Letter from the Chancellor: August 14, 2020
Dear U of A community:
The fall semester fast approaches! For some, this is a source of excitement, for others it may be cause for consternation. We’re working very hard to increase the former and reduce the latter. Over the last several months, faculty and staff have made extraordinary efforts to get our campus ready for this semester.
A great way to learn more about these efforts is to read this recap of Wednesday’s online forum, where several campus experts provided in-depth updates on health and safety precautions related to residence halls, classrooms, COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and support services for students in the event they are quarantined. Also discussed were efforts to improve the campus racial climate, which remains a priority. It was a great conversation that provided a window into just how comprehensive campus planning has been.
I think the question we hear most these days starts with, “Have you thought of…?” Anyone who attended this forum, or reads the recap, can see the depth of consideration and caution exercised to date to ensure the safest possible return this fall.
The reality, though, is that it doesn’t matter how many face coverings we provide or how many classrooms we disinfect and reconfigure for social distancing if accepted guidelines aren’t followed outside of the classroom, as well. Our campus community must adhere to well established protocols for physical distancing, wearing masks, handwashing, and avoiding crowds – whether we are on campus or off. This is not the Middle Ages, there are no castle walls to protect us. We have to protect each other through our actions. As a campus that is also an inextricable part of its community, we are truly in this together.
So I will again emphasize how important it is that everyone comply with the use of face coverings in all settings that require them. While we do not anticipate resistance to this policy – our campus has overwhelmingly shown it understands the need - we are prepared to institute Code of Student Conduct violations or utilize the Progressive Discipline Policy for employees if it becomes necessary. Let’s ensure it doesn’t by respecting each other’s health and welfare. And of course testing and other medical services are available on campus at the Pat Walker Health Center.
I also wanted to make our faculty aware of a new website, Keepteaching.uark.edu, which provides resources for remote and hybrid teaching. We want to provide our faculty with as many tools as you need to make a successful transition to remote or hybrid teaching and learning. Depending on the type of course you teach, this can be more of a challenge for some classes than others, and we are doing everything we can to be part of the solution.
Finally, I want you to know that we are committed to holding regular events such as Wednesday’s forum to provide timely, transparent and interactive updates. It’s important to know not just what is happening, but why it is happening, while also providing a forum for addressing concerns and asking questions. So if you couldn’t make the last one, I hope you can make the next.
Take care, stay safe and mask up.
Joe Steinmetz, Ph.D.