Since late February, UF has activated an integrated response and management structure that includes dozens of campus experts in epidemiology, health care, emergency management, academic and student affairs, and other areas to determine the institution’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most important element of that work is planning for a future in which uncertainty is the most certain feature of all. There is much we do not – and cannot – know, but we learn more daily. It is critical that we prepare each day based on the best information available.
The university has created a recovery planning strategy, a multi-faceted model for aligning UF’s response to COVID-19-related challenges with its short- and long-term recovery needs. Task forces of campus leaders charged with developing this framework includes representatives from UF Health, the President’s Cabinet, academic leaders and others who will address these important issues.
As a result of our planning efforts, the configuration of the fall semester will be announced no later than mid-July. In the meantime, we expect that federal, state and local leaders will regularly update the guidelines under which we operate. UF will develop, implement and continually refine our own health- and science-driven plans over the coming months to thoughtfully and gradually return to more normal campus activity within those government guidelines.
Our planning and future decisions are guided by five principles:
Protect the safety and well-being of the UF community
We will implement practices as recommended by public health guidance to create a campus environment that demonstrates that we are committed to the health and well-being of our campus community, all the while taking steps to identify, isolate, and mitigate any incidence of COVID-19.
Ensure student success
The university will work to remove barriers and provide resources and tools needed so that students can continue to learn and make steady progress toward their degrees, whether in a traditional face-to-face setting, online or some combination thereof. We will consider instructional delivery in all types of class settings, including those traditionally delivered in the classroom, online instruction, laboratory instruction and any experiential forms of instruction.
Support faculty and staff in advancing the university’s mission
The university will support the efforts of faculty and staff to teach, conduct research and carry out all the duties that are necessary to fulfill the university’s mission, ensuring the continuity and quality of their work. Alternative work arrangements, sharing of resources, reassignment and retrofitting of facilities, and other operational measures will be considered, with the goal of returning the campus to normal operations as quickly as possible.
Minimize financial impact and ensure UF’s long-term financial health
As the nation’s economy faces significant challenges, so, too, does the university. We will be faced with making difficult decisions in order to assure UF’s financial health throughout the recovery ahead and will consider all available cost-saving measures that may be necessary to balance the university’s budgetary needs. We also will monitor current events for potential financial impacts, either positive or negative, that may result.
Create a new higher education paradigm
As we face what will likely be a changed higher education terrain in the months and years ahead, the university must adapt to that landscape and redefine itself while maintaining its commitment to excellence in teaching, research and patient care. We will think outside the box and aspire to emerge not only whole, but as a national model in higher education whose contributions strengthen our state and our nation.
Our Path Forward
For the summer, classes will remain online and it is expected that some employees will begin returning to campus during the next few weeks, while some employees may continue to work remotely. Campus events are canceled. We will continue to closely monitor the status or progression of COVID-19 as guided by our UF Health experts as well as local, state and federal health officials and our elected leaders.
And finally, we know that athletic and cultural activities for the fall are of great interest to many as well. Decisions regarding athletic activities will be made by the SEC and NCAA, and the university will share decisions as they are made.
By June 1, the task forces will produce a comprehensive set of operational recommendations for the fall semester. We welcome input from the campus community as the task forces advance their work. Details about their progress will be forthcoming. In a subsequent communication we will explain the structure of the task forces, their leadership and how you should provide your input.