Dear University of Maryland community,
Amidst the uncertainty of an invisible and rapidly unfolding health crisis, I pray that you and your loved ones are safe and well.
Though we must keep our physical distance from each other, our resilience and actions are rooted in our obligations to each other. Our vulnerability connects us. This global emergency will demand much from us all, but our community is up to the challenge. Together we have the capacity to make it through, with determination and compassion.
Earlier today, Governor Hogan advised all University System of Maryland (USM) institutions to extend online education for the remainder of the semester. The USM Board of Regents this evening approved this guidance. Therefore, all UMD online instruction, which had already been scheduled to start on March 30, 2020, will continue through the end of this academic year.
Our faculty has been preparing continuously and diligently for virtual education. Under the coordinated leadership of Provost Mary Ann Rankin and VP for IT Jeff Hollingsworth, the University has implemented secure online testing and assessment, such as new identity verification and proctoring software. For laboratory instruction, there are online simulations and video demonstrations, with resources for faculty available at keepteaching.umd.edu. For performance and studio instruction, we have acquired the capacity for synchronous and asynchronous video production and video streaming. Teachers and department administrators will be developing individualized solutions for the courses during the coming week, before classes resume on March 30.
We are mindful of the resources needed for individuals with disabilities, so that they and their instructors have accessibility accommodations in online learning and teleworking.
In addition, the Division of IT has deployed new technology to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to support this massive shift to the online environment for learning and working.
Students in residence halls
With the extension of online education through the end of the academic year, residence halls will officially close for the semester on April 5, 2020. All residents will have to move out by this date. The Division of Student Affairs under VP Patty Perillo will soon release a detailed message to residents for an orderly move out of residence halls, in a process that ensures social distancing and the health and safety of our students.
VP Perillo and her staff will continue to work closely with students who have no alternatives and need housing. We will do everything in our power to take care of our students during this fraught time.
For all University personnel who can perform their job responsibilities remotely, telework remains in effect until at least April 10, 2020. How we do our work will change depending on the success of our efforts to slow the spread of this pandemic. We will follow the guidance of federal, state, and local agencies, and from the USM, regarding any changes in how we do our work. University Human Resources will communicate any important updates to all employees.
Commencement and forthcoming information
The measures that the University is taking, while necessary, create hardship and uncertainty for many in our community. These measures have to comport with directives and guidance issued by state agencies and the University System of Maryland. In the coming days, we will work on a fair adjustment of costs related to room and board.
Unfortunately, there will not be an in-person spring 2020 commencement. Our graduating students have worked so hard and I know that they, and their families, would want to celebrate this milestone. I invite you to share with me your thoughts on alternative and innovative ways to recognize this occasion, vibrantly and safely. You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updates and resources
Please continue to check umd.edu/virusinfo and all University communications for updates about COVID-19. Please email healthconcerns@umd for any non-medical coronavirus-related questions.
For mental health support for students, please call the Counseling Center at 301-314-7651. Counselors are available to provide remote services Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, and After Hours Crisis Support is available outside those hours and on weekends. Faculty and staff can contact the Faculty Staff Assistance Program.
I want to thank all the hard-working faculty, staff, administrators, and students, and all the health-care providers in our University Health Center, for your dedication and service in this fraught time. And, as always, I thank our Police Department for their continued commitment to serve. So long as each of us continues to do our civic duty to help slow the transmission of the coronavirus, our normal life will be restored sooner rather than later.
I conclude by noting that this virus does not know how to discriminate between people on the basis of identity. This reminds us that we are all members of the same human family, and we all need to come together in mutual support.
Wallace D. Loh
President, University of Maryland