Dear members of the Department of Religion,
I write to follow up on President Eisgruber’s announcement about the University’s plans for Fall 2020 as well as the additional information from various offices of the University.
Faculty and staff in the Department have also been planning for the Fall in anticipation of an unusual semester in which we will not be able to participate in the campus activities and aspects of life in 1879 Hall that mark our close-knit community. Despite these challenges, we are confident that we will be able to offer excellent courses in the study of Religion and events that enhance our understanding of the field and its value in the world beyond Princeton.
Our planning is ongoing in relation to the University’s plans and public health guidelines and we will continue to update you. We also encourage you to check the University’s Fall 2020 page regularly for updates.
Most undergraduate teaching in the department will be in a remote format. Not all students will be on campus and our commitment to equity and the limited availability of safe classroom spaces guides faculty decisions about format. In some cases, students may have the option of enrolling in in-person precepts or small seminars and all students in such courses will have to follow University rules concerning masks, physical distancing, and movement in and out of classrooms. Online courses will have smaller precepts or modified formats that allow for innovative classroom experiences under these unusual conditions.
Professor Seth Perry, the Director of Undergraduate Studies, will meet virtually with Religion concentrators at the beginning of the semester to discuss resources to support independent work and to review general plans for the academic year.
All faculty have the option to decide the format of their graduate seminars. Many graduate seminars will be offered in remote format and some of these will have the option of in-person individual or small group components. Other courses will be offered as hybrid in-person courses with students on campus and those enrolled remotely able to participate. Seminars that are offered as in-person courses or with in-person components will follow University rules concerning masks, physical distancing, and movement in and out of classrooms. Final decisions about course formats will also depend on the availability of safe classroom spaces and public health guidance.
Graduate students in the Department will have the opportunity to discuss plans for the academic year with Professor Andrew Chignell, Director of Graduate Studies, at the virtual orientation meeting in the Fall.
Outside the classroom
Although the many in-person events we had planned for the year cannot take place for the time being, we are planning an exciting set of events, including Virtual Lounge Seminars, that will connect our community and enhance our classroom and research experiences. We are also exploring the possibility of holding some gatherings outdoors for those who are in residence. We look forward to connecting with the entire Department of Religion community at a virtual welcome reception on September 2 at 4:30pm.
At this time, all Department of Religion facilities in 1879 Hall remain closed until further notice. We will update you if public health guidelines allow us to use the facilities safely.
In the meantime, we are grateful to have dedicated staff who have kept things running smoothly through unexpected and difficult transitions and we are fortunate to have them continue to support the teaching and research mission of the Department of Religion in the coming academic year.
Agate Brown and George L. Collord Professor
Chair, Department of Religion