March 19, 2020
Dear University of Oregon community,
I want to share the latest information about the University of Oregon’s response to the coronavirus outbreak that is accelerating in Oregon and nationally. It is important for me to emphasize that every decision we make as an institution is grounded in the following principles:
- We must prioritize the health and safety of our students, staff, faculty, and the broader community.
- We must do everything humanly and institutionally possible to further the education of our students and make it possible for them to graduate from the UO in a timely fashion.
Together, we can help slow the spread of COVID-19, maintain our students’ path to on-time graduation, and support the UO’s vital mission of teaching, research, and service.
With that in mind, the UO will provide remote education for the entire spring term, which begins March 30. Previously, we had announced that we would operate remotely for the first three weeks of the term. An executive order from Oregon’s governor yesterday mandated remote educational delivery at public universities through at least April 28. The UO is electing—like many public universities in Oregon and our national peer institutions—to deliver the entire term remotely. We will return to normal campus operations and face-to-face instruction as quickly as is feasible, but making the decision now to deliver the spring term remotely is designed to provide certainty to our campus as faculty structure their courses for the term, and enable our students to more effectively manage their lives and plan during uncertain times.
I know many students will likely choose to take classes from home, which is good and entirely appropriate. UO residence halls and residential dining will remain open during spring term. Campus currently remains open for students, faculty, and staff and those with official business, though it is closed to the general public. For the upcoming term, it will not be possible to maintain all of our normal operations given the restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 response, but we will prioritize services and operations that support students, faculty, and our core educational mission. We know things may be a bit bumpy as we start out the term. Stick with us though; I promise we will work through any challenges and we will get through this together.
We have received many questions about tuition rates as we move to a remote instructional model. We cannot discount tuition. We will not, however, charge students for housing and dining if they are not living in the residence halls. Students will be able to cancel their UO residence hall contract without penalty, and University Housing will be reaching out to residents via email with more information. We are also examining the feasibility of reducing administratively-controlled fees for services that we are unable to provide during this time. Also to help students with financial challenges, we will not assess interest or billing fees in April, May, or June on overdue student billing accounts.
Provost Patrick Phillips and I are dedicated to ensuring an excellent, quality education at the UO during this crisis and for the long term, and that means managing the UO’s finances responsibly so that we remain a viable institution and have the resources we need when we’re able to return to normal operations. The costs of providing remote education to students are just as high—if not higher—than traditional, in-person classes. We will continue to employ faculty, graduate students, advisors, and other staff on the payroll to teach and support our students. And we need to provide additional technology and support for them to be effective. But even more important, we remain committed to delivering the same education without missing a beat, which is incredibly important to keep students on track for timely graduation.
As I and others have said many times, due to the constantly evolving facts and conditions surrounding COVID-19, I regret that we cannot answer every one of your questions today. I do make you this promise: As soon as decisions are made we will communicate them honestly and transparently. For the latest information—including a list of adjusted or suspended operations on campus—please visit uoregon.edu/coronavirus and read our FAQs. Questions, concerns, or suggestions should continue to be directed to this web form or to a new coronavirus information line at 541-346-7007 (the line will be staffed from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays).
Thank you for your patience, cooperation, and understanding during this challenging time. The UO community is resilient, especially when we need to face challenges. We will get through this together and come out on the other side even stronger.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law