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Leadership Message to University of Rochester Community

To the University of Rochester Community:

We have all watched with concern as the incidence of COVID-19 steadily increases around the world, in the U.S., and in New York state. Our epidemiologists predict that this increase will continue for some time into the future, putting some of our most vulnerable neighbors, colleagues, and patients at risk. As an institution of higher learning, we are committed to facts. As a world class medical center, we are committed to the highest level of patient care. And as the University of Rochester, we have both a commitment and a responsibility to work in the best interests of our students, faculty, staff, patients, as well as our community more broadly. For all of these reasons, we are implementing new guidance intended to limit the impact of COVID-19 on our campus and in our region, and to protect our communities.

We know that social distancing is effective in slowing down or stopping the spread of a disease. Earlier this week, we put some social distancing measures into effect, limiting the size of some gatherings and prohibiting international and domestic business travel. The intent of these measures is to limit exposure both to those who may be ill and to those who may be contagious but who are not displaying symptoms. These measures may keep you from getting sick; they will also greatly lower the risk that COVID-19 will be introduced to our campuses and healthcare facilities, so that these measures may also keep others from getting sick.

In consultation with the University Cabinet, we have decided that more stringent social distancing measures must be taken until the end of the semester. This means that:

  • For the rest of this academic year, instruction for undergraduate and graduate students in AS&E and for most schools at the University will take place online.

University ITS and our Department of Online Education have developed information on preparing for remote teaching, learning, and working and for transitioning traditional courses to online courses. Faculty who transition to online classes will retain copyright to their instructional material.

Note: Each school at the University has unique schedules and academic requirements, so students in other schools and programs at the University should consult their respective schools for details of any program modifications that will be put in place for their academic programs.

  • Spring Break for Eastman and AS&E (undergraduate and graduate) will be extended by two days, with classes re-commencing online on Wednesday, March 18.

This will allow our faculty and staff to prepare for the transition to online instruction. Dorms and student dining services will continue to remain open and operational during these two days. Specific information about this transition will be provided by the AS&E and Eastman Deans’ Offices.

  • Undergraduates should complete the semester remotely at their permanent home residence; students may return to (or remain on) campus if their individual circumstances warrant it. We recommend that undergraduates plan to complete the semester remotely. But we know that some students are unable to return home due to travel disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak or other factors; the University will continue to provide housing and food service for undergraduates who remain on campus, although students on campus will also take their courses online.

Note: Students who go home for the rest of the semester may collect their belongings from their dorm rooms. Staff in the College and the Eastman School of Music are currently planning guidelines for moving out of dorms in an orderly way. In addition, details of pro-rated adjustments for on-campus room and board charges are currently being worked out, and will be communicated to AS&E and Eastman students and parents in separate messages. Students who receive need-based financial assistance to pay for room and board charges should expect financial aid to be revised accordingly.

  • Graduate and professional students may remain on campus to continue their research and studies. Graduate-level classes will be offered online, but small seminars and research activities may go forward. We anticipate that dining services and other campus facilities and services will remain operational, possibly with more limited service. Graduate students in campus housing may remain there, but should consult their respective schools or the Graduate Housing Office if they have questions.
  • Non-essential gatherings and meetings on campus will now be limited to 25 attendees until the end of the semester. Everyone is expected to cancel, postpone, or “virtualize” all larger meetings.
  • However, essential meetings specifically related to the administrative, academic, or performance obligations of the University are limited to 100 participants until the end of the semester. Everyone is expected to cancel, postpone, or “virtualize” all other meetings.
  • With the exception of University medical and clinical care facilities, outside visitors are strongly discouraged until the end of the semester. We pride ourselves on having an open campus, and realize that this may cause significant disruption to departments that welcome visitors as part of their normal operations: Admissions Offices, Libraries, Research Centers, the Memorial Art Gallery, the Eastman School of Music, and others. In addition, there are those who must visit campus, for example vendors and service personnel, and we are not currently contemplating prohibiting visitors who are essential to campus operations. Guidelines with respect to outside visitors will be determined by the Provost along with the affected Deans and Directors. The rationale for this prohibition is that the benefits of social distancing are best realized when outside in-person contact is limited. The sooner we can stop the potential spread of COVID-19, the sooner the University can get back to regular operations. We ask that members of our community keep this in mind for the remainder of the semester.

Note: University of Rochester Medical Center leadership is working closely with county, state, and federal health officials to determine whether visitation within the hospitals should be further restricted, and will act in concert with their guidance as the situation unfolds.

  • Processing of requests for academic and research visitors will be suspended for six months. Just as we pride ourselves on having an open campus, we wish to be welcoming as well, and we acknowledge the important contributions these visitors make to our own faculty’s research and scholarship. Nevertheless, by putting a pause on these requests, we can create a meaningful buffer that will complement our other social distancing efforts.
  • To clarify, international and domestic business travel is prohibited for faculty and staff and for campus visitors. The University will not pay for or reimburse any University-related travel, either outbound by University faculty and staff, or inbound by visitors, by any transportation means until further notice. We continue to recommend making use of alternative virtual tools to conduct University business. Those who feel they must travel should request an exception from their Dean or Unit Director. Community members who may need reimbursement for travel or conference cancellations should consult these guidelines.
  • River Campus staff managers should begin to identify employees who could work from home and make plans for the possibility that they may be asked to do so. Medical Center staff are considered essential staff and are expected to report to work, as are other essential staff in facilities, dining services, residential life, and all others who are responsible for the physical operation of the campus. But some employees may be able to perform their work duties from home, should the University decide to request it. University ITS has developed a planning guide to prepare for remote work, and University Human Resources Department is developing guidelines regarding remote work that will be available soon.

We realize that these measures pose disruptions for virtually everyone in our community, and great disappointment for our students, especially seniors, who were looking forward to finishing their college careers on campus. But we feel strongly, based on scientific and medical evidence, that taking these steps now to create social distancing will reduce the likelihood of infection at the University of Rochester, and increase the possibility that this outbreak will be contained more quickly than if we were not taking these measures. This is a time of uncertainty for all of us, and there are many questions we cannot yet answer due to the swiftly changing nature of this situation. But with your cooperation and assistance, we can continue to fulfill our essential educational and patient care missions. We would like to thank all of you for your partnership in this community effort.

Finally, we would like to offer special thanks to the many members of our community who have been working to prepare and respond to this extraordinary circumstance. Many colleagues from across campus are working virtually around the clock to contribute their knowledge and expertise to help us make the best decisions for the well-being of our community. 

Sincerely,

Sarah C. Mangelsdorf, President

Robert L. Clark, Provost

Mark B. Taubman, M.D., CEO University of Rochester Medical Center

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