Dear Campus Community,
At UA Little Rock, we are committed to planning for the future and are working hard to prepare for the fall semester. The Coronavirus Emergency Response Team (CERT) is overseeing preparations for general operations and reopening; recommending appropriate environmental, health, and safety equipment and practices; and ensuring continuity for campus residences, dining facilities, and student experiences. Collaborating closely with CERT, the Provost’s Academic COVID-19 Taskforce (PACT) oversees academic and student support issues related to the pandemic, including course scheduling, academic policy, classroom space, and additional support for students and faculty to ensure continuous learning in a safe environment during the pandemic.
We are carefully following guidance from the UA System COVID-19 Taskforce, the State of Arkansas, the Arkansas Department of Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American College Health Association as the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold. As new information and guidelines evolve, UA Little Rock will adjust its plans as appropriate. We are planning a phased return to campus for employees possibly in early July, but this could be pushed back if the COVID-19 new cases trend in Arkansas does not improve before then. We will share more information on the phased return soon. At this stage, we are preparing for every contingency with the ultimate goal of ensuring the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and community members. Our COVID-19 planning is guided by the following principles:
- Safety. Masks will be required in all common spaces on campus when social distancing cannot be maintained and are strongly recommended even with social distancing. We are working to identify resources for masks as well as for screens, shields, and sanitizing supplies. We are also planning for screening checkpoints, contact tracing and a protocol for employees and students who may have compromised immune systems or have family members with compromised immune systems.
- Flexibility. Recognizing the need to adapt to the situation and protect members of our community and their families, UA Little Rock will promote a principle of flexibility. To the extent possible, this flexibility will provide employees with remote work options when needed. Faculty are encouraged to provide flexible class attendance policies, deadlines, and course structures to accommodate students who may need to stay home or miss synchronous class sessions due to technology issues, illness, caretaking, increased work (for first responders), or self-isolation.
- Commitment to Teaching and Learning. Professional development opportunities and resources for faculty in inclusive pedagogy and online course design and delivery will be shared throughout the summer. Faculty now can take advantage of online course design/delivery and renovation assistance through the Office of Scholarly Technology and Research (STaR). UA Little Rock will allocate a portion of its federal CARES Act funding towards technology needs to support faculty and students in the fall semester.
- Communication. Details about plans for UA Little Rock’s phased return to campus and fall semester will be shared as they develop and evolve. The Office of Communications will soon announce a redesigned COVID-19 website with information and resources for students, faculty, staff, parents, and community members. The Office of Communications will also resume a regular COVID-19 update to prepare the campus for reopening in July.
CERT and PACT are both planning contingencies specifically related to academic and campus life for fall. Detailed plans on the following areas will be shared with the campus community soon:
- Fall Classes. We hope to offer in-person classes for fall in classrooms large enough to allow for safe physical distancing both during and between classes, but we are prepared for any eventuality. To that end, most in-person classes for fall have been converted to “hybrid,” which will allow faculty to offer in-person class sessions if possible and also schedule synchronous online sessions. We are working on plans to offer labs, clinicals, studio courses, and internships in a safe in-person environment. As soon as classroom space scheduling is finalized, students will be notified about where and how their classes will meet.
- Residence Halls. UA Little Rock is excited to welcome students back to its residence halls in the fall, and we are taking steps to help ensure the health and safety of our residents. These steps include expanding move-in dates, reducing residential occupancy, implementing enhanced cleaning protocols, and reserving some private residences for self-quarantine or isolation, should these become necessary.
- Activities, Events, Student Programming. Activities, events, and student programming will continue to be an important part of UA Little Rock culture, but we must develop ways to provide an engaging campus life while still ensuring safety. For example, activities may be offered virtually or have limited seating to ensure physical distancing.
- Athletics. UA Little Rock is following UA System, NCAA, and Sun Belt Conference guidelines on resuming athletics programming for the fall semester. Announcements will be made soon about how athletes will practice and play safely and how you can support Little Rock’s Team this fall.
UA Little Rock understands that many current and prospective students are affected by COVID-19. We are taking additional steps to help students start and finish their degree requirements at UA Little Rock, including:
- Providing up to $11 million in institutional and private scholarships. Students can apply online for scholarships.
- Automatically awarding scholarships to eligible freshmen and transfer students. The deadline for most scholarships is extended to August 1, 2020. Students can apply online for admission.
- Disbursing $3 million in federal CARES Act emergency financial aid grants directly to students
- Relaxing UA Little Rock institutional scholarship renewal requirements for spring 2020
- Waiving undergraduate and graduate application fees. Undergraduate students may use the code TROJAN2020, and graduate students may use the code GRAD2020 to waive application fees for fall 2020
Though we are living in times that have tested our resolve, I believe we will come out of this stronger than ever before. I am looking forward to welcoming you all back to campus this fall. In the meantime, stay safe, healthy, and Trojan strong.
Christina S. Drale