Message from Chancellor Koch: COVID-19 Update 6.19.20

6.19.20

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff —

As my June 30 retirement quickly approaches, I am cherishing every moment on our beautiful campus. With fewer students and staff on-site, our adopted koi fish from the Illinois Governor’s mansion seem especially eager for company any time I drop by their pond and the residential deer, with fawns in tow, are making themselves comfortable under shade trees near the Shakespeare Garden. It’s safe to say our animal friends are among the many things I will miss.

Fall 2020 Planning

We continue to be laser-focused on planning for the upcoming 2020-21 academic year. I hope you all were able to read the UI System communication that was sent yesterday confirming all three UI System universities will provide on-campus educational activities this fall with additional remote teaching and learning as well. While the pandemic is requiring adjustments to prioritize the health of students, faculty and staff, we are already implementing changes and I am confident the coming year will be an enriching experience for students. My sincere thanks for all the preparation being done this summer by dedicated faculty and staff. The UIS-specific plan for Fall 2020 will align with UI System guidelines and is expected to be released in the near future.

Return to On-Site Work

Early next week, UIS Human Resources will communicate with faculty and staff regarding our approach to on-site work for the remainder of June and July in anticipation of Illinois transitioning to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan in the near future. In general, we will continue our approach to working remotely and/or limited on-site work through July 31. An updated version of the Procedure for Return to On-Site Work will be posted Monday, June 22, to reflect the UIS approach to both Phase 3 and 4 this summer.

Safety Reminders

Please remember that anyone working at or visiting the UIS campus must wear a face covering and maintain at least a 6-foot physical distance from others. It is becoming more apparent that mask wearing is a critical safeguard against the spread of COVID-19 and it is something each of us can do to protect others. I’ve even sewed a mask for our beloved mascot, Orion! You’ll see him appear in upcoming safety messages that will remind our university community about necessary safety standards during this ongoing pandemic.

Chancellor Transition

You may have seen on our UIS social media channels that Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney visited campus this week. I enjoyed providing her and her spouse a tour of campus, and she is eager for her July 1 start date. I am in frequent contact with Dr. Whitney as our transition time continues through June 30.

BREATHE Sessions

The UIS Coalition Builders team (an affiliate of the National Coalition Building Institute – a national organization that works to eliminate prejudice and conflict) has launched another round of virtual listening tables for members of the campus community in response to the recent protests that have engulfed the nation regarding police. All students, faculty and staff are welcome. Please see details below for next week’s sessions:

BREATHE: Virtual Listening Tables in Response to Racism and Protests
Tuesday, June 23 | 6-7 p.m. | Tuesday Zoom Link: go.uis.edu/breathe
Thursday, June 25 | Noon to 1 p.m. | Thursday Zoom Link: go.uis.edu/breathe

New Social Media Policy

On June 2, the Chancellor’s Cabinet approved a new social media policy for UIS departments and units. The social media policy is a best practice designed to help unify UIS’ social media approach. The policy requires departments to share social media account access with the Office of Campus Relations, as a backup, in order to prevent the loss of accounts. Departments must also fill out an application before starting new social media accounts and follow all brand standards, especially those related to logos and marks, brand graphics and naming. Please read the full policy for all requirements.

Leadership Lived

The COVID-19 pandemic has required new and creative ways for us to approach our work, and the ever-popular UIS Star Parties are no exception. To accommodate the need for social distancing, Star Parties have gone virtual! Hosted by UIS Associate Professor of Astronomy and Physics John Martin, the first spring Star Party was held May 30, with Dr. Martin using an iPad app to show and describe constellations in the night sky.

The virtual Star Party occurred the same day as the SpaceX launch. “We had a visible pass of the International Space Station where the Dragon capsule was six to 10 minutes behind it,” Martin said. While Martin is exploring ways to return to live Star Parties later this summer, this innovative way to engage both longtime fans and newcomers to the traditional UIS Star Parties is yet one more example of how our UIS community is making the best of a challenging situation.

The next virtual Star Party is June 27. You can learn more at: uis.edu/astronomy/summer-star-parties. Renovations are underway this summer at the UIS Observatory on the roof of Brookens Library with Star Parties to reconvene in a much improved location in the coming year.

COVID-19 cases in Sangamon County

Confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to be relatively low in Sangamon County. The Sangamon County Health Department announced one new positive case yesterday. The total number of county residents with confirmed cases to date is 387, including 33 deaths. Currently, no confirmed positive Sangamon County residents are hospitalized and, thankfully, we have no confirmed cases within the UIS community.

I encourage all students, faculty and staff to continue to monitor the UIS COVID-19 website, uis.edu/covid-19 for updates, and I hope you will continue to follow recommended personal health practices including: wearing a face covering when in public, frequent hand-washing and avoiding large groups.

Be well and for the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day!

Chancellor Koch