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.
The following message was shared with faculty and staff by University president Rev. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C., on Thursday, April 2:
Dear Staff and Faculty Colleagues:
If my recent experiences are like yours, the past few weeks have been filled with challenge and concern. Nearly every person across the globe has been touched by the COVID-19 pandemic, including everyone who is part of our UP community.
When challenging times arise, I remind myself to pause and identify gifts for which I can be grateful. Over the past few weeks, I find myself constantly returning to my gratitude for you, our staff and faculty. Despite the challenges in your own lives, you’ve continued to serve our mission and our students. You’ve exhibited tremendous creativity, flexibility, and grace. You’ve helped us to retain what’s so distinct about UP, even amid unsettled times. For your extraordinary efforts, please know of my gratitude and the gratitude of those we serve.
With this message, I’ll summarize where we’ve been and share where we’ll be going. I recognize that this email is lengthy, but I thank you for reading it in its entirety. First, to recap, in the past few weeks:
- We’ve maintained our strong commitment to students. Most students have returned home, and we continue to support approximately 140 students who remain on campus.
- We’ve transitioned to online education. This required a considerable amount of adjustment. However, students and faculty are becoming increasingly familiar with the instructional technology we’re now using, and UP’s approach to personalized education will continue notwithstanding this change in how it’s delivered.
- Most staff have transitioned to teleworking, and they’ve done so with trademark expertise, adaptability, and ingenuity.
- We’ve made the exceptionally difficult decision to cancel in-person Commencement. As I write this note to you, a cross-divisional effort is underway to plan an online Commencement that makes the best use of available technology.
- We’ve donated personal protective equipment to the health care providers at Providence Health & Services. As many of you know, Providence operates some of the busiest emergency departments in the Portland area and its doctors, nurses, and other health-care professionals are on the front lines of this pandemic in our community. Providence is a longstanding partner to UP and our School of Nursing, and I’m glad that we’ve taken steps to help keep its providers and patients safe.
Having shared this summary, I’d like to provide an overview of where we intend to go. As I do so, I note that the University’s financial standing is sound. We conduct scenario planning and we practice strict budget adherence to prepare ourselves for business disruptions. Nevertheless, the economic ramifications of COVID-19 have been unprecedented. We’re still unsure as to how this pandemic will impact enrollment, endowment performance, and the overall health of the global economy. We don’t know when we’ll be able to return to normal. These variables are subject to rapid change, and many of the factors contributing to the uncertainty of present times are simply beyond our control.
What remains within our control, however, are steps we can take now to protect our faculty and staff while safeguarding our ability to advance our institutional mission. While we hope for the best, we’re preparing for difficult times ahead and we’re taking necessary action now to put UP in the best possible position. As noted, summer enrollment, first-year enrollment in the fall, student retention, endowment performance, and the overall health of the economy may impact University finances. For a smaller, tuition-dependent institution like ours, we must all work with a spirit of camaraderie and collaboration to weather the present challenges.
The goal I have established for UP is to maintain the employment of all University employees. This is our top priority. We know that livelihoods and families depend on this, and our people are critical to our success as an institution. I understand that layoffs are currently a part of the national conversation. I recognize the stress and anxiety that many are facing when it comes to this issue. Before even considering options like layoffs, UP will evaluate all other available strategies, such as a freeze on salary increases, reductions in work hours, and other budget measures.
In an effort to be as transparent as possible, the points below detail the belt-tightening strategies we’ll employ in order to achieve our goals and limit discretionary spending:
- The University will impose a freeze on hiring until at least September 30, 2020. Exceptions will be granted on a case-by-case basis by the Budget Working Group, the group that is normally tasked with position approval.
- No business travel, conference attendance, or expenditure of professional development funds will be allowed during the summer months. This includes faculty travel to academic conferences. Some rare exceptions to this rule may occur.
- New capital expenditures will be limited to those required for the safe operation of campus or subject to a legal mandate.
- No overtime will be permitted for hourly staff, with exceptions evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
- All divisions and offices across campus will maintain their ongoing strict adherence to budgets.
- UP will continue to work with higher education trade associations and elected officials to seek support for higher ed institutions and their employees.
- In the future, staff hours may vary or be reduced due to specific job needs. However, if changes in work hours occur, this will happen no sooner than May 15. Staff hours are not changing at this time.
No final determinations have been made with respect to faculty and staff salary increases for the coming year. I emphasize that these belt-tightening strategies are intended to put our University in the best-possible position moving forward.
When I reflect on the history of UP, I am struck by numerous occasions in which the institution faced threats to its continued operations. On each occasion, faculty and staff displayed creativity, unity, resilience, and devotion to our community on The Bluff. The present times call upon all of us, collectively as faculty and staff, to do the same. With collaboration, discipline, and concern for one another, UP will endeavor to succeed in the present turbulence. Together, we’ll strive to pursue the same things we’ve pursued for the past 119 years: teaching and learning, faith and formation, service and leadership.
Be assured that the Holy Cross Community and I are praying for you and your loved ones. Please also know of my deep gratitude for all that you do on behalf of our University and its mission.
For more information or questions contact the president’s office at x7101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.