January 6, 2022
Dear University of Oregon community,
We are grateful to have you here and engaged in a winter term that is more challenging than some. We especially appreciate everyone’s flexibility around the unanticipated travel disruptions experienced by many of our faculty, staff, and students. Oregon has been on the lagging end of the latest COVID-19 surge caused by the Omicron variant. However, we now have a much clearer picture of what the next month is likely to look like with respect to incidence levels within the university community.
We are fortunate that this surge does not constitute a public health emergency for the university, as we have had the essential mitigation tools of vaccination, testing, and masks in place since the start of the academic year. Indeed, at last count, over 95 percent of our community is vaccinated.
Because of the need to isolate upon infection, it is now clear that there is a potential for a short-term disruption in coursework for many students, and we want to ensure that we have appropriate continuity in educational opportunities and operations as the surge progresses. As I said in my message on December 28, we have prepared to manage potential disruptions caused by faculty, staff, and student quarantine and isolation requirements.
With that in mind, we are immediately implementing the following policies:
- We are now following updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) guidelines shortening quarantine and isolation periods to five days when certain conditions are met, as detailed in our COVID exposure guidelines.
- Faculty members who need to quarantine, isolate, or who have a family member who needs to stay at home for a COVID-related cause will continue to follow our previous remote teaching policies, which include moving their courses to synchronous online instruction during the period of their own quarantine or isolation. Resources on providing coursework remotely are available online.
- Upon approval of deans and department heads, instructors may move courses that are experiencing 20 percent or more COVID-related student absences to synchronous online instruction for a limited period to provide more equitable course access to students. This will usually not apply to courses that do not lend themselves to a rapid shift to remote instruction, such as lab, workshops, internships, and studios. Faculty should consult with their deans about special cases. We continue to emphasize in-person instruction as the best option whenever possible and instructors may continue to teach in person even with 20 percent or more of their class absent.
- Instructors who remain in person are required to provide recorded versions of their courses to absent students, unless there is a pedagogical reason not to do so, following guidelines recently enacted by the Academic Council so that students needing accommodation for COVID-related absences can have access to course materials.
- Instructors are required to provide students with at least 24 hours’ notice before any change in modality.
- Students who are unable to attend a class for COVID-related reasons should contact their instructor right away to make arrangements for the class and complete the case and contact form.
- Supervisors and employees should work together on flexible work approaches if necessary for COVID-related absences due to quarantine or isolation. And we remind all employees of the leave options available should they be unable to work due to illness.
- Disposable surgical masks continue to be available in classrooms, and we anticipate that a limited number of disposable KN95s may also soon be available during the upcoming surge for those who have forgotten their masks at home.
To be clear, campus remains open and administrative offices will continue with their current operational stance. The surge is predicted to largely be abated by early February. We therefore expect that at this time all courses will return to in-person instruction by Monday, February 7, and other operations to go back to a more routine flexible work environment posture. We will continue to carefully monitor for any evidence of classroom or workplace transmission of the virus, which could necessitate a broader campus-wide response.
Mounting evidence indicates that being fully up to date on vaccination substantially helps to mitigate the most severe effects of Omicron, so we remind everyone to become fully up to date on booster shots when eligible, as required by the university vaccination policy.
This is not how we had hoped to begin 2022. But we firmly believe that by following these steps we can minimize operational disruptions on campus through this surge while continuing to keep our community safe. Thank you, once again, for your commitment and cooperation.
Provost and Senior Vice President