The University of Minnesota today set its course of action for fall semester as the Board of Regents approved recommendations for in-person instruction and other on-campus experiences, including residence halls and dining facilities.
“From the onset of this pandemic, the Board has acted on its commitment to making decisions that prioritize the health of our campus communities and employees statewide, while delivering on the University’s mission—something that has become more important than ever as we work to solve the complex challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Board Chair Ken Powell. “This plan provides the framework to continue prioritizing safety while creating the excellence and quality our students and all Minnesotans expect from their University. We look forward to students, faculty and staff returning to our campuses this fall in ways that continue to follow public health guidance.”
Led by the Fall 2020 Scenarios Advisory Team—which invited input from public health experts, University governance groups, state officials and examples from peer institutions and other industries—planning for fall semester centered on essential steps to support the health and well-being of the University’s students, faculty, staff and visitors.
Throughout discussion with Regents, University leaders emphasized that the fall plan includes the necessary flexibility to accommodate individuals’ needs and the unique environments that exist across the University’s five-campus system, as well as evolving public health conditions.
To that end, the plan allows for teaching and learning to take place in-person, from remote locations or in some combination of the two. Faculty will develop course material that can be delivered across these options so students and instructors with health concerns or other challenges will be able to continue coursework with minimal disruption. Planning for instruction across formats will also allow for ongoing course delivery even if public health guidance changes.
The plan also outlines new initiatives and creative solutions to providing on-campus experiences that support learning and discovery while also adhering to physical distancing and other strategies to minimize the spread of COVID-19, such as personal health monitoring, testing protocols and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing practices.
Each campus will review its academic calendar for the coming year in an effort to end all in-person instruction by Thanksgiving. Any remaining course work would transition to alternative delivery formats after the holiday break, allowing most students to remain off campus during the holiday travel season. Each campus has its own academic calendar, which will be shared on the University Senate website and on other campus-specific websites, when available. The University may also adjust class schedules to limit traffic inside buildings, hallways and other common spaces, with possibilities including holding classes earlier or later in the day or on weekends.
Specifics regarding residence hall occupancy rates, dining hall hours of use and manner of service, operations of recreation centers, student affairs activities and other events are all contingent on public health guidance and will be further developed and shared over the summer.
“We are more than excited to welcome our new and returning students back to our campuses this fall. Through the hard work of many people, we have a strong, consulted plan anchored in science and flexibility to prepare for a return to in-person learning, research and other campus activities,” said Gabel. “Our experience with this pandemic has shown the value of agile and adaptable planning. Our approach to fall semester places an emphasis on those qualities, preparing us to address unforeseen circumstances in a safe way that continues to provide a meaningful and enriching experience for all of our students.”
Fiscal year 2021 budget approved
Following a May review of Gabel’s recommended operating budget for fiscal year 2021 by the Board’s Finance & Operations Committee, the Board continued discussion and today approved the budget.
This COVID-adjusted budget (CAB) is a balanced budget, but that balance is predicated on several assumptions, including the University’s ability to return to regular operations for the upcoming fall semester.
The University has also examined ways to realize one-time cost-savings to help offset unexpected lost revenue or increased expenditures in the coming months. As part of this, Gabel recommended a schedule of furloughs and temporary pay reductions in the coming fiscal year for many employees across the system, with the exception of labor-represented staff who have collectively bargained employment agreements and employees making $60,000 per year or less. After deliberation, the Board voted to approve these cost-saving measures, which are tiered to deliver a greater impact as salaries increase.
The Board also:
Approved a systemwide strategic plan following input throughout the past year from Regents, administrative leadership, students, faculty, staff, civic leaders and partners throughout the University system.
Reviewed potential Title IX governance decisions that will be required to adapt University policy to new Department of Education guidelines that need to be implemented by August 14.
Approved the President's recommended FY21 capital improvement budget.
Approved two real estate transactions, the purchase of 1015 Essex Street SE in Minneapolis and the sale of approximately 435 acres from UMore Park in Rosemount.
Received an annual update on systemwide undergraduate enrollment.
Established meeting dates for 2020-21. The Board’s full schedule for the upcoming year will be made available at regents.umn.edu/meeting-schedule-priorities.
The Board of Regents will meet next on July 8-10, 2020. Visit regents.umn.edu for more information.
- Campus Affairs