Letter from the Chancellor: April 2, 2020

Dear U of A Community:

I hope this message finds you well. In a time when we’re all starting to feel the effects of social distancing, I wanted to take a moment to check in with you and let you know we’re still thinking about you – and ways we can be helpful during this difficult time.

The COVID-19 modeling suggests Arkansas will be at its peak number of infections in the next few weeks. However, we’re seeing more effects of the virus hitting closer to home.

Just today, we’ve learned about a housing employee who has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee had not been on campus since March 26 and while all staff have been practicing social distancing, out of an abundance of caution, the staff working with this individual were also sent home for the time being as a preventive measure. The Arkansas Department of Health will complete contact tracing and notify others as needed. We wish this individual a speedy recovery and ask that you keep them in your thoughts.

One item I know is on the minds of students and faculty is how we will deal with grading the spring semester. With a recommendation from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee (and lots of student feedback), we’ve decided to add pass/pass D/no credit grading options to the current letter grading system for undergraduates for the spring 2020 semester. Students will be assigned a letter grade with the flexibility to request to have their grade changed to a pass, pass with a D, or no credit (NC). Graduate students may apply through their degree programs for a similar system, and law students will move to a pass/fail policy. The details are posted online and will be shared with faculty.

While we can’t shorten the outbreak of COVID-19, we can be a source of support and encouragement for those who have been most impacted by these unprecedented circumstances.

That’s why we created the Determined to Help website. Here you can find details about, and contribute to, an emergency fund for students who may be struggling with food insecurity, housing or healthcare costs. You can also find a list of educational resources for parents, teachers and caregivers who are now teaching children at home. Additionally, you can discover ways our faculty, students, staff and alumni are helping others during this extended emergency. If you’re in need of services, but can’t find what you’re looking for, you can try e-mailing Needhelp@uark.edu. We may have the solutions you seek or know where to find them. Others may be feeling pretty good about their present situation and may wonder how they can help others. If you have questions about how you can help, please email CanHelp@uark.edu to see where your expertise, skills and time may be best utilized.

This is all in addition to our regular coronavirus update page, where you can find the latest updates, as well as answers to frequently asked questions by students, faculty and staff. I hope you are already checking this regularly.

The transition to remote teaching and learning has changed how we operate. What hasn’t changed is our fundamental dedication to Arkansas and making the world a better place. I’m inspired by the way our temporarily displaced campus community has directed its creative energy and compassion toward helping others negotiate this crisis. In the weeks ahead, as the Determined to Help website is populated with more and more content, I’m sure you will be as inspired, too. After all, we live and work in a great place.

We’ll do our utmost to keep you updated on the latest news and decisions. In fact, expect a message tomorrow on another round of information working its way through various channels.

Once again, please do your best to keep taking preventive measures and stay safe.


Joe Steinmetz, Ph.D.