Our Commitment to Students and Each Other
The following message from Acting Provost DiPaola was sent to faculty on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022.
Welcome back from what I hope has been a time of rest and renewal over the holidays.
As President Capilouto wrote to the campus earlier this week, we are planning another mostly in-person semester with clear priorities:
- To keep our campus safe and our people healthy and well.
- To ensure that our students can succeed as we honor our mission of service to Kentucky.
We can do both. Our record the last two years in the face of enormous challenges underscores the fact that these priorities are, in many ways, interdependent. The data are clear. Our students do better when they are on campus and learning in person, led by our outstanding faculty and supported by remarkable teachers and staff.
Knowing that we need to live with COVID for the foreseeable future, our campus is set up to be a safe environment, where we have implemented many safety measures including easily available primary vaccination and boosters; masking, with new KN95 masks being distributed; readily available testing; and teams of experts regularly monitoring, advising and adjusting as needed to keep us safe. In fact, the data also are clear that our campus – and, yes, our classrooms – are among the safest places to be in our region. We will continue to monitor the situation, however, and be ready to pivot plans if needed.
In that context, for us at UK with so many safety measures in place, moving an in-person class early in the semester online for one or two weeks is not backed by the data and the science of the likely trajectory of the virus, and does not meet the spirit of what we have promised students and families, who are now expecting and planning (sometimes at great cost) to start on Monday the 10th in person.
However, we understand that given the current variant transmission, short term disruptions may occur, and accommodations may be needed should an instructor become COVID positive for example. To help, we have processes in place to provide support including Health Corps and a COVID-19 advisory group with experts to help advise. We put great trust in our instructors as some of these disruptions occur, and we will help with questions and accommodations for short term needs should a faulty member become ill, for example. In this regard, our instructors stepped up last semester to minimize such disruptions to maintain as best possible a residential experience for our students.
We also work closely together between the Provost’s office, the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity and Senate Council leadership to quickly consider requests for modality changes. We have consistently done this with a sense of compassion and a commitment to our people as well as our students. Questions about these processes can be directed to Senior Associate Provost Katie Cardarelli: email@example.com.
I know you share this deep commitment to students, faculty and staff. With the best advice from our experts and national guidance, we can work together to achieve what we all do best: serving our most purposeful mission in the safest possible way. In addition to our expert and national guidance, we met this week with the START team, campus leadership, faculty senate leadership, staff senate leaders, student leaders and many others to plan to intensify our efforts to enhance the safety of our campus.
We will continue to push vaccinations. Right now, more than 90 percent of our campus is vaccinated. Booster shots provide an added layer of protection and level of immunity against the Omicron strain.
We will continue require testing on a weekly basis for those who are unvaccinated.
We will provide more and better masks. Per recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we are beginning the process of distributing KN95 masks to our campus community. Our mask mandate for all indoor settings remains in place as an additional mitigation strategy. Based on input by your faculty senate, staff senate and student leadership, as well as many others, we will increase education on mask use, increase supplies for the future and communicate about options for mask reuse.
We will follow the data and the emerging scientific evidence. Our START team – comprised of clinicians, scientists and health experts – met before the end of last semester and again this week. We have reviewed the operational playbook for the semester, which you can read here.
We will support our community – and our students – where there is need and provide access to resources. Two years ago, we created UK Health Corps – a hub with dozens of trained professionals who work tirelessly to support students and our community. Questions can be directed to this integrated support center: 859-218-SAFE or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will continue constant communication with elected faculty, staff, students and others to ensure we are gathering feedback and exchanging ideas.
We will be flexible. As we have before, if we need to adjust to keep our community safe, we will not hesitate to do so.
Because of you, our efforts have worked. As a community, we are the most vaccinated place in the Commonwealth and among the safest for our people to live, work and learn.
We are not an outlier in our efforts. Most colleges and universities are working to return to on-time and in-person instruction as the predominant mode of teaching and learning. You can read more about some of our sister institutions here: Most colleges resuming in-person classes.
We also are called as a compassionate campus to support each other. We have done that, too, and will continue to do so because that is who we are as a community. Thank for you for all you do and all you represent for our students and our state.
Robert S. DiPaola, M.D.