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The following message was sent to the University of Portland community on July 30, 2020

Dear Members of the University of Portland Community,

I write to share a very important update with you regarding our Fall 2020 Semester. As you know, our goal has been to resume in-person instruction and on-campus residency when our semester begins this August. So many individuals across our campus have been working tirelessly to make the preparations necessary for us to begin the semester in this way, and I know how much our students, faculty, and staff desire a return to campus.

Over the past several days, we have consulted with the chairs of our COVID-19 Task Forces, the President’s Leadership Cabinet, the Academic Deans, and the Chair and Vice Chair of the University’s Board of Regents. We have also considered the significant concerns expressed by hundreds of faculty, staff, and students about the safety of resuming on-campus operations this fall.

As a result of these consultations and considerations, I am announcing today that the Fall 2020 Semester will begin on August 24 with nearly all classes held exclusively online. Residence halls will remain closed with some limited exceptions. Most faculty and staff will continue to work remotely. We are hopeful that a return to in-person instruction for the Spring 2021 Semester will be possible. Of course, we will continue to monitor conditions to determine if such a return is safe and feasible.

Our Fall Semester will begin on August 24 and conclude on December 10. Fall Break will be held from October 12 to October 16. More specific information on our academic calendar will be shared with you in the near future.

The Present Conditions

Our priority has been, and always will be, the safety of community members.

We are deeply concerned about recent trends in the course of the pandemic. In Oregon, infection rates and the number of deaths attributable to COVID-19 are at unacceptably high levels. Additionally, many of our students reside in states that have experienced significant spikes in COVID-19 cases and deaths over the past several weeks, including California and Washington. At this time, public health authorities are advising against unnecessary travel far from home, and it is possible that more stringent travel and quarantine restrictions could be implemented in the weeks ahead. Furthermore, slow turnaround times in COVID-19 testing are hampering the ability to properly contain the virus.

Additionally, earlier this week, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced new restrictions on public K-12 education throughout the state. Public schools in the greater Portland area will not resume in-person instruction until November at the earliest. Many parochial and private K-12 schools are following suit. These developments will have an impact on our faculty and staff and their families. Additionally, if public health authorities have determined that in-person instruction in K-12 schools is unsafe at this time, we feel that it is unwise to resume operation of a residential campus that draws students from around the country.

We have now reached the point at which a final decision must be made. With only three weeks remaining before the majority of students return to campus, now is the time to make this difficult decision. Doing so will prevent the need for significant preparation for the arrival of students, and instead allow us to invest our time and energy into developing new plans.

Remote Learning and Tuition

In-person instruction is at the core of who we are as a Holy Cross institution. I know that many of our students, families, and faculty members will be disappointed that most courses this fall will take place remotely.

However, since March we have made tremendous strides in our remote learning capabilities and have invested significantly in technology to enhance the virtual learning experience. All courses will continue to be taught to ensure that learning outcomes are met and students develop impactful relationships with faculty. We will continue to offer small class sizes and engaging discussion. The same high academic standards that you have come to expect from the University of Portland will be met this fall.

We know that many students and their families are facing financial uncertainty at this time and will have questions about tuition rates. Even though UP is moving to a remote learning model, we will continue to put the academic experience of students first. It is important to remember that tuition pays for only 67% of the costs of a UP education. The University receives the remaining 33% through philanthropic support, endowment funding, and auxiliary revenue (e.g., room and board, rentals, events, etc.). We project that these sources of revenue will diminish significantly in the months ahead. We also note that many of the University’s costs will not decrease as we move to a remote learning model. The University is doing its absolute best to maximize the number of students who can take a full range of courses and remain on-schedule for graduation. For these reasons, and because we plan to provide the same excellent teaching that is a hallmark of the University of Portland experience, the published tuition rates for the 2020–21 academic year will remain the same.

Exceptions and Other Matters

Certain courses required in some accredited programs, such as those involving intensive clinical, lab, experiential, or similar work, may be held in-person. Students who need to enroll in such courses may apply to live in on-campus residence halls. Further information will be provided by individual programs/majors.

Additionally, a limited number of students with compelling needs will be permitted to live in residence halls. Generally, students with academic technology needs, international students, and students experiencing housing insecurity and other hardships will be welcomed to live on the UP campus. The Office of Residence Life will be in touch with students shortly with further information.

Leases for UP-owned rental homes will be honored. However, students who wish to opt out of their leases will be permitted to do so.

Finally, decisions regarding UP Athletics and the state of our fall sports will be determined by West Coast Conference and NCAA leadership in the coming days. 

The Road Ahead

I emphasize that this decision is made due to circumstances entirely beyond our control. Hundreds of employees have dedicated thousands of hours of work and immense creativity to develop our plans for the fall. I feel confident that we did all that we could to prepare for a successful in-person Fall Semester.

Fortunately, our planning efforts of these past four months will not go to waste. As I have noted, we have made great strides in how our faculty provide remote instruction. Our plans for “hybrid” course delivery and a de-densified campus will likely be put to use as we look forward to a day in which students can return to campus. In many ways, our recent planning process has demonstrated the great resolve and innovation of our community members.

Today’s message is the first of many you will receive in the days and weeks ahead. I ask that you monitor your email closely for forthcoming communications from the Office of the Provost, the Office of Residence Life, and numerous other offices on campus. Additionally, in the coming days, up.edu/coronavirus will become a central hub of information and resources as we approach the Fall Semester. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to implement this new direction for the Fall Semester.

Conclusion

This time is a difficult one for the University of Portland community. However, we have been in similar circumstances before. We have weathered immense challenges in our 119-year history and we have always emerged stronger. I know that with God’s grace, the abiding dedication of students, faculty, and staff, and a University-wide commitment to our sacred mission, we will make it through our present troubles. 

As an institution guided by the Congregation of Holy Cross, we are called to be “people with hope to bring.” May we all continue to seek the wisdom, guidance, and embrace of God as we hope and work for better days ahead.

Sincerely,
Fr. Mark

Rev. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C.
President