As I reflect on what has surely been the most unusual semester of my career, I am immensely proud of our students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, and friends for everything we have accomplished together. The way so many members of our community have stepped up as we have navigated the challenges and changing landscape before us these last few weeks has been truly remarkable.
Now, as we transition from spring to summer, we are focusing our attention and effort squarely on the future. Last week, I announced that we are preparing for a return to campus in late August as we shift from response to recovery. I recognize the continued uncertainty many of you feel and that circumstances are still fluid, but also believe that we have ample time to prepare in the months to come. I recently asked Provost Mark Anderson and Vice President for Student Affairs Katrina Rodriguez to convene and lead a Re-Entry Task Force composed of faculty, staff, students, and administrators to conduct scenario planning for our return in the fall. While our ‘Plan A’ is for our community to be back on campus for in-person instruction, we are simultaneously preparing for a broad range of eventualities. This includes discussing how we might leverage hybrid models of instruction to help maintain an appropriate level of social distancing and also accommodate students and faculty members who may not be able to join us on campus.
As we proceed, the health and safety of our community will be front and center in our planning. We will also be mindful of, and comply with, requirements and public health orders from government authorities. And, we will need to maintain a level of flexibility to respond to any changes, including those that may emerge after the semester begins.
We also have significant work to do to address the financial impacts of COVID-19 on the University. Although we have made extraordinary progress in our efforts to place UNC on a more sustainable footing over the last couple years, COVID-19 has introduced new challenges—and we do not yet know what the full impact will be. Next week, I will task the President’s Leadership Council to begin developing approaches to address the financial implications of COVID-19 for the next fiscal year, and have invited additional faculty and student representatives to the PLC to support this important work.
As all of this work progresses, we will continue to share information with our community regularly. Although our last Daily Operational Status Update was today, next week we will begin hosting a weekly update on Thursdays to share information about our preparations for the fall semester. The recordings will be available on the UNC Coronavirus website. I encourage you to check in Thursday afternoons to remain informed about the latest developments.
This semester has proven how resilient and adaptable we can be in the face of adversity. We are going to need to continue to leverage these strengths in the coming months as we continue to navigate the effects of COVID-19 on UNC, as well as on our families, community, state, and nation. I have never been more certain of what can be accomplished when we work together.
Before I close, I want to recognize the outstanding graduates of our Class of 2020. This past semester brought unprecedented challenges our way, but your effort to continue your sprint to the finish line these past few months assures me that you will persevere and continue to grow—even in the most difficult times. We are so proud of you and confident that you will continue to inspire us all. I recorded a brief message to share with all of you this afternoon and will send an additional message to our graduates tomorrow. Congratulations, graduates! On a side note, you will see that I was having a bad hair day and am in desperate need of a haircut.
I wish you, you families, and friends good health in these summer months and look forward to seeing all of you again soon.
Rowing, Not Drifting,