Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to students, faculty and staff Jan. 7, 2021.
Students, faculty and staff,
This morning we join our colleagues across higher education in condemning the shocking violence that unfolded yesterday at the United States Capitol. We should all be horrified and humiliated by what happened in the very seat of our American democracy.
We join leaders and citizens across the country in calling on President Trump to accept the legitimacy and finality of the November election and to convey that to the American people. It’s imperative that he stop spreading false information that incited yesterday’s violence and has led many others to deny the true election outcome.
America operates on the rule of law, not mob rule. On Jan. 20, Joe Biden will be sworn in as our nation’s next president, as dictated by our Constitution and the votes of the American people.
This is a difficult moment in American history, and it is essential that the work of democracy continue. Universities like KU can and must play a role in this work through education, service and research, and by contributing however we can to the nation’s democratic values and procedures.
Douglas A. Girod Chancellor
Healing and Remembering our Responsibility to Humanity
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara A. Bichelmeyer and Interim Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging D. A. Graham sent the following to students, faculty and staff Jan. 7, 2021.
Dear Students, Staff and Faculty,
We condemn the defilement of the United States Capitol yesterday, a senseless and unlawful shedding of blood, loss of life, and the dysfunction that looms over our republic. This violent upheaval reminds us that facts matter, that there is power in our words, and therefore we must be careful with our speech. Words help us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects our image.
The days ahead will certainly challenge us in many ways; we have to choose to focus on healing and creating an inclusive and nurturing community at KU. There are national questions that have yet to be answered, which speak to the disparity of the treatment of yesterday’s insurrectionists compared with those who peacefully protest in other settings and other cities. As we each engage together to restore our republic and our relationships, we have the power to choose to connect and understand each other – to be life affirming and life giving in our work and studies. Please avail yourself of your KU friends and mentors, as well as resources and counseling services this campus offers for students and for employees. We are in this together.
We ask that every member of our community choose to engage and communicate with each other bound by principles of inclusion, empathy, compassion, equality, dignity and diversity. We would hope that we choose to show up for our KU community with kindness, integrity, honesty and respect. We would hope that we choose nonviolence, truth, perseverance and the planet. When we find ourselves engaging in “us versus them” thinking, let us instead choose “we.”
We are KU.
Barb and D. A.
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, Ph.D. Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor
D. A. Graham, Ph.D., M.Div., MHR Interim Vice Provost Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging
Last week we announced we will not host fans at Kansas Athletics competitions for the rest of November in light of the regional surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
I write today to inform you that we will continue to not host fans during the first week of December, which includes all events through and including Saturday, Dec. 5. For contests after that week, we will make decisions about attendance on a week-by-week basis so we can be responsive to the most current circumstances and medical guidance.
This decision has been made after consultation with our Pandemic Medical Advisory Team and other university leaders. We will continue consulting this group regarding upcoming events and will communicate updates with you as appropriate.
We know this is disappointing to those of you who planned to be on campus to root for the Jayhawks in early December. While we are not aware of any incidents of COVID-19 transmission at any home athletics competitions, the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations across the region makes it unwise to host fans at this time.
As I wrote in last week’s message, this is a critical moment for our state and nation. Throughout the fall, Douglas County has had lower positivity rates than most other parts of the region, thanks to the commitment of our community to curb the spread of the virus. But the spread of the disease in neighboring regions has caught up to us. Kansas and adjacent states are at a tipping point, with the number of new COVID-19 cases increasing each day, and hospitals at or near capacity. The next few weeks will be crucial, particularly as many of us consider whether to gather for the holidays.
Now is the time for each of us to renew our commitment to mitigation efforts, particularly with respect to mask-wearing and social distancing, which have served us well so far. Each of us must commit to thinking not only about ourselves, but about the entire community, in every decision we make. The safety of our friends, families, colleagues, classmates and neighbors depends on it.
Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to students, faculty and staff Nov. 17, 2020.
Faculty, staff and students,
In light of the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the region, we have determined we will not host fans at any Kansas Athletics home competitions for the rest of November. This includes volleyball matches this Thursday and Friday, our football game this Saturday, women’s basketball games Nov. 25 and Nov. 29, and our football game Nov. 28.
This decision has been made after consultation with our Pandemic Medical Advisory Team and other university leaders. I will be consulting this group later this week regarding December athletics events, including men’s basketball games, and will communicate updates with you as appropriate.
We know this is disappointing to those of you who planned to be on campus to root for the Jayhawks. While we are not aware of any incidents of COVID-19 transmission at any home athletics competitions this year, the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations makes it unwise to host fans at this time.
Beyond athletics, I want to take this opportunity to emphasize how critical this moment is for our university, state and nation. Throughout the fall semester, Douglas County and KU have had lower positivity rates than most other parts of the state and region, thanks in large part to the commitment of our community to curb the spread of the virus. This is something we can be proud of.
But the spread of the disease in neighboring regions is catching up to us. Kansas and adjacent states are at a tipping point, with the number of new COVID-19 cases increasing each day, and hospitals at or near capacity. The next few weeks will be crucial to our region’s ability to weather this latest wave, particularly as many of us consider whether to gather for the holidays.
With this in mind, now is the time for each of us to renew our commitment to mitigation efforts, particularly with respect to mask-wearing and social distancing, which have served us well so far. I implore each of us to commit to thinking not only about ourselves, but about the entire community, in every decision we make. The safety of our friends, families, colleagues, classmates and neighbors depends on it.
Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to University of Kansas faculty and staff Thursday, Oct. 1.
I write to share a few thoughts about our annual 20th day enrollment numbers, which were released today in coordination with the Kansas Board of Regents, and to describe how recent enrollment trends will impact KU both in the short run and in the years ahead.
First, our overall enrollment fell 2.8 percent this year – a decrease of 804 students – due largely to declines in international students and first-time freshmen. Specifically, more than half of the decrease stems from a drop in international students (down 18.1 percent), while more than a third of the decrease stems from a drop in first-time freshmen (down 7.2 percent), which includes a 29.3 percent decline in international freshmen.
Additionally, today’s data show the one-year retention rate for last year’s freshmen is 85.7 percent – the second-highest rate in KU history – while the two-year retention rate for the 2018 freshmen is an all-time high 77.1 percent.
Given the hardships the pandemic has presented students and families – and the uncertainty it has created in the higher education market – we are pleased to have experienced such a modest enrollment decline. To have limited the decline to just 2.8 percent, and to have maintained historically high retention rates, is a testament to the great work you’ve done to help students continue their coursework during these turbulent times. To put it simply, we exceeded our expectations and outperformed many of our peer institutions, thanks to you.
While we are pleased with this year’s enrollment, the reality is the university – and in particular the Lawrence campus – still faces unprecedented fiscal challenges that necessitate painful cost-savings measures in the months ahead. In the short term, we need to address the current fiscal year deficit, which we previously projected to be $120 million. While we likely will be able to revise that projection down due to our better-than-expected enrollment, the current fiscal year challenge remains substantial. We will provide a revised projected deficit soon.
Beyond the current fiscal year, the decline in international students and freshmen presents ongoing revenue shortages that will follow us for years. When freshmen enrollment falls, that isn’t a one-year tuition hit; rather, we lose tuition we would have received for multiple years. Additionally, the decline in international students disproportionately impacts tuition revenue because these students pay the higher non-resident rate.
In summary, while we should pause to celebrate today’s enrollment data, we must be mindful of the unprecedented financial challenges we continue to face. As I’ve written before, KU will need to adopt new business models, reorganize and restructure, and implement cost reductions. All options – including furloughs, layoffs, and salary reductions – must be considered for us to manage through this. The decisions ahead will be hard, but they are necessary to ensure the long-term health of the university.
Thank you for your efforts to help students become and remain Jayhawks. It is, quite simply, the most important thing each of us can do for the university right now.
Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to University of Kansas faculty, staff and students Aug. 31.
Earlier this year, we created the Pandemic Medical Advisory Team to guide our decisions related to campus operations. This team comprises nine of the region’s top public health officials and has been instrumental to our efforts to begin the fall semester in a way that prioritizes health and safety.
Today I am writing to let you know that, at the advice of the Pandemic Medical Advisory Team, we will begin our fall athletics season without fans in attendance. This includes our first home football game Sept. 12 against Coastal Carolina and all Kansas Athletics competitions at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena, Rock Chalk Park and Rim Rock Farm through September.
In addition, tailgating will not be permitted on campus for the Sept. 12 football game.
We know this is disappointing to those of you who planned to be on campus to root for the Jayhawks. Our football, volleyball, soccer and cross country contests will not be the same without you there. But this is the right decision for our community at this time.
We will continue to evaluate safety conditions with the hope that we can welcome fans to athletics events after September. We will report back to you as we approach our second home football game, which is slated for Oct. 3 against Oklahoma State.
For those of you with tickets to upcoming Jayhawks sporting events, Kansas Athletics will contact you in the days ahead.
One final thought: It will undoubtedly be disappointing for our student-athletes to not have you cheering from the stands. So if you have the opportunity to interact with these remarkable young men and women when they aren’t competing, please tell them how much you appreciate their resilience amid all this uncertainty, and remind them how important they are to our university.
Thank you for all you are doing to help us continue our mission of education, service and research while prioritizing health and safety.
We have posted the latest results from our community COVID-19 saliva testing.
As of Monday evening, 222 people have tested positive out of 19,452 entry test results received, for a positivity rate of 1.14%.
The overall positivity rate is in line with what we expected and are prepared to manage, and it represents a slight decrease from the initial round of results we shared last Thursday. We always expected to see some positive tests from this effort. Notably, our positivity rate is lower than rates of the general population from Douglas County. We know our situation is fluid and can change rapidly, but overall, these results suggest we are starting the semester in a good place.
As a reminder, we’ve conducted this testing upon return to campus before the beginning of on-campus activities and classes for two key reasons:
First, we want to identify positive cases early and ensure that they are isolating appropriately to prevent community spread. Those who test positive receive instructions to self-isolate, in accordance with guidelines from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, along with additional instructions from Watkins Health Services. All members of our community must follow these directions closely.
Second, we want to establish baseline levels of positivity rates among our campus populations to determine appropriate safety, infection prevention, education, and testing efforts moving forward. This baseline testing will inform more targeted testing efforts in the future.
Our Pandemic Medical Advisory Team, which features nine of the region’s top medical and public health professionals, guides our overall approach in these areas with an eye toward data and scientific evidence.
As we use these overall results to form a baseline, we will be able to move forward with more targeted testing efforts with specific populations.
Faculty, staff, and students who didn’t get tested during our initial rounds of testing can make an appointment online to receive a test near the mobile testing unit at Watkins Health Services at protect.ku.edu/covid-19-testing-information. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you should call Watkins Health Services directly at 785-864-9507 to arrange an appointment, or contact your primary care physician.
Some results from last weekend’s tests are not included in today’s update, and we plan to publish an additional round of results from our entry testing on Friday.
We also have updated numbers for our Greek community, which has an overall positivity rate of 5.47%. We applaud that community for participating in our testing efforts so far and for proactively working with us to take measures to improve health and safety. We commend the members of this community who are taking positive steps to this end, and encourage that work to continue.
No single group will be ultimately responsible for our overall success or failure in combating this disease. That responsibility rests with all of us.
The ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 remain clear: Wear a mask, stay six feet apart from others, and wash your hands. Again, all of us need to do our part.
In looking around campus this week, we saw a lot of positive signs: a lower-density overall environment, students wearing masks inside and outside, and social distancing in classrooms. Keeping that up will be key this semester.
While we may have fewer people than usual on Mount Oread this fall, it’s still good to see classes starting up again. To all of you who have worked so hard to enable us to reopen campus while continuing to prioritize health and safety – thank you.
I want to share some information and updates with you now that we’ve reviewed some initial results from our testing efforts as our community returns to campus.
We have posted initial results from our community COVID-19 saliva testing for the Lawrence and Edwards campuses. The results show the total tests administered and positive results for both students and faculty/staff, along with positivity rates for each group.
As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, 89 people have tested positive out of 7,088 entry test results received, for a positivity rate of 1.25%. Of the 89 positive cases, 87 are students and two are faculty and staff. We plan to post additional updates on the website on Tuesday of next week.
When we decided to move forward with broad entry testing of our community, we knew that inevitably we would receive some positive results. This positivity rate is in line with what we’ve expected and prepared for as we began this process in consultation with our Pandemic Medical Advisory Team.
We’ve conducted this testing upon return to campus before the beginning of on-campus activities and classes for two key reasons:
First, we want to identify positive cases early and ensure that they are isolating appropriately away from campus. Those who test positive receive instructions to self-isolate, in accordance with guidelines from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, along with additional instructions from Watkins Health Services. All members of our community must follow these directions closely.
Second, we want to establish baseline levels of positivity rates among our campus populations to determine appropriate safety, infection prevention, education, and testing efforts moving forward. We plan to continue more targeted testing effort and random sampling of our population after this initial round of testing.
In addition to the numbers from the early rounds of testing, we have also identified a few trends.
A large majority of the 87 overall student positives have come from our fraternity and sorority community. Last night, I met with leaders in these communities along with other campus officials to stress the importance of adhering to the health and safety guidelines and rules we’ve laid out while laying out some additional policy recommendations. And we’ll follow up with these groups with targeted additional testing efforts as needed.
Also of note, our staged move-in process at KU Student Housing helped to identify positive cases in the on-campus housing community earlier so these individuals can isolate at their permanent addresses before coming to campus. Thanks to that preparation, so far we do not have any cases isolating in student housing. We expect that will likely change as new students continue to move in, and we are prepared to offer spaces for those students who need to self-isolate.
We know what works to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wear a mask. Stay six feet apart from others. Wash your hands frequently. Use our CVKey app to check your symptoms for COVID-19 each day. Refrain from hosting social gatherings and events. And remember to think not just about yourself, but about the good of the community, in every decision you make.
We know that challenges with following these requirements are not limited to any one group in particular. If we are to open successfully and avoid moving more fully online as other universities across the country have done in recent days, all of us – students, faculty, and staff alike – will have to be the very best versions of ourselves.
As a final reminder: our initial round of testing is mandatory for students, faculty, and staff who plan to be on campus in Lawrence or Overland Park before Sept. 7. If you have not yet set an appointment to receive a test through a drive-up site, please visit https://protect.ku.edu/covid-19-testing-information and sign up soon. Students living in KU Student Housing will receive testing through the move-in process and do not need to sign up for an appointment. Those on the KU Edwards Campus should refer to specific testing instructions for that campus.
During the summer, so many of our faculty and staff have spent countless hours to prepare for the coming days. It is up to each of us to determine our success moving forward.
An important part of a successful fall semester is helping to keep our KU and Lawrence community safe by minimizing exposures to the COVID-19 virus. One way to do this is to identify those among us who have the infection, even without symptoms, as we all return to campus. We will accomplish this by using a simple, non-invasive, saliva-based test for students, faculty and staff on re-entry to campus.
This message includes important instructions for how faculty, staff, and students on our Lawrence and Edwards campuses can obtain a COVID-19 test before our fall semester begins later this month.
This testing will be mandatory for all students, faculty, and staff on our Lawrence and Edwards campuses.
Saliva-based tests will be provided at no charge for faculty, staff, and students in partnership with Clinical Reference Laboratory in Lenexa, Kansas. We will begin providing tests for students in KU Student Housing as part of the move-in process that is beginning later this week.
Other students, faculty, and staff in Lawrence should visit protect.ku.edu/covid-19-testing-information to sign up for an appointment at one of two drive-up testing sites. Students and employees at the Edwards Campus will receive separate instructions directing them on how to complete a test before the semester begins, but are also able to use Lawrence testing if it is more convenient for them.
It is my hope that you will view this testing event not only as an opportunity for you as an individual but also about a chance to demonstrate your responsibility to the health of our entire community. If we are to be successful in welcoming more of our population back to campus this fall, all of us will have to do our part. This testing is an important step in the process, and I encourage each of you to take advantage of it.
Positive faculty and staff results will be shared with KU Human Resources, and students’ positive results will be shared with KU Student Affairs and KU Student Housing, if applicable, along with the individual’s local health department in order to inform protective actions for our community. Watkins Health Services will also receive notification of positive results, and those who test positive will be contacted by a health official.
A testing opportunity like this is one way we can demonstrate personal responsibility to prioritize the health of our community. Again, visit protect.ku.edu/covid-19-testing-information to learn more about how you can obtain a COVID-19 test before returning to campus.
I know these are trying times, and I appreciate all of the hard work and dedication our faculty and staff have shown in preparing for the semester ahead. As we all respond to evolving circumstances, I know members of our Jayhawk community will work together and support each other in the days and weeks to come.
Yesterday, Provost Bichelmeyer shared with you a new federal policy regarding fall enrollment for F-1 students in the Student and Visitor Exchange Program. As a result of this new policy, it appears the decisions we make regarding assignments of instructional modes to courses can ultimately determine whether international students are able to stay at KU, in the United States, or whether they must leave the country.
I write today to assure you that the University of Kansas joins peer institutions nationwide in strongly condemning this new federal policy. Moreover, I want you to know we are coordinating with our peers in both the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities to encourage federal lawmakers to reconsider this truly mean-spirited and unworkable policy.
As AAU President Mary Sue Coleman articulated yesterday, this federal policy is misguided and deeply cruel to the tens of thousands of international students who come to the United States every year, whose lives would be thrown into chaos as a result of this policy. This new policy is also likely to further damage our nation’s universities, which are already struggling with unprecedented uncertainty and financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To put it plainly, blocking and possibly expelling international students in the middle of their studies is inhumane, serves no one’s interests, and would set back the United States’ ability to attract the brightest minds to study here.
Our university’s Office of Federal Relations continues to work this issue and is in touch with Kansas’ federal delegation in Washington. We are also monitoring this morning’s newest development, which is that Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding the new policy. We will keep you posted as new information becomes available. In the meantime, it’s imperative that we all continue our work toward developing hybrid and hyflex courses for the fall semester that can reach our students wherever they may be.
As you know, we continue our planning to reopen campus to the greatest extent possible while maintaining health and safety as our top priority. We will stand firm against federal pressure that in any way compromises that priority.
On June 15, the University of Kansas shared the following announcement with students, faculty and staff:
Last month, we shared with you a document titled Guidance on Reopening Campus, which detailed our guiding principles for reopening campus in a measured, stepwise fashion. Today we write to share the newest components of our plans for the fall semester on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses.
Our goal is to welcome back as many students as we can while continuing to prioritize the health of our community. To do this, we must continue preparing a dynamic and flexible educational experience that accounts for the realities of life during and after a pandemic. This means rethinking everything from how we design classes, to how we deliver housing and dining services, to how we accommodate extracurricular activities and events.
Undoubtedly, the fall semester will be unlike any in history. It will require flexibility, compassion and resilience. And it will require each of us to behave responsibly and in a way that benefits the entire community. If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that we are all in this together.
The academic calendar will change to minimize potential health hazards. Fall classes will begin as planned on August 24, and classes will conclude before Thanksgiving, at which point students are encouraged to leave campus for the semester. After Thanksgiving, there will be a study week, followed by a week of final exams conducted remotely. There will not be a Labor Day holiday or Fall Break.
Pending approval by the Kansas Board of Regents, the first day of the spring semester will change from January 19 to February 1. Stop Day and Finals Week remain unchanged. Spring Break will not occur midway through the semester as it typically does; rather, it will be added to the Winter Recess, resulting in the later-than-normal February 1 start.
Course scheduling and classroom configuration
Our goal is to maximize the in-person classroom experience to the greatest extent possible. KU is committed to ensuring the majority of students, if they choose, have the majority of their courses with in-person instruction in whole or in part. In-person scheduling will prioritize typical freshman courses, labs or courses that are most effective in-person, courses involved in the KU Core, and courses that are required to complete a degree.
To ensure flexibility and meet the specific needs of students and instructors, we will provide support this summer for faculty to design and develop fall courses so the same section can be offered in multiple formats— i.e. in-person, online and/or a hybrid approach — while ensuring that each format is a highly engaging experience for our students no matter where they may be.
To help limit the density of students in classrooms and allow for frequent cleaning, we will schedule classes from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, though most courses will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday will be utilized as a last resort.
Additionally, we will modify time between MWF classes to 15 minutes to avoid congestion in buildings, walkways, buses and other areas. We are piloting a health monitoring app that allows each Jayhawk to check symptoms and access secured buildings based on health status on a daily basis, and we are marking each building to change traffic patterns to help de-densify campus.
Students, as we finalize the class schedule this summer, those of you who have already enrolled can expect there may be some adjustments to your fall schedules. We will reach out to you in July with more information about how your schedule may change.
Testing and contact tracing
Testing and contact tracing will be key to a thoughtful and science-based return to campus. Through our on-campus Watkins Health Services, we will be partnering with The University of Kansas Health System and LMH Health to coordinate our testing and contact tracing efforts, in conjunction with Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. This partnership will enable KU to access our partners’ medical expertise, technology and data in ways that will benefit both our campus and the broader Lawrence community. We will provide further details later this summer with guidance for how our students, staff and faculty will participate in testing activities.
On-campus housing and dining
On-campus residential facilities and dining centers will be open for the fall, and modifications will be made to promote physical distancing and other health and safety measures in each building. Most facilities will operate near capacity, with additional shared community expectations in place to prioritize the health and wellness of students who live – and staff who work – in these facilities. The move-in process will be spread over a longer period of time to reduce congestion and allow for physical distancing. More information from KU Student Housing will be shared soon with students.
Faculty and staff who are at-risk and unable to return to campus
We know some of you have underlying health conditions – such as asthma, hypertension, diabetes, chronic lung disease, or weakened immunity – that may put you at higher risk if exposed to the virus. We are ready to work with you to make reasonable accommodations. We will use the same process for COVID-19 as we use for other ADA accommodation requests. Details are available at https://humanresources.ku.edu/employee-accommodations. Please fill out your forms as soon as possible so we can ensure your work is covered appropriately. Per federal guidelines, please be prepared to provide documentation from your physician when you apply. Contact our ADA Resource Center for Equity and Accessibility at firstname.lastname@example.org or 785-864-7416, and they will help you make plans. If it is the case that you are not eligible for an accommodation, we will work with you to determine what options may be available to meet your needs.
Safety is each of our responsibility
While no one can ever promise complete safety to another – this was true prior to COVID-19 and will be true after – we are so appreciative of all the people who are giving tireless effort in campus workgroups to explore options that support greater safety for our campus. In sum, it is because you – students, staff and faculty – are KU’s greatest assets that we are taking a comprehensive and coordinated approach to provide for your health and wellness when you are on campus this fall.
While we are providing for your safety, we need to also ask that each of you provide for the safety of your fellow Jayhawks, as well as for your own, when you return this fall. You can expect to be asked to: sign a social responsibility pledge and commit to the actions it describes; wear a mask when you are in a space with others who may be closer than six feet apart; and adhere to social distance guidelines according to public health guidelines. You’ll learn more about our asks of you as we get closer to the fall semester.
More information to come
Of course, all of this is subject to change based on the latest medical guidance and evolving circumstances. Again, we will continue to partner with – and rely on – each of you to help us continue to develop our plans in the weeks ahead.
Thank you for all you do on behalf of KU.
Doug and Barb
Douglas A. Girod
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor