Message from UIS Chancellor Koch to Alumni and Friends
Dear UIS alumni and friends,
These are unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic is touching all of our lives and, as the virus continues to spread across the U.S. and around the world, it has required everyone – our families, friends and coworkers – to focus first on the health and safety of ourselves and our communities.
At the University of Illinois Springfield, I want you to know we have been planning and acting for several weeks, taking steps to keep students, staff and faculty safe while continuing to focus on fulfilling our educational mission.
Like many universities, UIS has an Emergency Management Plan and other policies and procedures to help guide critical decision-making during any emergency. In addition, we appointed a campus COVID-19 Response Team several weeks ago to determine necessary action steps for both immediate response and longer-term planning. We also benefit from being part of the University of Illinois System, which has a response team that includes President Killeen, the three Chancellors, other essential campus and system leaders and medical experts.
At UIS, we made the decision to extend Spring Break for a week until March 23 to enable faculty and support staff to migrate face-to-face courses to online or other alternative delivery methods for the rest of the Spring semester in order to provide necessary social distancing that helps limit transmission of the virus. Though such a change in delivery is most certainly a challenge, we are fortunate that UIS has a well-earned national reputation for excellence in online learning. Many UIS faculty are already skillful online teachers and our Center for Online Learning, Research and Service (COLRS), headed by Dr. Vickie Cook, is providing support and additional training for faculty and students who need their assistance.
Students who live on campus have been asked to return to their permanent homes for the rest of the semester – another necessary step to ensure social distancing. Only students with extenuating circumstances (such as international students who cannot return home and domestic students who have exceptional situations) will remain in campus residential spaces. At the same time, unit leaders across campus have worked with staff to create alternative work arrangements that allow non-essential employees to work from home and that allow for maximum flexibility for essential employees who need to remain on campus. The campus remains open for essential staff and to provide services needed for remaining students, including dining, health services and public safety.
In the interests of public health, we have suspended, for the remainder of the semester, all events for more than 10 participants – such as events scheduled for the Performing Arts Center, Intercollegiate Athletics and performances of the Music and Theatre programs. Alumni and Advancement events have also been canceled or postponed – including the annual Celebration of Philanthropy and the ribbon-cutting for the new Center for Lincoln Studies that had been scheduled for the end of April. Sadly, this unprecedented emergency has also brought cancellation of the May 2020 Commencement celebrations, which will be rescheduled for a later date.
I assure you that, with an outstanding leadership team in place and with the dedication and creativity of UIS faculty and staff, we are taking all necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of our entire campus community. I also want to assure you that, through this challenge, our vision to provide every student a uniquely student-centered educational experience that will serve as a pathway to opportunity will not falter. We will get through this together and move forward to celebrate our 50th anniversary in the coming year.
You can follow UIS’ ongoing response to the pandemic at: https://www.uis.edu/covid-19/.
Please do stay safe and healthy in the coming weeks and find ways to demonstrate the reputation for Leadership lived that continues to characterize our University.
Susan J. Koch, Chancellor
University of Illinois Springfield