Interim President's Message to Students: Important Updates on Fall 2020
Dear Resilient Gators,
All of you have adapted to many changes this year. Despite the unexpected challenges presented by COVID-19, our current Gators were able to emerge from both spring and summer sessions with much success. Our newest Gators no doubt also overcame challenges presented by the pandemic. Now, we approach fall and more changes await all of us. However, we will remain resilient.
Next week, you will be invited to a Town Hall Meeting hosted by myself and SGA President Alan Modrow at 6 p.m., Aug. 19 where we will address these changes and more. Alan has informed me of some of your concerns including those regarding essential student workers. In this message, however, I will discuss where we are with regards to Fall 2020 and some modifications to the start of the semester.
In recent communications, I have referenced the Response Matrix. This essentially guides UHD in its decisions for gradually bringing everyone back to campus. At this time, UHD remains in Response Step - 1 Red.
Based on the Response Matrix, UHD should open on August 24 in Step 2 – Orange. However, to allow for a gradual repopulation due to the condensed nature of our campus and reliance on elevators for our community, UHD will start the fall semester at Step 1-Red and will move to Step 2 - Orange on September 8.
UHD decisions are currently guided by the COVID-19 Response Matrix as well as guidance from state officials and the University of Houston System Board of Regents. As a state institution, UHD also follows the directives of the Governor’s Office. By executive order, the Governor has moved Texas into Phase 3 of his reopening plan and UHD is required to align with this order.
What this means for you:
- A small number of classes that are scheduled with on-campus components will begin meeting on August 24. Very limited numbers of students will be on campus to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff. Courses scheduled in an online format will remain in that format. More than 85 percent of all UHD classes are being taught online this semester. If you are in an on-campus class that begins meeting August 24, your professor will contact you soon with instructions.
- Students who are taking classes with an on-campus component will be able to access buildings through designated entry points. Students who do not have an on-campus class, or a previously scheduled appointment with a specific department on campus, will not be permitted on campus.
- UHD has implemented many measures to ensure that campus is safe and compliant with the UH Sytem COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidelines which includes:
- Access to campus is controlled through designated entry points
- Students, faculty and staff must wear masks
- Social distancing markers and signs have been installed
- Plexiglas safety shields have been installed
- Enhanced cleaning protocols have been implemented
- Classes and public spaces have been reconfigured to promote social distancing
- Students attending classes on campus should not congregate in groups, conduct meetings or engage in group study sessions.
- Most student workers will not be asked to work on campus during Step 1 – Red or Step 2 – Orange. If a student worker is needed to work during this time, they will be contacted by their supervisor.
If you are coming to campus, please enter buildings through designated entry points, expect to follow distancing protocols, do not overcrowd elevators, wear a mask and continue to practice healthy habits such as washing hands or using hand sanitizer. Also, know that UHD is looking out for all of its Gators who are taking classes on campus. Classrooms are modified to allow for distancing, cleaning processes are enhanced and UHD has a contact tracing system designed to notify anyone who may have been exposed to the virus.
Visit the Response Matrix site for more details on the color-coded steps UHD is following. Also, sign up for the Aug. 19 Town Hall to receive more helpful information for Fall 2020.
This will be a semester like no other, but working together we can indeed get through it.
Stay healthy, Gators! I look forward to seeing you at the Town Hall Meeting on Aug. 19. RSVP to the Town Hall!
Antonio D. Tillis, Ph.D.
Interim President, University of Houston-Downtown