We remain confident that we will be in person to the fullest extent possible this fall. While we are focused on ensuring a successful spring and summer, we continue to take productive steps to prepare for the fall, including by ramping up our testing and other public health protocols; reviewing and updating our buildings, ventilation systems, and classroom configurations; and readying our residence halls.
Since our last Commencement update in early February, the university has engaged members of our community, particularly our graduating students and their families, in order to collect feedback and ideas and consider a range of scenarios for in-person graduation elements. The university now has announced plans for our 2021 Commencement celebrations.
The Office of the Provost has officially announced the national search for a vice provost for research, run by a faculty-led committee chaired by Paul Wahlbeck, Dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. We also are pleased to announce that Sylvia Ezekilova has been promoted to Executive Director of the Office of Sponsored Projects.
Although we have determined that the Summer 2021 term will continue with a mainly virtual operating status, the success of our efforts to contain the spread of the virus on campus has enabled us to begin initiating phased reopening of on-campus activity in preparation for the fall, when we will be back in person to the fullest extent possible.
As a result of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, the federal government has allocated GW and other universities additional funding to address the ongoing financial impact of the pandemic.
In the wake of incidents of racist violence and systemic injustices across the country, our students, faculty, and staff have come together to share their personal experiences, research, and recommendations to improve our efforts. In order to supplement these conversations and to gain additional insight, we will commission a comprehensive third-party diversity audit, the first in our university’s history.
The Faculty Senate resolved in November to update the university’s religious holiday policy, including significantly expanding the list of approved religious holidays and increasing the amount of time students have to inform professors of an upcoming absence for a holiday. The policy also includes a final examination provision, in which students observing a religious holiday during the final examination period are permitted to reschedule the examination that conflicts with their days of religious observance.