Letter from the Chancellor: April 20, 2020

Dear U of A community:

Once again, I hope this message finds you safe and staying put. And while I know we are all chafing under the ongoing restrictions, I hope you have been able to achieve some level of normalcy within these restrictions.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had to bring you some disappointing news. This week, though, I’m happy to report some positive news is on the horizon. As you may have already heard, Arkansas institutions of higher learning have begun to receive their share of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Altogether, these institutions will receive roughly $130 million in federal stimulus aid, of which about $15 million has been allocated to the University of Arkansas. Half of this money will go directly to students for student support. At this point, we are still developing criteria for, and the mechanisms by which, students will be able to access these funds. We are working as hard as we can as fast as we can to make these funds available to those hardest hit by the crisis. We hope to have more on this in the near future as we receive further guidance on distribution.

I’m also pleased to report that the university is working to provide temporary emergency housing not only for campus police officers but also to other first responders if needed during the coronavirus crisis. Up to 150 rooms will be available on a rolling basis for those who are at a higher risk to contract the virus and may need temporary housing. Central EMS is on board while the City of Fayetteville and other entities in the county may soon join in. We’re pleased to provide this option to those working on the front lines.

I would also like tip my hat to professor of architecture Marlon Blackwell, who was named today as the 2020 Southeastern Conference Professor of the Year, the SEC’s highest faculty honor. Professor Blackwell has been on a hot streak of late – so this is just the latest recognition in an absolutely stellar career. Congratulations to you, Marlon.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention that April is usually a month of celebration and recognition. Many colleges typically host alumni award events and recognize the successes of students and faculty for their outstanding achievements. I would like to mention a few events that had to be canceled due to the pandemic, but for whom awareness is critical. These includes the annual Take Back the Night march, which creates awareness of sexual and relationship violence, Earth Day, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and Razorback Remembrance, which provides a forum for remembering students who passed away during the preceding biennium. These are important events that tie our campus to our community and larger world, and it’s unfortunate they have been subsumed by this crisis.

Additionally, I would again like to call your attention to the Determined to Help webpage. There are more than 20 stories posted here about how the U of A community is supporting our state through this crisis. Whether it’s studying the diffusion of fear spread by the virus, printing 3D face shields for personal protective equipment, or developing 3D simulations of the molecular dynamics of the coronavirus, our campus is doing its part to both better understand the virus and mitigate its impact.

While we’re starting to hear news of the virus peaking in some areas, we still have a way to go before we can return to normal operations the university. Our plan and our hope is to be fully open in the fall, of course. But planning is important. We have begun the process of contingency planning for the fall semester and we would like to, at the very least, have options on the table by June 1 to consider moving forward.

If you’re like me, you are used to being on the go – and I recognize our current situation isn’t easy. I hope you can find ways to channel that energy into exercise, music or creative activity. Check out this virtual exhibition at Crystal Bridges or one of the at-home workouts created by UREC. If you’re struggling or know someone who is struggling, please know help is out there through a tele-mental health visit at Pat Walker Health Center or the Employee Assistance Program. And for those of you who could use a little encouragement, you can find it in this short video of determined individuals across campus.

Please, stay home and stay safe.

Sincerely,

Joe Steinmetz, Ph.D.
Chancellor