A Very Important Message to Faculty Regarding COVID-19

Chancellor Douglas A. Girod, M.D., Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Wednesday, March 11, 2020, 8:49 p.m.
KU Lawrence All Staff Faculty and Affiliates

A message from Chancellor Douglas A. Girod and Provost Barbara A. Bichelmeyer

Faculty and staff –

KU leaders have been closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19. We know that some members of the Jayhawk community have been in areas with reported cases, and we don’t expect to be immune from this virus. We have a strong team that is assessing conditions regionally and across the nation and is making recommendations guided by the following principles:

  1. Keep KU open so it can provide services to the fullest extent possible given unprecedented circumstances.
  2. Maintain continuity of operations that support the academic and research missions of the university.
  3. Prevent the spread of the disease at KU and beyond.
  4. Protect members of the KU community through self-quarantine and social distancing, especially the three groups at greatest risk:
    1. those who may have been exposed,
    2. those who have chronic health challenges,
    3. those who are currently sick.
  5. Encourage all members of the KU community to be informed and practice healthy behaviors by following CDC recommendations.
  6. Protect equity for our most vulnerable employees and students, as much as possible, as we respond to the situation.
  7. Respond with agility to the fluid and changing nature of the situation.
  8. Provide clear communications to all members of the KU community.
  9. Provide exceptions for mission-critical activities on a case-by-case basis.

Delayed Resumption of In-person Classes Until March 23

To help protect the health of all members of our community, including those who may be at higher risk of the effects of COVID-19, the resumption of in-person classes will be delayed until March 23.

Next week, March 16-22, we ask that faculty prepare to transition their course content, including lectures, to online instructional platforms, such as Blackboard. Every KU course already has an existing Blackboard shell available for faculty to start the process. Beginning the week of March 23, courses will be taught remotely using online tools. We anticipate needing to stay online for several weeks, however, our team will reassess the need to continue remote-only instruction each week, starting March 28. There will be no schedule change to courses already online.

To clarify: Online classes continue as scheduled. In-person classes will migrate online and resume March 23, using an online format.

This approach limits in-person exposure after spring break to align with the estimated COVID-19 incubation period, and allows faculty members a modest amount of time to prepare and begin the transition to online instruction. It also keeps the university functioning and helps students continue toward their educational goals.

We understand moving instruction to a solely online format will be a heavy lift for some faculty. Resources are available so no one needs to make this online transition alone. KU Information Technology’s Ed Tech team, Center for Teaching Excellence, Center for Online and Distance Learning, and Office of Faculty Development and Mentoring are engaged in this process and will be available with guidance, instruction and tutorials. The team has created a new site — remote.ku.edu — that provides guidance for those who are new to Blackboard, as well as next steps for faculty who are ready to do more. Individual guidance will also be available. Instructors and staff are encouraged to use Skype or Zoom to interact with students for office hours or appointments.

You can get help to start online adaptation of courses by contacting KU IT Educational Technology Support, itedtech@ku.edu, 785-864-2600. The team will assess each faculty member’s situation and either assist with Blackboard migration or refer instructors to more specialized consulting available through the Center for Online and Distance Learning.

Campus Remains Open

While we move courses online, it is important to know we are keeping campus open and operating normally so we can continue to provide services to students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders.

All KU Student Housing buildings (residence halls, scholarship halls, apartments) and KU Dining venues will be open. In a separate message, we are encouraging students to stay home as they work on their courses. We recognize some students may need to remain on campus because they are prevented from returning home due to travel restrictions, or they need access to computers and reliable Internet service needed to complete work.

Faculty and staff are expected to report to work unless:

  • You have been advised to self-isolate or quarantine because of travel or potential exposure.
  • You have chronic health conditions or are in another at-risk group considered more susceptible to COVID-19.
  • You are sick.

Supervisors should exercise judgement and flexibility when considering requests for alternate work schedules or to telecommute, which includes requests from student employees and consideration of required staffing levels.

University Sponsored Travel

We notice that many national meetings have already been canceled. Out of an abundance of caution, all university sponsored domestic and international business-related travel and attendance at meetings, conferences, etc., is to be discontinued, effective immediately. Business-related travel in and around Kansas and Missouri is excluded from this restriction. Please do not make new plans for business travel during the next 60 days. Under extreme circumstances, exemptions to the travel restriction will be considered in advance by the provost or her designee. Travel appeals should be sent to provost@ku.edu.

Human Resource Management

Human Resource Management is preparing concise information to share with you about a variety of topics, including time-off policies, contingency preparations, remote work opportunities and more, which will be posted on the web soon. You should feel free to contact the office directly, hrdept@ku.edu, or 785-864-4946.

Interviewing Prospective Employees/Students

Spring is an important time to hire new faculty and staff as well as to engage with prospective graduate students. We encourage faculty and staff to use Skype, as much as possible, to limit in-person contact and travel as you conduct interviews. Please reach out to KU IT, itcsc@ku.edu, 785-864-8080, if you need assistance with these technologies.

Events and Outreach

Effective immediately, university sponsored events will be limited to no more than 50 participants. Mission-critical exemptions to the attendance limit must be approved by the provost or her designee. Appeals should be sent in advance to provost@ku.edu.

The Centers for Disease Control has yet to provide guidance on maximum event size, although it offers important advice to planners. When an event is taking place, planners should communicate to visitors and participants the importance of exercising their personal discretion. Please advise individuals not to attend if they fall into a category recommended for quarantine, they have underlying chronic health conditions, or they are sick. Our Public Health Planning Events Workgroup is continuing to develop plans and will provide more detailed guidance soon.

Stay Healthy

Please be sure to take care of yourself. Each of us plays an important role in maintaining our personal health, which in turn helps protect our broader community. Please continue to follow CDC recommendations to prevent spread of COVID-19 shared earlier by Watkins Health Services. Taking action that aims to limit exposure of Jayhawks to the virus will help ensure our collective health and safety. If you are sick and lack sufficient paid time off, contact HR about the potential for using shared leave.

Our Public Health Planning Team continues to evaluate many other important questions, and we will be able to provide answers for those matters in the days ahead. Our new coronavirus webpage will help keep you current.

This is a challenging time for our campus, our families and our community, and it is a time that may require additional bold measures. It will take all of us working together to ensure we emerge stronger. It also will require us to, fundamentally, be empathetic to each other, understanding we are all working through this evolving situation together. We’re confident we have the talent, the resources and the heart to rise to this challenge.

Thank you to the many workgroups who have contributed untold hours to help guide us all through this challenge.


Doug and Barbara

Douglas A. Girod


Barbara A. Bichelmeyer

Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor