March 30, 2020
Dear Staff, Students and Faculty –
It is surreal to be writing my normal monthly message under such abnormal conditions. But I thought it would be helpful to continue this tradition, both as an opportunity to provide important updates, and to serve as a bridge to the future, when these updates can once again discuss more conventional subjects.
I know that your lives have been disrupted terribly by the virus, and my heart goes out to you all. Thank you to everyone for your incredible response to our challenges: faculty and staff for providing instruction and support for our students; students for embracing this unplanned educational experiment; and a special shout out to those who are cleaning our buildings, feeding our remaining students or ensuring the health and safety of our campuses. The resiliency of our university community is inspiring to me and to many others who have observed it.
A reminder that the best information about UNH operations during the COVID-19 pandemic is on our website, especially in the FAQ sections. I want to highlight that at this point access to buildings on all campuses is highly restricted for health and security reasons.
Last week, we announced that we are postponing commencement on all three campuses and cancelling Honors Convocation. Once we have a better sense of what the future holds, we will reschedule commencement to include honors recognition, and invite those who are graduating back to campus so that they can be recognized in the manner they deserve.
The COVID-19 virus is having a significant financial impact on the university as well. We are in the process of refunding payments for room, board and some fees to students, which represents a budget impact in the tens of millions of dollars. In the short term, we are cancelling nearly all business-related travel and restricting hiring. Detailed information for faculty and staff will be sent out in the coming days with further guidance on managing our budget.
My sincere wishes to you during this difficult time. We are an incredibly strong community and we will persevere.
James W. Dean Jr.
P.S. (If you don’t want to hear about books, you can skip this part!). I recently finished a tremendous book with a UNH alum as its hero. Bottle of Lies, by Katherine Eban, recounts the story of massive quality problems in generic medications that persisted for years. The main reason the FDA was able eventually to address these problems was the work of Dinesh Thakur (UNH ‘92G), who served as a whistleblower at great personal risk. I recently met Dinesh and he is as impressive in person as he comes off in the book. We hope to have him visit UNH again soon. Another great story is The Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas Preston. The book recounts a series of explorations to a remote (and this is an understatement) section of Honduras where there had been rumors of a lost city for many years. The two books overlap in their themes of ethics and health, and so are quite timely