Will this fall be like any other at the University of Virginia?
The short answer is no. UVA will provide an educational program for students, but figuring out the longer answer – just how different it will be – is the work of a committee created by President Jim Ryan. UVA must consider many factors influenced by a pandemic that has deeply affected higher education and the broader way of American life.
Guided by the advice of health and safety experts, the committee will seek input from students, faculty and staff to develop recommendations about the next academic semester. Ryan expects to update the University community about fall plans no later than mid-June.
“Deciding what the University of Virginia will do in the fall semester is the most important decision we have in the weeks ahead, and one of the more important decisions the University will make in its history,” Ryan said.
The Fall 2020 Committee includes representation from across the University, and is chaired by Provost Liz Magill.
The committee intends to develop recommendations that allow students, faculty, parents and the community to make plans, but also to gather and consider the best and most up-to-date information about the virus to inform its decision-making. Its deliberations are guided by commitments to the safety, health and well-being of the community; to maintaining excellence in delivering the University’s mission; and to the wisest use of resources.
Among the tasks the committee members will consider:
- Timeline for making a decision: With the spring semester approaching its conclusion, UVA does not have the luxury of waiting until the last minute to decide what it will do in the fall. The committee’s first task is to figure out the last date by which the University must make a call about the fall semester to allow for appropriate planning and preparation – regardless of the decision.
- Safe date for classes on Grounds: Using the best information available about the progression of the coronavirus and mitigation efforts, the committee will recommend what it considers the safest date the University could resume classes on Grounds and what conditions might apply. This will include practical steps to mitigate the spread in a setting that includes a student population, and with the community’s safety in mind. The goal is to have as many students as possible taking classes on Grounds. With so much uncertainty for now, the committee must consider and plan for offering online instruction for some groups of students, such as international students or those who are unable to attend classes on Grounds, even if conditions permit them.
- Academic contingencies: This includes consideration of academic options that range from opening on Grounds at a standard date for the fall semester to making the difficult decision to continue holding classes online for the semester – and multiple scenarios in between. Academic deans will play a key role in exploring these options, which will consider teaching, research and other scholarship. The committee’s work includes exploring how to further enhance the online learning experience, in any scenario.
- Operations: Members of the Fall 2020 Committee also will examine the impact of the final decisions on University finances, and weigh options for recommending how to manage them, including consideration of different levels of tuition based on potential modifications to the academic calendar.
“The Fall 2020 Committee has the monumental task of recommending, in a very short amount of time, our next steps as an institution,” Magill said. “The safety of our students, faculty, staff and the greater community will be at the heart of our deliberations as we consider how to deliver our core mission of teaching, research and clinical care. We all look forward to developing creative solutions to what is truly a unique set of challenges.”
UVA already has made significant adjustments in response to the pandemic. In March, the University moved all courses online, where they will remain at least through the first two summer sessions. Final Exercises, as traditionally held on the Lawn in May were postponed, and alternate plans for a virtual event and another ceremony on Grounds at a future date have been developed. UVA cancelled all events and gatherings on Grounds until at least June 30 and implemented a telework policy for those whose jobs could be performed remotely.
The University also decided to issue prorated refunds to cover a portion of spring semester housing and dining costs for students who were forced to vacate residence halls in response to the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Ryan announced the creation of a $2 million emergency fund to assist contract workers who have been furloughed and UVA employees who may be facing unexpected costs due to the crisis. UVA also contributed $1 million to the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.
And more recently, UVA announced new policies in response to financial losses from the crisis, including hiring and salary freezes, expense reductions and 10% salary reductions for UVA’s executive leadership team.
The Fall 2020 Committee membership includes:
- Liz Magill, Executive Vice President and Provost.
- J.J. Davis, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.
- Dr. Mitchell Rosner, Chair, Department of Medicine.
- Patricia Lampkin, Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer.
- Carl Zeithaml, Dean, McIntire School of Commerce.
- Archie Holmes, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.
- Margot Rogers, Senior Adviser to the President, Strategic Initiatives.
- Virginia Evans, Chief Information Officer.
- Ja’Mel Reed, Third-year student, incoming Co-Chair, Housing and Residence Life.
- Brie Gertler, Commonwealth Professor of Philosophy.
- Timothy Heaphy, University Counsel.
- John Jeffries, Senior Vice President for Advancement.
- Barbara Fried, member, Board of Visitors, and Chair, Academic and Student Life Committee.