Letter From President Katsouleas on COVID-19 and the Spring 2020 Semester

One of UConn's most visible individuals speaks about UConn's journey to this point.
A message from President Katsouleas.

Dear Colleagues and Students:

I write to you today to update you on new, more expansive steps the university is taking to help reduce the risk that the COVID-19 virus presents to the UConn community and our state, based on recent developments in the spread of the disease and new guidance we received from the state and federal government this week.

As I wrote previously, last week we took disruptive but essential actions to help protect our community: UConn moved most coursework to an all-online format beginning Monday, March 23 and asked all employees who are able to telecommute to do so until further notice, with the approval of their supervisor. 

In that message, I said I would communicate any changes to this as soon as possible.

Since last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont have both issued new guidance, urging that gatherings of 50 or more people be avoided in the interest of public health. The CDC stated that this guidance should be followed for at least eight weeks, which would be through mid-May.

In light of this, coursework at UConn will continue to be delivered online for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester, including final exams, and I am sorry to say that there will be no May commencement exercises this year.

I have asked the provost’s office and deans to work with faculty to develop the most appropriate options to offer final exams to our students under these unusual circumstances. They will also continue to work with faculty this week to develop accommodation plans for courses such as labs, law clinics, internships, and clinical placements that are not amenable to online delivery.

  • To students who are elsewhere, but whose belongings remain on campus: Residential Life will communicate directly with you as to how and when your things can be retrieved. Students who have been approved to stay on campus through Residential Life because they have nowhere else to go may remain. Dining options and other essential services will remain open. 
  • To our staff: All employees who can continue to telecommute, with the approval of their supervisor and departments, should continue to do so until further notice. For those not eligible to telecommute or who have been asked to remain at work, Human Resources will be sending further guidance to managers aimed at continuing to reduce the number of employees working on our campuses in the days ahead. We will balance our desire to have as few people on campus as possible with the need for minimum staffing in key areas that cannot be left untended. Workplace requirements and protocols will differ at UConn Health to ensure the stability of services to our patients and the state. We will be in close communication with our employees and the leaders of relevant collective bargaining units on these issues.
  • To active researchers: Please see this guidance from the Vice President for Research regarding your work. In brief: Researchers will begin immediately to ramp down research activities, including laboratory, animal and non-therapeutic human subjects research.  In developing plans to ramp down their research, it is also currently anticipated that critical activities, such as maintaining animals, unique reagents, and essential equipment and materials, can continue until further notice. We must ensure that undergraduates and graduate students working in research facilities and laboratories are able to exercise personal agency regarding their health and wellbeing. Their supervisors are expected to make appropriate accommodations.  Research staff should work with their supervisors to support individual agency within the requirements to sustain critical operations
  • To the Class of 2020: I know this is not the way you expected your time at UConn to end.  I am truly sorry that we will not be able to share the stage in May to celebrate your final year and my first graduation ceremony at UConn. If we could responsibly make a different choice, we would. But that is not an option. Please know that the university is committed to finding the right time and place to invite you to come together and return here again to be appropriately honored and recognized, as you deserve to be.

Tomorrow, the emergency response team and I will be hosting a virtual town hall for all students, faculty and staff to answer questions, hear your suggestions and offer any additional guidance available on these issues. Please click on this link to submit questions and join the session when it begins.

We are in uncharted waters. I appreciate everyone’s willingness to be flexible, resilient, and adaptable in light of events that are well beyond our control. And I thank you for supporting one another as we work together in the best interests of the health and wellbeing of our students and families, friends and neighbors across our state and around the globe. I am particularly grateful to the caregivers, the faculty and the staff who are continuing their work in support of maintaining essential services to patients and students, and to the leaders of the emergency response team who are working around the clock.

I also ask you to be mindful of your own health and wellbeing. I encourage you to attend to whatever best supports your wellness, including outdoor exercise or simply enjoying the fresh air of a moderate winter. Working together to support each other and public health is our best path to getting on the other side of the pandemic successfully. 

 

With sincere well wishes,

Tom