IUP President Announces Plans for Fall 2020, Includes Face-to-Face Instruction

While we must remain flexible and ready to act as new information about the coronavirus pandemic becomes known, we are planning to welcome you to campus for face-to-face instruction and residential living for the fall semester.

It feels good to tell you this. I miss seeing students on campus. A recent survey confirmed for us that you want face-to-face instruction this fall.

However, this does not mean that life at IUP this fall will return to business as usual.

We will change the way that we do our work, but we will keep true to these principles. We will provide a high-quality educational experience. We will maintain standards and initiatives that protect your health and safety, as well as the health and safety of faculty and staff members and of our community. We will continue to hold fast to the ties that bind the IUP family together.

The following will give you an idea of how we will proceed.


Academics are the heart and soul of our work. Face-to-face instruction is the cornerstone of what we do, and that is our intent for this fall. However, because of our commitment to health and safety, classes will be formatted to maintain social-distancing recommendations while focusing on real-time instruction and delivery.

Here’s an example:

A class is divided into teams of students. Each team would physically attend class on a specific day, in classrooms sanitized and set up to maintain social distancing. On days when a team is not scheduled to be physically in the classroom, that team’s students would participate and interact with the class’s other teams via Zoom or similar technology. We’re now installing technology in additional classrooms to do this and similar scenarios.

We see opportunities for innovative teaching and group interaction within this framework. Employers continue to tell us that teamwork is an essential skill for success in the workplace. This model will give you the added edge of gaining experience in what career strategists predict is the “new work world” of working remotely via technology.

Distance learning is—and will continue to be—an important mode of delivery, pandemic or no pandemic. Courses already established in an online delivery format will continue in that format.

We are carefully considering results of that survey I mentioned, along with comments about online instruction and communications during the pandemic, to help us understand what we have done well and what we need to improve. This information will be critical as your professors plan how to implement new techniques in their teaching. It will also help us to be prepared to transition to fully online course delivery if conditions warrant that.

We are providing a Summer Academy to faculty and staff members to help them gain new perspective and skills in using technology in teaching, as well as in organizing and planning events and activities and in providing support.


We are proud of our living-learning communities and suite-style residence halls and will implement safety measures there to help those of you who live on campus observe social-distancing measures. All students who live in residence halls will have a private bedroom. Some students will also have a private bathroom; some bathrooms will be shared, but if a bathroom is shared, it will be shared by no more than two students. All shared living-learning areas in the residence halls will be cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis.

IUP Dining Services, which has continued to offer meals this spring, employs well-trained and experienced personnel who follow health and safety guidelines required by the state during our current national health status. Dining facilities will be set up to maintain social distancing, and you will still enjoy meals at our award-winning North Dining, Crimson Café, and Hawk HUB Food Court, located in the Hadley Union Building, which includes Chick-fil-A.

We know that not all learning takes place in the classroom. I was impressed with the number of student organizations that continued to meet remotely throughout the spring semester. For example, the staff of the student-operated newspaper, the Penn, worked remotely to produce a weekly publication. The IUP Student Government Association is meeting during the summer months, taking the lead on plans to help other student organizations continue to engage students remotely as needed and to transition to in-person meetings and events as soon as health and safety guidelines permit. Club and organization advisors continue to work closely with involved students to maintain a sense of connection and community in these groups.

In the weeks after spring break, our programming staff did extraordinary work. STATIC and the Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement plan to continue many online events in the fall.

The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference regulates our athletic schedules, which were suspended in March, and we will look for guidance from both the PSAC and the NCAA on when teams can resume competition. We will make decisions about major university events as we get additional guidance from national and state officials about gatherings.


Every department and office at IUP is responsible for protecting your safety during the pandemic. It is a university-wide commitment, and I have appointed a university-wide central planning committee to organize this work.

Fortunately, the IUP community has proven that it is capable of rapid change in the best interests of making us a better and safer university.

We look forward to welcoming you with a return-to-campus package of hand sanitizer, mask, and other items intended to help keep you safe and healthy. The faculty and staff members you encounter will have appropriate personal protective equipment, so that personal risk to you is minimized.

We are installing hand-sanitizer stations in all buildings and in public areas, along with signs and markers to remind us all to respect social distancing. And, we are training our front-line custodial and maintenance staffs to follow established national and state protocols to keep our facilities clean and sanitized. We also are prepared to employ other safety measures as needed and as recommended by expert organizations like the CDC, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the American College Health Association.

Local, same-day COVID-19 testing is available at our regional medical center, just minutes away from campus. We’ve developed new opportunities for you to get secure remote access to counseling support and telemedicine services within the IUP Center for Health and Well-Being.


One-Stop Resource Center

While some of these changes have been forced upon us by a terrible event, there is a silver lining. With all that we have learned in the last several months of working remotely, we have a new perspective on service and solutions. When you arrive in August, you will find a one-stop resource center (virtual at first), designed to answer a broad range of questions during times that are convenient to students. We are looking at how shifting employee work schedules and establishing online live chat options also will better serve you. We will depend on student feedback to help us determine how, and when, we can best provide information and assistance.

IUP Guides for First-Year Students

Adjusting to university life is challenging, even in the best of circumstances. To help first-year students, we will match you with a specially trained IUP employee to serve as a guide for your time at IUP. Our Student Support and Engagement Team in the Student Affairs Division developed this new program to make sure you don’t get lost in your new environment. You will connect with your guide during Welcome Week in August.

In addition to changing our lives, the coronavirus pandemic has created financial challenges for many. I applaud the decision of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors to freeze tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students, and IUP has decided to hold the line on our fees. Just as we distributed more than $15 million in refunds and financial support in the spring, we will be flexible about finances, including deposits, refunds, and holds on student accounts. The IUP Emergency Response Fund, which was established to provide financial help to students negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and which was funded by donations, will continue to support students as funds are available. If your family has encountered circumstances that have led to a reduction in income, you can contact the Office of Financial Aid for advice and assistance.

Change—mixed with a lot of the unknown—has become normal. While life at IUP will be different going forward, some things will never change: incredible professors delivering classes that will interest and challenge you; an environment that will keep you safe; and a community that will always care for you and motivate you to greatness. It’s just what Crimson Hawks do.

I can’t wait to see you this fall.

Michael Driscoll