Today's Update: Tuesday, June 16

June 16, 2020

Dear Student Life Team, 

We are getting close to fall semester. Whether the speed it’s approaching is a good thing or not may depend on the eye of the beholder.  

As you know, the university plans to resume in-person classes for the fall semester. For some, the idea of going back to campus brings excitement and joy. It will be a relief to get back to workspaces and have more in-person contact with students and our colleagues. For others, it brings on a level of anxiety. COVID-19 is still out there, and a return to campus could mean more opportunities for exposure. Others are worried about child-care since we don’t have a clear picture of what K-12 education will look like.  

I hear and understand your concerns. We don’t have all the answers, and the answers we do have are subject to change based largely on factors outside of our control. I just want to assure you that all of these considerations, centered on our community’s health and safety, are playing a key role in how we determine our next steps and make these important and unprecedented decisions.  

I can give you some updates on our progress. 

Student Life, and the university, are taking a phased approach to gearing up for fall. That begins with roles that must be performed in person. For us, this mainly includes preparing facilities and programs to be ready for the return of students. Some examples include those who need to go into buildings to make sure the technology is working properly, everything from printers to AV capabilities. Our Dining Services team will need to get operations and inventory prepared and accomplish the necessary training. Event and facility staff will make sure that furniture, equipment in recreation centers, etc. is positioned, and secured, to promote physical distancing. Student Health Services staff will need to make sure Wilce is ready to open at full capacity.  

For every group (or individual) that comes back to campus there is an exception process to complete before receiving approval, and this includes detailing the specific purpose of the return. To be very clear, we are not fully repopulating campus at this time, and we are carefully considering what groups to bring back, and when. Likewise, we continue to encourage, and support, telework, and will do so for the foreseeable future. 

Over the past couple of weeks since the announcement, a major point of focus has been our approach to on-campus housing. As I shared before, we will have fewer students living in the halls next year, and we will also have to put protocols in place to ensure physical distancing. This will require an extended Move-In process (over a course of several days!) that limits the number of people moving in any building at one time. And when it comes to dining, mobile ordering and pick-up will be the preferred and most encouraged option for guests.  

All of these steps are being put in place to make our return to campus as safe as possible, and of course this heavily depends on things like face masks and physical distancing. I get a lot of questions about how the university will get campus community members to adhere to these guidelines. Once again, these questions are still being answered, but there is a university work group that is putting together recommendations on how to inspire and achieve community-wide commitment. I look forward to sharing more with you about this in the coming weeks. 

There will be many other steps moving forward, and undoubtedly the pace will pick up even more as we get closer to August. In the meantime, thank you for your patience and understanding. There is no doubt that this can be a stressful time, and please know, as I said in our Zoom all-team meeting, that my email door is always open. Together, we are Scarlet and Great.  

Melissa