Dear Members of the Faculty:
As you begin to prepare for the transition to fall, I wanted to write with some details and encouragement as we enter this new academic year. I cannot wait to return to a campus filled with life and energy. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen many of you in-person, and I know our students feel the same way.
We want you to feel safe and protected when you return, and vaccination status is an important element of that. As of July 27, we know that 87% of our campus has complied with our vaccine verification policy. This is incredible! These statistics come at a time when we expect peak levels of the Delta variant, but we also know our vaccines are highly effective in combating the variant.
I also want you to know that our enrollment continues to be strong. We expect just over 1,600 first-year students to join our community. When combined with returning students, we anticipate about 5,600 undergraduate and 6,000 graduate/professional students to be enrolled. I am delighted with these numbers and I know a big part of our draw is you, our esteemed faculty.
As you prepare to return, please take note of the following items:
- International Students: Learning the status of the return of our international students has been one of our challenges this summer.
- Visa Status: Through the good work of the Center for International Affairs, the Office of Undergraduate Studies, the Navigators, Undergraduate Admissions and many others, we are doing very directed outreach to determine the visa status of our students. Currently, we are encouraged to know that the processing of visas has hit pre-pandemic levels, so we are hopeful that many of our international students will indeed be with us in person this semester.
- Students Who Can’t Return: Simultaneously, school deans are determining how best to serve those students who can’t return. If the demand for a particular class from students who cannot return is large enough, we will determine if we can offer remote options. Otherwise, we are working with the students to figure out how best to help them continue along their educational pathways.
- Plexiglass Around Teaching Lecterns: Plexiglass barriers will remain in place during the first three weeks of the semester. Once our data shows that we can safely remove the barriers, we will then begin the process of removal. We are setting up an early removal process, however, for those who teach in classrooms where the plexiglass represents a pedagogical barrier. Please complete this form at least three weeks in advance of the start of our course, so that we can determine the feasibility of early removal.
- Masking: As you’ve read, we will require masking for the first three weeks of classes as we conduct baseline testing and gather COVID-19 data. As the instructor, however, you are permitted to remove your mask while teaching. Once our data shows that we can all safely remove our masks, we will inform the campus community. After that time, masks will not be required for fully vaccinated individuals, but may still be worn by anyone who chooses to do so. We encourage respect to go both ways on this topic and not to assume intent for wearing. Mask guidance—particularly in high transmission areas—is changing quickly. Again, we will update you should guidance change.
- Reorientation Webinars: Reorientation webinars will be held later this summer to cover any additional COVID-19-related topics. Please stay tuned for additional details.
- Prepare to Get Back in the Classroom: The Teaching + Learning Technologies team has introduced “Splash into Summer.” This series of webinars is focused on strategies for engaging learners and effectively using technology for teaching. While the sessions end July 30, recordings are available in Canvas.
Again, I am counting the days until our collective return to campus. You, our faculty, bring vitality to our halls. You bring vibrancy to our classrooms. I look forward to seeing you all soon.
Ben Vinson III
Provost and Executive Vice President