Message from Chancellor Koch: COVID-19 Update 5.22.20

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff –

Greetings, and happy Friday! It’s been two weeks since my last communication regarding our university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, in that time, we have completed the Spring 2020 semester, virtually celebrated the conferment of our 2020 graduates’ degrees and launched into planning for the 2020-21 academic year.

This communication will remain mostly focused on our COVID-19 planning efforts but, as my June 30 retirement draws nearer, I want to also keep you informed about other important university news as we juggle both “business as usual” and our pandemic response.

Procedures for Return to On-Site Work

As Illinois prepares to enter Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan expected to begin May 29, UIS Human Resources has developed a Procedure for Return to On-Site Work, which was shared with all employees earlier this week. The safety of our campus community is the top priority for UIS, and these procedures were developed with that priority in mind. Phase 3 does not require all employees to return to on-site work. Remote working arrangements are still encouraged, where feasible. Questions about the procedures can be sent to uishr@uis.eduThe University will host a townhall-style meeting, via Zoom, at 2 p.m. Friday, May 29, for any employees who may have questions about the procedures. Watch Campus Announcements in the coming days for more information on this Zoom meeting.

On-Campus Safety

A robust safety-information campaign is in the works to ensure all members of the campus community understand how to best protect their physical health and that of others when on the UIS campus. For the foreseeable future, the following safety guidelines should be followed:

  • Wear a face covering if you cannot maintain a 6-foot physical distance from others. UIS has ordered reusable, washable cotton facemasks for every employee and for Fall 2020 on-campus students. Delivery instructions will be shared once we receive our shipment. It is acceptable to wear your own personal face covering as long as it covers your mouth and nose. Further guidance regarding masks is provided in the Procedure for Return to On-Site Work.
  • Practice proper hand hygiene often. Wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Hand-sanitizing stations have been placed in numerous public areas on campus.
  • Do not come to campus if you’re feeling ill.

As we prepare to transition more employees to on-site work during Phase 3, additional guidance will be provided via campus and digital communication channels such as email and UIS social media.

Planning for Fall 2020

At this time, UI-system campuses, including UIS, are planning to provide face-to-face instruction in Fall 2020 for on-campus students – with appropriate adjustments and best practices in place to ensure health and safety. At the same time, our Academic Planning Team, led by Provost Papini, is preparing for every possible scenario, including remote learning, to ensure students and faculty have a high-quality learning and teaching experience regardless of the circumstances. If it becomes necessary that changes in course delivery mode be made, we will quickly communicate that to all. It will remain important for all students, faculty and staff to regularly check their UIS email, the UIS COVID-19 website and our university social media channels throughout the summer to stay aware of information related to campus operations.

On-Campus Summer Camps

UIS Athletics has postponed summer camps through Aug. 1 in light of Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines regarding the size of gatherings. Any adjustments to this decision will be announced if it is determined camps can be offered prior to Aug. 1 or if this postponement will be further extended.

Chancellor Transition

A little more than five weeks remain in my time as your chancellor. What a privilege it has been to serve in this role for this past nine years! I want to assure you that leadership transition planning continues on track. Very soon, an interim chancellor will be named who will provide executive leadership at UIS starting July 1. We anticipate a national search for a permanent chancellor in the coming year. Several groups on campus have had the opportunity to meet the interim finalists and provide input to President Killeen during the selection process and I greatly appreciate their contributions. I am hopeful to have the opportunity to work alongside (mostly virtually, given the circumstances) the interim chancellor designate to ensure a seamless transition.

Leadership Lived

We’ve received wonderfully positive feedback about the virtual celebration of the UIS Class of 2020, including a “shout-out” from President Killeen at the Board of Trustees meeting yesterday. If you have not watched the brief video or seen the many celebratory postings by members of the Class of 2020, please see those proud moments at uis.edu/commencement/uis20. My sincere congratulations to all who contributed to our “alternative” celebratory events and, again, congratulations and best wishes to the Class of 2020!

The UIS Prairie Stars spring season, or lack thereof, was disappointing on many levels, but it was no time for our student-athletes to ease up on preparing for the next opportunity to compete. While students were learning remotely at home, our athletes were also actively training remotelywith Athletics staff in accordance with GLVC Conference guidelines. With the outstanding leadership of Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Lowe, students used online software and a user-friendly app to follow at-home workout routines designed by Lowe and other staff. The app allowed for connections beyond just physical workouts, including athletes’ emotional well-being. When it comes to Athletics, I’m most proud of our students’ performance in the classroom. This spring, UIS student-athletes achieved a collective 3.52 department grade point average – a record-setting performance!

Finally, I want you to know that yesterday was my final opportunity to speak on your behalf to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Though we were not able to host the meeting on campus as originally planned (it was conducted via Zoom), I embraced the opportunity to communicate to this important group the excellence of our university. You can read the Chancellor’s comments at this link: uis.edu/chancellor/university-of-illinois-board-of-trustees-meeting-5-21-2020/

Please enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend. Many members of the UIS community have worked tirelessly these past few months to ensure our university’s collective success and I am grateful for all contributions. UIS is, and will remain, a special place because of the leadership that is lived every day by students, faculty and staff.

Thank you, all, and have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

 

Chancellor Koch