Dear campus community,
There is a great deal of thoughtful discussion and debate about the Fall 2020 semester at UNCG and at universities around the country. While we still have much to consider, UNCG expects to open our doors and arms to our students on campus, in person, this fall.
We will have to make some realistic adjustments, of course. And to be clear, the safety of everyone in our extended community – especially those most at risk – will be the preeminent consideration in anything we do. But across the UNC System, it is our shared goal to return to campus, while ensuring we are well-prepared for any curve balls that COVID-19 may throw our way.
I think it is essential to start with a fundamentally important point: Being on campus matters. For many of our undergraduate students, and most particularly our incoming freshmen, being on campus together is at the very heart of our efforts to support the rich opportunities that come with college life – the opportunity to find mentors and friends, to explore new interests, and to practice independence while knowing we are here for you. I suspect that our community, like those at other universities, feels deeply that when we do not have the ability to come together, something vital is missing.
With that in mind, UNCG and our sister institutions across the UNC System are exploring a wide range of scenarios. The primary assumption is that being on campus this fall will look and feel a bit different. Processes, procedures, and protocols will have to change based on what we have learned about this virus and the conditions at the time. These changes, for instance, will impact many things – gathering sizes, performances, events, athletics, and numbers of residential students. In short, the most likely options will take a few steps back from a full return to normal.
The ability to implement appropriate protective measures and physical distancing for everyone on our campus will drive our discussions and our decisions as we plan. We know special care has to be taken to protect faculty and staff, students, and members of our community who are at higher risk, and these considerations are fundamentally important to how we approach the Fall and beyond.
We urge students to take steps now to be ready, even if things remain “subject to change.” Fall registration is open and classes are filling up. Please register, talk to your advisors, and maximize the opportunities available this summer in classes that were designed specifically to be online to maintain progress toward your degree – especially if the disruptions this spring have impacted your timeline. Students will have the same grading flexibility and extended deadlines this summer that they do in the current term.
Even once we come back, we expect more students will take some of their classes online. As we discovered, we have the capability to quickly transition a high volume of courses online to help students preserve academic continuity and progress. Under extreme conditions, our students have shown a capacity for online learning that perhaps they did not even know they had. Moving forward, we will be able to enhance the online experience in terms of both course design and student support services. While we intend to physically be here in the fall, it’s our responsibility to be prepared for any scenario, including the need to once again move to online instruction only.
The wonderful thing about universities, though, is that they are designed to foster great thinking, creative problem-solving, and the ability to tackle the big challenges confronting society. Indeed, that is really the point of the academic enterprise. And our team is focused on and deeply committed to bringing life and vibrancy back to UNCG’s campus this fall.
Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr.