Dear Faculty and Staff,
During the course of a normal semester, a month comes and goes without much notice. As we’re all well aware, Spring 2020 has been anything but normal for the University of Houston-Downtown. I suspect I speak for all of us when I say that the past four weeks away from our campus has felt much longer than usual.
This week, several of the vice presidents and I participated in an online Staff Council meeting. This meeting served as a reminder of how long it’s been since we have seen our colleagues on campus. While it was great to hear from staff members during this forum, I wish we could have convened in person and under better circumstances.
During this meeting, the leadership team responded to a range of questions regarding next steps for the institution. Of particular interest to staff members (and no doubt to faculty and students) is when we will return to campus, and under what conditions.
The university’s leadership has indicated previously that classes are currently scheduled to continue in a virtual format through June. It has been determined, however, that all summer classes will be conducted online.
Unlike other institutions of higher education, UHD has fortunately been spared from making difficult decisions related to staffing levels during this challenging time. Our faculty and staff have been working quite efficiently from their respective homes, and UHD’s administrative operations will continue to operate remotely through the month of May. More details are forthcoming regarding offices and departments resuming campus operations.
Presently, UHD and other state institutions are abiding by a recent order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to keep schools and universities closed. With that in mind, there is not a concrete date for a complete reopening of the campus.
We are, however, working closely a University of Houston System Task Force charged with developing a set of principles that will apply to reopening all UHS institutions. UHD will adhere to all UHS guidelines while developing its own reopening protocols.
Our best thinking suggests that a return to normal operations will likely be a phased process beginning in early summer that is guided by recommendations from the UH System, local and state leaders, and public health officials. Likewise, these decisions will be made with your health and welfare as our top priority.
I can assure you that the leadership of the university is deeply cognizant of the challenges all of you have faced during this crisis. In spite of these difficulties the UHD community remains as strong as ever. I am immensely proud of the empathy, flexibility and Gator Grit you continue to demonstrate every day. And while we have overcome much in a short amount of time, it will be your continued strength, hope and professionalism that will prove the difference of ensuring the completion of a successful semester for our institution. Stay strong, stay well and stay Gator Proud.
Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz