June 22, 2020
I am writing today to share with you updates related to current planning for re-opening our campuses and plans for the fall as a follow up to our Town Hall meeting last week.
The decisions around returning to campus are complex and are contingent on key internal and external metrics from the federal and state levels. A key aspect to current planning is flexibility around a set of operating modes that will respond to those internal and external variables. The goal is to provide the highest quality educational and campus experiences while protecting the health and safety of our community.
As we announced earlier, we have had 13 teams of faculty, staff and students working on re-opening scenarios and making recommendations for operations in the next academic year. Drafts of these have been reviewed by campus leadership groups and the framework is now available on the web. This plan targets the fall semester in a limited condition yellow mode of operation with students on campus and low-density face-to-face education. These plans will continue to evolve as colleges and units develop and implement their office operations within this framework. This mode of operation would have 50-60% of staff on campus and most of those in student facing roles. More details will be provided on which positions will remain remote later in the summer.
While a new website shares more details, I would like to provide key aspects of the re-opening framework as they exist today.
- The semester will start as currently scheduled with the first day of classes on August 31 (Aug. 24 for UNH Law). We will maximize class time prior to the Thanksgiving holiday and, pending faculty senate approval, will cancel fall holidays and use them as instruction days. Students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving and will complete the last 10 days of the semester and final exams remotely and faculty will build this into their syllabi.
- Residence halls will operate at reduced density including no triples or quads. Two residence halls will be reserved for quarantine space. Dining facilities will also operate at reduced density of 50% or less. Students will arrive to campus over a three-week period to keep density low during move in as well.
- COVID-19 testing will be in place for students, faculty and staff. Working closely with N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, regular testing of all campus community members will be required based on current CDC recommendations. We have partnered with N.H. DHHS and area hospitals to ensure that enough capacity is available for regular testing and will also open a testing facility on campus.
- Contact tracing will be performed in collaboration with state health officials. Our goal is to identify and isolate infected individuals within 24 hours of a positive test.
- Every member of the university community and visitors will be required to wear cloth face coverings/masks in classrooms and labs as well as in all public areas. There will be masks available for anyone that does not have one. If a medical condition prevents you from wearing a mask, we will work with medical professionals and Human Resources to identify a solution for your return to campus.
- An extensive public health campaign will be initiated in partnership with student leadership around hygiene, face mask usage, health monitoring and testing/tracing/physical distancing. We have been working with the student senate to update the Student Rights, Rules and Responsibilities handbook. Living and learning on campus is a privilege that will be lost for students who do not adhere to these guidelines.
- Health screening and monitoring will be required for all faculty, staff and students. A strict ‘stay home when ill’ policy will be in effect at all times.
- We will institute new, extensive sanitizing and increased cleaning for all areas of the campus and repeatedly for high touch surfaces in common areas. We are also working to increase air ventilation in all buildings.
While our commitment to student success has us hard at work preparing for campus-based instruction this fall, we are mindful that some of our colleagues may require temporary reasonable accommodations due to their health or other factors. We have developed an expedited process for accommodation and workplace adjustment requests. We ask that requests be submitted as soon as possible, preferably by June 30, 2020. Priority review will be given to those with more serious medical conditions as well as those who provide or support teaching due to potential impacts on teaching and classroom schedules.
Over the next month, we will be carefully reviewing the public health situation and our assumptions based on the latest information available for the state and the region. We will continue to update you through the website, email, meetings with your faculty and staff representatives, and in monthly town hall forums.
Responding to the COVID-19 crisis has been difficult for students, faculty and staff alike. Yet, you have stepped up in the face of uncertainty. As we move toward this new normal, the keys to our success will continue to be flexibility, understanding and cooperation. UNH is a resilient community and I know that we are all trying to do what is best to achieve our mission. I know we can meet this challenge with grace, creativity and a continued uncommon commitment to student success.