A Message From President Katsouleas on Fall 2020

Leaves illuminated by sunlight as they drift in front of the large UConn sign on the Storrs campus
A message from President Katsouleas about the Fall 2020 semester (UConn Photo)

To the UConn Community:

I write to you today to share key initial aspects of our draft plans to reopen for the fall semester, which we will submit to the UConn Board of Trustees for its consideration, then to state government, in the coming weeks.

Welcoming our community back to our campuses in any way is contingent on our ability to meet a series of “gating conditions” established by state government. The state and UConn continue to make progress on each, and I am optimistic that together we will be able to satisfy them in advance of the next semester.

Our goal is to provide the highest-quality UConn education and campus experience as possible while also protecting the health of our community. So “returning” does not mean “back to normal.” Our draft plans call for an academic semester and campus experience that will be unlike any we have seen previously. Successfully coming back and maintaining safety will require the cooperation and flexibility of our entire community during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Key aspects of the draft plans include:

The first day of classes will be August 31 and we will offer a range of course modalities with some completely online, some in a face-to-face environment, and others being a blend of the two. Students will not return following Thanksgiving break and the remainder of the semester, including final exams, will be online. The capacity of classrooms will also be reduced to allow for six feet of separation between people. We will have strong provisions in place to make the classroom environment as safe as possible, but we will be able to ensure that students and faculty who want an exclusively online experience can have that.

Our residence halls in both Storrs and Stamford will open, but with reduced density, and a new housing assignment process. Students do not need to reapply for housing. We will also set aside dedicated space should we need to isolate any students during the semester who fall ill. Students who will be living on campus (Storrs and Stamford) will be required to return approximately two weeks before the start of classes to allow for testing, as required by the state, and a period of quarantine. Potential testing protocols for other student populations, as well as accommodations and capacity, are still being evaluated.

In addition to students, we are developing protocols for employee testing, in a prioritized fashion, which would begin before the semester starts. To help maintain reduced density in campus buildings, the university will also release additional guidance in the coming weeks for managers and employees regarding continued telecommuting during the fall semester for staff who are able to telecommute (with the agreement of their supervisor).

Every member of our community will be required to wear a mask in public, common spaces, including classrooms. We have purchased enough masks to supply our entire community. If someone is unable to wear a mask, due to a medical condition for example, we will work with you to identify a solution before you return to campus.

Health screening and monitoring will be continuous and we will reinforce the “stay home when ill” mandate for both employees and students at all times. We will promote frequent handwashing and/or sanitizers, physical distancing, and regular cleaning and disinfection of campus spaces. We will institute a variety of preventative measures through operational changes to our buildings, transportation systems, deliveries, and visitation as well as interactions with campus visitors and guests to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

I know that our students, faculty, and staff will have countless questions. Over the summer, the university will continue to prepare, release, and update the volumes of material related to our reopening, operations, and the virus, and we will endeavor to answer every question as best we can.

Today, I wanted to give you a piece of what our draft plans are for the fall, which, as I said, will be submitted to our board and then the state. There is much more to come.

This is new for all of us. And returning successfully and safely depends on all of us. The hallmarks of success will be resiliency, flexibility, understanding, cooperation, and, as always, creativity. Fortunately, Huskies have each of these qualities in abundance. I believe there is no challenge we cannot meet and rise above as long as we remember that we are in this together.

More information appears on this dedicated website.

Finally, even as we approach the fall with a sense of cautious optimism, I want to acknowledge the terrible toll the pandemic has taken here in Connecticut and around the globe. Though the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths mercifully continue to fall in the state, there remains a deep sense of grief for those we have lost. We will never forget this awful experience, but maybe in some way it has made us more grateful for what we have. In time, perhaps we will emerge stronger and wiser because of the painful lessons we have learned.

I hope you have a healthy and enjoyable summer and I am hopeful beyond words that we will see each other again very soon.

Tom

Thomas Katsouleas

President

University of Connecticut