COVID-19 Response Task Force, Fall 2020 Update

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I hope you and your families are staying healthy.

All of you are aware that the city and our state are experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases. UHD is closely monitoring this situation and in recent weeks, a university COVID-19 Response Task Force was appointed to provide recommendations and guidance with regards to an eventual return to campus.

This Task Force is chaired by Cynthia Vargas, UHD Director of Emergency Management, and includes a cross section of faculty, staff and student leaders (including members of Faculty Senate, Staff Council and the Student Government Association). This group will continue to assess the ongoing circumstances related to the pandemic and serve as liaisons with regional emergency management and health agencies.

Among the group’s current priorities is to assess UHD’s plans for the fall semester. Recently, Provost Link shared with faculty an overview of what fall 2020 will look like in terms of classes and student services.

His presentation detailed four modalities for fall courses: online (courses completely online); online interactive or S-Flex (in-person lectures with students joining in the classroom or via Zoom); face-to-face (in-person lectures conducted in classrooms arranged for social distancing); and hybrid (classes that are partially online and partially conducted in the classroom).

Course modalities will be assigned based on pedagogical need and to ensure the best learning outcomes for our students.

Students were made aware of these class formats earlier today, as well as UHD’s plans to safely resume limited operations for the fall semester—with safety provisions and social distancing protocols in place. Student-facing offices will be open for both in-person and online services. More details regarding fall 2020 are forthcoming.

Earlier this month, the first phase of the Safe Return to Campus plan was postponed. In light of the recent increase in Coronavirus cases, the COVID-19 Response Task Force is reevaluating UHD’s Safe Return timetable to gradually bring limited numbers of staff members back to their offices with an emphasis on those offices that are critical to supporting enrollment and student success.

I have requested that the group take the additional time necessary to make sound recommendations that support a realistic and more importantly, a safe restoration of campus operations. The group should report their findings to the administration by early July.

I am confident in this group’s insights and experience and await their feedback.

For the time being, I encourage everyone to remain safe and exercise caution when venturing out. Adhere to the mask orders in Harris County and surrounding areas, maintain safe distancing when in public, and continue to practice healthy habits.

It has been more than three months since we have departed campus. I appreciate the additional efforts during this difficult time, and I know our students do as well.

Stay healthy, Gators

Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz,
UHD President