During First Forum, Deans Answer Questions About Safe Return to Campus

Top, from left: Dean Deacue Fields of Bumpers College and Dean Peter MacKeith of Fay Jones School; bottom: Dean Kim Needy of the Graduate School and International Education, and interim Provost Charles Robinson.
University Relations

Top, from left: Dean Deacue Fields of Bumpers College and Dean Peter MacKeith of Fay Jones School; bottom: Dean Kim Needy of the Graduate School and International Education, and interim Provost Charles Robinson.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Deans Deacue Fields, Peter MacKeith and Kim Needy talked online with more than 200 members of the university community Wednesday during the first of four forums about the return to campus.

The forum was moderated by interim Provost Charles Robinson. Terry Martin, senior vice provost for academic affairs, also offered insights into the plans being developed for campus to maximize safety on campus. After short introductory remarks, the deans took questions from viewers.


The various colleges and schools are working with the Facilities Management Department to reconfigure classrooms in a way that provides social distancing between each student desk as well as between the students and instructors.

Members of the campus community will need to wear masks in academic buildings and other designated areas.

Dean MacKeith of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design said that the school is also manufacturing clear face shields as a second preventive measure for students, faculty and staff who may be in closer proximity to one another than 6 feet. Likewise, students will likely wear face shields if taking a science or engineering lab where a full 6 feet of social distance is more difficult.

Each classroom will have cleaning supplies and students should use those to clean their own desk between classes. The university's custodial crews will also provide additional cleaning and sanitizing each day, but the higher safety will be achieved by a combination of both individual and institutional actions.

The university is also coordinating with the Arkansas Department of Health regarding testing and tracing. For instance, the new configuration of classroom desks will also include numbering of desks and assigned seating, so that if a student becomes infected, health officials will know the names of the three or four students who were seated closest to the infected student and be able to test them as part of the tracing procedure.


Although the university is planning for in-person classes, should conditions force the university to alter teaching methods, the colleges and schools are preparing for all options.

Dean Fields of the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences told the listeners that his college was in the process of adding high-definition cameras in classrooms for lectures but also including an additional overhead camera so that in-class demonstrations can be better seen if a student is watching remotely.

He said that he and all the deans have worked well together to keep flexibility at the forefront of academic plans. If the university were to need to pivot at some point, the extra planning will give professors more options for lectures.

For the Fay Jones School, MacKeith said, the school is also installing 20 portable video monitors for instructional use in its studios to enable in-person teaching and learning at safe distance, as well as hybrid and remote modes.


Dean Needy of the Graduate School and International Education talked about some of the arising challenges that graduate students and international students have faced.

Both sets of students have faced higher likelihood of financial difficulty. Many graduate students are in family situations where they're raising children or caring for parents and so face higher financial burdens outside campus. Others have graduate assistantships that are nine-month appointments.

The Graduate School is working with departments where possible to extend graduate assistantships in situations in which COVID-19 disrupted a graduate student's research and thesis timetable. Emergency funds are also being used in specific situations as well.

Similarly, international students have faced issues such as job loss or additional living expenses because they wouldn't normally have stayed in Fayetteville through the summer. Giving by alumni and friends of the university to an emergency fund has helped students in need across campus.


Each forum will be held on Zoom and last 75 minutes. Space is limited. Registration requires a uark.edu email address. The remaining Deans' Forums include:

July 24, 2:30-3:45 p.m — Register Here

  • Dennis Clark, dean of University Libraries
  • Lynda Coon, dean of the Honors College
  • Todd Shields, dean of the Fulbright College for Arts and Sciences.

July 30, 2:30-3:45 p.m. — Register Here

  • John English, dean of the College of Engineering
  • Margaret McCabe, dean of the School of Law
  • Brian Primack, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions
  • Matt Waller, dean of the Walton College of Business.

August (Date/time to be determined)

  • Chancellor Joe Steinmetz
  • Yvette Murphy-Erby, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion
  • Members of the COVID-19 Response Team

Faculty, staff and students with questions for the forum participants can send them in advance to forums@uark.edu. Questions can also be asked during the forums as time allows.

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% of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks 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.


Charlie Alison, executive editor
University Relations
479-575-6731, calison@uark.edu


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