Message from the Chancellor: UIS Updates 6.5.20

June 5, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff —

Greetings on this warm summer day at UIS. Our campus continues to be in full bloom without much of an audience to enjoy it. While we saw some employees return to on-site work this week, many are still working from home as we all continue to do our part in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Thank you for your continued efforts to put your own health and the health of our community first.

Mask deliveries for on-site employees

Unit leaders: The first shipment of our UIS face coverings has arrived, and you can request delivery of your team’s supply by emailing Ceitha Steele (cstee2@uis.edu) in Human Resources. As you know, we have ordered two masks per employee and for all Fall 2020 students who will be on-campus for class. Distribution of masks for students will be announced closer to the start of the Fall 2020 semester. (I’ve been wearing mine today, and I must tell you they are excellent!)

As part of our safety guidelines at UIS, everyone must wear a face covering if they cannot be certain of maintaining at least a six-foot distance from others. This means we should all wear our face coverings or be ready to immediately put them on when encountering another individual in any public space, such as hallways, lobbies, stairwells and elevators.

Return to On-Site Work reminders

Thanks to everyone who attended the May 29 virtual town hall to discuss our university’sProcedures for Return to On-Site Work. If you missed the discussion, you can watch a recordinghere.

Please remember to submit your completed Return to On-Site Work templates, emailed on May 26 to deans and directors from Human Resources, to your division leader for approval. Though we continue to not have any direct COVID-19 cases involving UIS faculty or staff, we ask that supervisors contact HR immediately if they learn an employee has tested positive to discuss protocol for returning to work.

UIS: United in Safety

Safety-focused messaging with a “UIS: United in Safety” theme will begin to roll out this month to help all of us understand how to safely interact with the campus environment. Expect to see exterior/interior signage and digital messages stating the following:

  • Face coverings are required.
  • Maintain a six-foot distance from others.
  • Practice good hand hygiene.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.
  • Allow at least eight steps between you and others when in stairwells.
  • Use your elbow to push elevator buttons, and strive for just one person per elevator.
  • Only use water fountains to fill up containers.
  • Do not use or move furniture that is marked as out of service.
  • Do no enter spaces marked as closed.

Campus Relations and Graphic Design are working with campus units such as the Student Union, Student Housing, TRAC and Brookens Library as well as the Fall 2020 Academic Planning Team to develop area-specific safety signage. Additionally, campus units will be able to access digital templates to create their own United in Safety signage to fit their specific needs.

Financial impact on 2020-21 budget

On Tuesday, the U of I System executive team announced plans to help mitigate the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we have navigated the numerous challenges created by the pandemic exceptionally well to date, the reality is that all three universities have incurred significant expenses and revenue losses.

Each university has been asked to address this challenge through the following measures:

  • curtail hiring and only fill vacant positions that are critical to our missions
  • reduce travel and related expenses
  • reduce non-personnel expenses, such as supplies and purchased services
  • slow down or postpone capital projects, except for those that are strategically vital and those already in process

Additionally, as stated in the system message, there will be no merit-based salary program for the upcoming academic year, and members of the senior executive team of the system and the three universities will take a 10-percent pay reduction for six months in the upcoming academic year. At UIS, funds from these salary savings will be put toward the Prairie Stars Relief Fund to provide support for students enduring financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fall 2020 planning

Our planning teams continue to prepare for the Fall 2020 semester. The Academic Planning team is focused on identifying professional development needs for faculty who need to adapt in-person classes to remote methods, converting course information from Blackboard to Canvas, evaluating classrooms to meet physical distancing guidelines, disinfectant protocols and much more. The Student Affairs/Community Engagement team is focused on testing protocols, evaluating residence life scenarios and establishing the criteria we must meet to be able to host events across the university. These next few weeks will be busy as these teams begin to make critical decisions that will affect how we will approach Fall 2020. I appreciate everyone’s hard work as they plan to adjust the campus environment to provide a safe, high-quality experience for all students, faculty and staff at UIS this coming semester!

Chancellor transition

I hope you all saw the announcement Wednesday of the selection of Dr. Karen Whitney as the UIS interim chancellor following my June 30 retirement. I have already started working with Dr. Whitney, and we will continue to collaborate to ensure a seamless transition. She will be making a visit soon to get a better sense of the campus and the community. Dr. Whitney brings a wealth of experience to her interim assignment at UIS, and I am fully confident the year ahead will be a productive one with her leadership.

Virtual Listening Tables

I hope you read the Chancellor’s statement earlier this week in response to the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis several days.  The UIS Coalition Builders (NCBI affiliate) team will offer two virtual listening tables (via Zoom) from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday, June 8, and noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, June 11, for the UIS community along with a resource page.

Monday Zoom Link: https://uis.zoom.us/j/94806859405

Thursday Zoom Link: https://uis.zoom.us/j/97140264895

Internal communication survey

In the past year, many faculty and staff have shared recommendations for improved internal communications. Transparency and improving the flow of information is more important than ever as we navigate returning to on-site work and returning students to classrooms. Our communications team is working on a digital solution – a home for internal communication – and would like your feedback about what tools would make an internal information hub useful and valuable for you. I would appreciate your participation in a brief survey that will guide decision-making. This new home for internal communication will debut after the launch of the new UIS.edu (scheduled for later this summer).

Leadership lived

  • Associate Professor of Communication Kathy Novak was only a few weeks into her COM 407 Photojournalism and Photo Documentary Class when Gov. Pritzker announced the stay-home order and UIS students returned home to begin remote learning. The already-online class did not have to adjust for remote learning, but assignments had to be modified immediately. The result was a powerful visual account of the students’ experiences during the early days of the pandemic. Novak said when students turned in their final project photo essays, she was amazed at the stark moments that were captured — photos that tell the story of how the world stood still and how life was altered by COVID-19. The students’ work is featured on the UIS Communication Department Facebook page.
  • Speaking of photography, UIS senior photographer Clay Stalter has been documenting students, faculty and staff as part of a “Pandemic Portraits” series. You can follow along on the UIS Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

The next “Message from the Chancellor” will be sent June 19. As this month unfolds, please continue to stay safe.

Chancellor Koch