Planning for our return to campus – A Message from the President

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Dear UNT faculty and staff,

It has been almost two months since I last saw you on our beautiful campus. I miss you and the hustle and bustle of campus life. During this time, we have all been adapting to virtual services, remote and online classes, and shelter in place. I hope you are doing well, that you are staying safe and healthy, and are making progress. Like me, I suspect you are looking forward to being together again to see friends and enjoy our rich campus experience.

Our leadership teams have been working hard to help us begin the transition from remote learning back to more normal campus operations. Today, I want to inform you that we plan to begin limited in-person teaching as early as Summer II and are planning on safely resuming campus learning and residential life for Fall 2020.

As we plan for our return to campus, the new normal will be different. Your safety is our top priority. We will take every precaution to keep our community safe, and we will be especially attentive to the safety of faculty and staff who are at high risk. We are assessing options and precautions for eventually returning to campus for all in-person activities and programs, ranging from lab-based research to general instruction and the undergraduate residential experience. Of course, these plans depend on continuing improvement in COVID-19 cases, and guidance from federal, state, and local health authorities to ensure your safety.

This global health crisis also has had a financial impact on all of us. Many of our students — and some of you our faculty and staff — have been hit hard by the current economy. We are doing our best to balance easing financial burdens with providing the top quality UNT education and experiences our students deserve. If you know of students experiencing financial insecurity, please have them apply for assistance from our emergency grants-in-aid program available through the CARES Act at https://tinyurl.com/UNTStudentSuccessFA.

In the next few weeks, vice presidents will be working with their staff and communicating plans for how their division will reopen to fully serve our students and our university. In the meantime, here are a few important things:

  • There will be no large gatherings permitted on campus through July 5.
  • We are not planning or scheduling large gatherings for the summer or fall yet. We are continuing to monitor information coming to us from health officials and our government leaders, and we will continue to evolve our plans as necessary.
  • This summer, student services will move toward offering hybrid services. This means we will continue virtual services but also offer in-person services with appropriate social distancing in place. This fall, we will resume on-campus classes. The Learning Spaces Strategies Committee is being charged with developing ways to deliver our curriculum safely. This will include a blend of in-person, remote and online delivery. The committee is chaired by John Quintanilla, associate dean of Undergraduate Studies in the College of Science. The details for the fall semester will be shared by July 1.
  • Travel restrictions remain in place, and the university will continue to prohibit non-essential business travel. Individuals who have traveled should notify Risk Management by registering their travel and may be asked to self-isolate for two weeks before coming to campus.
  • We expect significant revenue losses next year but have taken strong budget recovery measures through the remainder of this fiscal year. Summer enrollment is significantly up, and I am confident that our efforts to maintain enrollment for fall and our conservative budget planning process will help us mitigate the impacts of fall and spring enrollment shortfalls. More details on budgeting will be shared with the campus in the coming weeks.
  • We know that some of our employees are in high risk categories. Guidelines for requesting to extend telecommuting are under development and details will be provided through your vice president.

Despite the many weeks apart, we have become an even stronger, more connected UNT community through this shared adversity. I hope someday we look back at this time and see not just the challenges, but also the care and commitment we gave one another — and to our students so that they can achieve their dreams.

We will emerge from this global health crisis stronger and more united as the Mean Green Family than ever before.

UNT proud,
Neal Smatresk
UNT President