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Welcome back to campus (well, almost)!

Welcome back to campus (well, almost)! We are starting this semester in unusual—indeed unprecedented—times. After much deliberation, schools across the country have chosen to proceed in many ways beginning this Fall semester. As we move towards the University of Utah's proposed plan, we invite our campus community to consider three points. Borrowing from Dr. Grayman-Simpson, our advice rationale can be regarded as three dimensions: public (and individual) health, pedagogical, and social equity/justice.  

From a public health perspective, the virus's spread is unavoidable, and a "second wave" of infections is likely. Research indicates that fewer than 50% of people are compliant with safety protocols such as face-covering and social distancing. With this in mind, we urge you to follow the CDC guidelines on maintaining a 2 meter (7-feet) physical distance, wearing a mask when indoors or around others, and washing your hands as frequently as you can with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. These measures can protect you from infection and from infecting others. As we take the utmost precautions during the fall semester and foreseeable future we will be able to curb the spread and save lives. 

From a pedagogical perspective, expect in-person classes to be altered dramatically. Courses that typically focus on discussion-based, collaborative, and small group instruction will suffer in the context of face coverings and physical distance. Furthermore, a spike in infection rates could push fall classes online at any moment—and all classes could go online until the end of the semester. The most effective instruction will come from coursework and activities that are carefully designed to include online and in-person formats.

Finally, please consider the social equity and justice lens with teaching in-person classes. Students, especially those from underrepresented communities, are especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of COVID-19 and have already borne the brunt of the pandemic in both health and economic terms. We are asking students to decide between exposing themselves and their loved ones to higher risk or accepting altered instruction. The safety of students of color (especially Black men) being required to wear masks in a society founded on systemic racism could also raise new, yet old challenges for their safety.

Regardless of how we open campus, we want to address social equity concerns. There are different levels of access to technology and high-speed internet. Our school is trying to meet these concerns. The Marriott and Eccles Health Sciences Libraries have laptops you can check out for home use. As of the time of this writing, you can email the Union Services Desk with your name, UNID, phone number, and mailing address, and a library laptop will be mailed out within two business days. For internet access, Xfinity WiFi locations are currently free. You can also request a mobile hotspot from the University. These resources, notwithstanding, do not eliminate the burden on students' professional, family, and personal lives.

As previously stated, these times are unprecedented and remain confusing and stress-inducing. Nonetheless, as we proceed with caution, we can make the most of the semester that lies ahead. We also proceed with you, and are delighted that you have chosen to stay with us in these most difficult times. We understand that united we cannot fail, but as we divide, failure is guaranteed.