Preparing for a semester of extraordinary educational experiences.
A Message from President Julio Frenk

August 11, 2020

President Julio Frenk preparing for a semester of extraordinary educational experiences.
Below, for your reference, is the full text of President Julio Frenk’s video message (above) to the University of Miami community.

This week, residential students have begun arriving at the University of Miami for the Fall 2020 semester, which will begin on August 17. I join you today from the Shalala Student Center. Because this is a public space, you’ll notice that I will wear my face covering for the duration of this video.

Like people around the world, we at the U are dealing with a highly contagious, airborne virus. The nature of the virus and how it spreads—about which scientists are learning more each day—is at the heart of our adaptive and responsive strategy to reopening campus. Several weeks ago, when I shared that strategy with you, I noted that our success requires compliance with a set of strict public health measures, including mandatory face coverings.

As an example of this adaptive strategy, just this past week we added a requirement that our off-campus students also have a negative test prior to coming to campus, in addition to our residential students. To our off-campus students: I remind you, you must be tested and have a negative test prior to coming to any classes on campus—if you have not done so, please order your LabCorp test kit as soon as possible.

I also said that we would help all students, faculty, and staff comply with public health measures in three ways: persuasion through inspiration, positive peer pressure, and zero tolerance for violations. We know there will be transmission of the virus, and we are prepared to address it. We have a dashboard, clear indicators, and I meet every day with leaders across operations, academics, student affairs, and our academic health system.

We have been readying for your return, and we continually monitor the coronavirus pandemic. Trends in South Florida are moving in the right direction and, if we and our neighbors persevere with the measures in place, I expect those trends will continue. Despite this fact, I want to again emphasize that we are facing a very serious situation, and we cannot let our guard down.

Our student leaders, including 75 new public health ambassadors, and devoted faculty and staff are ready to encourage healthy behavior through positive peer pressure, and student organizations have volunteered to reinforce these important steps. We also have a number of tools, relying on technology to monitor compliance, which facilitate our zero-tolerance enforcement of measures. Those who demonstrate they cannot be trusted will be asked to leave.

So, today, I want to take a moment to focus on what we mean by persuasion through inspiration. Today I want to inspire each and every one of our amazing students to do the right thing, as we return to campus during a pandemic. I want to persuade you that strictly following the rules is not just the right thing to do—it is also the smart thing to do.

Over the course of human history, society has made the most progress during and immediately following periods of great adversity. Faced with a challenge, human survival has always required a weighing of risks and rewards.

My professional background has taught me to carefully estimate risks using the best available scientific evidence. The decision to open our campus to welcome back most of our students was based on an extremely careful analysis.

We moved forward with taking these calculated risks this semester because the reward is truly compelling. It is the reward of a fulfilling educational experience that will enrich the rest of your life—and we want to make the best of it.

Because we are in the midst of a pandemic, this will require focusing on the educational experience and sacrificing a lot of the social interactions that we associate with college life. So, our ask of you as we arrive on campus is straightforward:
  • Be mindful of your actions, always remembering the pledge you have taken to follow rules that will keep you and everyone else safe.
  • Acknowledge that you will have to make some sacrifices but keep your eye on the prize.
  • Take pride in protecting one another—’Canes care for ’Canes.

With the considerable thought, time, and resources we have invested in safety, the fact is most of us will likely face less risk on campus than off campus. As I have said before, for many students, campus is the safest place they can be. And for those of us living off campus, including students sharing apartments or living at home with family, by following everywhere the practices we have put in place at the U we will contribute to the health and safety of those in our homes and communities.

Long before coronavirus became our daily reality, our vision for the University of Miami has included making it an exemplary institution, which means that we can serve as a model or example for the larger society of which we are a part. The pandemic offers a most valuable opportunity for civic education, since it illustrates the value of protecting yourself by also protecting everybody else.

That is what wearing a face covering achieves, as it fosters a sense of reciprocity: I protect you, and you protect me. It therefore represents one of those precious instances where our self-interest coincides with the larger public good. If we all behave as we owe to each other and to our own health, we can truly set an example of civic responsibility to the rest of society.

As I said in my video message last week, when weighing our options for the fall semester I was often told we could not rely on college-age students to follow the required rules. Well, I for one am not ready to give up on our students. I for one am not ready to say that our students cannot be trusted.

I simply do not share the view that young people do not grasp the seriousness of the role they play. People in our students’ age group historically have made incredible sacrifices—in war time, in activism for human rights, in world-changing community service efforts.

It is often the idealism of youth that draws the world to do the right thing, and the energy of youth that makes it possible to hold institutions accountable. If we manage to tap into that idealism and energy, I am confident we will both inspire one another, and make the University of Miami an example to which communities around the world can look for inspiration in these challenging times.

If we do so, the reward will be a full semester of extraordinary educational experiences. Reaping this reward relies on every single one of us doing our part. Join me in striving to reach these compelling goals. Let us show the world that they can always trust ’Canes to rise to an unprecedented challenge.
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