Dear University of Maryland community,
Yesterday, the Prince George’s County Executive announced that the county’s stay-at-home order will be lifted on June 1st, and the county will begin gradual re-opening plans. Today, Chancellor Jay Perman announced an overview of ways that University System of Maryland (USM) institutions might re-open, recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
I’m writing to share preliminary information on what students, faculty, and staff at the University of Maryland can expect this fall semester.
For several weeks, dozens of faculty and staff divided into seven work-groups – Safety and Health; Education; Research; Student Life; Human Resources; Fiscal Planning; and Intercollegiate Athletics – have been planning a phased re-opening of on-campus activities this fall. The details of their respective plans will be released in the next several weeks.
Our priority remains the health and well-being of our entire campus community. The plans of the Safety and Health work-group, co-led by Dean Boris Lushniak of the School of Public Health and General Counsel Mike Poterala, informs the planning of all the work-groups. They include cleaning and disinfecting all buildings; environmental monitoring; protocols for testing, screening, and contact tracing; and abiding by CDC guidelines on physical distancing, face-coverings, and frequent hand washing.
What Students Should Expect
For the safety of all, and pursuant to USM guidance, we will “de-densify” our campus. We will have to find ways to reduce the number of individuals who need to be physically present on the premises on any given day, which includes reducing the capacity of our residence and dining halls.
Learning and teaching this fall semester will involve a mix of in-person, online, and blended education. However, students should expect that many of their classes will be virtual in the fall term. Classroom capacity has to be reduced, and on-campus instruction has to be limited, in order to allow for the requisite physical distancing. We are working to provide students with the option of taking classes exclusively online, if they so choose.
Provost Mary Ann Rankin who leads the education work-group, Vice President Patty Perillo who leads the student life work-group, and Athletic Director Damon Evans who leads the intercollegiate athletics work-group, are finalizing their respective plans.
What Faculty Should Expect
With the lifting of Prince George’s County’s stay-at-home order, UMD can now begin the gradual re-opening of its research enterprise.
The research work-group is led by Laurie Locascio, Vice President for Research for both UMD and the University of Maryland, Baltimore. This dual appointment facilitates research collaborations between the two institutions. The research work-group developed a carefully planned schedule to resume laboratory activities prior to other University activities. Research experiments are in controlled spaces under controlled conditions where existing guidance on the use of personal protective equipment, and other protective measures already exist to reduce the risk level.
The education work-group is surveying faculty members about instruction. Its objective is to try to accommodate faculty who prefer to deliver instruction online this fall. It also aims to make sure that no student will be required to take an in-person class this fall. Online instruction helps to de-densify the campus next semester.
I want to thank the scores of faculty members who are creatively re-imagining instruction, accessing new tools, and taking part in training sessions to enhance the remote learning and teaching experience.
What Staff Should Expect
UMD is blessed with talented and dedicated staff. The overwhelming majority continues to work remotely, and a small number of staff comes to campus to support critical operations. I offer my appreciation to all of our staff.
The Human Resources work-group, led by Assistant Vice President Jewel Washington, is finalizing a phased approach for returning to work on campus. Some staff (and faculty) will continue to work from home as part of the strategy to de-densify the campus.
For staff who return, it will be phased-in and coordinated. Those who are able to return should expect measures to reduce contact with others, including staggered arrival and departure times, alternating schedules, and physical distancing measures.
What Everyone Should Expect
UMD is working with USM and public health officials on having the appropriate protocols, equipment, and personnel on campus for diagnostic testing, screening, and contact tracing. These measures will be in place before the fall semester and announced in the next few weeks.
Everyone should also expect a different fiscal environment for the forthcoming year. The financial impact on our campus of the pandemic has been, and will continue to be, substantial. The Fiscal Planning work-group, led by Vice President for Administration and Finance Carlo Colella, is developing mitigation strategies to offset the loss of revenues and the increase in new expenses. As USM announced recently, it anticipates that budget cuts and furloughs will be required to cover annual shortfalls. The State has not yet released its final figures for USM’s budget next year.
We will provide additional details about the fall from all the aforementioned work-groups no later than June 15, 2020. In the meantime, please send any questions, concerns or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everyone should understand that this is a fluid environment. The re-opening of the campus this fall is subject to changing conditions and must be in compliance with federal, state, county, and USM guidance. So long as the pandemic continues, there will be restrictions because your health and well-being are our top priority.
Though these are uncertain and trying circumstances, we are committed to providing a world-class education and to safeguarding our research mission. We must persevere together with grit and innovation. This is how the University of Maryland will emerge from this crisis, even stronger than before.
May you and your loved ones stay safe and be well.
Wallace D. Loh
President, University of Maryland