A return to campus in fall

Dear campus community,

We offer our deepest appreciation for the extraordinary resilience you’ve shown over the past months in adapting to an unprecedented moment in history. The One U attitude and effort shown across our campus have been incredibly gratifying.

With summer session underway, we are now heavily focused on preparing a Return to Campus plan for the fall semester—which begins Aug. 24—that centers on a hybrid approach of in-person/online instruction and on-campus engagement. We are relying on guidance from health experts and state and federal authorities as we finalize our fall plan, which will closely align with what our institutional peers in Utah and other states are doing.

That said, this is a very fluid situation and we recognize that new developments—from surges in coronavirus cases to confirmation of a vaccine—may require us to adjust our plan and make new decisions in the weeks and months ahead.

The fundamental principle driving our decision-making is the high value we place in doing our part to protect the safety and well-being of our entire community—students, staff, faculty, patients and visitors. We’d like to remind our community members that as of today, the University of Utah remains in the orange phase, which allows very limited on-campus access. Please note that, when it is appropriate, our move to the yellow phase will likely lag about a week behind Salt Lake City’s move, as we need that time to put in place new protocols, especially in our research labs.

Our thanks to all those who diligently worked on the Return to Campus plan. We are pleased to announce our draft plan is ahead of schedule and is now available for review at returntocampus.utah.edu. The draft plan sets out both specific and general information for how we will operate during fall semester and will be accompanied by a significant communications plan to reinforce health and safety expectations. Dan Reed, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, and other campus leaders will be sharing faculty and staff specific information later today. We’d like to provide some highlights here:

  • Everyone on campus will be expected to wear a face-covering in common areas in buildings when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • All students, staff and faculty will be required to complete a brief online public health and safety course prior to returning to campus and then engage in daily health monitoring.
  • We anticipate that we will have hand sanitizer and wipes available in all classrooms and laboratories.
  • Physical distancing protocols will be in place that will limit capacity in classrooms and laboratories.
  • Preserving the in-person college experience of our first-year students and helping seniors complete their degrees are among our top priorities for the AY2020-2021.
  • We will have a vibrant set of fully online courses to serve those whose health may limit their ability to attend in-person instruction.
  • Adjustments will be made to campus living, dining, study and recreational amenities to promote public health.
  • Faculty and staff will have the opportunity to request temporary modifications in duties due to health concerns.
  • Classes will continue during the period previously identified as fall break (Oct. 4-11), though they may be in modified form.
  • In-person classroom instruction will finish by Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, and will then shift to online from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3. Final exams will be online the week of Dec. 7-11.

We know how important it is to the student college experience to be part of campus life and we are working to make that possible to the greatest extent we can.

We are providing this information now—recognizing some aspects of our plan are still in progress and that the situation could change rapidly—to allow you to prepare and also to give you an opportunity to provide feedback about the draft plan. Updates will be provided frequently throughout the summer. Please check the website (returntocampus.utah.edu) for information.

We recognize the significant uncertainty and anxiety that has accompanied this pandemic. As a university, the work we do matters to the society we serve—to the thousands of students who seek to start and continue their educational journeys at the U, to all of us waiting for solutions that come from research, and to those who rely on the university for health care and connection to community. Our work is too vital to halt indefinitely as we wait for an end to the pandemic.

We are in this together. Our success in meeting the challenges before us require a shared commitment to abide by our guidelines, to be agile and flexible as needed, and to treat each other with patience and kindness as we work to fulfill our mission as the state’s flagship university.

Thank you for your partnership,

Ruth Watkins
President

Mike Good
Senior Vice President for Health Sciences

Dan Reed
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs