By Pierce Panagakos

In a May 29 letter to students and an email distributed more broadly on June 15, University of Maryland (UMD) President Wallace Loh detailed plans for reopening the university for the fall semester. The university has developed plans to address student housing, classes and other aspects of campus life as students return at the end of August.  

Loh noted, “For several weeks, dozens of faculty and staff divided into seven work-groups – Safety and Health; Education; Research; Student Life; Human Resources; Fiscal Planning; and Intercollegiate Athletics – have been planning a phased re-opening of on-campus activities this fall.”

On-campus student housing will be reconfigured to reduce density, and dining halls will have limited seating and will offer takeout. Outdoor recreation will be encouraged; plans for university sports are still in the works.

Classes with 50 students or more will largely be conducted online. The university is weighing options for how smaller classes will be conducted, how individual student’s interests will be addressed and how the university will respond to a reemergence of COVID-19.

“Work continues to determine exactly which courses will be offered in-person, online or in a blended format and what the room assignments and daily schedule will be,” Loh said. “Faculty are also preparing contingency plans to move entirely to online instruction after Thanksgiving break, should there be a resurgence of the pandemic in late fall.”

The president, who will be stepping down by the end of this month, also made sure to note that reopening is a fluid situation and that the university will adjust plans in accordance with guidance from national and state and local governments, and the University System of Maryland (USM).

“UMD is working with USM and public health officials on having the appropriate protocols, equipment, and personnel on campus for diagnostic testing, screening, and contact tracing. These measures will be in place before the fall semester and announced in the next few weeks,” Loh wrote.

The university has developed robust plans directly addressing public health and safety, as well. Students will be required to observe social distancing guidelines and will be required to wear face coverings. Staff and faculty will have free access to testing, and testing may be required for students. A positive test will lead to mandatory isolation and contact tracing.

  Will there be Terrapin football and other sporting events in the fall? Still to be determined. Loh said that Damon Evans, UMD’s athletic director, and his staff are developing plans to bring athletics back safely, with required testing for COVID-19 and provisions for individual training. The NCAA, though, will have the final word.