June 15, 2020: COVID-19 Update

Dear RISD Community,

Today I write to announce that RISD will open in the fall with students on campus in a de-densified model. Core studio and shop-based courses will be held in person or in a hybrid fashion and other courses will take place online or in a hybrid online-plus-embodied version. Where possible, employees will continue to work from home to keep our campus density low. Students, faculty and staff who return to campus will follow a multi-layered system of health and safety protocols. Each member of our community will share responsibility for adhering to established health and safety protocols to keep one another safe.

While life on campus will be very different next year, I am glad we have found a deliberate way to come together again that maximizes safety during this pandemic. A RISD education is built on the rich tradition of immersive, application-and-practice-based instruction and scholarly learning. To support this model, we are working to balance in-person instruction where it is essential with online learning for courses that do not rely on studio facilities, with all forms of campus engagement centered around health and safety. The RISD Museum has also worked in concert with the college and the State of Rhode Island for the eventual reopening of this important public resource on our campus. Their plans will be announced soon.

Our decision-making has been—and will continue to be—guided by three primary goals: community health and safety, academic integrity and financial viability. We decided to move forward with a de-densified campus after extensive analysis of how each facet of academic and campus life might operate safely within the context of COVID-19, consulting numerous experts and organizations throughout our planning and decision-making process and participating in working groups with the state and peer institutions across the country. Our efforts have also embedded diversity, equity and inclusion in all policies, plans, and communications and incorporated how RISD can acknowledge and address the effects of the disparate impact of COVID-19 on different communities.

Like every institution, we face complex challenges, as knowledge about COVID-19’s impact and future course continues to evolve. For that reason, we are simultaneously planning contingencies in case events unfold either before or during the fall semester that require us to transition to full online teaching and learning. Though we continue to proceed with great caution, we are encouraged by positive trends in recent weeks as the rate of new cases of COVID-19 continues to decline in Rhode Island and the state progresses from Phase I to Phase II of economic and lifestyle reopening.

Below I have broadly outlined how we will open in the fall, including an earlier start in August to ensure time for a two-week quarantine period for all campus residents. We have also launched the new covid.risd.edu website, which includes further details, dates and key contacts. Over the summer, multiple implementation task forces will continue their work as we prepare to welcome students back to campus. We will communicate updates and essential information throughout the summer and have planned several town halls for this week.

Planning for fall has been a monumental and complex undertaking and I would like to thank everyone who has and will continue to participate in this process. We have much work ahead of us as we prepare to reopen the campus, but we are excited to come back together to continue our academic imperative. With our emphasis on the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff at the foreground, RISD will implement the reopening plan in response to this global health challenge with all the thoughtfulness, integrity and care that defines our values and commitment to our mission.

Rosanne Somerson

Public Health: A Community Commitment
The health and vitality of our community depends on each of us actively working to prevent the spread of COVID-19. To that end, we will implement comprehensive health protocols, including mandated social-distancing measures. Cloth face coverings, which will be provided to everyone on campus, will be required in studios, classrooms and public spaces. Screening, testing, contact tracing and disinfecting protocols have been established, and a new respiratory clinic—a care center dedicated to evaluating people who may have COVID-19—will reside in Thompson House. If a student contracts COVID-19 or comes in contact with someone who has the virus, we have extensive contact tracing, isolation and quarantine protocols in place. Education and training on these protocols will be provided and are an essential component in maintaining safety on campus. Learn more.

Academics: Three Pedagogies, One Standard
Central to the educational mission of RISD is its immersive, hands-on model. For Fall 2020 all efforts have been made to preserve as much in-person instruction as possible while maintaining strict health and safety procedures. Studio and shop spaces will be physically rearranged to meet public health guidelines and the social distancing recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Rhode Island Department of Health. Hybrid delivery—a combination of in-person instruction for workshop and other practice-based components, and online instruction for all other primarily theoretical, conceptual and digital fabrication components—will be employed where possible, while other classes will be offered entirely in-person or entirely online. In addition, for students whom it is impossible to return to campus, accommodations will be made for them to continue their studies entirely online this fall. Learn more.

Campus Life: Staying Connected in a COVID-19 World
Living and dining on campus will be different this fall—but we will still make the student experience beyond the studio and classroom supportive and enriching. To mitigate the risk of students living together in close proximity, we will reduce the number of students per room—with most residing in individual units—and the number of students per shared bathroom. We will also provide housing and support services for students who must isolate or quarantine. Additionally, we will manage the usage of public areas within housing. Students will move in over a four-day period using a reservation system and will be required to quarantine for a 14-day period, which will include one week of introductory, online coursework to launch the semester. Dining will be limited to pick-up/takeout only, with pick-up locations around campus. Ample campus programming will be planned throughout the semester via a mix of virtual and safe in-person opportunities. Learn more.

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