UNCG Outlook for Fall 2020: A message from Chancellor Gilliam
Dear campus community,
There is a great deal of thoughtful discussion and debate about the Fall 2020 semester at UNCG and at universities around the country. While we still have much to consider, UNCG expects to open our doors and arms to our students on campus, in person, this fall.
We will have to make some realistic adjustments, of course. And to be clear, the safety of everyone in our extended community – especially those most at risk – will be the preeminent consideration in anything we do. But across the UNC System, it is our shared goal to return to campus, while ensuring we are well-prepared for any curve balls that COVID-19 may throw our way.
I think it is essential to start with a fundamentally important point: Being on campus matters. For many of our undergraduate students, and most particularly our incoming freshmen, being on campus together is at the very heart of our efforts to support the rich opportunities that come with college life – the opportunity to find mentors and friends, to explore new interests, and to practice independence while knowing we are here for you. I suspect that our community, like those at other universities, feels deeply that when we do not have the ability to come together, something vital is missing.
With that in mind, UNCG and our sister institutions across the UNC System are exploring a wide range of scenarios. The primary assumption is that being on campus this fall will look and feel a bit different. Processes, procedures, and protocols will have to change based on what we have learned about this virus and the conditions at the time. These changes, for instance, will impact many things – gathering sizes, performances, events, athletics, and numbers of residential students. In short, the most likely options will take a few steps back from a full return to normal.
The ability to implement appropriate protective measures and physical distancing for everyone on our campus will drive our discussions and our decisions as we plan. We know special care has to be taken to protect faculty and staff, students, and members of our community who are at higher risk, and these considerations are fundamentally important to how we approach the Fall and beyond.
We urge students to take steps now to be ready, even if things remain “subject to change.” Fall registration is open and classes are filling up. Please register, talk to your advisors, and maximize the opportunities available this summer in classes that were designed specifically to be online to maintain progress toward your degree – especially if the disruptions this spring have impacted your timeline. Students will have the same grading flexibility and extended deadlines this summer that they do in the current term.
Even once we come back, we expect more students will take some of their classes online. As we discovered, we have the capability to quickly transition a high volume of courses online to help students preserve academic continuity and progress. Under extreme conditions, our students have shown a capacity for online learning that perhaps they did not even know they had. Moving forward, we will be able to enhance the online experience in terms of both course design and student support services. While we intend to physically be here in the fall, it’s our responsibility to be prepared for any scenario, including the need to once again move to online instruction only.
The wonderful thing about universities, though, is that they are designed to foster great thinking, creative problem-solving, and the ability to tackle the big challenges confronting society. Indeed, that is really the point of the academic enterprise. And our team is focused on and deeply committed to bringing life and vibrancy back to UNCG’s campus this fall.
Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr.
UNC System Interim President: Moving Forward Toward Fall 2020
Chapel Hill, NC– UNC System Interim President Bill Roper has issued the following statement regarding plans for the Fall 2020 semester:
“Recent data in North Carolina are showing positive trends that suggest our collective efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19 are paying off.
Our institutions have done a remarkable job serving their students during this time of crisis. Our speedy adaptation to remote teaching and learning was a necessary and invaluable step to preserve the continuity of our students’ academic pursuits while protecting health and safety. But for many in the UNC System, digital learning technologies simply cannot be a long-term substitute for the facilities and community that our campuses provide. The majority of our faculty and students need access to our libraries, labs, classrooms, and medical and agriculture facilities to fully engage with their research, teaching, learning, and service work.
We are optimistically seeing indications of improvement and hopeful that this will continue. But these trends will continue only if we stay focused and diligent, which we must and will do. North Carolina will likely have improved capacity for tracking student exposure and greater access to the tools, materials, and supplies that can help minimize the virus’s threat.
I expect to reopen our campuses for the Fall 2020 Semester and look forward to welcoming our faculty and students back to their classrooms and labs this fall. To do so, we are working closely with our chancellors to chart a course forward.
Each and every step the UNC System takes will continue to prioritize health and safety. Until a vaccine is developed, many members of our community may not be able to risk teaching or attending in-person classes. The UNC System recognizes the needs of our faculty and staff; our older, non-traditional students; or the members of our community with underlying health concerns.
We must and we will consider steps to protect these vulnerable populations.
Our chancellors will have flexibility to determine what local steps they need to take to protect all students, staff and faculty, especially high-risk populations, both on campus and off. They will have the ability to put unique precautions in place.
As examples, some institutions might consider staggered or shortened academic calendars, while others may take action to reduce student density in campus housing and classrooms. Our plans will ensure that students and parents have the tools they need to stay fully engaged with their home institution, safely and with confidence.
I anticipate that operations at each institution will not be the “normal” we were all used to prior to COVID-19. But, working together, we will all eventually see our 17 campuses once again operating at full capacity, serving as North Carolina’s most vital hubs for teaching, research, and service. I am confident that they will be more vibrant and more critical to our state than ever before.
Above all, our steps forward will be contingent on what we discover through ongoing monitoring of infection rates and North Carolina’s testing and treatment capacity. We will continue to follow the advice of the nation’s infectious disease experts and our own experts at UNC Health. We will remain in frequent contact with Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of NC Department of Health and Human Services. And we will continue to coordinate our operations with Governor Cooper’s executive orders.
Our efforts to mitigate the pandemic’s threat have been successful because our actions in March were swift and comprehensive. The continued success of our effort now depends on approaching our next moves forward with caution, optimism, and precision.”
For more on the UNC System’s ongoing response to COVID-19, visit: https://www.northcarolina.edu/UNC-System-Coronavirus-Resource-Center.