Dear St. Thomas faculty and staff,
This week, we reached another milestone in the gradual reopening of campus when our facilities officially reached Level Three readiness as outlined in our Campus Preparedness Plan. This means we are back to operating under normal business hours.
Over the next two weeks, campus will begin to feel more alive as we welcome back some employees and students, including resident advisors, student leaders and golf student-athletes, among others. And next week will mark another milestone when our School of Law welcomes students on Monday, signifying our first classes of the fall semester.
I know many of you, however, are feeling anxiety due to the unknowns of the upcoming semester and news reports from campuses around the country that have already started their fall classes. Please know that I share many of your concerns. As we reopen campus, it is important that we remain flexible in our response to COVID-19 and vigilant in our behavior. We will continue to closely monitor the virus, its impact on our community and our ability to respond to keep our campus as safe as possible. While I hope we will not need to dial back our operations, we are prepared to make decisions necessary to provide a healthy and safe environment for our students, faculty and staff.
Despite all this, I do feel a sense of hope and optimism because I know how hard all of you have worked to prepare St. Thomas for the challenges that lie ahead, how committed you are to our students’ success and how much our students value being back on campus.
I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the many people across the university who have dedicated countless hours to creating our Campus Preparedness Plan, planning our “new normal” operations, preparing classes in new teaching modalities, cleaning and sanitizing spaces, creating and installing signage and more. I especially thank those who helped reorganize and implement the academic registration system to recognize the new modalities of teaching and the various changes in classroom capacity. To those working furiously to open our two new residence halls and the Iversen Center for Faith, thank you. And, thank you to our staff in the Center for Well-Being who have developed robust testing and contact tracing capacity and protocols. Extra effort in so many areas has been extended to put us in the position to reopen campus. While many have been operating virtually through this work, I am so proud of how we have maintained our ability to feel and be one St. Thomas.
Please be on the lookout for details of our first virtual convocation, which will be held Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 3 p.m. I encourage all faculty and staff to attend. In the meantime, we will continue to provide updates on our campus reopening in the coming weeks. And as a final reminder, faculty and staff should regularly check their respective COVID-19 resources pages on OneStThomas for information.
In closing, I want to remind everyone that keeping campus open depends on our ability to sustain a new “culture of care.” Specifically:
- Cover up (wear a mask or face covering when indoors, unless alone in your private space, and outdoors if you cannot maintain social distance)
- Space out (practice social distancing, maintaining a distance of six feet from others whenever possible)
- Wash up (regularly wash your hands or use hand sanitizer)
When you arrive on campus this week (and in the coming weeks), you will notice several changes designed to accommodate these protocols – everything from the hundreds of hand sanitizer stations and traffic flow markings, to Common Good Occupancy signage and new contactless temperature checking stations.
And now that we’re prepared, it’s time to do our part to keep campus healthy and safe. We do so by showing our care for one another.
For our students.
For our families.
For our friends.
All for the common good.
Julie H. Sullivan, Ph.D.