Dear Politics Department community,

I am sure that everyone has seen President Eisgruber’s announcement about the University’s plans for Fall 2020 as well as the associated communications from various offices of the University.

In anticipation of these announcements, faculty and administrators in the Department have been planning for the Fall as well. We know that the Fall will be highly unusual, and that many of the elements of campus life that we cherish will have to be put on hold. Despite this awareness, the Department remains committed to delivering an outstanding education to our undergraduate and graduate students. Our goals for our students remain the same. We want to encourage our students to do bold and creative work that is rigorous and well-informed. Our faculty have been learning new technologies and pedagogical strategies this summer for delivering on these longstanding goals under difficult circumstances.

Our planning for the Fall is an ongoing process. Here is some information we can share with you now. We will continue to update. You may receive requests from Department administrators for information about your plans and intentions for the Fall. Please try to respond as quickly as possible.


Most teaching in the department will be in a remote format. Not all students will be on campus, and it is more equitable to teach all students in a single course using the same format. In addition, given their own health concerns, and the extraordinary precautions that would need to be taken for in-person teaching, many faculty are not comfortable with teaching in person. In general, we have not made major changes relative to what was announced in April to our course offerings for the Fall, although there are a few minor changes in the course line-up and/or scheduled times.

Undergraduate Politics courses (200 to 400 level)

These courses will all be taught in remote format, though it is possible that a limited number of precepts in some courses will be taught in person. We will make an announcement later in the summer about which if any precepts will be taught in person. Knowing that many precepts will be online, and recognizing the importance of small-group size for successful online discussions, we have reduced precept sizes substantially. Most precepts should have 7 to 9 students.

Undergraduate Fall Junior Workshops

Depending on student demand and availability, it is possible that a small number of these workshops will be conducted in person. Otherwise, these workshops will be conducted remotely. After learning more about our juniors’ plans, we will make an announcement later in the summer about which, if any, workshops will be offered in person.

Undergraduate Grading Policies

The Department’s normal policy is that departmental courses and independent work must be done on a graded basis. The Department will consider whether to reaffirm or amend this policy around the beginning of the Fall semester, and an announcement will be made at that time.

Graduate seminars

The default is that graduate seminars will be offered remotely or with an option to take the course entirely remotely. Depending on student demand and availability, it is possible that a small number of seminars will be conducted in person without a remote option. These seminars would have to follow University rules concerning masks, physical distancing, and so on. We will ensure that the number of in-person-only seminars is small enough so that students who remain off campus can continue to progress through the program. After learning more about graduate student plans, we will make an announcement later in the summer about which, if any, seminars will be offered in person. Because smaller groups tend to be more conducive to online teaching, we have taken some steps to reduce group size. POL 571 will be taught in two different sections. Several other seminars may be broken up into smaller discussion groups for part of the scheduled weekly meeting times.

Outside the classroom

We hope that some meetings and events that are not formally part of courses can occur in person. For example, we are exploring whether some meetings and events might occur outdoors. We want to do everything we can so that students can develop connections with one another and with faculty and broader research communities.

Department facilities

All facilities, including the Department offices, faculty offices, and graduate student carrells remain closed until further notice. We will keep you posted about reopenings.

Best wishes to all,

Alan Patten
Chair, Department of Politics