University News

Spring calendar and Winter Commencement updates

The start of the spring semester has been delayed until Jan. 19. Winter Commencement has been postponed with the hope to hold a commencement next spring, which includes spring 2020 and winter 2020 graduates, in addition to our planned spring 2021 graduates.

The reflection of the Bell Tower.
The campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dear Carolina Community,

As you enter the final weeks of the fall semester, we want to update you on planning for the spring 2021 semester and Winter Commencement. We have been carefully listening to the voices of our community as we consider the important lessons learned from planning for the fall and prepare to make updates to our Roadmap to offer classes next semester.

We are announcing a revised calendar for the spring semester. As noted last month, the feedback from our Campus and Community Advisory Committee is essential to our planning, and this group continues to meet. The changes to the calendar incorporate their feedback as well as that of the roadmap implementation team, student and faculty advisory groups and the advice of our public health and medical content experts, state and Orange County health departments, and the UNC System.

We will delay the start of the semester by almost two weeks, until Tuesday, Jan. 19, providing the maximum time between winter break and the start of classes. This allows the largest implementation window for planning for the semester. This will delay the spring 2021 Commencement for one week, to Sunday, May 16. The last day of classes will be Wednesday, May 5, and exams will run Friday, May 7,until Friday, May 14. Registration for the spring 2021 semester will start on Nov. 30, 2020, shortly after fall final exams.

There will not be a traditional spring break during the semester in an effort to limit any potential spread of the virus caused by travel during an extended break. We have heard from many of you that we need to provide more breaks during the semester, so we will incorporate five days either individually or in combined clusters for that purpose. In addition, the schools and deans will make clear that these wellness days are intended as breaks from the semester — not for studying — so faculty will be instructed to avoid scheduling exams, quizzes and other major assignments on days following these breaks. The dates for the wellness days will be updated on the Registrar’s website soon.

Establishing our calendar for the spring is a significant step in our planning process, but many critical decisions remain. This includes how we may use campus-wide COVID-19 surveillance testing combined with expanded contact tracing, modes of instruction for spring courses, details about campus housing and plans for isolation and quarantine space, deadlines for spring registration and expectations and guidelines for on-campus and off-campus activities. We will share these additional details soon. Your ongoing participation in several efforts will help inform this decision making:

  • Students, faculty and staff should continue to follow our community standards and guidelines for mitigating the spread of the virus; when you follow Carolina’s 3 W’s you are upholding the shared responsibility we have as Tar Heels to keep one another safe;
  • Ongoing COVID-19 saliva-based surveillance testing at the Carolina Union is available for all students and is encouraged every 5 to 9 days;
  • Take advantage of the many opportunities to receive a flu shot while on campus, it is important for all students, faculty and staff to have a flu shot before coming to campus; and
  • Continue to provide feedback to members of our campus and community advisory committee and other leaders representing your constituency about your experience this semester and your hopes for the spring 2021 semester.

Winter Commencement will be postponed due to the ongoing health and safety concerns and considerations regarding COVID-19. Our hope is to hold a commencement next spring, which includes our spring 2020 and winter 2020 graduates, in addition to our planned spring 2021 graduates. We apologize for the disappointment and frustration that the postponement of our 2020 commencements have caused our graduates this year. We remain optimistic that a successful spring term can help open a safe path to a large, combined ceremony for all three graduating classes.

We recognize that this fall semester did not meet the expectations for many people in our community, and we have asked a lot from our students, faculty and staff as we shifted to remote learning twice in 2020. Since March, we have been making operational decisions and plans for our campus based on the best information and recommendations available about the coronavirus, and as our understanding of the virus changes, we must adapt our plans for the health and safety of our community. This will remain true for the spring semester. We have learned a lot from the past six months and will incorporate that into our approach. Thank you for your hard work, dedication and patience during these difficult times.


Kevin Guskiewicz

Robert Blouin