Dear UVM Community: On April 16, I shared with you plans for the formation of the UVMStrong—Fall 2020 Advisory Committee to guide the university’s planning efforts for the fall semester. The committee, chaired by Vice President for Operations and Public Safety Gary Derr, was tasked with developing strategies and protocols to prepare UVM for a safe return to on-campus operations.
The committee has now met multiple times and integrated feedback from several distinct but interconnected areas, including Student Experience, Faculty and Academic Affairs, Research and Graduate Education, and Business and Institutional Continuity. It has been guided by its focus on the health and safety of the entire UVM and surrounding communities, and the ongoing education and preparation of our students.
Over the past few weeks, a number of other universities across the nation have also formed cross-functional committees to establish their own measures for a return to on-campus instruction. The UVMStrong Committee has been monitoring their actions and recommendations within the context of what may—or may not—work for our own community.
Some measures being explored include:
- Ongoing testing protocols coupled with contact tracing and plans to support quarantine and isolation strategies.
- Updated vaccination requirements to include the flu vaccine.
- Residence options that reduce density and provide for quarantine facilities.
- Revised class schedules to accommodate smaller class sizes.
- A modified campus calendar, with an earlier start and finish, and elimination of usual fall breaks.
- Multiple modes of instructional delivery, including significantly enhanced online options.
- Ongoing telework/remote options for some employees, to ensure lower concentrations of individuals on campus and to help accommodate the more vulnerable among us.
- Procurement of adequate stocks of critical equipment and supplies required to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Treatment options for students include coordination with UVM’s Center for Health and Wellbeing, which would follow protocols outlined by the Vermont Department of Health. UVM also benefits from its close proximity and access to the UVM Medical Center, which has demonstrated significant capability in the management of COVID-19 cases.
Based on work to date, the UVMStrong committee will now convene four working groups with more than 50 representatives from across the university. These groups will include members of the Faculty Senate Executive Council, along with staff and student representatives. They also will draw heavily on the expertise of our faculty experts in public health and medicine, and interface with the Vermont Department of Health, Governor Phil Scott and the Vermont Legislature, and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.
The committee and its working groups will develop strategies for multiple scenarios. As such, I do not expect that we would arrive at a single working plan for the fall semester. Rather, we will have a strong framework of options that will enable us to meet emerging and evolving needs. The committee’s first report is expected June 15. After that, you can expect ongoing updates which we will share throughout the summer via email, through periodic online live conversations, and on the COVID-19 website.
Finally, I want to reiterate that while I am confident of a return to on-campus instruction this fall, we will take all necessary precautions. Much will be expected of each of us in order to keep our larger community safe, but I know that we all are ready to meet the challenge. Our institution exists to educate our students. We must fulfill this solemn obligation, but we will do so while also taking actions that will help safeguard our entire community.
With best wishes,
President, University of Vermont