Dear Faculty and Staff,
As we begin a new academic year, we are mindful that we do so under circumstances that continue to change and carry with them a combination of hope, anticipation, and unease. We are excited to come together under the leadership of our new president Eduardo Peñalver and to celebrate the opening of the new Sinegal Center for Science and Innovation, with its many new spaces and opportunities for teaching and learning. We also look forward to welcoming our students to campus, many of them for the first time.
However, we also begin the new year recognizing that the pandemic persists as the Delta variant causes another wave of infections and introduces a new set of challenges. As we continue to navigate the pandemic our top priority remains the health and well-being of our community. Our Jesuit values call us to care for one another with compassion and grace. As we embark on this academic year, I ask all our faculty to keep their hearts filled with a spirit of care for our students, staff, and colleagues. The care and grace we extend to one another will help us meet the challenges of this moment together.
Our plans will continue to be informed by the latest information on COVID-19 and regular consultation with public health experts. The university’s vaccination and face covering policies are two of the most important tools to protect members of our community, prevent the spread of COVID-19, and enable as much in-person teaching and learning as possible. Currently, 89% full-time faculty (which includes a number of recently hired faculty who have not had an opportunity register their vaccination status), 89% staff, and 80% students are fully-vaccinated. I am especially encouraged by the positive trend of students registering their vaccination status—due in large part to the tremendous outreach efforts by Public Safety, Student Development, and Academic Affairs staff.
We will continue to adapt and adjust our plans as the pandemic shifts and ask that you remain flexible in these ever-changing circumstances.
At this time, I want to share a few reminders:
- Accommodation requests: Some faculty may have documented medical conditions that place them at a higher risk for complications from COVID-19. Requests for accommodations related to COVID will be handled in the same manner as other medical conditions. Faculty should contact Human Resources at firstname.lastname@example.org begin the process.
- Changes to mode of instruction for classes: Faculty should continue with the mode of instruction as planned unless the change is made with the approval of their dean's office.
- Vaccination status: Faculty may not ask students about their vaccination status because this is private health information. Faculty may ask students to show their safe start health screening result to demonstrate that they are approved to be on campus and in the classroom.
- Flexible attendance policies: Faculty should continue to practice flexibility in their usual attendance policies during fall term.
- Classroom Ventilation and Filtration: Facilities has upgraded all instructional spaces and conference rooms in use for fall term to “Tier 1”—meaning they have at least three air changes per hour and/or MERV-13 filtration, or have been provided with portable filtration units. More information about building ventilation and filtration is available on Facilities’ website.
Finally, I am pleased to announce that the Provost’s Office will re-launch the email@example.com email address today. This is a direct communication channel dedicated to faculty for COVID-related questions. My office will provide prompt responses to all inquiries. I encourage faculty to use this resource.
I want to extend my deep appreciation for your hard work, creativity, and resilience as we prepare to enter a new academic year together. Despite its many challenges, I remain hopeful about the opportunities before us. Please stay tuned for further information and a more in-depth welcome in the coming weeks.
Shane P. Martin