Fall Semester Update
Dear Faculty and Staff,
I hope you and your families are safe and healthy. In two weeks, we will begin perhaps the most unusual and challenging fall semester. Thank you for your patience and dedication as we plan to fulfill our mission of providing learning opportunities to our students in as safe an environment as possible.
It has been more than five months since we entered these trying times and I will be the first one to admit that it feels overwhelming and exhausting at times. University leaders are forced to make major decisions in a constantly shifting environment with less than full information. Faculty and staff are forced to fulfill their commitment while balancing many aspects of their personal lives. It is easy to get anxious and disheartened but we cannot afford to do so. I strongly believe that together we will find solutions and that our institutions will come out of it stronger and better.
I know that you are anxious about fall reopening of your institution and this is understandable. I want to assure you that a) your safety is paramount, and b) that all universities will continue to offer maximum flexibility to the maximum extent possible to accommodate your personal concerns and obligations.
We understand that these are unusually anxious times and that you have personal obligations including childcare or health care at home that must be balanced. Your health—physical and mental—is important to the well-functioning of universities.
UH System presidents and I continue to meet regularly and together this is what we have committed to do:
- All UH System universities will open for Fall Semester to provide instruction and services in multiple modalities: face-to-face, Hyflex, synchronous online and asynchronous online.
- Students will be able to choose the modality of their choice and change their selection if they feel vulnerable or if their situation changes at any time during the semester.
- Faculty will be able to choose the modality of their choice and change their selection at any point as long as course objectives are met and students continue to learn. Faculty are asked to inform and work with their department chairs to make it easy for the staff to adjust cleaning and contact tracing protocols.
- If staff can perform their function remotely, they are encouraged to do so as long as the needs of students and faculty are met. Staff is directed to work with their supervisors who are in the best position to decide how to perform their unit’s function and still provide accommodation to individual staff members. Please know that we do not have authority from the State of Texas to grant emergency leave, as was allowed in March-April, to anyone. Everyone has to contribute to the university’s mission, although you may have flexibility to do it remotely, if appropriate.
- Each university has a COVID Coordinator and a COVID committee to continuously and aggressively monitor the public health and safety condition on your campus.
Each university has extensive guidelines for monitoring and managing the virus approved by the UHS Board of Regents. You are encouraged to familiarize yourself with them.
- All universities will report the number of positive cases on campus and will follow protocols on contact tracing and isolation.
- Finally, and most importantly, please remain vigilant about your own health by performing daily self-health checks, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
Your leadership team is working tirelessly to ensure your safety. I personally want to assure you and your families that in consultation with medical experts, we have taken all the necessary precautions to create a campus environment that greatly reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Once again, I thank you for your patience and hard work. Our faculty and staff are doing many wonderful things that only make me humbler to be a part of the UHS family.