Dear Alumni and Friends,
We are a university with 152 years of historic moments. But on March 23, 2020, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic brought an unexpected and unwelcome addition to the Illinois story. That was the day we opened the final half of our spring 2020 semester with the unprecedented transition of our entire academic operations from face-to-face instruction to alternative forms of delivery that allow our students to continue their studies remotely.
Just as our entire world has been working to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, our university has been intensely focused on taking steps to keep our students, faculty and staff safe. We have been in constant communication with our community during these past weeks. We are constantly posting updated information and announcements to covid19.illinois.edu. I encourage you to visit this site to learn more about our decisions and actions.
Later in the semester, I hope to hold a virtual town hall meeting with friends and alumni. I hope you will watch for more information about this from the University of Illinois Alumni Association. But right now, as we are adjusting to this new “normal,” I wanted to take the opportunity to share some immediate updates about what we are doing now and what we are thinking going forward.
As I said in a recent video message to students, faculty and staff, our campus is a much quieter place today. We are following the guidance of CDC and public health experts to take any possible steps to reduce the density of our campus population to allow for greater distancing and greater safety for any who remain here.
- We have asked our students to return to their permanent homes for the rest of the semester if they can.
- We are allowing students who cannot safely leave to stay in University Housing where they have access to the services and support they need to continue their studies.
- We have asked the majority of our staff and our faculty to find ways to continue their work remotely and have implemented temporary policies to make this as easy as possible.
- We have implemented new processes and policies to ensure a safe environment for staff members who must come to campus to provide essential services.
- We are continuing to work with students who were involved in study abroad programs this semester to assist them in returning home and in mitigating any academic challenges this creates.
- We have canceled all university-sponsored events through the rest of semester. This includes all athletic activities and events at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, the Krannert Art Museum, Spurlock Museum, the Illini Union and State Farm Center.
- We have postponed our University Commencement, but we are actively exploring options for a rescheduled in-person ceremony when it is safe to do so.
- We continue to communicate with the students accepted into our 2020 fall class and are working to find virtual ways to engage with them and their families as they consider their college choices.
This is just a partial list of the enormous impacts of COVID-19 here at Illinois. But we also understand we probably are still in the early days of the human impacts of this disease. At the time I send this message, there is a small, but growing, number of confirmed cases in our county. When a case involves a member of our campus community, we work directly with our local public health experts to contact any individuals who might have had a risk of exposure. And any areas or facilities that might have been affected are thoroughly cleaned.
But, our thoughts must also be with those in the Illinois family who might be touched by COVID-19. Health experts tell us this will get worse before it gets better. That will mean there will be more cases and more impact among our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends.
Our university has long been known for the discoveries and ideas that have made lives easier and shined light in dark times.
And as impressive as the things we have done might be, I believe it is how we have done them that has defined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
We have always been a place that shows the world the best solutions to the hardest problems are found when we all come together.
Whether you are in Urbana-Champaign, elsewhere in our state or nation or halfway around the world, you are part of the Illinois family and we are in this together.
I ask that you take care of yourself and that you take care of your family and friends.
I promise to stay in touch with you in the weeks to come.
Robert J. Jones