2020-21 FAQ | St. Lawrence University Academic Advising

2020-21 FAQ

FAQ for students and advisors about 2020-21

Q: Why can’t everyone come back in the fall? 

To preserve community health and safety, a campus occupancy group arrived at a maximum number of 1,800 students on campus. This includes adhering to NYS and public health official guidelines and consideration of a broad range of elements of our campus infrastructure, from appropriate quarantine space, to the capacity of our dining facilities, to the size and layout of classrooms, to the number and location of bathrooms, to the flow of foot traffic and airflow in buildings, and much more. Staff and faculty have spent thousands of hours considering every possible option and reviewing state and local health requirements and determined that 1,800 is our maximum safe on-campus occupancy. 

Given this reality, the planning groups worked from the baseline assumption that every student should be allowed to participate in two full semesters at St. Lawrence and be able to progress toward graduation. Some potential options were precluded due to constraints of our physical and IT/systems infrastructure. The only viable solution that would allow all students two full semesters on campus was to create a third semester. 


Q: Will all three semesters be the same? 

All three semesters will offer a robust range of courses and allow students to take a full course load and proceed toward graduation. Students doing the summer semester will be eligible for financial aid just like in any other semester (room and board charges will be less expensive for the summer semester because it is only 10 weeks long).

The format of the summer semester will be slightly different, divided into two 5-week mini-sessions, with many 1-unit courses running the entire 10 weeks and some .5 and 1-unit courses running for only one of the mini-sessions, much like our normal half-semester courses.

The summer semester will include options still under development calculated to appeal in particular to sophomores and juniors, including short-term and full-term off-campus study options, possible courses connected to internships and research, and maybe some career- and professionalism-oriented courses.

Students should normally have four courses in each of their two semesters, but must have at least 3.5 units to be full-time (and thus eligible for financial aid, student visa, and NCAA athletic participation, etc.).

We expect that there will be fewer students in the summer semester, so there will be fewer class options then. We expect to have 80-85% of our normal number of sections in the fall and spring semesters (with maximum 1,800 students) and 35-40% in the summer semester (with c. 800 students expected). 


Q: What are the new semester dates? Do we have any breaks built in? 

The fall semester begins on Wed. Aug 26 and classes run through Friday, Dec. 4. Final exams will be held during the week of Dec. 7-11.  There will be no classes Wed. Nov. 25-Friday Nov. 27 in observation of the Thanksgiving holiday but classes ARE in session Mon. 11/23 and Tues. 11/24.  All classes will be remote for the last week, as will final exams, though students may still be on campus.  Students on campus after Thanksgiving will continue to have access to rooms, dining, and all campus support services; those who opt to leave campus may not return after the break.

Spring semester will be Jan. 4 – April 16 (April 16 is the last day of final exams). There are no breaks built in.

Summer semester will be held May 3 – August 14 and will include two mini-session options, running from May 3 – June 4 and June 7- July 9.  There are no breaks built in. 

Note that although the Summer semester technically runs for 15 weeks, students are not expected to be in residence for the full 15 weeks if they are enrolled in 5- or 10-week courses in the two mini-sessions. However, the internship component of the New York City semester and the research opportunities available in SLU SURE courses will run until the end of the semester in mid-August.


Q: What information did students get about their semester placement? 

All incoming first-years, seniors, and transfer students were guaranteed their preferred semesters. Seniors were notified a confirmation, while first-years and incoming transfer students were contacted by the Associate Dean of the First Year or Associate Dean for Academic Advising Programs.

Sophomores and juniors received a placement message on July 15, showing for each of the three semesters: “On Campus,” “Remote,” “Off-campus study,” “Commuting/living off-campus,” or blank [for the semester the student was not placed in]. Students who did not receive their first choice showed in the “Waitlist” space either “Fall” or “Spring.”

All students were placed in two of the three semesters on campus (or off-campus, if they were committed to a Spring 2021 off-campus study program), unless they requested to be remote or were approved to live off-campus (via the senior lottery for off-campus housing in the spring) or commute from their local residence.

The semester placement committee will review students on the waiting list only if the number of spots on campus for Fall or Spring drops below the cap of 1,800. 


Q: How should students think about their academic year, if they did not get the semesters they requested? 

Many students placed in the Summer semester when it was not their first choice are concerned about whether they will be able to take the classes they had planned and make appropriate degree progress or they are concerned about summer responsibilities or opportunities (such as jobs and internships). Others are concerned about campus support services.

While students’ academic paths might be complicated in some ways by the distribution of course offerings over three semesters, departments have made sure that many courses that fulfill general education requirements and requirements for majors are available during the Summer semester. The Registrar’s Office has posted PDFs of the Fall in-person/hybrid and online-only sections, as well as tentative Spring and Summer semester course offerings: https://www.stlawu.edu/registrar

Students who need to work or planned to seek an internship can certainly do so during the Fall or Spring semester, and there are in fact many opportunities for these longer stretches of time that students can take advantage of. They can work with Career Services, Career Connections, and other offices on campus to plan. Both the Kenya Semester Program and New York City program include internship components. Sutdents should consult with their academic advisor as well as the relevant campus support offices.

Campus support services will be available in all the three semesters, as these are regular semesters (except for the length and structure of the Summer semester).

Here is an overview of the Summer semester (https://www.stlawu.edu/advising/summer-2021-semester-overview), which includes a link to CIIS’s detailed description of the off-campus study options for Summer (https://www.stlawu.edu/ciis/summer-2021-campus-study).

Students who feel they are unable to come to campus for the Summer semester may do either Fall or Spring remotely and the other on campus (or off-campus, if already committed to off-campus study). 


Q: Can students choose to do one or both of their semesters remote/online? 

Yes. Students who choose to do a semester remotely instead of on campus will not pay room & board for that semester. They will be able to choose from among the online-only courses offered in that semester. 


Q: Which classes will be available to students who decide to do a semester remotely? 

Only sections that are online-only will be available to students who are doing the semester remotely.

Students who are in residence will be able to take both courses that are “in-person” (in actuality hybrid, because the last week of class meetings, and finals, will be online; throughout the semester many classes will have only some of the students in the classroom at any given time; and there is the possibility that students or faculty may have to be quarantined during the semester) and also courses that are online-only. However, students who are on campus and do not wish to take an online-only course may change their registration for one of these to an available hybrid class that does have in-person meetings.

Faculty have the option to offer their courses fully online or with some in-person meetings planned.  Courses with in-person meetings will not be open to students who are not on campus.


Q: How will students know which courses will be online and what to expect in their classes when they return to campus? 

APR2 will be updated with new schedule information including a designation showing whether each course is online or hybrid.  There are currently PDFs of the online-only and in-person/hybrid courses on the Registrar's Office website, along with tentative course lists for the Spring and Summer semesters: https://www.stlawu.edu/registrar

The Registrar’s office will also add new fall 2020-specific information to course descriptions as this is gathered from faculty. After fall course rosters as updated, faculty will write to the students in their classes to let them know what to anticipate in terms of how the class will be conducted.


Q: Can students enroll in the semester they were not placed in if they do it remotely? 

Yes. The problem of capacity has to do with safe occupancy of the campus, so if a student wishes to do the semester they were not placed in, they can elect to do it remotely. 


Q: Can students enroll in all three semesters? 

No. Students are allowed to do two full semesters, but not three. Financial aid will apply to those two semesters as usual. Students can pay out of pocket to take individual online-only courses remotely during their “off” semester.


Q: If students are scheduled to study off-campus in spring and their program is cancelled, can they return to campus? 

Students whose spring off-campus study program is canceled will be able to study on campus during the summer semester (or possibly even off campus, if the summer semester short-term or full-semester off-campus programs are able to run). They could only join the spring semester on campus if there is enough space. Students could join the spring semester remotely, choosing from the online-only courses.  


Q: What if a student wants to take a leave of absence (LOA)? 

Most students should be able to make their academic year work with the options available. However, some students might find that a leave of absence (LOA) makes the most sense for them. Student wishing to do this should have a conversation with their academic advisor and other mentors.

The process for doing a leave of absence (LOA) is quite easy. There is an online form on the Student Life website (https://www.stlawu.edu/associate-dean-student-life/form/withdrawal-and-leave-absence-request-form), and it does not take long to fill out. To return from a LOA, students fill out a readmission application, a short form that goes to Student Life and Academic Advising. Normally, there is no problem coming back from a LOA, but University policy does clearly state that students may come back if there is room. This is unlikely to be an issue if we have 10-20, or maybe even 50, students who do this, but if 500 take a LOA, it is unlikely we would have room for everyone to come back in Fall 2021. That would not mean that these students would never be able to come back, but some might have to wait until later that year or even the following year.

Students who return from a LOA will still have any SLU scholarships or merit aid when they currently have when they return, while need-based aid (if they have it) will be recalculated as per their FAFSA at that time. For students who have federal loans (and most private loans), repayment will begin 6 months into the LOA unless they can work out other terms with their lenders; payments will then stop when they resume full-time study, and then start up as soon as they graduate, without a new 6-month grace period. All of this may be negotiable with lenders, but that is how it will work if they do not. 


Q: What will the situation be with classes, office hours, and other work with faculty for on-campus students? 

Faculty have decided whether their classes are fully online or “in-person” and sections for online-only courses will be created in APR2 in the next few weeks. For “in-person” classes, students and faculty will be expected to wear face coverings (e.g., masks, face shields) and also observe physical distancing of 6’. This means that most classes will not be able to meet all at once at the same time, because most of our classrooms are not large enough for that, so they will involve online elements, whether synchronous or asynchronous. There is also the very real possibility that some students and some faculty may become ill or be quarantined and thus not be able to participate in class in person for some amount of time.  There is also the possibility that more faculty will decide that they must have their classes fully on-line in order to protect their health and the health of their families should students begin to test positive for COVID-19.

NYS guidelines mandate that employees who work from home continue to do so, so in most cases office hours and other outside-of-class interactions between students and faculty will occur online. When it is necessary to meet in person, both student and faculty member must wear face coverings and observe physical distance (possibly meeting outside or in a large office or other room that allows appropriate distance and airflow).

See the University’s reopening documents for details: https://www.stlawu.edu/always-forward 


Q: What will the living situation, social life, dining, athletics, etc. look like in the fall? 

See the University’s reopening documents for details: https://www.stlawu.edu/always-forward 


Q: What will testing, tracing, and isolation procedures be? 

See the University’s reopening documents for details: https://www.stlawu.edu/always-forward 


Q: Students travel will be limited outside the region. What is the region? 

See the University’s reopening documents for details: https://www.stlawu.edu/always-forward 


Q: Is it possible that students will be sent home early, as happened in the spring? 

Yes. Part of the NYS reopening plan required of colleges is a plan for shutdown, if necessary. See the University’s reopening documents for details: https://www.stlawu.edu/always-forward 


Q: Are students being asked to fully move out of their room at the end of the semester?  If so, why?   

Yes, all students will be asked to move.  There is a chance that flu season and a new wave of COVID-19 could occur over break.  We do not want students to have to return to campus to move out should it be impossible to hold a spring semester on campus. Students should pack as lightly as possible. See the University’s reopening documents for details: https://www.stlawu.edu/always-forward