A letter from the president to the UConn community

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To the UConn Community, 

As I write to you, we are now three weeks into the Fall semester, a semester that all of us understood would be a challenging and unfamiliar experience in many ways. And while we still have a long way to go until Thanksgiving, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the first stage of this journey. 

Since August, we have fluctuated around a 1% positivity rate among residential students, holding infection levels to near that of the state overall.  Just as importantly, the spread to faculty, staff, and the town has been minimal. The success in limiting the spread among students differentiates us from most of our peers across the country, who either did not choose to offer in-person classes, or did offer them but experienced dramatic spikes of the virus.  

While far from being in the clear in terms of remaining open through the Thanksgiving break, we can all be proud of what the UConn community has accomplished so far. Credit is due to the extraordinary efforts of too many people to mention, but I want to try to highlight a few of the groups and factors that have made a difference.  

The critical work to de-densify the campus was the work of many people, but  three factors were particularly key:  A well-designed testing strategy, implemented by our health teams and supported by our researchers in infectious disease; the success of contact tracing and quarantines by health teams from UConn and the Department of Public Health; and most of all, the vigilance of students in following the guidelines of the UConn Promise.  In particular, we have not suffered the rapid spread of the virus from the types of large parties that have been so problematic at other universities. 

Although everyone who has done their part deserves credit, there are some members of our community who have done truly exceptional work in helping us begin the semester in a safe and successful way: The faculty and staff members who served on re-entry planning and implementation teams, many of which started months ago, and involved long days and nights in the run-up to the semester. 

·  The faculty and staff members who served on re-entry planning and implementation teams, many of which started months ago, and involved long days and nights in the run-up to the semester. 

·  Our entire Student Affairs staff, including the Resident Assistants who have taken on the responsibility of ensuring that public health guidelines are observed. 

·  The student leaders who signed on to the reopening effort from the beginning, and laid the groundwork for the conscientious behavior we’ve seen from the entire student body. 

·  The faculty members who have so quickly adapted to new modalities of learning to ensure our core missions of teaching and research maintain the same high standards as always. 

·  The professionals from UConn Health and Student Health and Wellness who are the backbone of our testing and medical care programs, and who devote so much to the well-being of our entire community. 

·  The dedicated professionals from Public Safety, Human Resources, University Communications, Bursar, UPDC, ITS, CETL, Athletics, Enrollment, and OVPR who have contributed to our reentry – and whose work has played a vital rote in allowing us to remain open – who have contributed incredibly long hours and a lot of hard work to this university. 

·  Finally, I would like to extend a special thanks to each and every staff member in Facilities Operations across all our campuses. They continue to be unsung heroes in our efforts to keep our campuses safe and operational and in allowing us to support our students and faculty. We could not do this without them.      

This is not a moment to take success for granted. According to contact tracing data, our positive case numbers continue to be fueled by small-to-medium gatherings where protective face coverings aren’t worn and social distancing guidelines aren’t observed. In addition to being personally unsafe, this is creating an accumulated burden for other students who have been asked to quarantine, sometimes several times.  

So let’s keep taking the protective measures we know to work, while at the same time fulfilling our need to be socially connected. We can get together in person safely: all it takes is a mask and 6 feet. In fact, let’s make it a date: I’ll see you at my next office hour, outside of the Benton. Bring your mask and your Husky pride. 

Sincerely, 

Tom 

Thomas Katsouleas 

President, University of Connecticut 

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