Anticipated Resumption of In-Person Courses This Fall

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

We will very soon open up registration for fall 2021 courses, and it is imperative that we properly set expectations for our fall semester and how the university plans to conduct our education.

Governor J. B. Pritzker, in his May 5, 2020, Reopening Plan, established three alternative criteria whereby the state would enter “Phase 5–Illinois Restored.” Quoting Governor Pritzker, “With a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period, the economy fully reopens with safety precautions continuing.” At this point in time, it seems likely—given the efficacy of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, the imminent distribution of the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the potential of other vaccines working their way through the regulatory approval process—that we will anticipate having sufficient vaccines in place by the summer to vaccinate those in the United States who want to be vaccinated. If this happens, the first criterion should be easily met by August 2021.

Moreover, the trend line of new cases in Chicago since the start of the year hopefully suggests a continued decline. Given all of this, Illinois Tech will plan, albeit cautiously, for a complete return to in-person operation and education for fall 2021. Many of our students have clearly expressed a need for a return to normalcy, and as we increase our efforts to be a student-focused university it is imperative that we do this.

Accordingly, I am instructing all academic units to plan for a complete return to in-person classes, labs, studios, and other course offerings for fall 2021. I am also asking our registrar to work with these academic units to develop a fall 2021 schedule involving a preponderance of in-person classes, including a robust suite of labs, studios, and other on-campus activities. We feel that this is crucial to the development of a vibrant campus community, which is essential for the fullest professional development of our students—and indeed to their educational progress and mental health.

We understand that the path of the pandemic is still somewhat uncertain and that the hoped-for return to in-person operations may not materialize precisely as we anticipate. Since this is still uncertain, I am asking all faculty, staff, and students to anticipate more normal operations in the fall, including a preponderance of in-person operations, while also being flexible during this transition. We should all be ready for further communications on this during the spring and summer, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state of Illinois, and other guidance is released, and be ready to adapt as needed.

We also understand the value of the significant investment we have made in excellent remote-class delivery technology and how this has helped make an Illinois Tech education and the Illinois Tech experience more accessible to many students. This will continue to be an important part of our future and, as we have long done, we will continue to deliver online courses to augment our in-person offerings, not replace them.

We also note that this event has transformed not only higher education, but also society, and that we may well be operating under a “new-normal” even for in-person events. As Governor Pritzker writes in his Phase 5 narrative, even though large gatherings will be permitted, they must occur “with new safety guidance and procedures in place.”

Accordingly, while we plan for larger classes and gatherings, we should anticipate the need to still adhere to various public safety and personal hygiene measures.


Peter Kilpatrick
Peter Kilpatrick
Provost, Illinois Institute of Technology