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Boyce Addresses UM Community Regarding University Transitions

Dear students, faculty and staff,

In response to the rapidly evolving situation with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and to maximize social distancing in order to slow transmission, all classes on the Oxford campus and the regional campuses are canceled for March 16-20, 2020, the week that students were scheduled to return from Spring Break.

This decision will extend our Spring Break by one week so that faculty and staff can prepare to move classes online following the extended break. Beginning Monday, March 23 and until further notice, the university will hold all classes and related coursework online or via methods other than in-person, on-campus instruction. The timeframe for this approach is open-ended, and we will monitor this approach continuously with the hope of returning to normal operations before the end of the spring semester. Students will hear directly from their respective deans and/or faculty instructors regarding any specific instructions.

Students are strongly encouraged to return to their family home and stay there during this period to promote social distancing and minimize the risk of spreading the virus. If you have no other living option available, contact University Housing at 662-915-7328 to arrange a place to stay. Campus dining and other services will be available to those students on a limited basis.

Initial cases of the virus have emerged in Mississippi and most of our border states, and the spread of the virus is predicted to accelerate across the country. We are committed to protecting the safety, health and well-being of our campus community. Before our community returns to campus from domestic and international Spring Break travels, we chose this course of action to mitigate and slow the spread of COVID-19, protect the continuing good health of our university community, and enable each of you to plan accordingly.

Guidance for students
Students are expected to stay away from campus and participate in classes from home. However, we recognize that students may need to retrieve essential items (e.g., laptop, textbooks, medicine) in order to continue their studies. Residence halls will be accessible for the limited purpose of retrieving essential belongings from Sunday, March 15 at 8 a.m. through Wednesday, March 18 at 5 p.m. If you cannot get to campus during that time period, contact University Housing at 662-915-7328 to make alternative arrangements. Additional details will be sent as available.

For students who live in fraternity and sorority houses, additional information will be forthcoming from the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life as that office coordinates with national and local chapter leadership.

Each faculty member will make decisions about the best means of course delivery in light of the nature of the course. Please monitor your Ole Miss email and your course webpages for details.

This situation remains fluid, and we will keep you apprised of any changes to these plans.

Guidance for university faculty, staff and research activity
Faculty, staff and other employees are expected to work during this period and practice social distancing. University personnel will use the extended spring break to plan for academic delivery and business continuity needs for their areas.

Some faculty and staff may be able to telecommute. Telecommuting allows employees to work at home or in a satellite location for all or part of their workweek. Temporary telecommuting arrangements may be approved amid COVID-19 concerns. These arrangements will be approved on a case-by-case basis.

Unless otherwise noted, research activities will continue at this time. Anyone involved in research will receive subsequent guidance in the coming days.

Further guidance will be shared with faculty and staff in the coming days by leaders in your respective areas of the university.

Campus events and gatherings
Effective immediately, all university-sponsored non-Athletics events and large on- and off-campus gatherings, including events sponsored by any registered student organizations, will be canceled or postponed until further notice. Please look for announcements from event coordinators and contact them if you have questions. We encourage administrative gatherings and large meetings to be conducted by teleconference, and keep in-person meetings to an absolute minimum. We will explore options to enable certain events to be held virtually. As a member of the SEC, Ole Miss Athletics will follow the approach announced by the conference earlier today, and any subsequent notifications.

It is too soon to make a decision about Commencement ceremonies. We will continue to evaluate that event as the situation unfolds.

Travel-related updates
From a public health standpoint, it is important for university officials to know who in our campus community has traveled outside of the country since the outbreak. That’s why the university has launched a Travel Reporting Portal to log any recent international travel (including personal travel) by faculty, staff, and students. The spread of this pandemic is extremely fluid, and places that you visited recently could have become a “hot spot” while you were in country, which may not be evident until after your return to the United States.

Any student, faculty or staff member returning from international travel will be required to self-quarantine, self-monitor, fill out the Travel Reporting Portal, and follow the CDC recommendations for what to do for a minimum of 14 days. Students should self-quarantine at their family home. In such cases:

Students who traveled to countries outside the U.S. should contact Student Health at 662-915-7274.

Faculty and Staff who visited countries outside the U.S. should contact Employee Health at 662-915-6550.

If you develop symptoms while on campus, contact the Health Center immediately. People returning from domestic travel are asked to self-monitor for the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 – fever, cough and shortness of breath – and call the Health Center if signs or symptoms develop.

Effective immediately, all future university-affiliated international travel is prohibited until further notice. Faculty who believe their international travel is essential must apply for a waiver with the Office of the Provost. Staff who believe their travel is essential must apply for a waiver through their respective Vice Chancellor. All personal international travel is strongly discouraged.

Study Abroad is suspended for all upcoming summer programs starting between May and August 2020. For questions or information about your specific program, contact Study Abroad. The university is in contact with Spring 2020 study abroad participants and providing guidance as needed.

Looking ahead
To be clear, the university will remain open, and we will review the situation continuously to determine if and when normal operations may resume. We will keep in touch with you every step of the way, and you can always visit the COVID-19 Update Page for the most current information from the university.

We recognize that these actions create significant challenges for students, faculty, staff and families, and many questions remain to be answered. We ask for your understanding and patience as we all respond to this evolving pandemic. Thank you in advance for your support.

Via UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce

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