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Preparing for the start of the Fall Quarter

Dear colleagues,

The excitement and energy has been palpable as students, faculty and staff return to campus in preparation for the Fall Quarter. Just look at the Class of 2025’s celebratory March Through the Arch on Tuesday.

Indeed, after months of meticulous planning and hard work, we are now just days away from starting a new, in-person academic year. Credit goes to you, Northwestern’s magnificent faculty and staff, for your perseverance, diligence and adherence to shifting health guidelines.

Northwestern will start the year on very strong footing even as we continue to adapt to the pandemic. More than 97 percent of enrolled students for the term are fully vaccinated, and many of the students who have received a vaccination exception will become vaccinated in the coming weeks as they complete their course of vaccination. And so far, more than 98 percent of faculty and staff who have complied with the vaccination process are vaccinated, with less than 2 percent requesting exceptions. While these numbers will all solidify over the next two weeks, we fully expect that our campus will be over 97 percent vaccinated as we progress through the term. Over the last two weeks, we’ve also started rolling out vaccination requirements to contracted vendors on campus, further protecting the health of our community.

We are also very encouraged by the initial results of the entry testing of students. In the past seven days, more than 10,000 asymptomatic entry tests have been completed for arriving students. Of those tests, only nine total students have tested positive—a rate of under 0.1 percent. Arriving students will continue to test over the next two weeks, and individuals who received approved exceptions to the vaccination requirement are subject to robust ongoing testing requirements.

Northwestern’s deliberate and thoughtful return to campus was developed in close consultation with all of our schools and units, local and state public health authorities, as well as with input from students and their families. We feel strongly that we are positioned well for a successful year, but the pandemic is unpredictable. We will continue to closely monitor national and local trends as well as the experiences of peer institutions and make decisions for Northwestern in consultation with local health authorities and our own medical experts. 

As we return to our classrooms and workspaces, each of us experiences different emotions, ranging from joy and relief to anxiety and stress. Northwestern has developed a new webpage detailing information about the University’s actions and supports for faculty and staff. I encourage you to visit the site to learn more about your resources. 

We also will continue to update our COVID-19 website and communicate new information as it becomes available. Allow me to share some key webpages we have created or updated in preparation for the Fall Quarter:

  • The Fall Summary details the new and continued guidance and protocols for the Fall terms.
  • The Instructor FAQs address a comprehensive range of questions covering syllabus statements, classroom masking, expectations when students or instructors cannot attend class due to COVID-19 symptoms, student isolation and quarantine protocols, student accommodations, eating and drinking in classrooms, and much more.
  • The recommendations for Supporting Excused Student Absences Due to COVID help instructors prepare for and handle these situations.
  • The data in our recent Enrolled Student Survey provide insights into student experiences during the past academic year that might inform our approaches this year.
  • The Return to Campus Discussion Series featured a variety of University leaders and University experts. Recordings of all four events are posted online.

Thank you for your collective efforts to prepare Northwestern for a successful return to campus for the 2021-22 academic year.


Kathleen Hagerty
Provost and Professor