Baylor Faculty, Staff, Students and Parents:
One overarching theme across business, government, non-profits and higher education throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been uncertainty. It's hard to believe that only six weeks ago we completely transitioned the way we teach, learn and work. I am extremely appreciative and impressed at how everyone within the Baylor Family has adapted during these uncertain times to fulfill our University mission. Thank you for your patience, flexibility, creativity, and especially, your resilience as we face these challenges together.
As we near completion of the spring semester and the economy begins to re-start, we must prepare for yet another stage of transition with summer online course delivery, a return to campus for faculty and staff, and the upcoming fall semester.
Our President's Council – in close consultation with our COVID-19 Task Force, the deans and academic leadership, and local government and public health officials – has been working through various scenarios to revive the Baylor campus and resume normal operations.
Today I want to inform you that we intend to safely resume in-person teaching, learning and residential life for the fall 2020 semester.
These plans, of course, are highly dependent on the continued decline in the number of COVID-19 cases within the greater Waco area, as well as guidance from federal, state and local government and public health officials.
It is important to note, however, that we are not planning for a "normal start" of the fall semester, given the lack of a treatment protocol or vaccine for COVID-19. The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and guests must lead our decision-making regarding all activities. We are preparing to adapt our instructional and residential life models and on-campus activities, as needed, to protect our campus community while continuing to offer the distinct on-campus college experience for which Baylor is known.
While we cannot eliminate all risks, we intend to mitigate these threats in every reasonable way we can. In the weeks and months ahead, we will work diligently to refine our preparations to create a safe, productive educational environment for all of you. We will keep you informed as our planning progresses, as well of any changes in our intentions for the fall semester.
Faculty and Staff Return to Campus
Last Thursday in my weekly email, I shared briefly about the University's planning efforts for a five-phase strategic reopening of campus for our faculty and staff. I want to provide some additional information to reassure you that a return to on-campus work is not imminent and you need not take any action at this time – regardless of any announcements from federal, state or local officials.
As we know, we are operating in an entirely different environment, and we must carefully plan now so that we are prepared – when the time comes – to begin a phased return-to-campus approach. This plan will be strategic, aligned with governmental and public health guidance, and one that focuses on the health and well-being of our entire campus community.
We anticipate our target date to initiate this phased process will be June 1, beginning initially with only those faculty and staff involved with critical infrastructure and research support. The remainder of the return-to-campus process will continue gradually over the summer, as we phase in critical administration and business operations, support services and operations, and ending with the return of faculty and students near the beginning of the fall semester.
Our broad University-level plan will be flexible and take into account the specific needs of many units across the campus. All of you have done such an outstanding job in a teleworking environment, and we will continue this arrangement in the months ahead as the phased return-to-campus process is implemented.
Remember that summer classes will be delivered through online course instruction, and all camps and other campus activities at least through June have been canceled, so our campus life will continue to be significantly reduced over the next few months. As we phase in the plans to return to campus over the summer, we must continue to be mindful of social distancing expectations and other CDC guidance on preventive measures. Additionally, we must consider the needs of faculty and staff who are caring for school-aged students at home, as well as minimize the chance of exposure for our faculty and staff in vulnerable, higher-risk categories.
As I mentioned earlier, this plan depends greatly on the progression of COVID-19 in Waco and the surrounding area, and the continued information we receive daily from government and public health officials. Please know that we will provide additional return-to-campus information for you as soon as we can.
I remain confident and optimistic in Baylor's future as we respond to COVID-19 and strengthen our distinct place in higher education. As I described in my Inauguration Address nearly three years ago:
"The world needs a Baylor that raises the bar in the area of Christian higher education, combining the riches of undergraduate, professional, and graduate education with rigorous research, high-quality athletics, and unwavering faith commitment. The world needs a Baylor that brings our religious identity, institutional resources, and human talent to bear in generating creative solutions to complex problems. The world needs a Baylor that is committed to finishing the race we have started, striving to achieve preeminent status as a research university that is unambiguously Christian. When we can accomplish this goal, we will articulate and embody an exceptional vision for 21st-century Christian higher education and produce graduates with the wisdom, innovation, and leadership skills required to make a difference in the world."
Thank you for your continued dedication to Baylor University. You are in my continued prayers for healing, grace and support as we navigate these uncertain times caused by COVID-19.
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.