Dear UP Students, Faculty, Staff, and Families:
I pray that this message finds you and your loved ones well.
The current circumstances are unprecedented and challenging. Our human family has experienced tremendous suffering, loss, doubt, and disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In times like these, I find myself thinking of a refrain derived from the Constitutions of Holy Cross: we are called to be “people with hope to bring.”
Hope can seem distant and detached from reality in times of difficulty. But at UP, hope is an essential part of our DNA. It is in this very spirit of hope that I write to you with information about UP’s intention to safely return to in-person instruction, face-to-face working conditions, and campus activity and residentiality.
In my video message on April 27, I shared our goal of resuming in-person instruction in the Fall Semester. For the past several weeks, UP leadership and staff have been working to design and implement multi-level, comprehensive strategies for the resumption of University operations. Three inter-divisional task forces have been assembled to formulate and execute operational resumption activities. These task forces and their assignments are as follows:
- Academics – All matters related to the provision of instruction and academic services.
- Campus Life – All matters related to campus activity, residentiality, and community welfare.
- Operations – All matters related to management of the University’s physical spaces and technology infrastructure.
In addition to these task forces, intra-departmental teams in areas such as Financial Affairs, Human Resources, and Athletics are conducting important operational resumption work.
I have directed the leadership of these task forces and teams to abide by four guiding principles in their work: (1) maximize the health, safety, and wellbeing of all community members; (2) act in a mission-consistent, data-informed manner; (3) promote continuity of University services; and, (4) communicate with community members quickly and clearly. I thank them for the work that they have accomplished and the work that is to come.
As of today, we intend to commence our Fall Semester on Monday, August 17. Residence halls and on-campus dining facilities will open on this date. Staggered move-ins will occur during the early part of this week. Mandatory orientation sessions and coursework introductions will take place for all students. Further guidance on this period, including specific arrival instructions for on-campus residents, will be provided over the course of the summer months. Students and families should wait for further instructions prior to making travel plans and other arrangements for their return to campus during the first half of the week of August 17. We will begin in-person class instruction for the Fall Semester on Monday, August 24.
We will also make the following modifications to the academic calendar for fall 2020:
- We will forgo a traditional Fall Break in October. Doing so will permit us to achieve the necessary hours of instruction while reducing the likelihood that community members will leave, become exposed to infectious agents at their destinations, and bring those agents with them upon their return to UP.
- In-person instruction will end on Wednesday, November 25, in advance of our Thanksgiving Break. Students will leave campus and will not return for the remainder of the Fall Semester. We will undertake efforts to make students’ departure from campus safe and orderly.
- Beginning Monday, November 30, and concluding Thursday, December 3, final exams will be administered online.
In addition to these changes to the academic calendar, we will also have to make modifications to the campus experience. We will adhere to strict health and safety protocols, including social distancing; de-densification of residence halls, academic buildings, and other campus spaces; testing; contact tracing; frequent cleaning; and the wearing of face masks. We will prepare for the potential need to isolate or quarantine residential students who test positive or may have been exposed to COVID-19. Health and safety protocols for faculty and staff will also be implemented. Additionally, we must be prepared for the possibility of a severe new outbreak of COVID-19. Unfortunately, we cannot rule out the need to quickly return to virtual instruction or make further modifications to the academic calendar.
There are many variables still beyond our control, including directives from local, state, and national health authorities that could potentially cause us to reconsider our plans. But we shall proceed in a spirit of hope that, with current positive trends around testing and treatment, as well as the ingenuity and determination of many across campus, we will be able to safely resume University operations.
There will be multiple communications from the University throughout the coming months to keep you informed of our planning and to instruct you on key steps to be taken by UP students and parents. University employees will receive further guidance from the Office of Human Resources on telework and other work-related conditions. I know that you have many questions, and we thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we roll out our plans over the coming months.
Along with the Holy Cross Community here at UP, I am praying for your continued health and safety, as well as all who are on the front lines of this pandemic. I pray also in thanksgiving for UP’s dedicated faculty and staff, resilient students, supportive families, and faith-filled mission.
Fr. Mark Poorman, C.S.C.