Bulldog Blog

News and Views from the University of Redlands

New steps for coronavirus containment in the most challenging of times

University of Redlands President Ralph W. Kuncl writes with updates and thoughts on the University’s response to COVID-19. Here is the text from his March 16 memo to the community.


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I write to you with a number of significant updates in our efforts to protect—above all else—the health and safety of members of our community.  These comments are in light of the escalating coronavirus pandemic, the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to limit gatherings to less than 50 people for up to the next eight weeks, the recently announced national and California states of emergency, and even today’s local and national general advisories to avoid all public places.  

These are historic times, as never in several generations has there been the need for all of us to avoid drinking and eating together, all discretionary travel, life in public places, and even religious observances.  I am constantly aware and concerned for each one of you.  And let me be so presumptuous as to say I do pray for your safety and health, as I do mine and Nancy’s.

The big picture is that we will get through this together, because, like past pandemics, infections last for a season and then abate.  The nation is resilient because it is entrepreneurial and innovative.  This University is perpetual because we support and care for one another and serve a noble purpose in the world.

I need you to know the following changes that we must now make.

RESIDENTIAL AND ACADEMIC PROGRAMS

We have made the decision to close all Redlands campus residential communities including residence halls, the Brockton and Grove Apartments, and all organizational houses.  Students are asked to leave campus as soon as possible, at the latest by this Friday, March 20 at 5 p.m.  For students with special circumstances, an application to request an extension can be found on the MyRedlands housing portal.  The housing FAQ provides information about the move-out process and answers a variety of questions.  Most students will receive a partial, prorated room-and-board credit applicable to expenses during the 2020-21 academic year; a fewer number of students (e.g., those graduating this year) will receive a partial, prorated room-and-board refund.  Additional details will be forthcoming.

All of U of R’s Southern California regional campuses and sites are closed or will be closed after Friday, March 20, and instruction will continue via technology-enabled learning. 

Most faculty members should have completed or be in the process of moving their classes to technology-enabled learning methods in anticipation of the Monday, March 23 deadline.  We appreciate the 90 faculty members who worked with Information Technology Services (ITS) over the weekend on this task.  For additional support, faculty members should refer to the Instructional Support web page or schedule an in-person or virtual consultation session by emailing acits@redlands.edu

May Term classes in the College of Arts and Sciences and May-start classes in the School of Education and School of Business will also be held through technology-enabled modalities.  This means students will not return to campus for in-classroom instruction or housing for the May Term.

The Redlands campus gym, fitness center, dance studio, and pool are closing immediately. Next week, the University bookstore will adjust its operating hours to be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  The Armacost Library, with somewhat reduced staff and altered hours, will remain open to those with University of Redlands IDs.

For students on the Marin campus, Marin County health officials have advised residents to shelter in place, and only essential services (institutions of higher education are listed among these) may remain open.  The Graduate Theological Union library is closed, with distance support provided to students and faculty.  Residential Graduate School of Theology students are able to stay in their apartments. 

EVENTS AND VISITOR POLICIES 

In accordance with CDC guidelines, the University will not host gatherings of more than 50 people over the next eight weeks.  And just today, White House federal guidance suggests that over the next 15 days the nation should avoid discretionary travel, gathering in groups of 10 or more, and eating and drinking in public places such as bars, restaurants, and food courts.  This parallels guidance being offered, and changing daily, by several counties, the City of Los Angeles, and the State of California.  And, in an abundance of caution, we are re-evaluating all visitors, speakers, and guests scheduled to come to campus.  We ask that non-essential visits by people outside the University community be postponed.

The traditional commencement ceremonies that had been scheduled on the Redlands campus from April 16-18 are no longer feasible. We are in the process of exploring creative alternatives or postponements and will provide more information on our plans in the coming days.

EMPLOYEES

For the two weeks between Monday, March 23 and Friday, April 3, we are asking all employees on Southern California campuses, except those deemed to have essential duties on the Redlands campus, to work from home.  Given the shelter-in-place order in Marin County, we ask non-essential Marin campus employees to work from home beginning tomorrow through Friday, April 3.  Every employee contributes important work.  However, the determination of whose work is “essential” for providing necessary service to our constituents on-site during this unique time will be made by supervisors. 

All University of Redlands employees will be paid as normal during the specified timeframe above. 

Students with work-study positions will be paid their average weekly earnings through the remainder of the spring semester work-study period.  The possibility of remote work will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by students’ supervisors.

For critically essential personnel still reporting to work in person, we encourage the reevaluation of all scheduled meetings to enact social distancing when possible; this may include video conferencing or using larger meeting spaces to increase the space between individuals.  Supervisors are encouraged to take a flexible, creative approach to staffing that may include rotating days and flexible hours.  Departments can request assistance with technology, including installation of software and other resources to facilitate remote work, by reaching out to tech_support@redlands.edu

More detailed policy guidelines will be released by the Human Resources Department over the coming days.  The work-from-home policy will be reassessed by Friday, April 3. 

FURTHER INFORMATION 

We will continue to give you the most important and current information.  A university educational community obviously believes knowledge is power.  You can always reference the COVID-19 FAQ web page, which is updated on an ongoing basis, for additional information as it becomes available.  These are special to our University, but I hope you are also following the resources of the CDC, California Department of Public Health, and the county in which you reside.

OUR COMMUNITY 

I realize that the University’s actions, however prudent, may cause great disappointment.  We all feel the loss of much that we joyfully anticipated—cheering on our Bulldog athletics teams, enjoying the strains of music at recitals, having coffee with a favorite professor, savoring the last few weeks of the semester with close friends, celebrating an exuberant graduation with extended family. 

We will all remember the coronavirus epidemic of 2019-20, as many of us think back to the Great Recession, 9/11, the HIV-AIDS epidemic, or the assassinations of the 1960s.  We will recall this period so intently because it rocked our assumptions and challenged us to be brave, reasoned, and resourceful. Even as we practice social distancing, we are still a community, drawing on our best Bulldog tenacity and grit.

Faithfully yours, 

Ralph W. Kuncl, PhD, MD 
President