Dear Campus Community,
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we are thankful for the accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students this semester. You have persevered through a fall term like no other. You have demonstrated incredible resilience and embraced the precautions and adjustments that supported the safety of everyone. We know it has not been easy, but your efforts and commitment have made this semester possible.
At this point, the university is successfully managing the pandemic. Our active case load has been reduced by 80% since Labor Day weekend, our contact tracers and investigators are responding within 24 hours of notification, and our community continues to be vigilant in observing best practices to reduce the risk of spreading the virus (wearing a face covering, washing hands, social distancing, checking symptoms daily, etc.). Based on these positive outcomes on our campus, we have been confident about completing the semester in person. However, we are beginning to see a surge in cases in the broader Columbia/Boone County community and surrounding areas. The county’s contact tracers and investigators are experiencing delays in attending to new cases, and there is growing stress on hospital capacity and resources.
We have said from the beginning that our decisions would follow medical and public health guidance, and they would be based on a full evaluation of circumstances and not driven by a single number. While our experts say that MU students have not presented a direct burden to the local hospitals because they have not needed hospitalization, we are all members of the broader community. And as the community strives to gain control of the virus, a temporary thinning of the student population is helpful.
For this reason, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to shift a majority of our in-person undergraduate and graduate courses to remote learning for the last three weeks of instruction and final exams following Thanksgiving break. There will be some exceptions, but most students and faculty should plan for remote learning after the holiday. We are also sharing some of our resources as they are available to support the community’s needs, including contact tracers, case investigators and medical professionals. Having capacity at our area medical facilities, including our hospitals, is an important piece of our plans that support student health and safety, and this temporary shift will ultimately help ensure the right resources are available to support our students when and if they need them.
We know this is disappointing news. We also know making adjustments to our plans this quickly won’t be easy. Over the coming days, a variety of details will be sorted out as various parts of campus adjust. This shift raises many questions, and we’ll be working through solutions and communicating with various groups through the transition. We chose to get this note out as quickly as possible so you could consider your personal plans, even before all specific campus plans are in place.
We do know the following:
|•||In-person instruction will continue through Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Faculty and instructors will communicate with their classes on how instruction will proceed for the rest of the semester.|
|•||Any student leaving Columbia for the holidays is encouraged to not return until the start of the spring semester in January.|
|•||Students should pack belongings they would need for an extended absence when leaving for the holidays, but plan to return to Columbia for the spring term in January.|
|•||Residence and dining halls will remain open for on-campus students who cannot return home.|
|•||Those who remain will have access to dining services, including a Thanksgiving meal and safe social events.|
|•||Courses where students provide direct clinical services or interact with patients as part of their training will continue to be provided face-to-face.|
|•||Campus facilities, including the libraries and labs, will remain open in some capacity for those faculty and students who need access to them for independent studies, thesis research and dissertation projects.|
|•||Both faculty and staff operations will continue on campus, as we do not anticipate closing the campus. Deans, department chairs and supervisors will work with individuals, including student employees, to determine if any changes in working arrangements or duties are needed.|
|•||Free bags with safety supplies will be made available to students at the bookstore next week to support safety efforts through the holidays.|
We also want to remind the community to seek testing if experiencing even mild symptoms as indicated on the #CampusClear app, particularly before holiday travel or if going to a state that requires a negative test. Free phone visits with medical providers continue to be available through the MU Health Care nurse line, and tests not covered by insurance will be free. Results are currently being provided within 24 hours.
We believe these actions will support our community, and will provide the best path forward for our university’s return to in-person learning in the spring semester. Our campus community will enter 2021 with a proven template for success in managing the virus on our campus amid rising national hopes for a vaccine in the near future.
Please know that all of your actions throughout this memorable semester have truly made a difference. We wish you and your families the best of holidays.
Tigers Support Tigers!
Mun Y. Choi, Ph.D.
President, University of Missouri System
Chancellor, University of Missouri
Latha Ramchand, Ph.D.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Missouri