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ChancellorJanuary 14, 2022

Campus COVID Announcement

Written By: Chancellor Terisa Riley


Lions, 

Last week I wrote to you full of excitement for the new semester. Our students were masking, our faculty were setting clear expectations, and our staff were working diligently to keep campus clean, events safe, and students engaged.

Unfortunately, even with your hard work and dedication, the rapid community spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has created a surge in the state, nation, and even on our campus.

In the state of Arkansas cases have reached an all-time high with nearly 13,000 new cases recorded yesterday alone. On our own campus, we have had 129 students and employees who have reported active cases this week, and even more are quarantining after being exposed to positive cases. This is up from just 13 active cases on campus one week ago today.

At this rate of spread, exposure, isolation and quarantine it is impossible to continue effective in-person delivery of instruction and services on-campus. So last night, I called a weekly review with the COVID-19 Emergency Management Team, which consists of representatives from Student Government Association, Faculty and Staff senates, AAUP, and each academic and administrative unit on campus.

Together, we made the decision to move instruction and operations to remote delivery beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, January 14, 2022, with plans to return to campus Monday, January 24, 2022.

This move to remote instruction is a temporary measure. It will allow those faculty, staff and students who have tested positive to recover from infections, and those who have been exposed to be released from quarantine, while continuing the educational mission of the institution online. By taking steps to stop this surge, we have every expectation that we will be able to return to campus next Monday to continue delivering the high-quality on-campus education and support our students expect and deserve. Of course, this strategy only works if all of us take active steps to reduce the spread by reducing contact with others who may have COVID and continuing other mitigation efforts such as properly wearing masks and frequent hand washing/use of hand sanitizer.

Some exceptions to the remote learning directive will be made for courses that must meet in person to achieve immediate learning needs, including those with clinical rotations, internship placements and courses requiring hands-on skills hours. Academic deans are already working with their faculty to determine what courses must be taught in person and students will be notified by Monday, January 17,  if their courses will be held in person.

In addition to online delivery of classes, most campus services will move to remote modalities, with the exception of housing, dining, security and maintenance services, which will remain open to ensure our residential students continue to have access to safe, secure housing.

We know this pivot will not be easy for all students, faculty or staff members, but we believe it is the only way to ensure a safe and effective return to campus for the rest of the Spring semester.

To make the transition easier, our Information Technology staff has graciously agreed to help students, faculty, and staff who do not have any access to computers or internet at home with loaner wireless hotspots and portable computers or tablets. Please see details below if you need technology support during the next week.

As we shift to remote instruction and operations, we must also reimagine delivery of campus events – most notably our annual commemorative breakfast honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Williams Yamkam and John Blue have worked diligently with our guest speakers and panelists to shift the breakfast and the two fireside chats scheduled for next week to virtual formats. I hope you will join me at all three and honor the life and legacy of Dr. King and his devotion to living a maladjusted life in service to others.

I want to assure you this temporary return to remote instruction is just that: Temporary. It is an opportunity for those in isolation and quarantine to heal, for our campus to regain its strength, and to reset for a safe and successful spring semester on campus.  We will provide a campus update on Thursday, January 20, to confirm our return to on campus work and instruction beginning Monday, January 24.

I have outlined additional details below:

Most UAFS courses will shift to online delivery. Students should check their UAFS email and Blackboard shells frequently for communication from instructors.

Students participating in clinical, practicum or field learning experiences will be informed by their director regarding participation next week. Students enrolled in studio art and design, theatre, and music classes will be contacted by their professors with instructions for the week. Labs for biology, chemistry, and physical sciences will be online. Students in welding classes will report to their classroom as normal.

Any questions regarding these exceptions may be sent to the appropriate dean:

Students enrolled in college classes through the Western Arkansas Technical Center should check their UAFS email for instructions from their course instructors.

Students in the WATC Welding Technology program should report to class as normal.

Students in LPN courses will hear from Director Frankie Allred about clinical experiences.

Additional questions about the WATC program or courses can be sent to Amanda Seidenzahl at Amanda.Seidenzahl@uafs.edu.

Faculty who teach online, concurrent credit courses at Fort Smith Public School locations will continue to teach those classes as planned.  High School faculty will continue to follow local school guidelines for delivery and attendance, and should appropriate school administrators if they are unable to teach face-to-face.

Faculty who have questions about this temporary, remote teaching modality or need additional help, should contact their deans at the email address listed (above).

The Barnes and Noble Campus Bookstore has agreed to stay open to serve students and faculty in purchasing the needed materials for courses.

The campus center downstairs seating areas, all university housing, the Lions Den Dining Hall, and the 24-Hour Computer Lab in the Boreham Library will remain open for use next week. In addition, the Campus Center 24-Hour Computer Lab will temporarily reopen to ensure adequate access to computer spaces and programs.

The second floor of the Campus Center, retail dining in the Campus Center, the interior of the Boreham Library, the Recreation and Wellness Center and Old Gym, the business center and the Fullerton Administration Building will all close and their operations will move virtual.  

Librarians will remain available to assist students virtually through live chat at https://library.uafs.edu/home

Academic buildings will be closed to all faculty, staff, and students. Only those students and faculty whose courses have been exempted from the remote transition will have access to academic buildings.

Events scheduled at the Center for Economic Development at the Bakery District will continue as planned following strict Covid protocols. Individuals may call 479-424-5143 for scheduling details.

Students or employees who need to check out laptop computers, tablets, or Wi-Fi hot spots for next week can do so on a first-come, first served basis at the Help Desk located in Gardner Hall on Friday, January 14, 2022, between 9-4:30 p.m. Limited quantities of these items are available so please arrive early if possible.

24-Hour Computer Labs in the Boreham Library and the Campus Center will be available throughout the week.

Due to the already strict COVID-19 mandates for play in the NCAA Division II, UAFS student athletes will be permitted to continue practice and play as scheduled.

If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact me and I will respond as quickly as possible or refer you to the appropriate individual on campus to support you.  Your safety, good health, and success is of utmost importance to me.  Thank you, and please continue to check email for additional updates and a return to campus announcement next week.

Thank you.

Terisa C. Riley, Ph.D.
Chancellor
University of Arkansas Fort Smith