Planning for fall semester at UIC

Dear students, faculty and staff,

I know that many of you are eager to learn more about the fall semester, and if and how we are going to return to normal operations on campus.

Personal engagement – inside and outside of the classrooms and laboratories – is at the core of the higher education experience. As a result, there is a strong desire and urge to return to campus as soon as possible!

At the same time, we have an obligation to protect the health and safety of all members of the UIC community, their families, our most vulnerable members, and our surrounding communities.

With these principles in mind, we have established two campus-wide taskforces, led by Provost Susan Poser and Vice Chancellor John Coronado, to develop a blueprint for the return to campus. These taskforces have been working for the last three weeks, preparing plans for different scenarios. As you know, the public health parameters of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the guidelines from CDC and the State of Illinois, are changing very frequently, thus, importing a high level of uncertainty in our planning efforts.

Earlier this week, President Killeen also announced a system-wide coordinating committee to support the U of I universities in their efforts. This committee will be a valuable resource, as we plan for and address the complex issues that we are facing. Careful planning will take some time and will also have a significant component of flexibility, so we can respond quickly to external factors beyond our control. It is also possible – and some may argue even probable – that we will have to make changes in our operations during the course of the fall semester and we will be ready for such changes as well.

Nevertheless, we have reached some early conclusions that we are ready to implement. First, all lecture classes for undergraduate students with more than 70 participants will be online. The infrastructure at UIC simply prohibits us from offering these classes on campus while adhering to the physical distancing guidelines.

This decision will allow us to move classes with a smaller number of participants into classrooms that are significantly larger, in order to achieve the physical distancing needed. Because of our relatively small footprint, even some smaller classes will need to be offered either through a remote or online platform. Furthermore, all on-campus classes will have to be accessible remotely, so students with health concerns or international students who cannot return to campus can continue their education uninterrupted. Finally, we expect that every first-year student will have some on-campus classes so that these students can begin to build connections with their peers and to the campus.

The operations taskforce led by Vice Chancellor Coronado is addressing issues of safety, hygiene, protection equipment, residence halls, distancing around campus, transportation and parking. It is also preparing a long list of supplies and resources needed to return to our normal operations.

Both taskforces will seek input from all members of our community and will provide updates on the progress of planning on a frequent basis going forward. In the meantime, we will continue to follow Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order which has been extended until May 30. UIC operations are expected to continue as they have since the beginning of the stay-at-home order, with limited changes due to operational needs.

When the Governor’s order is lifted, priority will be given to the reopening of research labs. The operations taskforce together with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research are preparing for this phase using the same principles and plans that are considered for the fall. More information will be communicated when public health indicators suggest that we are approaching this point.

Finally, I want to remind everyone, that as most of us are staying at home, thousands of our UIC colleagues who are classified as essential workers are coming to campus at UI Health, at our Police Department, at our administrative, IT and student services divisions and at our core research facilities. We are ever grateful to all of you who show up every day committed to caring for patients and students and protecting and supporting our core mission!

Together we will stay well, stay informed and stay positive.

Michael D. Amiridis

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