Greetings, Faculty Firebirds!
Last month, President Mason provided the campus community with guidance for fall 2021. To continue assisting you with fall planning, I am providing an update given changing circumstances and public health guidelines, and continued progress by the COVID Task Force.
As we have stated previously, COVID-19 vaccines are our best defense against the virus. Given the importance of vaccination, the University of the District of Columbia has a mandated vaccination requirement.
Under this policy, beginning this fall, the University would require all students, faculty, and staff who at any time access campus facilities at any UDC location to be immunized against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
UDC already strongly encourages students, faculty, and staff to obtain a vaccination as soon as they can schedule an appointment. D.C. Health operates a free walkup vaccination facility at 4225 Connecticut N.W. (across the street from the Student Center). Other vaccination centers near you can be found here https://coronavirus.dc.gov/page/get-vaccinated or www.vaccines.gov.
In addition, students planning to access any UDC campus for the fall are required to update their immunization documentation on file to indicate vaccination or an approved exception or medical exemption before coming on campus.
We are planning for instruction to be in-person with standard classroom occupancy. Most classes will be face-to-face; however, virtual/remote, hybrid, and limited HYFLEX modalities will also be available. We will continue to require all attendees to wear a face-covering on campus.
When registration began for continuing students, we were still in the process of assigning all in-person courses to a classroom. This work continues, and we apologize that there may be some resulting schedule changes for those students who have already registered. These changes will be communicated to students and instructors as they occur. We also want to remind students that they have the opportunity to modify their schedules during this online registration period through August 2, which is available for continuing students. We ask that all students (including international students) register for classes based on the available information in the system at the time they register.
MEDICAL OR ADA ACCOMMODATIONS
Faculty and staff with personal health issues which cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine or have other medical reasons affecting their ability to be present on campus in the fall are encouraged to contact Human Resources. Students are encouraged to contact the Accessibility Resource Center to discuss possible accommodations.
Instructors with disabilities or personal health issues that would potentially impact their return to campus in the fall may contact Human Resources.
OTHER COVID-RELATED ISSUES
We know that the pandemic has impacted people beyond their health. To address this, we are developing a mechanism to review requests from faculty and staff dealing with situations related to COVID-19 that affect their children, parents, or others in their care. We will communicate as soon as we have more details.
We are encouraged by the recent determination by the U.S. Department of State to allow students with valid visas to enter the United States without contacting an embassy or consulate before traveling. We are also hopeful that embassies and consulates will continue to reopen and that wait times for obtaining a student visa will continue to improve. However, we are aware that there is still a possibility that some international students will not be able to obtain a visa in time to arrive for the start of fall instruction in August. To address this issue, we will do our best to have some alternative instruction options for international students who cannot obtain a visa in time to come to campus for the start of the fall semester.
We advise all international undergraduate students to register for courses as soon as they can do so based on the information in the system at the time they register. Currently, undergraduates should register for courses under the assumption that they will be able to attend in person. If in-person attendance proves impossible, we will provide additional information in August, and we will communicate any alternative instruction options.
International graduate students should discuss plans and possibilities with their program coordinators and/or Academic Dean.
We will continue to expand our research activities, and we are on track to return to full, on-site research operations by the start of the fall semester.
We continue to recommend against all non-essential travel, both domestic and international. What qualifies as essential is as follows:
- If the travel is for life-saving work.
- If the traveler is in jeopardy of not completing research on time.
- If the traveler is conducting critical research or work that can only be performed in person.
- If continued delays jeopardize the research progress and funding prospects.
- If the student will not be able to complete their degree requirement.
- If the traveler will be fully vaccinated two weeks before their intended travel date.
We do not have a timeline for when this guidance will become less restrictive, but we will communicate changes as soon as those decisions are made.
RETURN TO CAMPUS WORKPLACE
Between now and August 2, staff members will continue their current work arrangements. Between July 16 and August 1, the campus will gradually have employees return to in-person work while exploring flexible work arrangements. Flexible work arrangements will be guided by the operational needs of campus units and reflective of the lessons that we have learned during the pandemic.
Managers should begin discussions with employees about flexible work arrangements. Flexible work arrangements, where appropriate for the unit’s needs, should be used equitably. At a minimum, all employees should anticipate returning to work minimally three days within a five-day workweek. Resources and tools to assist with identifying when such arrangements are appropriate are being developed by Human Resources and will be shared as soon as practicable.
HEALTH AND SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
I have received many questions about what to expect for fall-related to face coverings, weekly asymptomatic testing, symptom screening, and other health and safety issues. Considering that the overall situation continues to improve and expect the overwhelming majority of our community members to be vaccinated by August 2, we anticipate that vaccinated individuals will not be required to take a weekly COVID-19 asymptomatic test in the fall.
We expect that the Daily Health Screening will not be required to enter campus facilities beginning in the fall. Wearing a face covering in class or when in a campus building will still be required, but we expect that face coverings will not be required when in individual office spaces or outside alone.
We will continue to keep you updated on planning guidelines for fall, through multiple communication modalities, including the myUDC website.
Thank you all for your continued support and dedication to ensuring that UDC meets our mission of excellence in teaching, research, and public service. We are eagerly anticipating a successful and productive fall semester. With continued service, I am
Lawrence T. Potter, Jr. Ph.D.
Chief Academic Officer
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