Academic Plan--Narrated Executive Summary
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On June 9th, Chancellor Cable, along with senior staff members John Pierce, Heather Parlier and Garikai Campbell, presented our comprehensive plan for UNC Asheville to return to campus in the fall of 2020. We walked through most of what is in the written plan, which you have now. We invite you to read through the entire unabridged document. We will be holding town halls to give everyone in the UNC Asheville community faculty, staff and students the opportunity to ask questions about any parts of this plan. Please be on the lookout for details about that soon. This particular version of the presentation is an abbreviated executive summary of the plan, which highlights what we thought were some of the most important components.
This plan represents the deliberate, thoughtful and collaborative work of numerous faculty, staff, students and administrators. These members of the UNC Asheville community have been and continue working very hard to ensure that we have the best possible protocols in place and resources available. These groups work through all of the details of how we prepare the physical space, procure everything from masks to hand sanitizers to specialized cleaning equipment, secure external funds, partner with community organizations and much more.
The group that makes up the emergency operation center has worked particularly hard. I want to take a special moment to thank them, all of them, for their hard work and for doing a tremendous amount of the behind the scenes work. This group is led by David Weldon, who also serves in the Chancellor's Leadership Group. We have representatives in the EOC from all over the campus, across the faculty and staff. I hope that you will all help me in thanking all of the folks in the EOC for their continued work.
To help inform the work we are doing on campus. We've been engaged in conversations with a number of outside groups and we have consulted resources coming from health experts and fellow leaders in higher education, particularly those across western North Carolina.
In consultation with select faculty, staff and students, the Chancellor's Leadership Group adopted a set of guiding principles for the planning process: adhere to best practices in health and safety protocols, ensure high quality instruction and learning. This includes deploying a hybrid learning experience that delivers on our distinctive excellence. Support students success, persistence and retention, support employee health and safety. This informs our decision to start early and finish early and calling on a set of community standards to help ensure that we practice the necessary behaviors and habits to keep ourselves in the community healthy and safe.
Rigorous attention to the university's financial sustainability, thinking not only about the health of the institution, but also about the financial implications for our for every one of our over 700 employees. Dedication to community collaboration and mutual support. Recognizing the many ways that we will need each other. Dedicated effort to ensure continuity of campus operations. We know that this can only happen with the support of efforts of everyone. And finally, attention to institutional resilience. Ultimately, we hope to be a model for safe, healthy, productive institutional resilience.
These next three slides are arguably among the most important components of the entire plan. Given the reality of this pandemic and that virus mitigation cannot be guaranteed, we are inviting each and every member of the UNC Asheville community to practice rigorous self care. This is not just for your own protection, but that of each and every member of our community. This is a time of mutual accountability and collective responsibility for a shared culture of care, compassion and mutual respect. With the health and safety of faculty, staff, students and the community as our highest priority, we intend to offer a full, rich, high quality student experience.
Each of us, as students, faculty, staff and visitors, has a responsibility to be knowledgeable, love and to comply at all times with health and virus mitigation protocols. Together, we will face the COVID-19 challenges through individual responsibility, mutual respect and accountability and attention to the common good for all. We believe that this will result in our collective resilience.
We expect everyone who returns to the campus to choose to be a part of the UNC Asheville community with the full understanding that our actions impact the health of others. This demands care for everyone and a commitment to taking the necessary precautions and following all recommended health guidelines. In particular, we expect everyone on our campus to agree to wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizers, wear face coverings in all public spaces, including classes, labs, academic, athletic and student union buildings. Follow physical distancing guidelines, staying six feet apart whenever possible. Follow room and building capacity guidelines, monitor any symptoms, get tested as needed, follow isolation and quarantine protocols, and consult with medical professionals with questions and as needed, particularly if symptoms appear.
We note that the written plan has many of the details, but here are the categories of work being done to prepare the campus and the request. We will be making of you as you return: Self health: checking oneself for symptoms is one of the most important issues, as is maintaining good hygiene--covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, for example; being prepared to follow all protocols if one tests positive for COVID-19 and so on. We do expect to have non-contact temperature checkers at various locations, particularly Ramsey Library, Highsmith Union and other in other areas. We're working hard to stagger schedules, install plexiglass partitions, install guides to direct building traffic and more. All members of the community will need to wear mask or other appropriate face covering. We encourage everyone to bring and wear their own masks, but we will have masks available as well.
Good hygiene is imperative. We will have hand sanitizer dispensers in various locations to support this. We expect everyone to take good care to disinfect the spaces that they occupy as best as possible. While housekeeping crews will be deployed with greater frequency to use appropriate commercial disinfectants and tools to ensure areas, particularly high traffic spaces, are cleaned as well as possible. Disinfectant wipes and the like will be available various entrances to spaces. We are also working to ensure that there's adequate parking and transportation available. In the case of the latter, there will be additional protocols in place to help support health and safety.
All phases of reentry to campus will be initiated in accordance with prevailing state laws and guidelines. The goal will be to have students who will be living on campus move in by appointment over the time between July 17th and August 9th. This will allow us to get everyone into the residence halls in a way that maintains appropriate social distancing and adheres to other health protocols. Employees are already being brought onto campus in a phased return, and will continue doing so through the end of July, and into August. Some will continue to work remotely. Those who are vulnerable, at risk, or who are caring for and living with those who are vulnerable should complete the H.R. form emailed to the community last week. Even if you do not meet the criteria for vulnerable as a vulnerable employee, but would like to request flexibility with respect to on campus work. Please speak with your supervisor or chair. A big part of the phased return is ensuring the campus is ready.
As noted earlier, we'll start this semester on Monday, August 10th, and end on Friday, November 20th. The early start and early finish will help us to avoid the complication of being in session just as the flu season starts In order to ensure that our classrooms can be used with appropriate social distancing, we will be deploying a hybrid and online learning environment. If you are a faculty member who feels that they must teach our fully online, please complete either the H.R. form or the form that I shared. All courses not taught fully online will likely meet once in person, with the remaining contact being virtual. It is imperative that we work to ensure that the virtual experiences are as engaging as our in-person experience to the best extent possible. I would also ask that all faculty work, again as best as possible, to front-load any of the meet any of the work that requires special equipment, labs, kiln, performance spaces, and so on. In the event that health conditions change, we will need to be prepared with contingency plans. I would ask that departments and programs be in conversation about those plans now.
Finally, I want to speak to turn to two new ideas. First, the possibility of one or two fully online winter sessions. These would be optional, optional for faculty and students. The first would be for three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The second either three or four weeks in January, depending on the start of the spring semester. A three credit hour course could be offered in three weeks and a four credit hour course, if we have a four week session. Stipends to faculty and cost to students would follow the summer school model. This would be an opportunity for students to potentially get ahead; for faculty to experiment with a new idea; we could market these courses to high school or prospective students. In order to do this, we have to explore the possibility over the course of August and September, hopefully deciding on whether to do this by the first week of October.
Lastly, we're facing three extraordinarily important issues impacting all of us on a global scale, COVID, Racism, and the U.S. election. These are deserving of special attention in our curriculum and our curricular and co-curricular offerings this year. Right from the beginning, we ought to be engaging as a community--our students, each other--in all of these issues? I will be asking colleagues to lead groups to ensure that we give each of these issues the full attention that they deserve.
Included, here is a copy of the academic calendar, including the potential winter sessions. These contain key dates and decision points, and we expect to update the calendar as necessary, particularly as information changes. The calendar has already been posted online and is in the full planning document.
Student affairs staff will support students by developing programming that fosters a sense of belonging and creating opportunities for students to engage with each other. New programming will be designed to enhance students experiences, whether they are living on campus or participating from a remote location. We are committed to not just supporting our students, but continuing to build community and foster a sense of belonging. We will support student organizations, student leaders and the entire campus community with training, resources and technology as they re-engage in co-curricular activities this semester. Student Affairs staff members have been and will continue to do regular check-ins with students, helping them realize opportunities, recognize and resolve concerns, and assist students that are struggling. As we move through the academic year together, we will communicate on a regular basis with parents and families so they are aware of plans as they change.
We are committed to providing the most effective resources to help prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19 on campus. The Health and Counseling Center offers an integrated model of care where health and counseling services are delivered by a single multidisciplinary team. This team, working collaboratively with the Buncomb County Department of Health and Human Services, Mission Hospital and MAHEC, will ensure students receive the most comprehensive services available to protect their health and safety. This includes the physical and mental issues that surface related to COVID-19, engaging with the current events related to racism, and general well-being.
While there are no current plans to test all faculty, staff and students upon the return to campus, everyone should self check daily for symptoms of COVID-19 and quickly report any concerns. Testing will be available through UNC Asheville's Health and Counseling Center, Buncomb County Health Department and private medical providers. Although contact tracing is the responsibility of the Buncomb County Health Department and MAHEC, students will be invited to be trained as contact tracers. The health and counseling staff will work with those students to identify potential cases. University leadership is currently designing a student health ambassador program that will train and employ a team of junior and senior student leaders to encourage peer-driven, safe and evidence-based health practices among all campus constituencies to support a culture of virus mitigation and prevention on campus.
UNC Asheville's NCAA Division I athletics program provides more than 270 student-athletes across 16 Division I sports with the opportunity to pursue their academic, athletic and lifelong goals as champions and leaders. Those student-athletes will be brought back to campus in phases according to sport. The specifics are in the full fall 2020 plan. Most important to highlight is that the best practices of UNCA, the UNC System, the NCAA, the Big South Conference and the American College Health Association with respect to health and safety guidelines, will be followed without exception. Detailed plans have been developed for training, practices, games, travel, facilities, and response to infection or presumed infection by any student athlete or member of the coaching staff. We will continue to monitor regulations for fans and to determine whether or not attendees are allowed at games.
There are a host of issues, possibilities and mitigating factor factors to which we will need to adapt. There continues to be great uncertainty as these matters evolve. We know, for example, that child care and whether the K through 12 schools reopened as planned is a critical, critical point. We understand that we need to be prepared to make decisions on how to proceed if we see cases of COVID-19 arise among employees or even in the local area. In addition, we are carefully monitoring state budget allocations, net tuition revenue, and philanthropic activity, as each has an important impact on our fiscal realities. We will be sure to keep the campus community as informed as possible.
All of those who worked on this plan have done so in the hope of creating and sustaining a healthy environment for all the people affiliated with the university. All of us are grateful for the hard work, keen insight. Attention to detail and smart thinking that has contributed to this plan. We ask that each one care for all others--a tenet that has been a hallmark of UNC Asheville for many decades. In doing so, we believe that we can be a great model of strength and resilience in these complicated and challenging times.
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