Letter from the Chancellor: April 8, 2020
Dear U of A Community:
Once again, I hope this message finds you well as we continue our best efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus here in Arkansas and across the world. Like you, I have my fingers crossed that the peak will come in the next few weeks and we can resume a more normal life – both on campus and off. Until then, we must continue to make decisions that are best for our campus community.
That’s why I’m pleased to report that the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees voted to allow universities in the U of A System, who are able to do so, to defray the cost of any unused room and board that students lost due to the coronavirus-related move to teaching and learning remotely. In our case, we felt like it was the right thing to do. Our returning students will receive a credit for room and board costs lost after April 3, the deadline for moving out of university-managed housing. The credits will be issued after July 1 and can be utilized toward a student’s general account during the upcoming academic year.
Along these lines, the board also voted to hold tuition flat for at least the fall 2020 semester in recognition that many families are feeling the financial pinch of layoffs or reduced work hours at this time. This will be re-evaluated ahead of the spring 2021 semester. Hopefully these decisions will give students and their families some peace of mind moving forward.
The board also allowed us to grant temporary modifications to admissions policies, if needed, to provide flexibility in admitting students for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters as many students’ ability to complete coursework and standardized tests has been disrupted by this pandemic.
We’ve also decided to recognize spring graduates as a part of fall commencement this year, which is scheduled for Dec. 19. If interest in attending is high, we may include additional ceremonies that same weekend. If you are a spring graduate, you will be contacted by the registrar’s office in the near future regarding your interest in attending fall commencement. In the near term, we are also planning on creating an online resource to recognize spring graduates, though this will not be a replacement for attending commencement in the fall. This effort is still being developed, so we will let you know once the specifics have been determined. Mostly, I want everyone to know that we think attending commencement is one of the great milestones of a graduate’s life, and we want everyone who would like to walk to have the opportunity to do so.
We have also decided to extend remote classes through the end of summer session II (Aug 3rd). We understand this is disappointing. While we had hoped to go back to in-person classes after the first summer session, the need for clarity, planning and safety dictated that we extend remote teaching and learning through July. I know transitioning to a remote medium has been a challenge, particularly for faculty who may not have initially designed their courses for this format. I want to thank them again for shouldering this unexpected burden as they adapt their curriculum to meet the needs of the present situation, and I want to thank our students for their patience and flexibility. With this in mind, we are also extending the recent changes to our grading policy through Aug. 3 to allow additional grading flexibility for summer courses. We will continue to do our best to ensure that our students continue to receive a high-quality education as well as the support they expect and deserve.
Finally, last week I mentioned the Determined to Help website, which is providing inspiring stories and information about ways our campus is serving the community. This week there was a story about the Full Circle Campus Food Pantry, which is continuing to provide food to hundreds of clients during this pandemic. Unfortunately, this time of year is when the pantry usually holds large food drives to restock its shelves. Though many benefactors have continued to donate food, the pantry is still short of certain goods, particularly staples like peanut butter, canned meat and canned beans. With the ongoing need for social distancing, money donations are now currently preferred. If your budget allows, I encourage you to make an online monetary donation to the food pantry.
As you can see, we are doing our best to adapt to the situation and accommodate the needs of our community. I can’t cover everything that’s happening, so I again encourage you to keep updated with the latest news and developments.
For now, I encourage you to stay home and stay safe. We will get through this.
Joe Steinmetz, Ph.D.