Dear Bradley Family,
I want to thank you for your continued patience and efforts as we work through our plans for the fall semester. This message is designed to share a more complete framework for the next academic year. It will also reemphasize some decisions that have been communicated to different portions of campus already. Information regarding those decisions are available on our new Return to Campus website and will be updated frequently with new information.
Today the State of Illinois moves into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan. On Tuesday, the Illinois Board of Higher Education released its guidance for Safely Launching Academic Year 2020. As we’ve read through these plans, I’m pleased to say the work of our Return to Campus teams are in alignment with these statewide initiatives. All parts of campus are coming together to enable a safe learning environment for our students, faculty and staff.
We plan to begin the fall semester on time with courses beginning Wednesday, Aug. 26. The regular semester will conclude Tuesday, Dec. 8. There will be no traditional Fall Break, so we will hold class Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 12-13. We will not, however, hold class Monday or Tuesday, Nov. 23-24, prior to Thanksgiving.
Bradley students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving, but will attend classes virtually through the end of the semester instead. Study Day will remain Wednesday, Dec. 9 and final exams will remain as scheduled, Dec. 10 through Dec. 16.
All other academic calendar dates will stay as scheduled, in particular course add and withdraw dates.
We welcome all of our students back to campus in August, but we recognize some may not be able to return or may wish to continue virtually. We’ll work with these students to take courses from wherever they are (there may be exceptions to this like some practicum and lab experiences). A process for managing such requests will be communicated soon.
Undergraduate students can request a leave of absence/deferral (gap year) from the university. Leave of absence requests must be approved prior to Aug. 25.
It is imperative that all instructors MUST prepare to deliver their courses in a hybrid style. This highly flexible manner will allow us to meet classroom physical distancing guidelines and students’ potential needs. Classrooms have been reviewed and are being set up to meet physical distancing guidelines. Each of the academic colleges is collaborating to work through scheduling and space allocation.
We have several technology enhancements in the works to assist with hybrid and online models of learning. The Fundamentals in Online Learning & Design (FOLD) Institute is designed to help instructors prepare for the fall, and I hope instructors will take advantage of the program. In working with IT, we’ve determined our bandwidth capabilities will support hybrid and online initiatives originating from campus. We’ll offer both Sakai and Canvas as learning management platforms throughout the academic year. We’re also working through enhanced exam monitoring capabilities; some of these are found within Canvas.
Faculty and Staff Work Arrangements
We understand some individuals may be more vulnerable to this disease than others. We are developing a process to review alternative work arrangement requests from employees. We will follow the Americans with Disabilities Act and work with you to provide reasonable accommodations where applicable. Requests will be prioritized to ensure we are able to continue providing the highest quality education to our students. You’ll receive information in the weeks ahead with guidelines on this process.
Virus Testing and Contact Tracing
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns I’ve heard to support the validity of our return to campus is around virus testing and contact tracing. We’ve pulled from a variety of sources to identify best practices for monitoring and controlling the virus’ spread. We plan to practice antigen surveillance COVID-19 testing of students, faculty and staff who’ll be physically on campus in the fall. Surveillance testing will be conducted at no expense through Health Services each week, from Aug. 24 – Nov. 20. We’ve received approval from the Peoria County Health Department on our testing plan.
Each student, faculty and staff member will receive health and safety expectations and guidelines prior to beginning the fall semester and will be expected to follow those guidelines throughout the term. Testing is one of the expectations.
Additionally, we’ll conduct testing within Health Services for students who exhibit symptoms associated with COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to it. Isolation/quarantine spaces have been identified and will be used as needed. To fully identify possible contact points, several efforts are ongoing to develop a contacting tracing strategy, including training through Johns Hopkins and evaluation of technology supports.
In an effort to reduce density in the residence halls, we’ll allow returning students to be released from the residence halls and move into a limited number of St. James apartments. Students can also request a single room in the traditional residence halls and the remainder of the rooms will be double occupancy only. Returning students will receive an email in the coming weeks with additional details on the process. These residential spaces will have restrictions on access for those who aren’t residents or essential personnel, and there’ll be limited access to communal lounges and spaces.
Fraternity and sorority house considerations are ongoing and will be made by local housing corporations with support from the university.
Our teams are working closely with Aramark regarding physical distancing and safety guidelines for dining halls and other food service areas.
Physical Distancing and Face Coverings
I’m fully supportive of the CDC and State of Illinois recommendations that masks should be worn whenever 6 feet of physical distancing from others is not possible or may be difficult to maintain. Everyone will be required to wear a face covering in classrooms, common areas, shared workspaces, labs, etc. We will not require you to wear a face covering when alone in your office or outside with appropriate distancing. The university will provide each student and employee with one Bradley-branded mask or you can wear your own. Appropriate accommodations will be made to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act for those who should not wear masks. A process for accommodation requests is being created.
As Return to Work plans continue to develop, consideration is being given to the protective items needed to support the work spaces. Details related to mask distribution, hand sanitizing stations, cleaning routines and replenishment of supplies will be provided. You’ll notice signage on campus designating specified building entry and exit points, directional usage for stairwells, limited capacity areas and more.
Everyone is expected to abide by these guidelines. They are for our collective safety.
All non-essential work-related travel for employees is on hold for the foreseeable future. If you believe your work-related travel is essential, you must submit it to your supervisor who will share it with the appropriate vice president for possible approval.
We also advise employees and students to avoid personal travel outside of the region. We’re working on a travel disclosure form where students and employees may register their plans if they travel away from the area.
We plan to have all staff employees back on campus no later than Aug. 17. The Provost will be sending a separate communication related to the faculty return to campus plans. As soon as possible, we ask supervisors to set campus return dates for employees and notify them using the Return to Work Notice. We want to be courteous and give everyone ample time to prepare for their return, even if it’s several weeks away. Any exceptions, including modified or alternative work schedules or remote work arrangements, must be sent to Human Resources. Supervisors should also share their return to work plans with their respective vice president or dean.
As previously communicated, supervisors should assess and establish their workspaces now in advance of their teams returning. If you need assistance making those determinations, the Return to Work team has created a supervisor checklist detailing office, personnel and other factors to consider.
As an employee, it’s your responsibility to check your email regularly and reach out to your supervisor or HR if you haven't heard anything by July 31 regarding your return to work date. Remember, prior to returning to work, all employees are expected to complete COVID-19: What You Need to Know, a training module based on CDC guidance. Our virus website is full of resources including the list of Expectations and Guidelines you received a few weeks ago.
COVID Campus Occurrence Planning
As you will recall from our initial communications, one of the scenarios we must responsibly consider is the occurrence of COVID-19 on campus. In July, university leadership will participate in a tabletop planning exercise where we will plan for a number of scenarios. These exercises will allow us to refine our practices and expectations for the fall semester further.
I look forward to welcoming our first orientation session participants to campus July 7. These new students arriving serves as a signal of a bright future for them and for us. All members of the Bradley family must commit to the Expectations and Guidelines we established for our health and future. We must continue to show our students what the Bradley experience can be and model the expectations of a healthy and safe campus for all.
It’s going to be a challenging year, but I’m optimistic about our future. I have quickly come to appreciate your collective passion and commitment to our students and each other. It’s this collective commitment that will help us navigate the challenges ahead. Please know we continue to monitor all aspects closely and the decisions shared today could change. We’ll continue to communicate with you, including more specific information, and you can always find our decisions at our Return to Campus website.