Welcome to Fall Term

September 29, 2020

President Michael H. Schill welcomes the University of Oregon community to the start of fall term with a message about working together to protect ourselves, our fellow Ducks, and the community — to overcome the many challenges of this year and make this a great term.

Hello, everyone. We’ve talked a lot about fall term over the last few months, but it is finally here. I am delighted to welcome all of you—our students, faculty, and staff—to the start of an academic year at the University of Oregon that will be unlike any other that has come before it.

Whether you are an incoming first-year student just starting your studies or a professor that has been here for years, this fall will be a new experience for all of us for many reasons, not just the coronavirus. But our community is resilient—we are Oregon strong. If we work together, take care of ourselves and those around us, we can make this an incredible year.

We can’t control the pandemic, but we can control the steps we take to protect ourselves and the community. Stay physically distanced, wear a face covering when you are on campus or in the community, wash your hands frequently, stay home if you are sick, and follow the guidance of health care professionals. These are simple things to do and they are the keys to making sure we can continue—and hopefully expand—in-person operations at the University of Oregon. To help remind the community about the steps we need to take to keep our community safe, we’ve created a voluntary pledge that I hope you will join me in taking. You can read it and sign it electronically at pledge.uoregon.edu. As the pledge states, let’s all choose health, choose safety, and choose each other.

Our priority remains the health and safety of our university community, and you can also stay up to date on the university’s response to the pandemic by visiting our comprehensive COVID-19 resources website at coronavirus.uoregon.edu. Please check there regularly for answers to frequently asked questions and the latest information about our operational status, campus testing and case counts, health and safety efforts, and much more.

As we address COVID-19 at the University of Oregon, things will look a little different on campus, which will be closed to the general public so we can focus our energy and resources on serving students and our mission of teaching, research, and service. We have rearranged rooms to accommodate physical distancing and some buildings may have restricted access. We have a new digital campus map to help you quickly see which buildings are open to students, faculty, and staff, and which facilities have limited or restricted access.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, I am committed that we will not let this year be lost to us. We will and we must make progress toward fulfilling our mission of creating knowledge and transmitting that knowledge to future generations. This year we will forge ahead on several important institutional initiatives.

In December, we will celebrate the grand opening of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. I know many of you have seen the iconic, best-in-class research and education facility rising along Franklin Boulevard.

But it’s so much more than a building. With the challenges we are all facing right now, the Knight Campus represents an inspiring beacon of promise that will continue to shape our university for the next century. It is already fostering collaboration across campus—among colleagues in areas such as communications, business, education, art, design, and the sciences, and around the globe with world-class peers—all the while creating new opportunities for students and researchers to benefit society.

This fall will also mark the one-year anniversary of the opening of Willie and Donald Tykeson Hall and the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center, both important hubs for student success on our campus. The academic advisors and career coaches in Tykeson Hall will be available virtually and in-person to support students in their studies and career pursuits. Though the Black Cultural Center will be available to students by appointment only this term, it remains a launching point for important conversations and our work to address systemic racism and to support our Black students, faculty, and staff.

As we enter this academic year, I urge you to stay engaged in these conversations. The past six months have highlighted how much work there is to do to address issues of race, inequality, and climate change. As a university we are committed to continuing this essential work, and we plan to unveil important and measurable steps toward addressing racial justice during the fall term. I look forward to sharing that with you in the coming weeks.

Through all of this our focus remains on our students, our work to educate and solve problems, and to be resilient and innovative. In these uncertain times, our mission and educational paths at the UO are more important than ever.

The start of the academic year always holds promise of new opportunities and new connections—even during the time of COVID-19. I witnessed this as I visited with students and their families as they moved into the residence halls. I see, in them, hope, anticipation, and excitement about the future. There is a lot to look forward to, but it requires all of us working together to make it possible.

I am taping this a few days before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. The major prayer of Yom Kippur is the Kol Nidre where Jews essentially ask for forgiveness for our future mistakes and failures that will take place in the coming year.

We are in uncharted territory this year. We will accomplish much, but I am sure we (and I) will also make mistakes. The sign of a strong community is the ability to strive together and when we stumble, to brush ourselves off, forgive each other, and continue onward. In that spirit, I promise I will do the very best I can to lead us through this challenging period. I hope that my stumbles will be few (and for those stumbles, I apologize). And, I am confident that our successes will be great.

Our community has experienced many challenges due to COVID-19 and we have proven how resilient we are. I am grateful to have each of you as a part of our Duck family and I want you to know how proud I am of your determination and perseverance.

I wish you all a safe and fantastic year.

Go Ducks!