What we learned from a full COVID semester


Wesleyan’s Office of Institutional Research has conducted two sets of surveys of both students and faculty since the COVID pandemic shut down colleges and universities across the country in March 2020.

Our Fall 2020 COVID surveys were quite different from one another. While our spring surveys had a very similar structure — both faculty and students were asked almost exactly the same questions — in the fall we took a different approach. Our goal with both surveys was to gather information that would allow Wesleyan to implement intervention strategies as quickly as possible: either during the remaining half of the semester or in January in preparation for Spring 2021.

Student survey

Course and advising selection
Course experience
Progress towards degree
Residential experience
Sense of safety
Physical and mental health

Faculty survey

Teaching experience
Research experience
Work/life balance
Sense of safety



Both faculty and students reported feeling safe on campus, reporting that Wesleyan’s extensive COVID safety protocols seemed to be working.

Academic experience

Faculty reported having a slightly better experience with courses in the fall than students. The academic experience students was mixed, with students taking courses remotely reporting a less satisfactory experience than those on campus.

Recommendation: focus advising efforts on helping students choose the right balance and number of courses.

Student trends

Students missed having social interactions and often reported feeling lonely. Students reported experienced an increased workload relative to “normal” semesters, more stress, and struggles to access wellness resources.

Recommendation: continue to find creative ways for students to connect with one another and increase awareness of all wellness resources. Communicate repeatedly with students about how state guidelines shape our safety protocols and limitations on social interactions.

Faculty trends

Faculty’s ability to conduct research was drastically reduced, as was their ability to balance all responsibilities. Women more likely than men to report facing these challenges.

Recommendation: continue transparent approach to communicate with faculty about research expectations and promotion calendars.

Student & faculty

Both groups reported feeling safe on campus and in class, and viewed testing and compliance with safety protocols as going well.

This post summarizes the content of our presentation on 10.28.2020, which used the slide deck below.