Dear Faculty and Staff:
As we move into summer, I hope you and your loved ones are well. In recent weeks, a lot has been happening behind the scenes and I want you to have the latest updates.
As indicated in a separate announcement today to graduates, we made the decision to postpone in-person August Commencement. We will proceed with virtual graduation celebrations in collaboration with colleges and schools, as was the case in May, to include the virtual conferral of degrees.
After careful consideration and planning, we intend for campus to be open in the fall. We’re doing this with two goals in mind: (1) to do our very best to fulfill our land-grant mission of education and research; and (2) to ensure we do this as safely as possible.
We understand that some of our students, faculty and staff may be more susceptible to COVID-19 than others, so we’re taking extra precautions to promote your health and safety across all aspects of campus. These precautions – with more details forthcoming throughout the summer and with adjustments as needed this fall – will work in concert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal entities, state authorities, public health and infectious disease experts, including those whom we are privileged to have within our faculty.
As part of these precautions for the fall semester, we will start classes earlier, beginning Aug. 19. While classes will end prior to Thanksgiving, campus services will remain available through the Thanksgiving break and after, to include reading day, online exams, and commencement to support students and faculty for the successful completion of the semester. With an earlier class start will come an even earlier return to campus for some students as we seek to stagger the move-in process, orientations and other activities.
We plan to hold as many in-person classes as possible, and we will also provide remote options for every course. This will likely mean that we will have hybrid classes in which some students are in-person while others participate remotely. We’re also redesigning schedules to hold classes throughout an extended day with potential for Monday through Saturday classes as necessary to enhance physical distancing in classes and throughout campus. Greater details are being worked out using priorities articulated by faculty, deans, student leaders and staff, and will be forthcoming.
To further protect our students, faculty and staff, we will continue physical distancing protocols in our classrooms, research laboratories and other areas where groups often gather. We’re currently looking at the capacity of each of our classrooms, determining ways to physically arrange them to best promote physical distancing. We will also have enhanced cleaning protocols in place and are analyzing our building ventilation system.
We have entered into a partnership with the state of Texas to help build a workforce for contact tracing through the Health Science Center which will directly benefit our campus community and all Texans. We plan to offer testing, primarily for students who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. Faculty and staff will predominantly obtain testing through their healthcare providers, as will remote students.
A group of public health officials, medical professionals, faculty, staff and students have convened to review CDC and other guidance on face-covering requirements to ensure that we protect those most vulnerable. A policy on requirements for face-coverings will be released in the days to come.
We are developing detailed plans for isolating on-campus residents who are sick and those who may have been exposed to the illness. If we see increases in COVID-19 that concern officials and/or the campus community, we have prepared and will continue to refine contingency plans.
We are very grateful to the members of our faculty and staff who are not only the driving force of our important mission of education and research, but also the strongest support system for our students. Together these detailed precautions to promote the health and safety of our entire university community can provide comfort to faculty, staff, students and families that we will provide opportunities for all to be as safe as possible.
We know we can’t control every aspect of behavior of every person once they leave our campus. No university, or any organization, can protect everyone with 100 percent certainty. Nonetheless, it is the very uncertainty about the virus that necessitates our thoughtful, careful, prudential caution. Our goal is to provide an environment to minimize risk of transmission and allow those who are vulnerable to have as much protection as we can provide.
In recent months, I know we’ve asked a lot of our faculty and staff. I want you to know how grateful we are for your patience and flexibility. While this time will look different than those in previous years, I am confident that we will succeed because you will summon the same dedication that has always helped Aggies rise to every challenge.
More than ever, what you do matters – for our students, for our families, for everyone connected to Texas A&M. Together, we can ensure that under any circumstances we can have yet another successful fall semester. Together, we have the opportunity to show that our campus spirit will always remain strong.
With sincere gratitude,
Michael K. Young