President Khator - smilling

August 17, 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I hope you and your families are safe and healthy and that you are excited about the start of this fall semester. It is understandable that many of you are also approaching the fall with anticipation and concern given the pandemic we continue to navigate. It is sometimes difficult to grasp the physical, emotional and financial toll it has taken on all of us.

At a personal level, I share these feelings. Yet, the immense planning and preparation that has continued throughout the summer, and our approach of flexibility and compassion, give me great confidence. While there is no way to eliminate all risk, we have created a learning, working and living environment that is as safe as possible, will allow us to minimize transmission of COVID-19 and, if necessary, quickly adapt our instruction should circumstances change.

Adaptability has become a hallmark of our University. Our academic, research and personal goals are non-negotiable. However, the path we take to reach them often changes. Many of these changes you will continue to experience now, and when classes begin next Monday, August 24th.

  1. University of Houston has contracted with UT Health to provide COVID-19 testing for students, faculty and staff who become symptomatic or have been identified as exposed. We are prioritizing students, faculty and staff who are on campus.  Results should be returned within 24 hours and University contact tracing teams will immediately notify anyone known to have been potentially exposed to someone who was on campus during the 14-day incubation period.
  2. The information on total positive cases of UH community members and the number of cases on campus is available on our COVID-19 website. On this website you will also find a summary of some of the significant policy decisions we have made for the fall and specific guidance for students, faculty, staff and visitors and answers to frequently asked questions. This website will be updated continually so please plan to refer back to it as time goes by.
  3. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is a shared responsibility. Policies, protocols and resources are only effective if all of us in our Cougar community commit to taking proper precautions not only on campus, but when you’re away. I ask you to be an active participant in our Coog Strong, Mask On campaign and do your part to stop the spread.

While the pandemic has certainly dominated our planning, there are many other priorities that are important to our community, our diverse culture, and to fostering a safe and productive campus environment.

  1. We have implemented new requirements from the U.S. Department of Education related to sexual misconduct investigations which ensure all parties involved equal rights and due process. We are committed to maintaining and strengthening an educational and working environment where students and employees are free from sex discrimination. Our implementation of this guidance went through an extensive shared review process and all Title IX employees across the UH System have received updated training.
  2. Formal and informal discussions on race and social justice have continued to take place campus-wide. The University’s Race Relations and Social Justice committee is meeting regularly to develop constructive recommendations. The UH Office of Government Relations has submitted a formal request to the City of Houston to rename the section of Calhoun Road that borders our campus by extending the name of Martin Luther King Boulevard north of Wheeler Avenue.
  3. Planning is underway for a virtual commencement in December to recognize our graduating classes from Spring, Summer and Fall 2020. I know many of our seniors, graduate students and their families were terribly disappointed when commencement was cancelled in May. While it is possible conditions may be more conducive to an in-person gathering, committing to a virtual event will give everyone predictability and eliminate the need for travel and the possibility of last-minute cancellations.

Thank you for continuously adapting to changing circumstances as we’ve prepared for this most unusual semester to make sure we are taking every step we can to provide a safe environment and deliver the highest quality education. Your dedication is second to none.

Our University continues to operate in an extremely fluid environment. If you can perform your function remotely with supervisor approval, please do so.  We will continue to communicate as any changes occur and I urge you to watch for updates on the COVID-19 website or send general inquiries to coronavirus@uh.edu.

Sincerely,

Renu Khator

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