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Brown University will have trimesters this year to reduce the number of students on campus

Freshmen will wait until spring to start classes, and all students must be tested for COVID-19

Brown University.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE — In the face of the ongoing pandemic, Brown University plans to institute a three-semester academic year, with terms in the fall, the spring, and next summer, and all undergraduates will be able to attend two out of three terms on campus.

First-year students will not attend this fall, and if the coronavirus is still a danger in the spring, all sophomores will skip that term and attend in the summer instead.

In addition:

- All students and teachers must wear masks and practice safe distancing.

- Undergraduate dorm rooms will have just one occupant.

- All campus dining will be “grab-and-go.”


- All in-person classes will be limited to 20 students. The rest of the students in larger classes will participate remotely.

- All students will have the option to take classes online.

- All faculty will have the option to teach remotely.

- All students will be tested for COVID-19 when they arrive on campus and randomly throughout the year. They also will be asked to use a digital tool to record their daily symptoms.

“Although I am deeply disappointed that we can’t welcome our first-year students to campus in the fall, we simply don’t think that it is safe to have all undergraduates on campus simultaneously,” Brown president Christina H. Paxson said in a letter to the campus community Tuesday. “We hope that by the time the spring term begins, the public health situation will have improved enough that we no longer need a de-densified campus.”

If not, Brown may ask sophomores to leave for the spring term, to allow first-year students to arrive. Paxson said the university will decide by mid-fall.

The fall term starts Sept. 9. Like other colleges and universities in Rhode Island, Brown is switching to remote learning after the Thanksgiving break on Nov. 25, followed by remote final exams Dec. 7 to 11.


The spring term, when first-year students can start, begins Jan. 20, 2021, with remote studying on April 12, followed by remote finals April 19 to 23.

The summer term starts May 12, 2021, with remote studying Aug. 2 and remote finals Aug. 9 to 13.

The first-year students will be able to do some things in the fall: take one course remotely, for free and with credit, and participate in remote orientation, mentoring, and enrichment.

If any students test positive for the illness, the university said it has dormitory space to isolate them and to quarantine those who have potentially been exposed.

The Ivy League expects to announce a decision on fall sports on Wednesday.

Amanda Milkovits can be reached at Follow her @AmandaMilkovits.