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Northwestern University

Message from Dean Randolph - September 17, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you are doing well. I met this morning with over 1,000 masked students, and their excitement about their classes was palpable. The positive energy and respectful comportment of the students gives me great hope for the coming term.

To that end, we will continue to keep faculty, staff, and students up-to-date and provide useful information about the pandemic’s impact on our community, our responses to the crisis, and our policies and guidelines. Mary Finn, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs and others have held some online discussions with Fall Quarter instructors this week, with the aim of clarifying our guidelines and in the hope of answering as many questions as possible.

Additionally, you have heard today from Provost Kathleen Hagerty, who referred to two important websites: HR’s Returning to Campus: Information and Support for Faculty and Staff website; and the University’s Covid-19 website, which now has links to two important resources:

• Fall Summary, with details about density on campus, health and safety, and community expectations.

• Instructors website, including an FAQ that will evolve to ensure instructors have guidance they need.

The pandemic has taught us that planning is essential, but it must be accompanied by adaptability. We have developed stable policies that provide our community with guidance, while also embracing change when it is due. Regarding the latter, we will continue to align ourselves with medical and scientific authorities. Our institution is founded on a respect for expertise. Thus, while there are many opinions and positions on what we should do, our response to the pandemic will be based on facts and advice from experts.

The facts, at this point, are encouraging. Positivity rates on campus and in Evanston are low and vaccination rates are very high – more than 95% of Weinberg College faculty, students, and staff are vaccinated. This, along with the indoor masking rules, means that our spaces are very safe. Much of our campus has been open through the pandemic, with great success in limiting transmission. We now will continue along the path of opening up more spaces, having taken steps to ensure our community is inoculated and that masking indoors provides a sense of security to all.  

Should we be concerned about the delta variant and breakthrough infections? Of course. The vaccination requirement along with masking are together intended to safeguard us against the dangers posed by these.

Will there continue to be positive cases? Surely. We have all seen how this virus operates. There is no absolute freedom from risk, as is the case with other contagious diseases and, indeed, other types of risk we all face daily.

But is the risk reasonable? Although we must all remember that risk levels may be different for different individuals in our community, the risks are reasonable for the community as a whole. The risk is the same or lower than that which accompanies many common everyday activities like shopping. We have, moreover, strong protocols in place for accommodations for those who cannot be vaccinated and for those who are at particular risk: students may seek accommodations through AccessibleNU; faculty and staff may seek accommodations through the Office of Equity.

Looking ahead, we will continue to plan and to be as responsive as possible. The Weinberg College Educational Contingency Planning committee, formed in 2020, has resumed its work. This committee, along with the above-mentioned instructor FAQ, means that we can continue to support our curriculum and academic units so that we can face any unknown challenges with confidence.

Naturally, we hope that the resources on the web are helpful, but we also know that issues may arise that would benefit a tailored answer. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us. For convenience, here is a breakdown of whom you may want to contact regarding particular issues:

For issues relating to faculty

Matthew Johnson, Associate Dean for Faculty (

For issues relating to staff

Ralph Leslie, Associate Dean for Finance and Business Operations (

For issues relating to undergraduate studies and teaching

Mary Finn, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Student Affairs (

For issues relating to graduate students and/or postdoctoral fellows

Ann Bradlow, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies (

You can always, of course, write to me, Adrian Randolph, Dean ( and/or Fran Petty, Chief of Staff (

We will continue to try to make wise decisions based on data, with our fundamental mission in mind, to help our students learn and to generate scholarship. With our words and actions, I hope we can model for our students the stability and calm resilience required to have us emerge from this crisis as strong and ambitious as possible.

Be well,

Adrian Randolph

Henry Wade Rogers Professor of the Humanities
Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences
Northwestern University

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