To the University of Rochester Community,
I want to provide an update on the work we are doing to plan for University operations going forward as we continue to move through the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re all living with uncertainty at the moment, and it’s hard to predict with specificity what the future holds. One thing is clear, however: the need for well-educated citizens to help advance our society, our economy, and our healthcare enterprise during and after this pandemic will be essential to our region, our nation, and the broader world. We are developing the plans needed to resume in-person classes for the fall semester in compliance with and subject to governmental safety directives and we are fully committed to continuing to provide the rich and distinctive experience that characterizes a University of Rochester education.
We have multi-pronged efforts underway to address various aspects of University operations as we emerge from this crisis. All of these efforts are informed by the following principles, and can be found on our COVID-19 “Restart and Recovery” web page:
1. The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, patients, and guests are our highest priority.
2. We will comply with federal, state, and local authority operational and health guidance.
3. We will sustain the teaching, learning, research, healthcare, and cultural missions of the University through both traditional methods and new avenues of endeavor.
4. We will act responsibly as stewards of the University’s property, assets, and resources.
5. We will continue to partner purposefully with the Rochester community, and to support our neighbors in the city and the region.
6. We will base our decisions on scientific evidence and facts.
7. In all of our decision making, we will abide by our Meliora Values: Equity, Leadership, Integrity, Openness, Respect, and Accountability.
Among the areas where active planning is ongoing are:
The Medical Center has established a cross-functional team focused on safely ramping up many aspects of routine and elective clinical care, which were curtailed in anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 cases across the University’s healthcare system. This planning team is also looking forward to planning for healthcare operations should our area see a spike in COVID-19 infections as the pandemic takes its course.
Research is at the heart of our enterprise. The Research Executive Committee of the University has begun the process to safely reopen research labs across the campus that closed due to social distancing in March. A number of research projects have recently re-started as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Phase I activities of the New York Forward efforts, including biomedical research, and those related to critical manufacturing and to national defense. Most importantly, the University hosts several significant national research projects devoted to combatting COVID-19; these urgent efforts are ongoing.
Campus Academics, Programs, and Operations
The Coronavirus University Restart Team (CURT), which was originally formed to plan holistically for how COVID-19 would affect the campus community, has turned its efforts to planning for the University’s non-clinical recovery operations. The CURT’s efforts are divided into five functional areas: Public Health, University Operations, Student Affairs, Research Affairs and Planning, and Academic Affairs and Planning. The CURT has developed a Guiding Principles and Framework for Recovery document that will be updated regularly as circumstances warrant.
Additionally, two cross-campus teams meet regularly to address planning issues that affect the entire University:
Committee on Academic Practices (CAP)
This group, which is also part of the CURT, is developing options for course delivery and scheduling in the context of ongoing social distancing requirements and travel restrictions. CAP is also working on opportunities for professional and pedagogical development for faculty who may wish to augment their teaching methodologies.
Deans’ COVID Response Group
I convene the academic deans three times a week to discuss issues that affect the entire University and to share concerns and best practices. These regular meetings have resulted in better coordination among academic units, which will serve the University well, not just during the current situation, but also into the future.
These activities represent practical planning as our campus returns to regular operations, and I’m grateful to the staff and faculty who are framing and solving logistical and pedagogical problems that we could not have anticipated six months ago. But I am also mindful that what was once considered “regular” may now and in the future be outmoded and unresponsive to the realities of a post-pandemic world. We must go beyond practical planning and embark on a creative strategic planning exercise that recognizes the profound disruption in higher education that has taken place and imagines new models and approaches for higher education in the future.
To that end, I am assembling a group of our campus’s most creative thinkers to work with me to envision what future education at the University of Rochester might look like. As a relatively small research institution, we have the advantages of a depth of knowledge, insight, and experience as well as the ability to move quickly. We have a unique opportunity to explore ideas and approaches that we have never considered in the past as we imagine the University of Rochester of the future.
The last few months have been challenging. It is likely there will be more challenges ahead. Nevertheless, at our core we remain a strong institution in every respect, with exceptional educational offerings that span traditional teaching and innovative online instruction, and world-class cultural, research, and healthcare enterprises. More than that, we have a community that is resilient and focused on the future—and the ways we can get there.
I hope that this message finds you and yours healthy and safe, and I welcome your ideas for an ever-evolving, “ever better” University of Rochester.
Robert L. Clark, Provost