Important Update about Fall 2020

I’m writing to share with you some specific details regarding our updated plans for the fall 2020 semester at Duquesne. Now that we’ve received input from students and their families, faculty, staff, and other members of the University community, we are able to provide you with a clearer report on key decisions even before the full Master Plan for fall 2020 is presented to the University’s Board of Directors for approval on Monday, June 29.

More than 6,000 people—faculty, staff, students, and parents—participated in the surveys we conducted in the last few weeks. Your opinions and suggestions proved extremely helpful to the Master Plan team. We also consulted with leaders in Duquesne’s Student Government, the Faculty Senate, the Staff Advisory Council, our Parents Advisory Council, and various others either through the work of the Task Forces or in other efforts. We listened carefully and the decisions we have made reflect the overwhelming preferences of all concerned and match with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s guidelines.

While we continue to finalize the Master Plan for fall 2020, our efforts have progressed to the point that we can provide several key specifics to help you make relevant plans and preparations.

Last week, my leadership team and I met with the executive committee of the University’s Board. The decisions outlined below were approved: 


All constituents showed overwhelming support for having students return to campus for the fall semester and for classes and student life to operate in the hybrid/blended model outlined in my previous communication.

Classes will start on Monday, August 24, as originally planned. Students who wish to take courses remotely for any reason will be able to do so. Students who wish to take face-to-face courses in a hybrid fashion, on campus, will be able to do so. New protocols are being finalized that will ensure that these classes are conducted safely, with appropriate social-distancing and de-densification measures.

Living Learning Centers—the residence halls on campus—will be open, de-densified, and operating with new safety protocols. To ensure no students currently signed up for an on-campus residence will be turned away, the University has leased back St. Martin Hall (which had been acquired by a third-party partner and was to have been closed for renovations this academic year) to expand on-campus housing capacity. The Living Learning Centers will be arranged to lessen the number of students in each building and hygiene protocols will be implemented.


To ensure safety for the arrival of all students and provide a positive orientation experience for freshmen, Duquesne has adjusted the arrival schedule as follows:

  • Freshmen will be able to move in starting Sunday, August 16, and continuing through Tuesday, August 18. This early arrival will help to ensure social distancing during move-in and also provide time for freshmen to acclimate to campus, purchase books, and settle in prior to the start of classes.
  • Freshmen also will have the opportunity to engage in various small-group orientation activities offered in the days leading up to the official freshman orientation on Wednesday, August 19. All events will be adapted to meet health and safety guidelines of the Master Plan.
  • All upper-class students living on campus will be able to schedule times to place their belongings into their residences early, starting on Saturday, August 1, and continuing through Saturday, August 15. Upperclassmen can then move in completely during the times outlined below. This process of moving belongings in early provides for greater safety and for families to avoid the denser conditions of typical move-in days.
  • Upperclassmen who were unable to participate in early move-in may select time slots to complete their move-in from Friday, August 21, until Sunday, August 23, after Mass of the Holy Spirit.
  • Move-in times will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 8 p.m. daily and be segmented in three-hour time slots: 8 – 11 a.m., 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 2 – 5 p.m., and 5 – 8 p.m.
  • In total, upperclassmen will have 70 different blocks to select from.


Overwhelming support was shown for our ensuring that coursework ended prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. This will ensure that students do not have to go home and then return to campus, which could increase the risk of potentially carrying infection or exposing others.

In order to accomplish this without a serious overhaul of the schedule that would have entailed Saturday classes or extended days—which students did NOT support—the University will hold classes on Labor Day as well as Monday, November 23, and Tuesday, November 24, prior to Thanksgiving break. We confirmed that by making these adjustments, we can meet the standards established by our accrediting body while allowing students to return home on Wednesday, November 25, having completed the coursework necessary for the semester.

To ensure students will have sufficient time to study and enjoy a true break with families over Thanksgiving, the academic calendar will build in three reading days immediately after Thanksgiving, from Monday, November 30, through Wednesday, December 2, for studying. Final exams will then occur on Thursday, December 3, and Friday, December 4, followed by the weekend for additional study, and then continuing from Monday, December 7, through Friday, December 11. Winter commencement will occur as scheduled on Friday, December 18.

Calendars for the School of Law and the School of Pharmacy are unchanged.

Since Duquesne employees will be working on Labor Day, the University will identify another day off for employees, in consultation with the Staff Advisory Council. 


The University already has prepared in numerous ways to ensure we can operate with proper social distancing protocols in place. Students should know that it will be mandatory and a matter of student conduct policy to wear masks in all public spaces. Faculty and staff will have to adhere to the same policy. Many other safety measures will be detailed in our Master Plan. These specifics will be shared with you, in early July, after the plan is approved by the University’s Board of Directors at its June 29 meeting.

As we complete this planning process, however, I thought it was important to ensure you knew about these key decisions, understanding that it is time for students and families, as well as faculty and staff, to plan for the fall. I continue to be grateful for the great support and goodwill everyone has shown throughout this process.

I look forward to updating you again soon. In the meantime, I hope that you and your families remain safe and healthy. Most of all, I look forward to an excellent semester when Duquesne University re-opens in the fall, thanks to all of your input and collaboration.

Warm regards,

Ken Gormley

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University’s academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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