It is not lost on me that this letter comes to you in the midst of two remarkable situations occurring in our nation: the ongoing challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and the nation-wide demonstrations following the senseless killing of George Floyd. Concordia University, its faculty, staff, and students continue to respond in these moments with faith and fortitude. I recognize this communication might in some ways seem out of place in the midst of these many challenges, but we have important information to share that will help you prepare for the fall.
Like your faculty, staff, and administration, I know you are eager to return to campus in the fall. We are looking forward to welcoming you and continue to invest our best care and planning into the many details necessary to ensure you will be, as always, safe-on-campus.
Our administration has teamed with members of the faculty, local public health leaders, and public health experts to develop the student plan for an Uncommon Return this fall. That plan is available to you here.
As we continue to study the best information to ensure health and wellness, we will update this plan and communicate with you with honesty, clarity and transparency.
We are planning for in-person face-to-face learning experiences, including a regular fall semester calendar for traditional undergraduate and graduate students that begins August 24, 2020 (August 17, 2020 for our pharmacy graduate students). Please understand that these plans remain contingent on several factors, including the continued spread of COVID-19, and the health orders from state and local authorities. While the anticipated flow of the semester could change due to these factors, we are excited to welcome you back to your campus this fall.
Here are some of the key decisions in the plan for an Uncommon Return:
- All undergraduate and graduate on-campus and center classes, labs, and studios will take place in-person whenever possible, supported by Blackboard and video-conference technology.
- We expect to offer a number of different types of courses. Some will have a mixture of online and in-person modalities (e.g., online lectures, in-person discussions and labs, etc.); some may be fully in person (e.g., dance); and others could be fully online.
- Students who may not be able to attend in-person classes will be given the online support needed to continue their coursework online and remotely. There will be exceptions, and we will be providing much more detail in the coming days.
- Faculty are working hard over the summer to re-imagine and implement their courses to continue providing uncommon, student-focused, excellent learning experiences.
As always, your academic success is our first priority.
Our Fall Welcome Weekend programs and activities will begin the week of Thursday, August 20th and run the entire next week. Complete information about move-in dates, housing, and registration will follow soon.
Graduate and professional programs are developing calendars to meet their specific needs; these may differ from central university-wide orientations and programming.
Students will be notified of schedules and orientation for their programs by their individual schools.
Students conducting research on campus will have access to research labs and spaces under the supervision of faculty and following social distance protocols. Students who participate in off-campus learning (including clinicals, practicums, student teaching, and similar learning experiences), will be notified about these by their individual programs. Off-campus experiences are controlled by our off-site partners (hospitals, clinics, school districts); we are working with our partner organizations to determine their return protocols.
We are reconfiguring classrooms, offices, and other campus spaces to accommodate social distancing requirements. How we learn, work, and interact will be altered, but in ways that safely allow us to learn, work, and be in community with excellence.
Residence halls and on-campus dining facilities will be modified. Take out dining options will be expanded, and hours may be expanded to reduce dining density. We will not be modifying residence hall density but will implement procedures to manage physical distance and density in public spaces.
Traffic flow and pedestrian walkways will be marked to limit congestion.
Cleaning and sanitation of buildings, classes, and public spaces will be done frequently and according to strict protocols and health and safety guidelines.
We will need to put in place a number of actions, as recommended by our health experts and medical authorities in our county and state, to protect the health and wellness of everyone in our community. While these may be modified before your return to campus, this is a current listing of university-wide mandated practices:
- The wearing of face coverings is a mandatory requirement for anyone on campus when in public spaces such as hallways, classrooms, and auditoriums where minimum social distancing (6 feet) cannot be managed.
- Physical distancing is also mandatory.
- Failure to follow these requirements, and any others that are determined necessary to protect the health, safety, and well-being of our entire community, will be addressed by the Dean of Students office.
- For our plan to succeed, our entire community must be part of the solution – Concordians caring for Concordians and for our neighbors.
- Each member of our community will be asked to agree in writing to follow campus and public health policies and guidelines if they wish to return to campus activities.
- We are also developing required educational training sessions for our faculty, students, and staff to complete at home before returning to campus.
I am confident that with everyone’s full cooperation, we will be able to return safely.
We do not yet know the rules and requirements necessary to operate in-person events like concerts, performances, large lectures, and other activities. These decisions will conform to university and legislative policy and health guidelines.
Our national athletic associations and our conferences are developing protocols and policies around athletic practices and competitions for each sport. Much is still being developed.
As in all activities, the health and safety of our students and staff will always be our top priority.
We will follow both the guidance of government officials, NCAA (Wisconsin) and NAIA (Ann Arbor) rules, and the university on when and how athletes can return to campus.
Is there a Plan B if learning is disrupted with a surge of the pandemic?
Yes, the President’s Contingency Task Force is working on plans if we face a resurgence, and will provide more information in the coming weeks. By offering most courses in more diverse modalities, we will be well-prepared for a smooth transition if safer-at-home orders are again put in place.
- People at high riskWe are keenly aware that we must find individual solutions for the health and safety concerns of faculty, students, and staff who may be at higher risk of illness. More information on these plans will follow.
- FlexibilityWe will constantly reevaluate our plans and adjust if we find the need to alter activities or change our procedures. We will do our best to keep you informed as soon as we become aware of such changes and appreciate your understanding and flexibility as we continue this challenging work.
Our commitment to ensuring your excellent, Christ-centered higher education has not wavered. We will continue to provide you with exceptional educational experiences that prepare you for lives of uncommon leadership and service. A successful and safe 2020-2021 academic year depends on each one of us; Concordians caring for Concordians, our neighbors and communities, partners and friends. Each of us must make a personal commitment to this ethic of care.
Students, I continue to pray for you each and every day. Thank you for bearing together with us as we make so many decisions to ensure your Concordia experience remains all that you desire it to be. I cannot begin to express how eager I am to see you in person. So much has happened since we last met. By God’s good grace, we, however, continue to grow in Him, in wisdom and appreciation for the blessings He affords us to learn, live, and walk together.
We are, as ever, Concordia – hearts together,
Rev. Patrick T. Ferry, Ph.D., University President