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To: NKU Faculty, Staff, and Students

From: President Ashish Vaidya

Date: June 15, 2020

Subject: NKU Moving Forward: Fall 2020

Dear Campus Community,

Ever since we entered remote operations in March, I have been incredibly proud of the way you have worked together to meet the profound challenge of transitioning to a virtual campus. Now, as we move forward with fall planning, we must not look at this as simply returning to normal operations. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented environment that provides a rare opportunity to re-examine everything we do – from orientation to graduation to alumni engagement while enhancing a community of belonging. This is an opportunity to accelerate the change our university needs to become a more student-ready, regionally engaged institution.

Our plan for returning to campus is named NKU Moving Forward. The plan is consistent with our Success by Design (SBD) strategic framework. It is a flexible, evolving response to the pandemic and the need to develop creative options for NKU going forward. Your active participation in sharing feedback has helped ensure that this plan reflects the needs of all campus constituents.  

In developing the plan for Fall 2020, we have created a new initiative – Healthy@NKU – with familiar partners like St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Gravity Diagnostics, and the Northern Kentucky Health Department. The partnership will enable testing for individuals with symptoms and contact-tracing for those who test positive. The partnership will also inform our decisions and incorporate the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s guidelines to help everyone on our campus stay healthy. As the fall approaches, we hope that Healthy@NKU evolves and embodies one of SBD’s key objectives of enhancing the culture of service-orientation that respects the realities of our students’ lives and provides consistent, responsive care and support across all areas of the university.  

We must carefully consider the unique perspective of NKU’s Class of 2024. Many of them had their final months of high school disrupted by the virus. As they enter NKU, we hope to create a common experience that reflects what makes NKU special and different, while building on our legacy of being stewards of place.

What will fall look like at NKU? Our campus will be open with measures taken to manage and prevent the spread of the virus. There will be options for students, faculty, and staff to support their needs and comfort levels. More details are below.

Fall Courses in Various Formats

NKU will resume in-person class meetings in Fall 2020. There will be a combination of offerings that include both face-to-face and online/remote elements. To achieve appropriate social distancing, small classes will be moved to larger classrooms, and large classes will either be reduced in size or relocated to large rooms in the Student Union (SU) or other campus facilities. Some in-person classes will be simultaneously delivered face-to-face and online/remotely, while others will be designed to allow for a combination of in-person and online participation. Steely Library will be open with a number of health and social distancing protocols in place. Other spaces on campus will also be made available to accommodate students enrolled in both online and in-person classes. For example, IT is currently working on an app for students to reserve study rooms across campus.

By July 1, the university’s registration system (myNKU) will be updated to show how the courses will be offered. The following four categories will be used as the basis:

  • in-person (delivered face-to-face via regular meetings at a specific site and time)
  • online (delivered fully online, with no scheduled class meetings)
  • hybrid (delivered both online and in-person, with scheduled in-person meetings at a specific site and time)
  • online synchronous (delivered fully online, but with scheduled virtual online class meetings)

Students will need to review their fall class schedules on July 1. As always, students can make changes within myNKU and should consult their advisors for assistance in ensuring that their schedule meets their needs.

Course offerings are being designed to ensure that students continue to progress in reaching their educational goals and are meaningfully engaged with each other and their faculty. Courses with in-person elements will include those for first-year students, labs, studio-based courses, and capstone/seminar courses.

As previously noted, undergraduate tuition for the 2020-21 academic year will remain unchanged. In addition, because of the changes in course offerings due to COVID-19, the university will not charge students the usual online fee for the fall semester.

Fall 2020 Academic Calendar

Classes will begin on August 17, 2020, as scheduled. Fall convocations and our new student convocation will be held virtually at dates and times to be announced. In-person and hybrid classes will move to fully online/remote delivery after Thanksgiving break, including final exam week. In-person instruction will not take place after Thanksgiving break, although buildings and offices will remain open. Students will complete the last week of the semester and final exam week online/remotely. This precaution is being taken to avoid a potential spike in COVID-19 infection rates after students, faculty, and staff return from the travel often associated with school breaks. Fall Break will take place in October as planned. Information about fall commencement will be forthcoming. The timeline with the phases of reopening and the Fall 2020 academic calendar provide summaries of all these important dates.

Student Financial and Support Services

Student financial and support services will be offered both online/remotely and in-person. Using NKU’s Student Success Hub, students can access academic support services both in-person in the University Center and online/remotely. Student advising will also be done both in-person and online/remotely. Admissions, Financial Assistance, Student Employment, Registrar, and Veteran Certification can be conveniently accessed via OneStop or its location in Lucas Administrative Center 301.

Summer Professional Development

NKU is providing a range of professional development offerings for faculty and staff to enhance course development, online instruction, and community health and wellbeing. The Center for Innovation and Technology in Education and the Center for Teaching and Learning will offer opportunities to faculty that will assist them in strengthening online course design and delivery. Human Resources will offer both personal and professional development opportunities to all faculty and staff throughout the summer, providing resources and tools for resiliency, managing stress, dealing with change, and supporting one another. IT will be offering a full array of training and services to support students, faculty, and staff. These opportunities will be offered through a series of virtual workshops, webinars, and clinics.

NKU will host a series of Campus Conversations. These conversations will focus on topics such as current national issues, the 2020-21 fiscal year budget outlook, and the trends in teaching, learning, and scholarship. All campus constituents will be encouraged to participate.

During these unprecedented times, NKU is recommitting and proactively building plans to address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Therefore, diversity and cultural competence training will be included and emphasized throughout this professional development. More information about the above opportunities can be found on the Moving Forward professional development webpage.  


Healthy@NKU is perhaps the most important part of our Moving Forward plan. To help manage and prevent the spread of COVID-19, we must be committed to self and community well-being as a priority. To help with this, we have created the Norse Nine, an easy-to-remember list of things you can do to help keep everyone on campus healthier. Here are a few highlights of the Norse Nine:

  • NKU students, faculty, staff, and visitors are required to wear facial coverings and observe social distancing criteria on campus for as long as CDC and Kentucky health guidelines advise. For additional information, including qualifications for limited accommodations, please see NKU’s facial coverings FAQ webpage.
  • On the days that students, faculty, and staff plan on being on-campus, they will need to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms using the Healthy@NKU app. This app is available through myNKU for both standard platforms and mobile devices. Students living in on-campus housing will self-screen every day. St. Elizabeth Healthcare will provide testing for individuals with symptoms at their new location on Nunn Drive, and Northern Kentucky Health Department will provide contact-tracing for those who test positive.
  • The furniture in campus spaces is being rearranged to maintain adequate social distancing. Enhanced cleaning protocols are being used in all spaces, and NKU will provide approved disinfectants for individual use in offices and classrooms.
  • A brief Healthy@NKU training video will be available for students, faculty, and staff to view before returning to campus. All of these actions promote a healthier environment and will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at NKU.
  • NKU Health, Counseling, and Student Wellness (HCSW) will be open for in-person and virtual visits. For in-person visits to Health Services, appointments will be required so that they can be staggered to allow for physical distancing in the waiting room. Counseling Services will be available to all students. Sessions will continue to be offered via telehealth (phone/video), as well as in-person sessions as appropriate. In the event of a crisis/urgent matter, a clinician will be available both during regular business hours, as well as after hours. Additional online resources for health and mental health concerns can be found on the HCSW website.

Campus Recreation

Campus Recreation will reopen on August 3, 2020. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Campus Recreation will follow guidelines based on recommendations from the CDC, Kentucky’s “Healthy at Work” standards, and national collegiate campus recreational facility guidelines. As health and safety are primary driving factors for the reopening of the facility, Campus Recreation is developing a robust operational plan that will highlight hours of operations, equipment sanitization strategies, and general information regarding socially distant fitness activities, online services, and intramural programs. The operational plan will also provide guidance and direction for locker room usage, bathrooms and showers, offline areas for academic space, and aquatic and pool guidelines. More information will be provided on the Campus Recreation website as it becomes available.

Residential Housing

NKU will offer on-campus housing in Fall 2020. In order to reduce the risk of infection and enable social distancing, a limited residency model will be used based on CDC recommendations and national University Housing and Residence Life guidelines. All residential buildings in the Dr. Leon E. Boothe and East Residential Village will open at reduced occupancy. Some areas will be reserved for quarantine purposes. With the proposed limited residency model that will house just over 1,000 students, University Housing will prioritize room assignments for nonlocal students, students with extenuating life circumstances, and first year students required to live on campus as outlined in the First Year Student Residency Requirement. Students will be notified as soon as possible of any changes in housing assignments, and University Housing will strive to accommodate student housing needs and assist in finding alternative housing arrangements in the local area if needed. The fall semester move-in process will take place over a series of days to accommodate physical distancing. More information will be provided on the University Housing website as it becomes available.

On-Campus Dining/Food Service

Residential dining services will begin on First Year Student Move In Day (Thursday, August 13, 2020). In order to be able to implement practices that minimize the risk of infection and promote social distancing, the Student Union Food Court and other a la carte dining locations will offer a reduced number of options with limited hours beginning Monday, August 17, 2020. There will be continuous service at the Village Café in Norse Commons, enhanced strategies regarding cleaning and social distancing, and limited point-of-service interaction. Most food service will be carry-out, as seating areas will be reduced to accommodate social distancing. Dining services will offer contact-free payment options, including all credit card and NKU ID transactions at all dining locations; a mobile ordering app is currently under construction. The plans will be designed to adapt to the changing situation, and updates (including more detailed information about Chartwells’ – NKU’s food service contractor – pandemic protocols) will be provided as available on the University Dining website.

Intercollegiate Athletics

NKU will resume athletic practices and intercollegiate competitions when it is safe to do so. Our Norse are eager to practice and compete. All Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 athletic competition is subject to decisions pending by the NCAA and the Horizon League. With an approved plan, volunteer strength and conditioning activities with local student athletes may occur the last week of June. Other NCAA-approved activities (men’s and women’s basketball) could begin July 6, 2020. It is possible that athletic events may be reduced in number, delayed by weeks or even months, conducted without spectators, or canceled entirely. The safety and well-being of student athletes, coaches, and staff will be at the forefront of all decisions. Additional information will be provided on the Norse Athletics website as it becomes available.

Faculty and Staff Return to Campus

NKU will take a hybrid, phased approach to opening the campus with restrictions. This approach will be flexible and adjustable to meet the needs of those we serve and based on constant monitoring of the local, regional, national, and international COVID-19 situation.

Prior to July 6, 2020: Faculty and staff will continue to work remotely unless an exception has been approved. Only those needed to maintain current campus operations and to prepare for an increase in operations will be working on campus.

Beginning July 6, 2020: NKU will have a gradual return to on-campus operations. To prepare the campus for the Fall 2020 semester, approved departments will begin to return to campus with a gradual increase in staffing. During this time, most faculty and staff will continue to work remotely.

Beginning August 3, 2020: NKU’s campus will open with a blended, flexible environment that includes some in-person interaction with modifications that minimize risk for all NKU constituents and follows the guidelines available on the CDC and Commonwealth of Kentucky’s COVID-19 websites. Departments will maintain minimum staffing levels necessary to have their on-campus locations open to serve faculty, staff, and students on campus. Some offices will need to have extended hours to serve post-traditional students. Those not needed for on-campus coverage will continue to work remotely.

Faculty and staff with health conditions that may impact their ability to return to campus-based work should contact Human Resources ( to determine if accommodations are appropriate. As always, individuals’ health information will be protected as required by law. For more information about returning to work, view the Employee Information and Resources or visit the Human Resources COVID-19 page.  

Meetings, Events, and Activities

Academic and administrative units and faculty, staff, and student organizations should conduct meetings, events, and activities (including those involving external participants such as community members) online/remotely until further notice. With approval, in-person meetings (particularly those for first year students), events, or activities with limited numbers of attendees may become possible as CDC and Kentucky health guidelines and space availability permit. Understandably, people want to resume in-person gatherings. However, it is critical to maintain social distancing. Additionally, campus meeting rooms and gathering spaces such as the ballrooms in the Student Union (SU) and the University Center (UC) will be repurposed and prioritized for socially distanced academic use, making the scheduling of in-person meetings, events, or activities all the more difficult. Guidelines for scheduling on-campus events that include external participants have been established.

More information about virtual meeting software can be found on the IT website. Additional updates regarding on-campus meetings, events, and activities will be shared as the semester progresses.


University-sponsored travel will remain suspended at least through the end of the fall semester. Recognizing that some travel is essential, exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis and must be approved through the regular approval process. Depending on their destination, travelers may be expected to meet certain requirements before returning to campus, such as a 14-day self-quarantine or COVID-19 testing. More specific guidelines will be announced as they become available.

Future Updates

The COVID-19 Preparedness Team will continue to monitor the environment to determine if we need to make adjustments to the plan. As we move through the summer and into fall, we will share regular updates with the campus. We also must take time to thank all the members of the COVID-19 Preparedness Team. Many long hours have led to the creation of our NKU Moving Forward plan. This document is essential to ensure that we can return to campus operations in a safe and healthy manner. If you have questions, please visit NKU’s COVID-19 Preparedness website or email

The true strength of an organization can be witnessed when a crisis descends upon it. To say that we are in the midst of a crisis is an understatement. During the Spring forum, I shared that the pandemic exposed major fissures in our society and global economy – from income inequality, disparities in healthcare, impact on vulnerable populations, and susceptible supply chains. The recent unjust killings of African Americans have amplified the calls for an end to structural racism and a renewed effort towards economic and social justice.

As a steward of place, we are working hard to build our organizational capacity for a more equitable, inclusive, and just society. It is in these challenging times that we must serve as a beacon of hope and set an example through our leadership. NKU prides itself on being agile, so now is our opportunity to implement new ways to empower diverse learners for economic and social mobility and help our region not only restart, but reset with an equity lens. Becoming a student-ready, regionally engaged institution is as crucial an imperative as ever. That is how we lead while moving forward.

Thank you for all that you do for the university and its campus community. Please stay safe and well this summer. I look forward to welcoming Norse Nation back this fall.


Ashish Vaidya