Planning for Fall 2020
Message from VCU President Michael Rao
Dear VCU students, faculty and staff,
I am looking forward to getting back together by this Fall. The recent challenges we have faced together have been exceptional historically and extraordinary personally. They have given us strength and focus. Despite feelings of separation and frustration, we have adapted quickly and shown tremendous flexibility in carrying out our mission of education, research, creative innovation and human health. Now, more than ever, we are ready to talk about the next steps in a safe return to campus. It is going to take all of us working together to make this happen.
Please review this message in its entirety for information about the planning thus far for Fall 2020.
Michael Rao, Ph.D.
President, VCU and VCU Health System
Following public health planning and proper safety protocols, VCU President Michael Rao has is committed to an in-person fall semester in which we are back together in our classrooms, laboratories, studios, and clinics on both campuses. The curve of the coronavirus in our society will determine our start date, and we are working on scenarios for an on-schedule or late start to the fall semester. The primary consideration for a start date is when it is safest to do so.
Of course, we cannot know with certainty what the future holds. We all must remain flexible, anticipate and plan for changes, and act with the safety of our community as our first priority. We will communicate more specifics with students, their parents, faculty and staff as the summer proceeds.
There are hundreds of details involved in each of these measures and considerations. Your input is very helpful as we plan for the return. The Provost and Vice President for Administration have convened a faculty/staff COVID-19 advisory group that includes members of the Faculty and Staff Senates and other university and health system experts to obtain and provide their input as we move forward.
Climatext, a real-time data collection tool developed by VCU's Information Technology and the Division for Inclusive Excellence, is part of the university’s proactive monitoring and response plan to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Climatext gauges the sentiment of faculty, staff and students through a series of “pulse” surveys, which include short prompts or questions designed to provide a high-level snapshot of thoughts and feelings about a particular topic at a particular moment in time. For several months, Inclusive Excellence has employed Climatext to determine student sentiment on several issues and reports its findings in its Climate Advisory. Last week, VCU extended Climatext to determine employee sentiment about our return to campus and more than 3,000 faculty and staff members responded to share concerns and offer suggestions. Read the Climatext data for employees online at administration.vcu.edu. Climatext provides quick feedback to uncover trends and gain insights that the university can incorporate into decisions. In this new climate, tools like this help ensure we get the input we need in time to use it. Learn more about climate surveys and continue to share your ideas.
We are working very closely with our experts at VCU and the VCU Health System, who have been at the forefront of public health, rapid development and deployment of new diagnostics and testing, new care protocols and safety measures. Our health system concurrently is planning a reactivation of its services for all patients who depend on us. In tandem, health sciences professional students will return soon in a phased-in approach to clinical placements under careful screening and at selective learning settings. Our health system now has substantial experience in continuing to deliver care with safety practices and clinical innovations and is an integral part of the university’s planning for the safe reopening of our campuses.
When we return, things will look and feel different as we take unprecedented but necessary steps to keep each other healthy and safe. I have charged task forces on our campuses with developing measures for our safe return. In all cases we would be guided by CDC, state and VCU Health guidance and generally include:
- Physical distancing protocols and procedures for classrooms, student housing, dining halls, labs and studios, offices, libraries, large group indoor and outdoor events and other places where we gather in our daily lives on campus
- Screening, testing and tracing protocols and procedures
- Student and employee health support
- Continued deep cleaning of all facilities
- Return kits for students, faculty and staff that would include things like masks, hand sanitizer, and other personal protective equipment and supplies
We also are pursuing more opportunities for remote teaching, learning and working, including hybrid options, especially for members of our community who may have health and immunity issues that make them more vulnerable. This will give us much-needed flexibility to address expected waves during this pandemic and also give people more choices moving forward.