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May 22, 2020

I deeply appreciate the continued thoughtful, creative and difficult work our faculty and staff members have contributed during this unprecedented time. I also am honored to be asked by President Cartwright to continue working with all of you as interim provost.

We do not yet know entirely what UCF will look like in the fall, but I am writing to provide you with the latest on the planning that is underway.

We are working quickly to complete plans that prioritize the health of our campus community, provide students a high-quality education, and remain flexible so that we can respond to changing public health circumstances. We are following advice from federal, state and local health professionals and guidance from the Florida Board of Governors, and are in consultation with faculty and our Board of Trustees.

The planning has been carried out by several task forces and workgroups, some of which have been operating since March and others established more recently. Several faculty members are engaged with these groups, and, at the request of Faculty Senate Chair Joe Harrington, we will add other interested volunteers. If you are interested in serving on a group, please contact Laurie Carroll at [email protected] and Blake Scott at [email protected].

On Monday, the State University System announced that state universities will present their individual plans for fall to the Florida Board of Governors on June 23. These will be informed by guidelines that a State University System Task Force will release on May 28. UCF’s plans will first be presented to our trustees on June 18.

To hear your thoughts and field your questions, I will host a virtual town hall from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on Friday, May 29. We will be joined by Dr. Michael Deichen, our associate vice president for Student Health Services and principal medical advisor for the university’s response, as well as other members of our Return to On-Campus Instruction task force. This meeting will be geared toward faculty, but staff also are invited. More information about how to join the virtual meeting is available here.

If you have questions or comments ahead of the meeting, you are welcome to contact me at [email protected].

Fall Instruction

The byword for teaching this fall is flexibility: being prepared to offer high-quality academic programs whether face-to-face, remote or a hybrid of both. Because we do not know what fall will bring, we are planning for different scenarios.

In one scenario, some classes could be offered face-to-face. Plans for this possibility are underway. On-campus classes would be subject to requirements such as physical distancing, the wearing of face coverings, enhanced cleaning protocols and other precautions. Smaller classes would need to meet in larger rooms, and many other classes would need to be offered remotely. Faculty teaching on campus would need a flexible approach to account for the possibility of illness or quarantine, or only having part of the class present each period.

We are still working out which courses, in this scenario, might be offered face-to-face. Deans have worked with program faculty to identify the courses and programs most in need of on-campus instruction, such as clinical courses, studio art, senior design, some lab courses and more. We also recognize that the success of first-time-in-college students depends in large part on on-campus experiences.

There remains the possibility that, as fall approaches, public health conditions will change. The deep and creative thought many of you have already given to offering high-quality courses remotely, along with additional training made available by the [email protected] team, has prepared us well for this eventuality.

As we firm up our plans in the coming weeks, I ask you to think carefully about your own courses. We will need to make some decisions centrally, but I strongly believe that the faculty’s creativity, flexibility and dedication will give the best education to our students.

Return to Work

President Cartwright announced last week that plans are underway for the phased return of some employees. The return to campus is beginning with research labs, with detailed direction already sent from the Office of Research. Some university leadership will begin returning June 1, and other employees will gradually be able to return later in June. Most faculty will not need to return this summer.

Return will be gradual, and individuals who are at a higher risk, who have dependent-care responsibilities or who can effectively work remotely will be permitted to work remotely. There will be new policies requiring physical distancing, face coverings, cleaning and disinfecting, testing, contact tracing and more. There will be mandatory training, explanations of the new policies, and enforcement. Detailed information will be shared very soon.

We will continue to provide more information as the plans move forward. We do not yet know the full impact of COVID-19, and additional challenges are likely to arise. We need to recognize, in our plans and actions, that the pandemic is not affecting everyone identically. Some are at higher risk or face greater struggles, and need our consideration. I ask you to continue to work together, practice patience and care for one another. Compassion will carry us through.

Please stay safe and well.

Dr. Michael D. Johnson
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs