and participate in the course material. In addition, we want to ensure that professors are equally accessible to all students in the course.

When will the fall semester begin and end?

AU will maintain the original starting dates in the fall 2020 academic calendar with the first day of classes commencing on August 21 for the Washington College of Law and August 24 for the rest of the university. Face‐to‐face instruction will end at Thanksgiving break to allow students to return home and remain there to complete courses online, including finals, avoiding additional travel costs and exposure, and reducing community spread.

How will public spaces be cleaned and sanitized?

Cleanliness and safety of our spaces will be accomplished by increasing the level and frequency of cleaning for all buildings. This includes more frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces throughout the day, giving special focus to additional daily cleaning of residence hall common areas and community bathrooms, implementing special cleaning requirements for labs, and placing hand sanitizer stations at all building entrances and elevator lobbies.

What is the status of campus in-person events/gatherings?

Convocation will be conducted virtually. We are still evaluating if components of All-American Weekend will occur virtually. As the pandemic continues, all gatherings must follow DC Department of Health reopening requirements and guidelines.

What is the protocol for visitors to campus?

For health and safety reasons and to reduce density on campus, visitors will not be allowed.

Is the shuttle operating on a normal schedule?

The shuttle system will return to modified operations to ensure physical distancing.

  • How will you ensure physical distancing on the shuttle?
    To maintain physical-distance guidelines, the shuttle bus capacity will be reduced by 50 percent and only AU affiliates will be permitted to ride shuttles. All passengers must board and exit from the rear door.
  • Will face coverings be mandatory for all shuttle riders?
    Face coverings will be required for all passengers, and passengers must remain seated.
  • How will rules be enforced on the shuttle?
    Shuttle drivers will be enforcing rules, and passengers are expected to respect and follow rules to ensure their own and other passengers’ safety.
  • How often will shuttles be sanitized?
    Shuttles will be sanitized daily, and high-touch surfaces will be cleaned at the end of each circuit.
  • Who will have access to campus shuttles?
    The shuttle will be for passengers affiliated with AU only as a safety precaution and capacity will be limited due to physical distancing.

What if a class is held in person, and I do not feel comfortable attending?

Students who cannot attend in person or who do not feel comfortable attending in person will be able to complete their coursework online.

How will the university determine who can attend in-person classes?

The curriculum has been built to meet students where they are, and, therefore, we will give students the option to select their modality (blended or online). This will provide flexibility for our students since we understand that some students will want some instruction on campus while others (due to medical, family, international visa requirements, and other factors) will decide to remain online. Once the number of residential students is determined, individual faculty will work with their students to share (or rotate through) the in-person opportunities based on the physical distance capacities of each classroom.

How will classes be structured to ensure safety (physical distancing)?

Classes are being configured to abide by the most current CDC guidelines regarding physical distancing with the result that classes will have many fewer students in them to allow for appropriate physical spacing. Faculty and students will also be required to use face coverings at all times while in classrooms.

What happens if the university has to go fully remote again in the event of a second wave of COVID-19?

AU is committed to the safety and well-being of our AU community. The university continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and follow guidance from global, national, and local health and government officials and will make necessary adjustments in the future as warranted. Given the modalities of instruction, if it is deemed necessary, the university will be able to quickly pivot to online instruction. The possibility of having to quickly move to online instruction is integrated into our faculty planning for the fall semester.

Will there be a broader Pass/Fail option for fall classes?

At this time, our standard Pass/Fail deadlines and options will be in place for fall classes. However, we will continue to evaluate all options regarding academic regulations.

Will there be changes to the add/drop period?

At this time, we do not plan to change the add/drop period. However, we will continue to evaluate all options regarding academic regulations.

When do I have to make a decision for a temporary leave by?

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.

The graduate regulation is:

9.4.1.2. General Temporary Leave

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 unit. 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 within the first two weeks of the semester in which the temporary leave will begin. To extend the temporary leave, students must apply directly to the Associate Dean of their academic unit. The academic unit can extend the temporary leave only once. 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.

Degree seeking graduate students are allowed no more than two semesters 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.

Will I receive a discount for any classes held entirely online?

No. Our faculty and staff are working diligently to provide our courses in blended modalities to enable all students to: 1) gain the knowledge required within their degree; 2) have access to their courses from wherever they are; and 3) continue to move toward completing their degree and achieving their academic goals. In addition, we will be offering a variety of skills workshops to students to enhance their overall learning.

Will there be changes to Library operations?

Since Monday, March 16, 2020, Bender Library has been closed to the public and will continue to operate in a virtual function to support summer courses. Detailed requests for materials can be placed through the library catalog or emailed to circulation@american.edu. We will provide additional details about the fall and Bender Library operations as we continue to learn more about the trajectory of the pandemic and the effects of reopening, not just on our campus, but in the Washington, DC, region and across the country.

What is Washington College of Law’s (WCL) plan for the fall semester?

Washington College of Law classes will begin on the law school's originally planned starting date of August 21, 2020. WCL is planning a hybrid learning experience for fall 2020, and aims to offer some limited enrollment classes on campus. The WCL Tenley Campus will be open and will support opportunities for collaborative onsite experiences. Students may gain the full benefits of a WCL education either through remote participation or through online classes coupled with participation in on-campus activities such as meet-ups with faculty and classmates, peer mentoring, and library access.

Commencement

I’ve heard about plans for December in-person ceremonies for spring 2020 graduates?

The achievements of the spring 2020 graduates were honored with an online celebration on May 9. Additional ceremony details for the special commencement ceremonies in December will follow guidance from local, state and federal health authorities and communicated to spring 2020 and December 2020 graduates as soon as possible. If you have further questions, you can visit the commencement website, call 202-885-2430 or email commencement@american.edu

What are the requirements for earning my degree, certificate, and/or honors?

Students who complete all of the requirements for their degree, certificate, and/or honors by their graduation date will earn all applicable credentials and have them posted to their student record as normal so they appear on the transcript. Review and posting of credential completion will begin shortly after each term’s degree award date and will take place over several weeks.

When will spring 2020 graduates receive their diplomas?

Diplomas will be mailed six to eight weeks after the end of the term. Graduates can update their diploma mailing address up to the graduation date by re-visiting their graduation application in Eagle Service. Any diploma mailing address change after that point should be sent to graduation_services@american.edu.