Update from President Emeritus Leo M. Lambert on the Task Force on Fall 2020

This update on the work on the work of the Task Force on Fall 2020 was sent by President Emeritus Leo M. Lambert on April 27, 2020.

Dear Colleagues,

I write with an update from the Task Force on Fall 2020, which held its first meeting on April 23. President Book charged us to recommend several options to “return this fall to Elon’s engaged and personal approach to teaching and learning as we implement significant modifications of the campus environment, daily operations and personal practices.” As we develop various scenarios and anticipate contingencies that may occur, the health and safety of all members of our community and neighbors is paramount in our minds.

In elaborating on her charge, President Book asked us to bear in mind the six features of Elon’s ascent that scholar George Keller identified in his book, Transforming a College: 1) quality everywhere; 2) expert planning; 3) attention to people; 4) a distinctive niche in the landscape of higher education; 5) financial acumen; and 6) excellent marketing and communications.

As we begin our work, we imagine the contemplations of students, faculty, staff, trustees and community members who stood around the rubble of Old Main following Elon’s great fire of 1923. Like our predecessors, we are called to preserve and protect the best of what an Elon education is about, and yet to summon our imaginations to think about new beginnings—in ways of being together, teaching and learning as we emerge from a global pandemic. The Phoenix spirit will prevail today as it did in 1923.

The unknowns before the Task Force, and all of us, are many. But we are certain the 2020-21 academic year will be different in significant ways. In good ways, it may be more focused. Some campus activities may have to go on hiatus for a time, and other ways of gathering groups of people together will have to be creatively rethought for the health and safety of all. Our goal is to protect our teaching and learning mission and to ensure it remains relationship-rich, personal and deeply humane. Faculty and staff will invent new ways to approach engaged and experiential learning and those practices may even continue beyond next academic year. As higher education nationally begins to write a new chapter, I believe we will look back on 2020-21 as a year in which we at Elon did our finest work together.

The task force has been organized into three working groups:

  • Instruction and the Classroom, Lab and Studio
  • Health and Safety
  • The Campus Experience, Alumni, and External Communities

Instruction and the Classroom, Lab and Studio

Peter Felten and Jason Kirk are co-chairing this working group, which includes Haya Ajjan, Rochelle Ford, Steven House and Paul Miller. They have already assembled a team of 20 consultant colleagues to bring additional disciplinary, pedagogical, governance and leadership perspectives to their work. This working group is considering various models for organizing fall semester (including contingency plans for each model), means to reduce people density in instructional spaces, modes of hybrid instruction that might make sense in specific circumstances (such as faculty with vulnerable medical conditions), and new means of support for teaching that the university should anticipate. Dr. House will take special responsibility for coordinating with study abroad/study away programs in the Global Education Center and serving as a liaison with graduate programs, including the School of Law.

Health and Safety

Ginette Archinal, M.D., and Jana Lynn Patterson are co-chairing this working group, which includes Tom Flood, Susan Kirkland, Patrick Noltemeyer, Melissa Murfin, Kelli Schuman and consultants to be determined. This working group will focus on all medical, health-related, and safety issues regarding COVID-19 throughout the Elon campus, including the School of Law. The purview of this working group includes testing and tracing protocols, setting social distancing recommendations (including maximum attendance at campus events), preparing Health Services and Counseling Services for the COVID-19 era, PPE purchasing, planning for continued campus sanitation, planning for isolation quarters for COVID-19 positive students, interpreting CDC, Federal and State guidelines, and making recommendations about the establishment of new COVID-19-related policies and protocols.

The Campus Experience, Alumni, and External Communities

Jeff Stein and Randy Williams are co-chairing this working group, which includes Dan Anderson, John Barnhill, Eleanor Finger, Douglas Purnell, Mike Ward, Christopher Waters, and consultants to be determined. The purview for this working group relates to the many dimensions, activities and facilities of campus life outside the classroom, including Belk Library, orientation, residence life, dining, athletics, alumni and parent programs (including Homecoming and Evenings for Elon), admissions, meetings of advisory boards and councils, and coordination with the Town of Elon and the City of Burlington.

The goal of each working group is to provide a comprehensive set of recommendations and scenarios for the fall 2020 calendar as part of a Task Force report to President Book by May 27. She will then consult with campus governance groups, including the Board of Trustees, prior to making her initial set of decisions. This is an accelerated timeline, but there is great urgency to our work, since many details will take time to implement and communicate to our community.

How You Can Be Involved

The Task Force has already received many fantastic ideas and suggestions, so keep them coming. You will soon be receiving information about a special website through which you may contribute ideas, which can be addressed to any of the three working groups or the Task Force as a whole.

Last Friday, Academic Council supported the moving of the May Campus Conversation from May 1 to a date (or dates) to be determined so that the Working Group on Instruction and the Classroom, Lab, and Studio can solicit your reactions to some of their preliminary ideas. When those dates and times are announced, please participate in that important conversation.

I send my personal best wishes to each of you as we complete this very busy, stressful and most unusual semester and admire the extraordinary efforts you have undertaken to support students.



Leo M. Lambert
President Emeritus and Professor