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Message from Chancellor Sartarelli: Planning Update

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Dear Faculty & Staff:

Given that you have likely seen announcements from other institutions regarding their plans for the fall, I wanted to give you an update on our own progress toward a safe and efficient return to campus for our employees and our students.

In response to Governor Cooper’s announcement yesterday, I want to reiterate that the majority of the UNCW workforce will continue to work remotely until further notice. Only mandatory on-site employees should be on campus. (Current mandatory employees should continue on-campus work shifts as directed by their supervisors. Non-mandatory employees who are currently working remotely should continue to do so unless otherwise notified by their supervisors.) We are engaged in discussions both internally and with public health officials about what activities and functions we can begin to phase into in-person operations, and how best to do so.

The Fall 2020 Planning Team is nearing completion of the first two steps of their three-step process, and I am expecting their report of recommendations no later than May 29, 2020. This report will include a model with guidelines for opening campus, with in-person operations; a model with guidelines for shifting quickly from on-campus operations to a fully virtual campus, with online instruction and the suspension of campus activities, should the need arise; and a model with guidelines for operating with hybrid/blended (on-campus/online) operations, if necessary.

Moreover, I am pleased that our planning team has engaged various public health experts to help inform and support their work. The team has also been consulting with other universities across the UNC System and around the country and closely following the guidance being developed by the CDC, Division of Public Health, and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, as well as many other professional and academic organizations.

Once I have had a chance to review the report, I will, in consultation with my Cabinet and the UNC System Office, make the necessary decisions to best position us for student success in ways that prioritize health and safety for our students and employees. We will begin the implementation process in early June. Please know that we are balancing the pressure and time-sensitive nature of making these decisions with the importance of being deliberative, so that when we move forward with implementation, we have an increased understanding of the evolving situation with COVID-19 and the best strategies for returning in the fall -- and therefore the greatest probability of success. I say this with the full understanding that things may change at any point in time, and flexibility in our strategy is essential.

Please know that we will continue to communicate with you about this progress at every step. It is a slow but steady endeavor, and we appreciate your continued patience. Remember, you are welcome to send us input at any time via Fall2020@uncw.edu.

As we’ve said before, our top priorities in all decisions are the health, safety and well-being of our Seahawk community. I know that in a perfect world, we would already have concrete plans for you to consider in terms of your own planning for this summer and fall. However, making an announcement about our anticipated plan now would likely mean that we would have to adapt that announcement as circumstances change in the coming weeks, and the last thing we want to do is create any additional confusion or distress for all of you. Instead, we will continue to move cautiously and thoughtfully, and we are eager to share with you our fully developed plans in the coming weeks. Aspirationally, we want to be together on campus as much as possible, when it is safe to do so. Pragmatically, and with the health and safety of our community as our primary driver, we have to be ready for any path ahead.

Thank you for your understanding that we are operating in uncertain times, and for your continued collaboration in planning, executing, and succeeding in our return to campus!

Jose V. Sartarelli
Chancellor