June 15, 2020 update regarding academic calendar changes

Update from President Floyd on June 15, 2020:


It has been a tough spring and early summer so far. I am used to seeing your smiling faces in spring and then in the summer, the campus comes to life with summer conferences and camps, and the general excitement of preparing and improving the campus for your return in the fall. That has all been disrupted but I can’t wait to be together with you soon. I promised to let you know what we are considering for fall by June 15th. Here is what we know so far:

After much consideration, conversation, and broad input, Mars Hill University has developed a unique plan for the 2020-21 academic year. It has been developed specifically to protect you and protect your faculty members as much as possible. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge us with uncertainty, so please be flexible as the rest of the summer unfolds. One thing that I know for sure is that if we don’t all pull together to protect each other from CODVID-19 that we will again be forced off of campus. We do not want that and so this plan is designed to give you the best chance to come together, be able to go to school, compete in athletics, and participate in the social life on campus. The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and local community are of paramount importance. 

Despite the fact that Madison County has only had 5 cases thus far, based on what we have learned so far, we must make significant changes, both in and out of the classroom, to meet government requirements to limit the number of person-to-person contacts on our campus and to allow for appropriate social distancing. We are also hearing from the CDC, public health leaders, and state and local government that it seems likely that another spike in COVID-19 cases could occur, coinciding with the traditional flu season over winter.

Therefore, the current plan for 2020-21 instruction in the traditional academic program is:

  •   Mars Hill University will re-open for in-person instruction.
  •   The fall semester for traditional students will begin a week earlier than planned: on August 17, with our traditional advising day, followed by the first day of classes on Tuesday, August 18. It will also end early, before Thanksgiving, and there will be no fall break. AGS courses will follow the same calendar.
  •   The spring semester will mirror the fall semester and include a fully online “J-term,” from Wednesday, January 6 — Tuesday, January 26. Regular classes will begin on Tuesday, February 2, and the spring semester will end on May 7. There will be no spring break. I am excited that the January Term could give many of you a chance to focus on a single course, catch up or get ahead on your credits, or explore a new topic. In future years, the January Term may develop into a great period for special projects and travel. 
  •   Each semester will be divided into two 7-week blocks
    Fall First Block: August 18 — October 5
    Fall Second Block: October 6 — November 23
    Spring First Block: February 2 — March 19
    Spring Second Block: March 22 — May 7

Most courses will be taught on an MWF/TR in one of the two blocks. However, some courses will span across both blocks, either face-to-face or in an online format. The class periods will be longer, but I know that your professors will be making plans to make the best, most engaging use of time. This will also mean that most of you will have the opportunity to focus on 2-3 classes at any one time, and I am hopeful that this will turn out to be an advantage for many of you.

  •   There will be no formal final exam periods. Final exams can be scheduled as part of the last regularly scheduled class meeting.

Individual class schedules will be developed over the summer. The Registrar’s office will be working over the next few weeks to adapt pre-registration schedules to work with this model.  You will still have the traditional advising day to work on changes with your advisors.

I continue to seek guidance from both the CDC and MAHEC (Mountain Area Health Education Center) in developing robust policies and protocols for all campus constituencies regarding the safety of our students and the policies to keep us as safe as possible. The COVID-19 situation will continue to evolve rapidly, and we want to utilize the very latest information and recommendations. The MHU Incident Response Team is working diligently to see that our safety and compliance measures are in keeping with guidance from MAHEC and other organizations. MHU will have meaningful measures in place for the academic year 2020-2021, and our faculty, staff, and students will receive multiple communications and required training on those protocols. As those are published, we will post them and share them with you.