Planning for Spring
Dear Faculty and Staff:
This week Provost Robinson sent a message to students encouraging them to begin working with advisors to determine their course load for the spring semester and what combination of hybrid, remote, and in-person classes they will take -- along with a distributed spring break. At this point, we are encouraging them to take more in-person and hybrid classes, as well as our faculty to provide them, in the belief that they can be done safely based on the low infection rates among faculty, staff and graduate students.
Provost Robinson and I believe that in-person classes are important to the energy and atmosphere of campus and are critical to making a University of Arkansas education unique. As I noted in my state of the university address, “We aren’t an online or remote university. It’s not who we are. College isn’t only a formal classroom education. It’s also an experience – an experience that is enriched by contact with faculty and other students. I am saddened that our students are largely missing this experience.” Collectively, I believe we need to work toward a greater proportion of what we do best: face-to-face instruction.
With more in-person courses and more students on campus this spring, keeping the community closer to campus will be important. That was a key factor in our decision to spread out the traditional student Spring Break days throughout the semester as many other universities are doing. The faculty and staff Spring Break holiday will remain Friday, March 26. While any change to Spring Break may be unpopular to some, students and faculty were included as a part of the decision-making process and agreed that this was our best option.
In the coming weeks, we will be finalizing updates to our Return to Campus plan with an eye toward appropriately, and safely, staffing campus, particularly student-facing services. This will be shared with our campus community as soon as possible. The upshot is that as more students return to campus, more faculty and staff will be needed to teach and support them. But please know that nothing is set in stone. We will continue watching the latest numbers of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas and nationally and will continue to adjust all planning in accordance with the health and safety needs of our campus community.
Joe Steinmetz, Ph.D.
P.S. If you have received a positive COVID-19 test from an off-campus provider, we are asking all employees and students to self-report. This is not punitive, but rather proactive so that we can understand potential clusters and aid contact tracing.