Dear CU Boulder faculty, staff and students,
I hope this message finds you and yours safe and well. I want to begin with a reminder of our continuing need to maintain social distancing and to stick with our existing remote learning and working model as our leadership team engages in a structured and thoughtful approach for our transition back to campus. For the safety of all, please continue to work and learn remotely until you receive further guidance.
As I introduced last week, our campus intends to create an innovative in-person experience this fall that will keep our community safe, ensure access and quality for our students and advance our academic and research mission in the COVID-19 era. To address the many challenges of the pandemic, our plans will focus on the broad needs of our students, faculty and staff—including our most vulnerable populations—empowering individuals to choose from a flexible range of in-person, hybrid and remote opportunities that can meet each person’s unique and changing needs during the fall.
Today I am sharing more details on our process to develop this plan, including our guiding principles, areas of effort, working team, timeline and how you can contribute your ideas.
We are putting our community’s health and safety first. Any plans for our return to in-person campus operations this fall will be data-informed, use the latest science, occur in alignment with public health guidance and include strong mitigation for COVID-19 health risks to keep us safe.
As introduced last week, I want to reiterate the guiding principles for our planning effort:
- We will apply leadership, empathy and care to ensure health, safety and welfare for our students, faculty, staff and community members.
- We will be innovative to meet our mission and maintain academic integrity, quality and equity in the student and employee experience.
- We will be resilient together to deliver positive impact and adjust rapidly to changing, imperfect information to maintain our operational and fiscal integrity as circumstances evolve.
Key Areas of Effort
Based on a large volume of input from our deans, executive leadership, students, faculty and staff, we identified three primary areas of effort to inform our planning for an innovative campus experience in the coming academic year:
- Our plan will explore our academic experience to feature the expanded use of blended in-person and remote learning, flexible course delivery models, student cohorts and the possibility of condensed terms.
- It will identify needs for modified laboratory and studio experiences to safely bring students and faculty together while ensuring academic integrity and respecting disciplinary uniqueness.
- It will incorporate the rapid ability to support our faculty, instructors, teaching assistants and graduate-student instructors in scaling to broad-based, robust remote teaching and learning.
A COVID-Ready Campus Experience
- Our plan will provide for a phased return to research, scholarship and creative work, and flexible campus life and co-curricular experiences for new and returning undergraduate and graduate students.
- It will be supported by robust public health mitigation and safety measures that reduce the risk of transmission.
- It will provide modified delivery of a full range of student, faculty and staff support services; innovative approaches to events, athletics, arts and culture and experiential opportunities; diversity, equity and community building efforts; and school spirit and Buff pride.
Resource Alignment and Planning
- Our plan will enable us to align our human and financial resources in support of investments in the modified operating model we establish.
- It will provide for additional support of the student and employee experience through investments in protective supplies and sanitation practices, technology, increased financial flexibility and a focus on student, faculty and staff mental health and wellness care and support.
This is a big effort and I have appointed a strong team to lead it. The Academic Year 2020-21 Planning Team includes representatives from our university executive leadership team, deans and shared governance leadership. It is co-chaired by Ann Schmiesing, executive vice provost for academic resource management; Dan Jones, associate vice chancellor of integrity, safety and compliance; and Jon Leslie, senior associate vice chancellor of strategic communications.
The team began convening this week to engage with stakeholders, review input to date and further develop our planning framework. Our planning horizon includes an aggressive timeline to solicit ideas, rapidly develop prototypes and formulate recommendations for review and feedback in the next month.
In support of broad campus engagement from you all, we have updated our coronavirus website with details about the planning process, including a fall planning input form where you can share your ideas for the planning team’s consideration.
To enable our speedy progress toward a plan for fall 2020 and beyond, we have given the working team a rapid deadline. In order to give our campus the necessary time to prepare for fall implementation, we have asked the working team to share its recommendations with my executive leadership team by mid-May, with an anticipated announcement on the structure of our plan before the beginning of June.
Again, I encourage you to submit your input and ideas at the campus coronavirus website, and I look forward to updating you on our planning progress in my Friday message next week.
As noted in the message from Provost Russell Moore and Interim Chief Operations Officer Patrick O’Rourke shared earlier this week, our campus is experiencing significant financial impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are working to address those impacts in a concerted effort across our campus and the CU system. System President Mark Kennedy and his executive team, as well as myself, Provost Moore and Interim Chief Operating Officer O'Rourke, have taken 10 percent pay reductions through furloughs for senior leaders. Our Athletic Director, Rick George, and our athletics head coaches are doing their part by voluntarily taking pay cuts as well.
As we gather more information in the coming weeks about our financial projections for the months ahead, additional financial measures may be necessary—including operating expense reductions, temporary pay reductions for executive administration, furloughs and other actions—to reduce our costs while minimizing the individual impact on employees, who are our most vital resource. Campus units have been charged with reducing discretionary spending now, and considering budget planning scenarios for the next fiscal year.
The campus submitted the required certifications to the Department of Education for CARES Act funding, and we are awaiting additional federal guidance and working through internal processes to distribute these funds as soon as possible to students.
Thanks to All
Thank you for all you are doing as members of our university community during these challenging and historic times. As we enter the final weeks of our spring semester, I miss the ability to see you in person and to engage directly with you in the life and mission of our campus. I also remain grateful and inspired by all you are doing to navigate the pandemic and to stay healthy and productive.
I am especially grateful to our critical services employees who are serving the physical needs of our campus community each day. I want to remind us all to care for ourselves, to continue learning and working remotely, to finish strong and to be kind and respectful of each other as the end of the semester approaches.
We are Buffs together,