Skip to content

Breaking News


University of Colorado Boulder leaders fielded questions and frustration from the campus community during an hourlong town hall Tuesday about the decision to delay in-person learning by at least one month and to not host an in-person commencement ceremony in May.

Chancellor Phil DiStefano announced the changes in a letter to campus Thursday, citing Boulder County’s current level red status on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s coronavirus dial. Level red restrictions prohibit students from gathering with anyone outside their immediate households, and for students in residence halls, that would mean no one other than their roommate.

Making the announcement in the middle of finals week drew ire from students on social media, and DiStefano and interim Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke acknowledged that the timing was not ideal.

“We certainly apologize for giving that news during finals, however … we wanted to make sure that information got out as quickly as possible about graduation,” DiStefano said after an attendee called it a “bad idea” to announce the changes during finals week. “The one thing we didn’t want to do was to not say anything, and have individuals make plans for hotels and airfare and have to cancel.”

Students on a commencement committee are now working on an alternative and are accepting suggestions, DiStefano said.

“I know it was difficult, and I apologize for giving that information during the time when some of you were taking finals; however, what we heard from our parents and our students and our faculty and staff is that they really did want the information that we knew as early as possible and that’s why we chose to do it last week,” DiStefano said.

CU Boulder is not providing tuition refunds for the month of online learning that will happen in the spring semester, O’Rourke said.

“We are not planning on adjustments to tuition,” he said. “We will be incurring the same instructional costs that tuition pays for, and we need to make sure we’re enabling us to be able to return to in-person instruction, that we make the investments in technology necessary to allow for remote instruction during that introductory period.”

The university is looking at refunding some “location-based fees” that students won’t be using during the first few weeks, O’Rourke said.

Those include fees for athletics, the bike program, the transit pass and the operating portion of the rec center expansion fee, said spokesperson Melanie Marquez Parra. Like in the fall semester, main campus students who are only taking online classes will have those fees waived.

“We are working with these location-based programs on an approach based on the anticipated delayed start of in-person classes on Feb. 15 and will have more information to share soon,” Parra wrote in an email.

The university will also provide a 25% refund on room and board for students living on campus who are now moving in at least a month later, said Akirah Bradley, vice chancellor for student affairs.

The current plan to have all remote classes for the first month and bring students back to campus in February is contingent on Boulder County moving to a lower, less restrictive level on the state coronavirus dial — at least level orange, campus leaders reiterated Tuesday.

“We want to be in a position when people come back that we’re really confident we will be able to keep them here and be able to increase the number of experiences as the semester goes on and have this return to a much better experience than what people felt like they had in the fall where they were very frustrated by the shifting status,” O’Rourke said.

The campus should have better projections by the first or second week of January as post-holiday case numbers come out, O’Rourke said.

CU Boulder will distribute vaccines to the campus community when they are available, O’Rourke said, but that may not be until late spring or summer, based on the state’s prioritization of who gets vaccines first. Healthy young people are lower on the prioritization list than front-line workers and those at high risk for complications.

The university will not require employees to get coronavirus vaccines, O’Rourke said, given that the vaccine was approved under emergency authorization and is still considered experimental.

“We would certainly encourage people to take the vaccine as soon as they are able to do so, but we also want to make sure that we’re not compelling people to do it while it’s in this particular phase,” he said.

If the vaccine becomes an approved therapeutic, O’Rourke said, the university will evaluate its population of high-risk workers as well as the vaccine’s efficacy and side effects before requiring it for any employees.