A Message from President Julio Frenk

June 15, 2020

To All in Our University of Miami Community,

As we continue to navigate the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences, like so many families and businesses across the country and around the world, we are making plans to move forward. We will build the future of our University together, and that will require each one of us to act with intentionality.

We must be intentional with respect to how we protect ourselves, each other, and our community from COVID-19, and in the ways we respond to the renewed and urgent calls for equity and justice. As I expressed in my message on May 31, we must be active on all fronts to defeat ignorance, hatred, and oppression.

I want to thank you for your commitment to build a ‘better normal’ for the U. While some details are still being refined, I would like to share several important decisions with you now.

Our plan for the fall semester

First, and of most significance, we plan to reopen classrooms and residence halls to students for the fall 2020 semester and resume on-campus, in-person instruction.

In preparation for the fall semester, earlier this month we began the first phase of our campus repopulation plan, which enables faculty and staff to gradually return to campus over the summer months with the approval of their respective dean or department head. Our teams are working diligently to reimagine and reengineer our spaces, our calendars, and our modes of instruction to safeguard health while allowing for an engaging on-campus experience.

Our revised academic calendar

To maximize our time on campus and to minimize the potential risk for virus transmission and spread, we are modifying the fall semester academic calendar. Fall classes will commence on campus on Monday, August 17—one week earlier than originally planned—and on-campus instruction will conclude on Friday, November 20—the Friday before Thanksgiving. We will hold one additional day of online-only instruction on Monday, November 23, and a reading day on Tuesday, November 24. Final exams, which will be conducted exclusively online, will take place from November 30 to December 6.

This revised academic calendar will enable students to travel home for the Thanksgiving holiday and not return to campus again until the spring semester, thereby limiting the frequency of travel and potential for virus transmission and spread.

Other features of our revised fall academic calendar include observation of the Labor Day holiday on Monday, September 7, and an abbreviated fall break, which will occur Friday, October 16 to Sunday, October 18.

The law and medical schools will determine their own approaches to learning and research and may follow a different academic calendar, which they will share with their respective communities.

While most classes will occur in person, to allow for proper physical distancing and to meet the specific needs of faculty members whose preexisting health conditions may limit their on-campus activities, some classes may be offered in online or hybrid—a mix of online and in-person—formats. With this in mind, we are using our experiences from the spring semester and new programs to further build our expertise in online instruction to enhance any remote learning experience for our students.

We will, of course, be flexible. Accommodations will be made to ensure access to a high-quality online learning experience for students whose health conditions prevent them from attending class in person and for international students who are unable to be in South Florida due to travel restrictions or other circumstances.

We are also reviewing the academic calendar for the spring semester and may make modifications to the semester start and end dates, as well as to semester breaks. We recommend delaying spring semester plans, including travel, until the calendar is finalized in the next several weeks.

Our plan for on-campus housing, orientation, and commencement

For students living in on-campus housing, move-in for first-year and transfer students will take place August 9-11, with move-in for returning students occurring August 13-16. All students will be assigned a designated move-in date and time. Additional information regarding the move-in process will be provided soon to all students who have reserved an on-campus living assignment.

To our first-year and transfer students, we are excited to welcome you to the U. Orientation—or, as we call it, ’Cane Kickoff—will begin on August 11. Our orientation team will be in touch with you soon with additional details.

It is our intention to hold commencement ceremonies in December—both for our December 2020 graduates as well as for our May 2020 graduates who could not celebrate in person due to the pandemic. We are continuing to develop commencement plans and will share more details in the coming weeks.

Our four pillars to help slow the spread

Among the lessons the world has learned in the three months since we departed campus are the importance of following public health guidelines and the recognition that our individual behavior has a palpable impact on our collective wellbeing. We are fortunate to have a world-class health system in UHealth and the very best minds in public health guiding our efforts. For many weeks, seven multi-disciplinary committees have been developing our plan. Based on guidance from public health and government agencies, our plan is rooted in the following four pillars.

Testing, tracing, and tracking: We believe it is important that all faculty, staff, and students, as well as vendors and campus guests, share the same values and behaviors in protecting the health of the community. To introduce these shared values and behaviors, we are developing a special community support module. All faculty, staff, and students will be required to complete the module, as well as an online COVID-19 screening tool, prior to returning to our campuses. We will share additional information about this process in the coming weeks. Once on campus, any member of our University community who experiences COVID-19 or influenza-like symptoms will be required to undergo a COVID-19 test. We will conduct contact tracing for any confirmed cases, and COVID-19-positive individuals will be required to self-isolate. We are designating spaces on campus for self-isolation of students who live in on-campus housing, and we are establishing systems to track disease prevalence and evolution.

Cleaning and disinfecting: We will conduct deep cleaning of all campus spaces regularly and with enhanced protocols and increased frequency. We are increasing the number of hand-sanitizer and disinfecting-wipe stations located throughout our campuses. Signage also is being installed to remind individuals to wash their hands frequently and clean personal items, such as keyboards, desks, and phones, before and after each use.

Protecting personal space: We are reengineering our spaces to allow for and promote physical distancing, adding signage to help individuals practice it, and installing wellness shields at reception and point-of-sale locations. Masks or face coverings will be required in public areas or when six feet of separation between individuals cannot be guaranteed. Telecommuting will continue to be a primary arrangement for many staff to minimize the number of individuals working in areas simultaneously.

Vaccinating: We will require that students, faculty, and staff on all campuses receive the seasonal flu vaccine, as we already do on our medical campus. We recognize that some may question the mandatory character of this measure, but we have a shared responsibility to safeguard the health of all members of our community. We will grant exemptions for legitimate health and religious reasons.

Our shared responsibility

To support efforts to uphold our shared behaviors and values, a “Safe Return Kit,” which will include a cloth face covering, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, a thermometer, and information cards, will be available to all faculty, staff, and students upon their return to campus.

One of the things that makes the University of Miami a special place to work, learn, and live is our commitment to the U and to each other. The idea that ’Canes Care for ’Canes means that we believe in shared responsibility, that we value and protect what each one of us has to offer—and that begins with our wellbeing.

Life on campus will not look the way it did when we left, but as we return, we will rely upon the spirit, the ideas, and the creativity that drew each of us to the U. I look forward to seeing you back on campus and to reengaging in person with the vibrant community we will continue to build—together.

In hopeful anticipation,
President Julio Frenk signature
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