May 8, 2020
Dear Members of the University Community,
After weeks of analysis and planning, and in consultation with the university system board of trustees, I am pleased to say that UNH is planning to welcome new and continuing students onto our campuses for the fall semester for in-person instruction. We pride ourselves on student success and we know that UNH students learn, grow and thrive best when they are able to experience in-person interactions and support services that our campuses provide. This decision is also based on discussions with faculty and staff leadership; as well as listening to our students, who overwhelmingly are telling us they want to come back to our campuses to experience the fullness of university life.
Our intention for the fall semester comes with several caveats. First, the health and safety of students, staff, faculty and our community remains our top priority. A return this fall will not look the same as any other time in UNH history. We don’t have all of the answers and ask for your patience and support as we continue to make decisions based on the evolving guidance from state and federal public health officials. We recognize this is an important decision and we take it seriously. We also recognize we have a responsibility to the communities we are located in and we will continue to make every effort possible to mitigate risks to our neighbors.
The university’s senior leaders, in partnership with a number of task forces across our campuses, are working to address questions about what living, learning and dining arrangements on our campuses may look like during this time of ongoing physical distancing or other measures. Plans for the fall include:
- A robust testing system will need to be in place prior to the start of the academic year and will continue during the school year. We are consulting with the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services and area hospitals. Anyone showing symptoms will be tested promptly and quarantined if positive, in space we will set aside for that purpose.
- We are reviewing several tracing and tracking options for early and thorough identification of at-risk contacts.
- We will follow and adhere to clear public health guidance, including physical distancing and dramatically enhanced cleaning of campuses' spaces, especially classrooms and common spaces.
- We will have ample masks/face protection and sanitizer.
- There will be options and flexibility for your education. Classes will be offered in a blended format to ensure access for everyone. Students can choose to stay home, be on campus and go to class, or be on campus but only attend some classes in person.
- We will provide appropriate accommodations to those employees who are at higher risk for the coronavirus. As a society, we are learning a lot right now about which jobs are most amenable to remote work, and about new and better ways to do such work. Additional information for faculty and staff will be forthcoming.
While there are still many unknowns, we do know that our success will require the support and commitment of everyone, especially our students. We have a shared responsibility to comply daily with safety and health protocols. Collectively we must make smart decisions to keep ourselves as well as our neighbors safe and healthy. This won’t be easy, but given how well the UNH community responded to the pandemic this spring, I am confident we can do this—together. We will be in touch regularly with updates. Thank you again for everything you’ve done to end this academic year on a high note and for everything I know you will do to keep us strong and successful. Be well, be safe.
James W. Dean Jr.