COVID-19 Update: June 4, 2020

Dear Colleague,  

I am writing today to update you on work being conducted to best position the university for a successful 2020-2021 academic year. However, I would like to first acknowledge the unrest and social discourse occurring throughout our city and nation. I join President Pinto in recognizing the sadness and grief it brings to our country. Central to our educational mission, and in keeping with our values of inclusion and excellence, it is ever more important that we protect the dignity of all individuals. It is the diversity of people, perspectives, and voices that will bring us together as a just UC community.

As President Pinto communicated last month, we recognize that many of you are eager to know how UC will start the fall semester. This is a decision we are not taking lightly and it cannot be rushed. Even though other institutions have announced plans, we are being deliberative and want to ensure that our plans are informed by data and the progression of COVID-19. The health and safety of our faculty, staff, and students is paramount. Ensuring the well-being of our university community will continue to guide each and every decision. As Dr. Fauci has stated in a recent interview, quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education: "I don’t think it’s going to be one size fits all. I think it’s going to depend on the location of where the particular university or place of higher education is, what the demography of the students is, where they’re coming from. All of these things have to be taken into account."

Urban Research Universities like UC have to plan around the needs of significant numbers of graduate, international, out-of-state, in state, and local students. With 46,000+ students and over 15,000 faculty and staff, we are like a small city. 

To assist in the decision-making process, and help determine how our return in the fall will be structured, I have formed eight working groups to gather data, input, and review recommendations from colleges and academic affairs units. The working groups, led by our vice provosts, are:  

  • Undergraduate Studies/ELCE: led by Gigi Escoe, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies, Dean of ELCE 
  • Graduate Studies/Research: Raj Mehta, Vice Provost for International Affairs and Interim Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School (in partnership with Vice President Pat Limbach Dean and Xuemao Wang)  
  • International Students – Raj Mehta, Vice Provost for International Affairs and Interim Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School 
  • Clinical Activities/Education/Licensure Programs/Community Partnerships – Chris Lewis, Vice Provost for Academic Programs 
  • Remote/Online Teaching – Jason Lemon, Vice Provost and Dean, Cincinnati Online (in partnership with CET&L and IT)   
  • Faculty Affairs – Matt Serra, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Academic Personnel 
  • Student Life – Debra Merchant, Vice President for Student Affairs  
  • Enrollment Management – Jack Miner, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management  

Additionally, each college has been asked to submit a report detailing course offerings. Throughout the next two weeks, the working groups will carefully review the detailed reports to determine if the university can safely provide face-to-face courses while strictly following health precautions outlined by our medical experts, the state, and the CDC.

It is imperative that we manage social distancing while balancing both curricular and co-curricular experiences for our students in the best way possible. This could mean offering many courses in an online modality with flex options for students looking for face-to-face experiences. This may also allow courses, such as those in the arts, music, labs, seminars, and clinicals, where face-to-face learning creates better outcomes for our students, to be held in-person on our campuses.  

The working groups will help us determine the best path forward, as they have been charged with creating a final report outlining key recommendations for review and consideration. The report will be shared with the university community for input and we anticipate reaching a decision regarding the structure of the fall semester in mid-to-late June.  

It is important to recognize that the upcoming academic year will be very different, and this is something for which we must all carefully prepare. It will not be easy, but I am confident we can rise to the challenge. With your continuous input and support, we can ensure that UC will remain a special and renowned institution. 

Kind regards,

Kristi Nelson
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost