May 27 Message to Faculty/Staff: Ramping up Return-to-Campus Planning

To Our Faculty and Staff:

This week, our planning for the 2020-2021 academic year began to accelerate, with inaugural meetings of the two groups developing processes for the return of additional faculty and students to campus. Provost Ben Vinson III and Vice President for Student Affairs Lou Stark chair the respective committees, which are charged to determine how best to bring people back to campus in ways that maintain their health and well-being.

We have learned much from the experiences of the 1,000 faculty and staff—and roughly 400 students—who remained on campus throughout the spring, as well as the nearly 100 staff who returned Monday, May 18. As of last Friday, our emergency management and health staff had assessed almost 70 work areas this month, with about 20 more scheduled for this week. Procurement leaders have done exceptional work in ferreting out ample disinfectant and other necessary supplies, while Health Services and Human Resources staff have responded to dozens of questions every day.

No process is perfect. We had a few hiccups with the supervisors’ part of the daily health assessment form, and some staff reluctant to return for a range of reasons. Programming tweaks and conversations appear to have ameliorated such issues, but we expect more will emerge as the number of people on campus increase. Nearly 4,000 of you have visited the Return to Campus website since it launched 10 days ago; please know that you do not have to wait until your unit is formally engaged in the reentry process to pose questions—every inquiry received provides an opportunity to consider ways to enhance and/or clarify our processes.

Provost Vinson’s faculty reentry group includes three dozen members, including all of the school deans, a faculty representative from each school’s executive committee or comparable group, and Faculty Senate representation. Vice President Stark’s group includes 20 individuals from across the university, as well as additional contributors on subcommittees for co-curricular activities, housing and residence life, and dining and purchasing. These two groups and the staff re-entry committee include members serving on all three bodies to ensure consistency regarding policies involving health and other related practices.

As I noted last week, I appreciate that the absence of firm fall plans can be unsettling at best. For those at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, just the idea of being on campus can cause some anxiety. Please know that we are working as quickly as possible to be able to provide more details, while also consulting widely with colleagues elsewhere and infectious disease experts among our local hospital partners and at other institutions. We want to ensure that education and research advances in the safest possible way, a goal that requires that we gather and weigh information from multiple reliable sources.

We will continue to provide regular updates on the progress of these groups and other developments; again, please do not hesitate to submit any questions you have that are not already addressed on the Return to Campus website.

Barbara R. Snyder