We are, unfortunately, facing yet another semester of managing our mission through both the direct health impacts of COVID, and the indirect personal, family, and social stress of COVID consequences. As we have done successfully for the last 2 years, we will work together to support the health and safety of all in our community while delivering on our student success, research, and public outreach missions with the dedication that defines UNH.
This message is to provide additional guidance to academic affairs faculty and staff following President Dean’s message.
Please Note: This communication, in consultation with Kevin Healey and Matt MacManes, addresses to the best of our joint ability, the issues that faculty have been raising to their senate and college leadership. We are also aware of and working through supervisors to ensure that we are also addressing the unique needs and questions of staff, graduate students, and all employees. Subsequent communications are forthcoming (or in some specific cases have already been sent) to a broader community audience to address the specifics of pre-arrival and arrival testing, as well as a more inclusive view of all campus activities.
Decision Making Process:
Courses for the spring semester at all three campuses will begin as scheduled and, in the modality listed at registration. We are not, at this time, going to make any universal modality changes. We came to this decision in consultation with faculty and on-campus experts in Epidemiology and Public Health including the many multi-functional teams across campus who work to keep us safe. Among the many factors which were, and continue to be, considered are:
• Our commitment to residential in-person education, research and creative endeavors, and public outreach – most of which benefits from the in-person work and educational setting
• The need to get our faculty, staff and students into our testing program as quickly as possible and keep them in the testing program for each individual’s health as well as the health of the community
• Increasing data about the benefits to faculty and students of in-person class modalities during this time
• Past data on lack of transmission the classroom and educational settings
• Our high vaccination rates and the effectiveness and availability of the booster
• Any unique considerations of the three campuses.
• Public health recommendations and guidance from CDC and NH DHHS
• Our own testing data and data from across the state and region
• Our testing capabilities and limitations, which may include the use of rapid antigen-based tests.
• Our ability to provide on-campus quarantine and isolation to students in need, even when positivity rates are high.
While we are committed to our largely in-person class modalities, we recognize the disruption that isolation and quarantine have on the educational environment. We are counting on each instructor (TAs please refer to your supervising faculty member) to use their judgement to temporarily adjust modality and/or assignments as needed to best serve the educational goals of your course, to inform their immediate supervisor, and to seek advice from their department chair or Dean’s office when needed. Because we know COVID will be a factor this semester, we expect that you continue to take care of your own physical and emotional health, and ask you to support your colleagues and assist students in making progress in your course if they are ill, in isolation, or quarantine. We also know COVID will continue to impact all our employees and their families, and we are committed to supporting our community during this time. As with last semester, we trust our faculty and TAs to responsibly accommodate their class in the way which makes sense for their educational setting, if COVID impacts their ability to be in the classroom or office. If extenuating circumstances require more than a short-term solution, please work with your supervisor or dean’s office or HR partner to identify solutions.
With the omicron variant, we expect that this semester’s student arrival peak of COVID positives will be our largest yet. The University is doing everything we can to encourage students to test before they arrive and requiring them to stay home if they test positive for COVID. We cannot require pre-arrival tests, as the availability of test kits varies drastically by location and not everyone can easily drive to campus. We are also requiring arrival testing. We are designing arrival testing so that most of our community will have two negative tests - and everyone must have at least one negative test - before their Wildcat Pass is valid. More on pre-arrival and arrival testing processes by campus are coming (or have already been sent if your campus has started arrival testing). Because we expect to see a large number of students in quarantine or isolation at the start of the semester, we recommend that each instructor make plans for how they wish to handle more than normal absences (of students, TAs or instructional staff) at the beginning of the semester. Please note that students are being told, as usual, to check their course Canvas site for any announcements such as a temporary change in modality. Please be sure to use Canvas as your primary communication tool with students.
Isolation and Quarantine letters will continue to be provided by the Dean of Students office within 24 hours of a confirmed positive test. During periods of high positivity rates, there could be delays in the Health and Wellness confirmation of a potential positive, which leads to delays in informing the Dean’s Office that a letter is needed. In those cases, students will be told to inform their faculty member immediately and we ask that you use your best judgement and provide any necessary accommodations even if the Dean’s Letter is delayed.
There are no changes to mask policies in the classroom: masks are required of everyone in any indoor space unless actively eating in the dining hall or following residence hall protocols. We strongly encourage faculty, staff and TAs to check the Wildcat Pass, as everyone must have a valid Wildcat Pass to be on campus from the first day they arrive. Here are some helpful hints for integrating Wildcat Pass in your class, collected from fellow faculty.
Research and Creative Endeavors Operations:
There are no changes in research or scholarship operations for the spring semester. Please continue to follow COVID protocols.
Other Educational Activities:
At this time, there are no additional restrictions on field trips, internships, faculty travel, or performances. Current restrictions which have been in place this academic year remain. This may change as we receive arrival testing results or if other external community or State indicators change.
There are no changes to curtailed operations policies for courses or academic offices. Faculty should communicate in their syllabus and with their students how they would handle curtailed operations for the class. If you have any questions about curtailed operations, please speak with your department chair or Dean’s office. Please be sensitive to equitable access as you determine how to manage your course during curtailed operations.
Accommodations and Resources:
Any faculty member, staff member or TA may apply for a medical or family accommodation through Affirmative Action . KN95 masks are available for all faculty and front-line staff who voluntarily choose to request them. We are working with EH&S to streamline a process for distribution of those masks through central college offices and other campus locations. This will be in place next week. If you have a wish to procure a KN95 mask before next week, they are readily available in drug stores and through internet suppliers, or may fill out this form and submit to Ron O’Keefe. HVAC systems commissioning in preparation for classes is currently underway including a focus on increased air flow. Please see this link for up-to-date information. Per normal, any issues with facilities should be reported as soon as possible as directed per https://www.unh.edu/facilities/.
The Resource Hub is currently being updated with the latest teaching resources. CEITL has a list of webinar offerings and on-line resources tailored to this semester’s needs. The syllabus guidance is currently being updated, has no substantive changes as our modality is consistent with last semester, and can be found here or through the Resource Hub.
As COVID impacts every aspect of our university, the impacts of operational decisions are multi-faceted and complex. Faculty and staff input has been and will continue to be present in groups on testing and tracing, classroom protocols, Wildcat Pass use, Wildcat Pledge development, Incident Response Team, and other groups at the unit and college level. We particularly thank the faculty in HHS, COLSA, and CEPS that have provided invaluable input in their areas of expertise, and the staff who work tirelessly in the COVID lab and H&W. In addition, the provost’s office and the faculty senate leadership have open communication channels to discuss both raised concerns and various planning activities, and our response to the pandemic has benefitted from an active partnership with Senate leadership that has ensured that faculty voices, especially our colleagues with specialized expertise, are involved in important decision-making processes.
The physical, emotional, and mental health of all members of our community are a top concern. The University will continue to monitor the data locally and regionally, incorporate CDC and NH DHHS guidance, consult with experts from across the campus, and keep the community informed through the COVID website, the provosts web page, and direct communication. We have confidence that our faculty and staff will continue the uncommon commitment to student success that is the centerpiece of the UNH experience.
Thank you for everything you do in support of UNH and our students.
Wayne E. Jones Jr., Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Katherine (Kate) S. Ziemer, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs