Update: End-of-Semester Preparation

Now that the calendar has flipped to November, and the end of the semester is nearly upon us, I want to make sure that you are aware of the University’s plans for winding down so you can leave campus in an orderly and safe way for the holidays.

We are determined to ensure a smooth departure for all students as you return home for the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. Just as a safe arrival for the start of the semester required some planning and careful steps to assure everyone’s safety, the last weeks on campus will require similar steps, for the protection of our campus community as well as for the protection of your families and friends whom you’ll be rejoining. All of this will be taking place in a matter of weeks, so I want to share the plan for transitioning to the next steps.


Public health officials in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office and the Allegheny County Department of Health are asking that all students at colleges and universities in the region begin a process of scaling back interactions with others as they prepare to leave for home. Doing so minimizes the chance of asymptomatic carriers spreading infection to their homes and communities.

The best practice is to limit outside contacts for 14 days. Once you know your date of departure (this is discussed below), you should start to limit your activities on campus to class, meals, exercise and work. Avoid going off-campus and continue to practice social distancing. This also is a great time to make sure you are interacting with your R-Pods to lower the number of contacts you have before you head home, for the protection of your families and friends. This sort of “modified stay-in-place” approach will allow you to go about your ordinary business while slowly pulling back on exposure to others as much as possible.


Because this year’s end of the semester will require more planning than in typical years, we’re letting faculty and staff know that we all will need to be patient with one another. We understand that students likely will need some flexibility in the next few weeks to take care of important safety and logistical tasks, as described below, in order to return to your homes and communities in the safest way possible while still attending to your academic obligations including classes and assignments.

Please be sure to communicate as clearly as you can, in advance, with your professors and advisers about your plans, especially if you will need to miss a class (or if you need to switch over to on-line classes in your HyFlex courses) in order to move out and/or travel home.


In order to avoid over-crowded elevators and other congestion that could create unsafe conditions, the Office of Residence Life is asking all students to register for specific departure times for moving out of the Living Learning Centers. Students will be allowed to pick days and times beginning on Thursday, November 19 (the week before Thanksgiving) through 12:00 noon on Wednesday, November 25 (the day before Thanksgiving) in order to move out in a staggered and seamless fashion. Be sure to check with your family and select a time that will work best for whomever will be picking you up.

Now that November has arrived and the University has entered the departure period, the Flexible Residency Policy is no longer in effect for the remainder of the Fall 2020 semester.

As in any year, there is no reason to move most of your belongings out of your dorm room when you leave before Thanksgiving—just take what you need for the extended break. A few students, however, need to cancel their room assignments for Spring 2021 or will not be living in a campus residence in the spring. For those students only, please complete this form in order to ensure the Office of Residence Life can provide instructions and timing for moving out completely from your residence.


The University has arranged to make available COVID tests for all students prior to their departure. This is not mandatory. However, the University is investing in this extra COVID-19 testing—which is easy to take and delivers results swiftly—as a prudent precaution.

We strongly urge you to take advantage of this testing, so that you can protect your families and friends and ensure that you are not unknowingly carrying the virus back home. The University soon will provide more details about how and when to sign up for the tests and where to do so. You’ll want to schedule a time to take a test about three to four days prior to your scheduled departure. 


Immediately following the Thanksgiving break and reading period, final exams will begin, on December 3. You will have virtual access to the full range of academic support you had on campus, including access to Gumberg Library, academic advising, the Center for Career Development, the IT Service Desk, Campus Ministry and the Center for Student Wellbeing. We hope you take advantage of all of these resources.

Duquesne faculty and staff will be available to communicate through their current channels through the end of the semester. Also, the Office of Freshman Development, with the aid of the freshmen mentors, will reach out and make sure that they are connected with the freshman students assigned to them, to assist in a smooth transition and answer any questions.

Finally, the Office of Residence Life is planning a number of special activities—in small groups and with appropriate precautions—during the weekend before Thanksgiving, so that RAs can assist with final planning for residential students and students can have an opportunity to get into the holiday spirit before leaving for home. The Commuter Affairs office will plan similar events for non-resident students in the week before Thanksgiving break. More information about exact plans is forthcoming.


For the spring semester, classes will resume on Thursday, January 21, 2021, allowing plenty of time for students to again limit outside contact for 14 days prior to returning to campus. That safety precaution served all of us well for our fall return and we expect it will have a similar preventive effect for our return for the spring semester. We will provide more detail about that soon.

Knowing that you will be home for those weeks, we are providing a special January term of two weeks, the “J-Term,” during which time the University will offer a variety of two-week classes on special topics, at no charge, that you and members of your family may take, if they wish. Topics will range from “Harry Potter and the Christian Intellectual Tradition” to “The Chemistry of Cooking“ to “Ireland Sports History.” These offerings during the J-Term are not for credit; rather, they are intended to engage attendees in compelling topics and give people something interesting to do while winding down before coming back to campus. Keep an eye on your email for more details about offerings and how to register.


When we began this semester in August, we were unsure what path the virus would take and how long we would be able to stay on campus together. Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of you worked tirelessly to follow the rules, wear masks, wash your hands, sanitize surfaces, maintain social distancing, stick with your R-Pods as much as possible, avoid going off campus, avoid parties that could turn into super-spreader events, and engage in activities in small groups and outside whenever possible. In general, you lived the values of our University and exhibited care for one another and our community.

I have seen and chatted with many of you around campus over the past few months. You have truly put the safety of the entire campus family first. It was only as a result of your diligence and caring for others that we have now reached this point in November, when we are preparing to return home for the holidays, with a successful semester nearly behind us, despite being confronted with an unprecedented global pandemic.

I am enormously proud of your efforts. I continue to believe that your strength, stamina, determination and selflessness during these tough times will help to shape you for the rest of your lives. The true test of character and leadership is the ability to navigate changing circumstances and unforeseen challenges with grace, kindness, selflessness and maturity. You have done that, collectively, during this extraordinary fall semester of 2020. There is no question that it will forge new positive qualities in you that will help you to succeed in everything you tackle, for the rest of your lives.

Please work closely with our Student Life professionals and others at the University to ensure a safe and successful wrap-up of the semester in the weeks ahead. As Duquesne students, you represent the best of the best. And your continued handling of these challenges in a positive, innovative and caring way stands as a model for university students across the United States.

I look forward to returning in January with the same spirit of determination and resolve. This is truly what makes Duquesne so special. I feel blessed—every day—to have you as members of our Duquesne family.

With best wishes for a safe and successful end to the semester,

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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