GUSA hosted a town hall with Georgetown administrators to discuss student concerns about the fall reopening plan on July 16.
Key information revealed during the town hall included a July 31 notification date for returning students’ long-awaited financial aid decisions, an extension of the amended COVID-19 Spring 2020 grading policy to the fall semester, and further details for fall student on-campus life.
GUSA President Nico Ferretti (SFS ‘21) and Vice President Bryce Badger (MSB ‘21) facilitated student questions pre-screened via a Google Form prior to the town hall. Except for the above points, the discussion largely reiterated information already made public by the Fall 2020 Plan for Reopening published by President John DeGioia on July 6.
The current plan guarantees on-campus housing for first-years, should they desire it, as well as a highly limited number of upperclassmen, including residential assistants and students with home situations not conducive to remote study. While over 500 applicants applied for on-campus housing due to reasons such as food insecurity, health coverage concerns, unstable familial environments, high financial need, or residences with a time difference of five hours or more, GU Pride leaders reported roughly only 150 housing spots were made available for upperclassmen applicants with special circumstances. Vice President Todd Olson explained the administration’s basis for privileging first-years centered around wanting to give them a smoother, more engaging transition into Georgetown’s environment. Though transfer students are technically first-years at Georgetown, they will not be included in the group welcomed to campus.
“The decision to preference first-year students has to do with the fact that these students haven’t had the chance to join our community, haven’t had the chance to have any on-campus experience, and we believe that as they make this important transition to college for the first time, that it was vital to give them a chance to connect,” Olson said.
Vice Provost of Education Rohan Williamson announced the Spring 2020 grading policy will largely remain intact in Fall 2020. As of now, students will have until Dec. 10, the end of the study period, to opt-in to a Satisfactory/Credit/No Credit policy. Otherwise, normal letter grades will be assigned.
Williamson also indicated partially asynchronous content delivery, as well as taped lectures, should be expected for most classes and emphasized rigorous training undergone by over 1,700 faculty members for technological familiarity. Professors have been asked to provide more flexible office hours, greater availability of notes, and make other accommodations to fortify learning as much as possible. However, students facing time differences may continue to weather difficulties in accessing academic content and interaction with professors.
Students also raised questions regarding timelines for financial aid notifications and student requirements to remain eligible for aid. Dean of Student Financial Services Patricia McWade explained all first-year and transfer students should have received their aid packages, and the Office of Student Financial Services’ Appeals Committee is actively accepting offer appeals. Once complete appeals are filed, students should be able to expect a response within a week.
Aid notifications for current, continuing students should be expected by July 31 via MyAccess. Students are eligible for federal student aid so long as at least six credits are taken, and the Office of Student Financial Services will still review applications and offer aid for students taking less than six credits, an exception to past policy for part-time students.
Despite circulated student petitions calling for a decrease in Fall 2020 tuition, McWade made no mention of any tuition changes, instead reiterating Georgetown’s status quo commitment to meeting full financial need based on calculated estimated family contribution.
McWade also emphasized federal work-study jobs will continue to be offered both in-person and virtually, and students may find opportunities through Hoyaworks. Salaries for federal work-study jobs are set at the D.C. minimum wage rate ($15) and are paid biweekly. McWade noted 100 percent of wages can be paid by federal study grant money for eligible jobs—a special qualification in place for this year only—allowing some students to utilize federal work-study grant money to receive wages rather than their employer.
Director of Residential Services Bill Huff elaborated on plans for on-campus move in, housing, and life for first-year students and selected upperclassmen. First-year students must declare their choice to live on-campus by July 17, and returning students will be expected to do the same by July 24. Most students on campus will be confined to one-bedroom living environments, though returning students can expect to undergo a group formation process for housing selection from July 24 to July 30 to determine living arrangements for multi-person housing in apartments with one resident in each bedroom. All returning students accepting offers of approval to live on-campus will be able to communicate with one another via a system in Hoya Housing to help with group formation for apartments and townhouses. As of now, first-year students will not be able to request specific living arrangements with other first-years.
According to move-in informational documents sent to new students, first-year move-in will occur from August 17 to August 21, and continuing students will move in during the three days following. Students are limited to a maximum of two move-in “helpers” or family members to reduce campus density and must move in at a designated time and date communicated by email. Students may appeal their designated time to Residential Living, especially if coordinating international flights and should receive a response within three business days.
Huff further noted common areas and kitchens, having undergone summer renovations, will remain accessible to students, though social distancing guidelines will be in place. The administration is still formulating guidelines for non-residential buildings on campus including Lauinger Library and Yates Field House, according to Chief of Staff and Vice President Joe Ferrera, and should have plans on usage of these facilities in the near future.
Though DeGioia’s Fall 2020 Reopening Plan described “grab-and-go” type meal options, Olson said students will still be able to share meals together, indicating limited seating options will be available in Leo’s Dining Hall as well as in Leavey Student Center.
In regards to precautions taken for COVID-19, students returning to campus will be sent saliva testing kits in the last week of July and early August, and will be tested immediately upon arrival to campus as well as within the following week. On-campus students will also be required to download an app from One Medical to record their health status and temperature each morning.
Students living on-campus as well as in adjacent areas will be asked to sign a compact to agree to abide by certain health and safety measures, including limiting social gatherings to 10 persons or less. Ferrera stressed the importance of student compliance with health guidelines and safety procedures.
“It will take each of us to protect all of us,” he said. “All have to participate in this public health framework to ensure we can keep our communities safe.”