UAA Fall 2020 Plans

by Cathy Sandeen, UAA Chancellor  |   

Dear UAA Community,

As this extraordinary and unprecedented academic year comes to a close, I want to sincerely thank you for your unwavering support of UAA’s mission. We encountered numerous challenges from votes of financial exigency to restructuring plans, program reviews and recommendations, followed by a global pandemic. The truth, indeed, is sometimes stranger than fiction. Through it all, we came together and served our students who persevered to finish the semester. On Sunday, we honored more than 1,150 graduates through a virtual celebration. Thank you for your dedication.

I am writing to give you an idea of plans for fall 2020. The University of Alaska Statewide Incident Management Team, of which I am a member, is working on general principles to guide a relaxation of current restrictions. Anything we do at all UAA campuses will fall under those principles.

Course delivery for fall 2020 will be a mix of alternate delivery and face-to-face instruction. At this time we will not return to our normal mix of 70% face-to-face course delivery in the fall. This decision aims to keep our UAA community safe and healthy by mitigating risk. We are considering what we currently know about epidemiological projections of the availability of widespread testing, a vaccine or better treatment options. Colleges and universities are places where large numbers of individuals come into contact with each other, which increases the risk of spreading COVID-19. Proceeding carefully but intentionally is critical.

Alaska has done an excellent job flattening the curve. I believe we will slowly, carefully and safely relax current restrictions, consistent with current mandates and policies. For example, we will be able to hold small courses, labs and clinicals, by following mask-wearing, social distancing and hygiene practices. Current guidelines lead us to conclude a 20-person limit could be allowed. That number may change as the summer progresses.

We will be able to offer student housing to a larger group of students than are currently living on campus, provide more face-to-face student services and allow more employees to return to their offices. We will communicate these plans to students who are making enrollment decisions. Right now, many of our students appreciate and require alternate course delivery — especially those who are essential employees or who are supervising their own children’s education during the day.

Whatever delivery mix we establish for fall 2020 will extend throughout the entire semester unless conditions change radically requiring full shelter in place. Please remember our university is still responding to a serious budget reduction. We will not be able to reduce course sizes simply to accommodate a desire to teach face-to-face. As you know, COVID-19 and our response is an evolving situation, but I feel secure in relaying these preliminary plans to you, especially to faculty as you depart for the summer.

Again, you all have my deepest respect and appreciation. None of us expected the challenges that have confronted us this year — including me. I cannot imagine a better group of people with whom to navigate these rough seas. Please enjoy your summer, and let’s all hope for smoother waters ahead for our university, city and state.

Sincerely,
Cathy Sandeen
UAA Chancellor

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