|Message Sent To:||All Faculty, All Staff|
|Message From:||Message from the Office of the President|
|Date Sent:||Friday, May 29, 2020 08:24 PM CDT|
Preliminary Scenario Planning for Fall Semester 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff,
The health and safety of our Loyola University Chicago community remains our highest priority as we evaluate Fall Semester 2020. After receiving a variety of inputs, including recent faculty and staff surveys and student feedback from the end of spring semester, we are beginning to contemplate two planning possibilities.
As a reminder, decisions around these approaches will follow the core principles outlined in early May:
- The safety, health, and well-being of our community is our top priority; we will continue to be guided by science and follow city and state requirements
- Students and their needs get first consideration – that includes but is not limited to academic experience, support, and wellness, as well as financial considerations
- We will not deviate from our mission to expand knowledge in the service of humanity through learning, justice, and faith. Our job is to be a Jesuit, Catholic university balancing care of the whole person with care of the apostolic work
Throughout this fluid process, we will continue soliciting feedback through a variety of means as we assess changing information, community sentiment, and regulatory requirements impacting our ultimate course of action for Fall Semester 2020.
Next week, Provost Norberto Grzywacz and I will expand the inclusion of additional faculty perspectives with the formation of a summer faculty advisory group to further discuss our fall opening scenarios. This group will meet throughout the summer and act as a sounding board to us as we continue to follow the science and guidance from public health and government officials, consider these two options or variations thereof, and make final preparation for the upcoming semester.
In addition to Susan Uprichard from University Senate and Tavis Jules from Faculty Council, we will include faculty from different disciplines, campuses, and ranks. We will also convene a similar advisory group comprised of staff in various roles across our three main campuses.
To date, the Emergency Response Plan working groups (Academic Continuity and Campus Continuity) comprised of faculty, staff, and health care professionals have begun outlining options for the fall that are consistent with these principles and evolving guidance from public health and government officials on what is “legally allowed and medically advisable” (L.A.M.A.). The two proposed scenarios are (1) a hybrid of both in-person/on-campus and online instruction or (2) online only.
If permissible by state and municipal officials and L.A.M.A., the hybrid approach that includes an on-campus experience with online options appears to be the preferred scenario.
To implement the hybrid model, many aspects of our “usual” campus operations will be modified to include the de-densification of classrooms and the repurposing of rooms, theaters, and conference spaces so that students and faculty can practice required social distancing measures by sitting six feet apart from one another. For example, a classroom that normally would seat 30 students will now seat a maximum of 10. Similarly, we are beginning to plan for de-densifying the residence halls, which will include limiting occupancy and setting aside one of the halls for students who might test positive for COVID-19 and need to be quarantined.
However, because there remain so many unknown variables and factors at this time, including the availability of testing and contact tracing, we must show prudence by concurrently planning for the second option, which is to be fully online for the fall. In the event that regulators and evolving public health conditions do not allow students to return to campus for in-person classes in the fall, we must be ready for all courses to be taught online.
Further supporting this preparedness, the provost has already asked faculty and staff to prepare to offer solely online instruction if L.A.M.A. and the health and safety of our community determine that as the most appropriate course of action.
Community Feedback in the Context for Proposed Scenarios:
Based on surveys and communications received directly from current and prospective students, families, faculty, and staff, there is a wide range of opinions and emotions surrounding the fall semester. On one hand, we have students, faculty, and staff who wish to be on our campuses as soon as possible (acknowledging the impact of L.A.M.A.).
On the other hand, we have students, faculty, and staff who have expressed concerns about returning to campus because of their own health conditions or those of family members with whom they live. We also have parents who want their students to continue their educations but do so online.
All of these individual preferences and concerns are valid and have been factored into our thinking about these two proposed scenarios.
As we have done since the beginning of this pandemic and throughout the spring, we will continue to listen closely to all viewpoints and be respectful of our community members’ opinions and circumstances as we develop our Fall Semester 2020 plans with the greatest amount of flexibility yet specificity as possible.
Fall Planning Assumptions
We know that many of us are eager to make firm plans for the fall that would include an on-campus experience. And yet, sitting here at the end of May, there is still much that we need to learn before we can make a definitive determination about the fall semester. I know that at some level this is very unsettling and challenges our ability to tolerate more ambiguity. However, this measured approach also gives us the opportunity to consider evolving information and thoughtfully plan and prepare for two workable scenarios.
In the meantime, we ask you to remain understanding, flexible, and to think about your individual plans under the assumption of hybrid instruction and utilization of on-campus housing beginning in August.
Consistent with our communication strategy, we will continue to reach out and share what we know, as soon as possible. We anticipate announcing a final determination of fall plans within the next 30-45 days.
What Remains the Same
Regardless of the ultimate path forward this fall, Loyola will be prepared for another rigorous and successful academic year as a warm, supportive, adaptable, and engaged community grounded in our Jesuit mission and values. What also remains unchanged is the priority placed on ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff.
I know there are feelings of frustration and anxiety in wanting to make concrete plans. All of us in the Office of the President, Provost’s Office, and members of the Emergency Response Plan working groups share those same feelings. But we need to be prudent and smart, follow the science, and be ready to start the fall safely and responsibly.
Witnessing what I have seen these past 10 weeks with the resilience, determination, and even humor of faculty, staff, and students alike, I remain confident that Loyolans will not only manage but will rise and thrive in the face of uncertainty.
Please keep each other in your thoughts and prayers and stay in touch for upcoming updates.
Together in Loyola,
Jo Ann Rooney JD, LLM, EdD
NOTE: This message was also shared with all students and with all undergraduate students' parents.