Chancellor Provides Update Regarding Coronavirus Impact to Campus
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas Chancellor Joe Steinmetz reached out directly to students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, March 11 with an update regarding how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting the campus community. His message to campus and other updates have been added to the university's Coronavirus Update site.
"We are suspending all university-sponsored out-of-state travel — both domestic and international — for the next 60 days, effective immediately," Chancellor Steinmetz said. "I understand that this decision will impact many on our campus but we feel it is in the best interest of the health and well-being of all involved."
The suspension could be extended in the future. Appeals may be made to the appropriate vice chancellor.
Additionally, all students currently traveling abroad on university-sponsored trips will be instructed to return as soon as possible.
While the University of Arkansas has not yet had a confirmed case of COVID-19, the first presumptive positive case in the state was reported in southern Arkansas March 11.
"Gov. Asa Hutchinson is also limiting official travel outside the state," Steinmetz said. "Gov. Hutchinson's recent declaration that state employees must seek cabinet-approval to travel out of state for the next 60 days does not apply to higher educational institutions, however the COVID-19 steering committee recommended this approach for our campus given it aligns with the governor's direction, growing campus concerns, and the World Health Organization's upgrade of COVID-19 to pandemic status."
On-campus classes are continuing but the university is asking faculty to prepare and practice conducting courses online now in order to have the campus ready for the potential of delivering all classes online or via alternate delivery by March 30 if needed.
"I understand that preparing for this eventual possibility will require a great deal of effort and adaptability from all of us, but we must be prepared," Steinmetz said.
The primary scenarios that would trigger the actual suspension of on-campus classes at this time are the potential confirmation of a case COVID-19 within the campus community or in the Fayetteville community.
Steinmetz also addressed concerns about whether some campus events may be rescheduled or canceled.
"We have empowered leaders of colleges, schools and units to do as they deem fit when it comes to postponing, suspending or even canceling some events," Steinmetz said. "If campus leaders decide restrictions beyond what the university is currently requiring or recommending are in the best interests of our students, faculty and staff due to the specifics of individual situations, then we encourage them to do what they think is appropriate."
Students, faculty and staff who are responsible for a gathering or event on campus, should consider these criteria when considering rescheduling or a potential cancellation:
- Is rescheduling or cancellation solely the decision of my unit/area or are there others who must be involved in the decision?
- Are attendees mostly local or are they from areas which have been more directly affected by COVID-19?
- Does the potential gathering include a significant proportion of high-risk groups, as defined by the CDC (underlying health conditions, ages of 60 and over)?
- How many are expected to attend?
- Is the event scheduled before the end of the semester?
- Are speakers and/or attendees already canceling?
- Can the event be conducted online?
- Are there any contractual obligations involved? If so, please contact the Office of Legal Counsel before making your final decision.
Please also consider CDC guidance for preparing for large events.
"I encourage everyone to remain supportive, respectful and empathetic to one another as we move forward through this difficult situation," Steinmetz said. "We're all in this together."
About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3 percent of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Reportranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.
John F. Thomas, manager of university communications
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