Thursday, July 23, 2020

Dear UNT faculty and staff,

The past few weeks have been eventful and, in the hustle and bustle of planning for fall, I wanted to update the campus community and thank you all for your hard work and dedication to our students. The surge of COVID-19 in Texas has all of us concerned for the safety of our community, and we have doubled down on our efforts to run classes safely, to test and contact trace when we have active cases, and to consider all alternatives for a safe fall reopening.

We have had very few cases of COVID-19 in our residence halls over the summer, so we hope that we can have a somewhat normal return to residential life when students come back in August. There will certainly be students with active cases, but we now can rapidly test, trace, and isolate with our own testing and tracing capabilities. Our experience with athletics and our in-person classes this summer will help us be better prepared this fall. I can't thank our Safety and Incident Management team enough for their tireless efforts and their diligence in keeping our campus safe. I also am grateful that Texas has issued mask requirements, and we hope to see signs that we are flattening the curve again. Wearing masks faithfully everywhere we go can really help us control the pandemic.

One of our biggest concerns is getting students back into experiential classes for musicians, scientists, artists, engineers and others so they can make progress on their degrees and graduate in a timely fashion. The Academic Affairs Advisory Restart team has done a great job scheduling these critically needed classes and considering all our options for running them safely. I also want to thank faculty who have taken measures to improve remote and online delivery.

With 13 in-person classes this summer and most of our research labs opened, we are seeing the effectiveness of our strong safety precautions. We are making adjustments based on what we have learned to better prepare for fall. I have been on campus almost every day and am gratified to see people wearing their masks, maintaining social distancing and being responsible for the safety of our Mean Green family, and the continuity of their education. 

An unexpected bit of good news is that summer enrollment is up over 16%! We have tracked Fall enrollment daily and, while international enrollment is still in question, overall enrollment is trending up at this time. Enrollment Management, Student Affairs and our Advising teams have worked hard recruiting and registering students in this virtual environment so they can pursue their educational dreams.

I know you have more questions about the fall, so as we get closer to the start of the semester, I will give everyone an update in a safety town hall in early August. It has been a challenging time for many of you as you juggle telecommuting, being on campus, and the difficulties of managing your family lives in this stressful situation. I hope you will all attend to your health this summer and keep you and your loved ones safe. Getting us to this point has been a monumental task, and your hard work has made it possible.

Your commitment to our mission and determination allow us to move forward, and I owe you all a debt of gratitude.

Thank you all so much.

UNT proud, 

Neal Smatresk

UNT President