Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Dear University Community,
As we approach a fall semester that will be extraordinary in both practice and possibility, I write with important details about what we will experience together.
Our in-person return continues now in phases as we prepare for classes to begin on our Monroe Park Campus on Aug. 17. Some of these classes will be taught in-person with special accommodations for physical distancing. Some will be online. Others will be in a hybrid format, meaning a blend of in-person and online. Students will receive an email very soon with updated information on their courses and resources to help navigate any changes.
No matter how a course is delivered, we will focus on the wellbeing of every member of our VCU community, a commitment we make as individuals to and for each other. Our core value, now as always, is to be a caring community that focuses on everyone’s progress. I also recognize and understand that an in-person return may be stressful and difficult for some. We will support you, this semester and beyond.
Some people have rightfully asked why we are planning a physical return at all. The answer is we do so considering both our institutional mission and values and the prevailing science.
Adhering to our values—that is, to who we are as One VCU—will help us come together again more purposefully and safely. These last few months, we have learned that we focus better and more clearly on our mission when we collaborate across our classrooms, studios, laboratories, and clinics and learn from each other’s diverse perspectives.
We will ensure these perspectives are heard and this work continues. We recognize that not every member of our community has equal access to the technology, support, and personal space that makes remote learning possible. We will leave no one behind because our mission needs the vital perspectives and clear voice of all of us.
To do this, we need every member of our community—every member—to follow guidelines related to wearing masks, disinfecting their spaces, washing their hands often, and maintaining physical distance. The actions we take in support of each other will speak louder than any of our words.
As you return, VCU will provide you with back-to-campus kits that include cloth face coverings, sanitizer, and other items to supplement those you may already have to help you stay healthy. Faculty and staff will find these kits in their workspaces, and students will pick them up from several locations across campus. All of us—every member of our faculty and staff and every student—must also complete online training related to safety protocols before returning to campus and then complete daily attestations of health once they have. Additionally, all students who plan to live on campus this fall must test negative for Covid-19 before moving in. VCU will provide testing kits for students who plan to live on campus, and non-residential students and employees will also be provided voluntary prevalence testing at no charge.
More information related to these opportunities and plans for both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing will be coming soon. Please check this website regularly for frequent updates.
This is, and will continue to be, a time of necessary adherence to safety measures and to supporting our classmates and colleagues. This includes continued access to mental health resources. And it includes remaining flexible and recognizing that our circumstances and plans may change, and we all may need to adapt to the changing situations around us.
Leading this work is our Public Health Response Team collaborating with colleagues at the federal, state, and local levels. This team includes world-class scientific, educational, medical, and technical minds from across VCU and VCU Health and continues to meet regularly to assess our situation and adjust as necessary.
If we can do these all of things, we can have a safer semester. In that spirit, I thank our students for your resilience, patience, and ongoing commitments to your communities and to each other. You are the reason VCU continues its work even in times of unprecedented uncertainty. Thank you, too, to our ceaselessly dedicated faculty and staff who have led and supported their students and colleagues in new ways but with the same incredible spirit as always.
At VCU, overcoming challenges is what we do. We will overcome this one, too. That is because we are more focused than ever on each other and on the mission we work so hard to advance together. We do that best by taking care of and respecting each other. We are One VCU, and we are responsible together.
We can do this. I believe in all of us.
Michael Rao, Ph.D.
VCU and VCU Health System