Preparing for Spring 2022

January 23, 2022

Dear AUC Community,

I would like to start by expressing my deepest gratitude to the many members of the AUC community — faculty, students, staff — who have been working hard to see us complete Fall 2021 as our first fully face-to-face semester since the pandemic began. This is no small feat as we enter Spring 2022, equally determined to deliver the semester safely and prudently face-to-face.

Our plans for Spring 2022 remain unchanged. Our top priority is to keep the community safe while providing our students with a full face-to-face educational experience. As we continue to monitor the trajectory of the pandemic, we will share our current thinking in responding to the pandemic, and further updates or changes to our plans.

Our preparations for the start of the Spring 2022 semester are shaped by input from our COVID Response Task Force and the AUC Scientific Committee. In recent weeks, we have seen the emergence and rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the whole world. With this rapid increase of infection cases, we are closely monitoring the situation on campus, in Egypt and globally, and are informed by guidance from national public health authorities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and from the practices and responses by local and international universities and authorities to the current wave of the pandemic.

While Omicron is spreading much faster than all earlier variants of the virus; fortunately, it appears to be causing milder disease and less severe illness, especially for the vaccinated. In light of the significant shift in the nature of the spread and severity of illness, we need to continue to revisit the key variables, metrics and safety measures developed for earlier phases of the pandemic to guide our decision making going forward. We — like all institutions around the world — have to once again respond to the evolving dynamics of the pandemic.

Below are several updates.

Week of January 23 to 27

During this week prior to the start of Spring 2022, we are taking additional precautions. With the exception of student orientation, all events that are planned for this week will shift to be virtual or postponed to later dates.

We are also giving managers greater flexibility in determining needed staff presence on campus while ensuring that the University remains fully operational and that all services continue uninterrupted.

Contact Tracing Enhancements

During the Winter term, we introduced pilots for two new process enhancements that we will fully implement in Spring 2022.

The first is an enhanced automated process for managing the contacts and testing when positive cases are identified in the classroom. Students and faculty will now be notified immediately after the case is reported and informed of exactly when they need to test. Most importantly, the system will automatically block campus access until testing takes place.  

The second process enhancement is the introduction of optional seating charts, which permit more selective testing of individuals in close proximity to a positive case, as opposed to the entire class.

Postponing Fall 2021 Commencement

Due to the uncertainty around the trajectory of the current variant, and the large numbers of people who participate in commencement, we have decided to postpone the Fall 2021 commencements that were planned for February 2022. After careful consideration of all possible options, we felt it imperative to prioritize the health and safety of our graduates and their families, as well as AUC faculty and staff.

I know this is disappointing news for all of us, especially graduating students and their families. We continue to collectively work through the challenges of the pandemic and will plan ahead for the well-deserved celebration of graduation. By the end of February, we will reassess the COVID-19 situation and communicate new dates for the Fall 2021 commencements.

Accommodations for High-Risk Individuals

Recognizing that there are members of our community who are at a higher risk due to underlying medical conditions, we have established guidelines for those who seek accommodations due to being high-risk. You can find the full guidelines and the form to request such accommodations here.

Masking and Distancing

As we continue to adapt to the changing pandemic, we must remain vigilant in applying precautions, especially to protect those who are most vulnerable. I remind all members of our community that wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance are two essential precautions with proven results. Masks are required to be worn at all times at AUC, indoors and outdoors, unless you are alone.  If you are experiencing any symptoms or have been in direct contact with someone who is positive, please contact the medical services team immediately. Hotline: +2.012.8000.1039. New Cairo Clinic: +2.02.2615.4000. Tahrir Clinic: +2.02.2797.5000.

In addition to testing, masking, physical distancing and reduced density, the most significant pillar of our response to the pandemic is vaccination. Full vaccination is a requirement for members of our community and we are working to facilitate the booster shot.

I recognize the stress and uncertainty we continue to confront in the face of a rapidly evolving pandemic.  I appreciate the engagement of each member of our community as we continue to work together to deliver our academic mission, while protecting the health and safety of the entire community.

Sincerely,

Ahmad Dallal
President