Letter from the Chancellor: March 18, 2020

Dear University of Arkansas Community,

While no members of the University of Arkansas community have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you may be aware that the first presumptive positive case has been confirmed in Northwest Arkansas. Our primary concern is to reduce the spread of the virus while continuing to serve our campus community to the best of our abilities.

Many students are already in the process of leaving campus for spring break, which begins this weekend. Others, especially our international students, may not have appropriate alternative options. We will continue to make housing available to these students.

Some faculty and staff are already working remotely after our recent transition to an online method of class delivery for the remainder of the semester.

We are now moving forward with additional steps to protect our campus community:

  • While online course instruction will continue, all on-site campus events are canceled until further notice.
  • All university operations and activities – other than essential operations – should be shifted to online or other remote means to the maximum extent possible, effective immediately.
  • Certain limited university operations that need to occur on-campus, including public safety, health, dining and transit, will continue at this time. In these spaces and everywhere, we must adhere to social distancing and other preventive measures at all times. University staff and contractors will continue to tirelessly work to keep surfaces clean and disinfected.
  • Due to the emergency caused by the outbreak, students with active housing contracts will not be able to return to the residence halls, apartments, or Greek houses managed by University Housing after Friday, April 3. Students may petition for an exception with University Housing for reasons including personal safety, access to Internet, no other available housing, academic distress or other legitimate reasons. University Housing will provide additional information directly to impacted students. More detailed information is available at housing.uark.edu/coronavirus.
  • Some computer labs will be closed from 5 p.m. Friday, March 20, through March 29, the end of spring break. Information about open labs will be added soon to the university’s Coronavirus Update site.
  • Pat Walker Health Center remains open. If you experience symptoms common to COVID-19, immediately call your medical provider or the health center at 479-575-4451. Please call before showing up at the health center or at any other health care facility. This will ensure your provider can take special measures to protect other people in the clinic.
  • Deans may only authorize the continuation of essential research if the principles of social distancing are strictly adhered to (in cases where research may involve more than one individual). For additional details from Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Dan Sui, please read his letter to campus.

For employees, the university is implementing the updated campus policy 409.5 Acute Communicable Illnesses: Protective Measures and Leave Procedures in the Event of Outbreak with some modifications included below.

  • Beginning Thursday, March 19, employees will work remotely or from-home unless directed otherwise by their supervisor until further notice. All employees will continue to be paid. Employees are designated – by supervisors – into the following three categories:
  • Working remotely/work-from-home: The vast majority of university employees are directed to conduct work from home or other remote means off campus unless otherwise directed by their supervisor.
    • Remote work assignments during this declared emergency situation may include regular job duties, online training, alternative duty assignments or similar arrangements. Further, if potentially beneficial, alternate schedules or flexible hours should be considered.
    • Employees working from home may only use equipment necessary for this purpose and that has been specifically approved by supervisors.
  • On-Site Mandatory: A limited number of employees who are considered on-site mandatory employees will be asked to work on campus in either a full-time or part-time capacity in order to continue essential services including housing, transit, health care, utilities, IT operation, public safety, care of animals, etc.
    • These are employees whose presence on-site is necessary to carrying out authorized University operations.
  • Available: A very limited number of employees who are unable to work remotely and do not have job responsibilities pertaining to essential operations (on-site mandatory roles) will be classified as “available” to assist as needed.
    • Supervisors must consult with and obtain approval by Human Resources prior to designating employees in this category.
    • The University plans to continue paying federally funded work-study students for the hours they are scheduled to work for the remainder of the semester.

Please consult with your supervisor if you have any questions, concerns or would just like to confirm your designation and immediate next steps.

While we will continue to keep you updated across a range of platforms, I want to remind you that the best source for the latest news and information is our Coronavirus Update site.

Please remain vigilant for any signs and symptoms of illness. In the absence of symptoms, continue taking preventive measures like social distancing. Mostly I want to encourage you to be patient, be careful, and be empathetic to others who may be dealing with this virus and the difficulties it brings.

In the weeks and months ahead, your compassion and understanding will be remembered and appreciated as we work through this challenging period.

For now, please stay safe and use caution.

Sincerely,

Joe Steinmetz, Ph.D.
Chancellor