Why faculty are concerned about being back on campus

Dear faculty, staff and students,

Today, I am announcing how we are returning to campus this fall. It will be in a way that minimizes health and safety risks to faculty, staff, students and community members through our Road Map to Fall 2020 plan, which I am officially accepting from our Academic Year 2020-21 Planning Team today.

Our Road Map to Fall 2020 calls for classes beginning as scheduled on Aug. 24 and finishing remotely after Thanksgiving break. It prioritizes health and safety considerations required to minimize risk and enable an on-campus academic model that accommodates both in-person and remote learning.

This is a moment in which our imperatives to lead, innovate and impact humanity are coming together for the future of our university. All of us must embody our vision to be a leader in the humanitarian, social and technological challenges of the 21st century. Our success depends on all of us working together.

Our challenge as a campus community is to ensure our mission endures. Serving the public good is more vital now than ever. Our ability to return our students, faculty and staff to campus will affect our ability to ensure educational opportunity. Some of the students who would be most disproportionately affected if we were to be fully remote are our first-generation, underrepresented, low-income and rural students.

The Road Map to Fall 2020 details three major areas:

* Creating a COVID-ready campus experience that minimizes health and safety risks to faculty, staff, students and community members.

* Delivering flexible in-person and remote academic instruction that enables our mission and ensures equity and student success.

* Aligning resources to support safety and academics.

A COVID-19-Ready Campus Experience

The COVID-19-ready campus experience adapts operations based on changing local conditions and adherence to state, county and city guidance. To do so, it establishes four modes of campus operation that build upon the return to research pilot beginning this summer: remote (the current campus state), limited (limited physical presence on campus), expanded (fall 2020 in-person operations) and full (return to normal operations).

These modes enable the university to ensure health and safety by notifying the campus community of any changes to operating status based on local COVID-19 conditions throughout the semester.

Among the many mitigation measures outlined by CU Boulder’s plan are:

* On-campus capability for COVID-19 testing of students, faculty and staff, both to continuously monitor for potential spread and to test individuals with symptoms.

* Campus-based rapid response teams for tracking, notification and isolation of infected individuals.

* Mandatory safety training for on-campus faculty and staff, as well as all students, that includes instruction on physical distancing, wearing of face coverings, hand hygiene and sanitation, and following public health orders on events and public gatherings.

* A robust public health awareness and outreach program in collaboration with the Boulder Police Department, Boulder County Public Health and student leadership.

* Updated conduct code and related policies to include compliance with COVID-19 public health requirements.

* Reduce each person’s potential for infectious contacts by at least 55 percent by:

— Requiring masks for all students and employees.

— Reducing density of people from normal operations.

— Designating cohorts of students to reduce person-to-person interactions in classrooms and residence halls.

— Implementing building control measures, such as physical distancing in all campus classrooms and learning spaces.

— Greater sanitization measures, including ensuring surface hygiene.

— Residence hall space for quarantining and isolation.

— Continued remote work arrangements for many employees.

— Required risk mitigation plans for each unit seeking approval for personnel to return to campus.

— Return-to-work protocols.

Academic Instruction

The academic instruction section of the plan aims for a high-quality academic experience for both undergraduate and graduate students. The plan supports the development of flexible options for an in-person academic experience while meeting the needs of students and faculty whose health requires them to teach and learn remotely. It also provides for environmental safety in classrooms and on campus through physical distancing, class schedule adjustments and other administrative controls.

Key elements of the academic instruction section include:

A regular 16-week semester term beginning on Aug. 24, with the option for faculty to offer some courses, as appropriate, in 8-week sessions during the overall semester.

In-person classes through Wednesday, Nov. 25, with remote teaching after Thanksgiving to allow students to travel home and remain there until the spring semester begins.

Implementing a first-year academic experience for all first-year students, including housing assignments and enrolling first-year students in classes with small cohort groups.

Offering courses that provide classes in a variety of in-person, distance and hybrid formats.

Reducing the density of students in classrooms through a suite of methods that includes splitting single classes into multiple sessions and utilizing larger spaces to provide appropriate social distancing.

Extending class scheduling to use the entire day, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., to decrease student density on campus.

Several avenues for supporting the success of returning students, graduate students and instruction.

Resource Alignment

The resource alignment section of the plan supports the required investments in health and safety protocols, technology, faculty and staff support, and student success and access. These include:

* Investment in testing, masks, training, physical distancing supplies and public health awareness.

* Investment in instructional technology to support student and teaching success.

* Zero tuition increase (approved by the CU Board of Regents on May 19).

* Waiving the Residential Academic Program fees for all first-year students in residence halls.

* Employee support that addresses return-to-work guidance, childcare needs and accommodations for vulnerable populations.

Implementing the plan

The Road Map to Fall 2020 is the beginning of a return to campus, and our faculty and staff will implement our fall plans within these parameters. The plan establishes implementation teams for each of the three major sections of the plan, and those teams are already engaging campus units in next steps. The flexibility built into the plan also enables the campus to prepare for a variety of COVID-19 scenarios that could arise. I know you will have questions, and information will continue to be posted at colorado.edu/coronavirus. The road map emphasizes that the implementation process will be iterative, and that the campus will continue to update and improve the model based on feedback we receive from the campus community. Please stay tuned for information about virtual forums hosted by myself and other campus leaders.

The pandemic is an opportunity to see what the university can do differently and better in the long run. In order for us to be successful, we need to work together. I want to thank the many campus experts who consulted and worked with the Academic Year 2020-21 Planning Team. The team took into account more than 1,500 points of input from students, faculty, staff, deans, executive leadership, parents, alumni and community members. Thank you to all of those who have and will continue to contribute to this process.

Thank you for your flexibility and adaptability in these highly unusual times. The university has faced adversity throughout its history and has always come back stronger. I have no doubt it will do so this time.

We are Buffs Together,

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