Dear Sul Ross Community:
The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic presents the university with numerous challenges and opportunities to find creative solutions to continue our higher education mission. Over the next days, weeks, and months, we can expect to learn many lessons personally and for the organization. My promise to you is to keep you informed of the actions that we will need to implement along the way to help assure everyone’s health and safety.
There is no doubt that this situation is alarming and can cause fear and anxiety across all walks of life. I hope that we can alleviate portions of that stress by taking some very purposeful, necessary actions. In response to these events, we will enact policies or take quick action to assure we follow CDC guidelines and work toward social distancing to minimize the rapid spread of the virus.
I expect that many of you have questions and I will provide you with some answers. As you can imagine, the nature of the situation changes rapidly so we are doing our best to ensure that we develop solutions that focus on the health and safety of our community while still fulfilling our mission.
Here are a few decisions that we made today, but please note that the circumstances will still require additional evaluation and may include new or updated actions in the upcoming days:
• Effective immediately, if you travelled through one of the thirteen (13) airports where international medical screening was conducted in the past seven (7) days, we ask that you self-quarantine for fourteen (14) days per CDC guidelines. These airports include: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York; Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois; San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California; Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington; Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii; Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California; Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia; Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia; Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey; Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas; Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan; Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts; and Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida. If you recently travelled, please self-report to the Student Health Center at 432.837.8209 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Effective March 16, 2020 at 5:00 pm, all Sul Ross State University offices and buildings will be closed to the public until further notice. University operations will continue and will require some employees to work on campus and others will work remotely, as appropriate. Supervisors will be in touch as more plans are made to determine which positions are applicable for both categories. We understand that some positions do not fit in either category and have authorized emergency leave. Our biggest concern is to ensure that all employees are paid and do not need to use their personal leave during this crisis. We also want to ensure that the university supports employees with children who may need to stay home per ISD guidelines.
• The University is on an extended Spring Break, classes will resume on March 23. The Federal Government issued guidelines that include social distancing and restricted large gatherings of 10 people or more. In line with those guidelines, the university will move to remote delivery of classes on March 23 and will NOT resume face-to-face classes for the remainder of the semester. Individual faculty members will contact students with information about course delivery for the remainder of the semester by Thursday, March 19. Our faculty are working on alternative methods of delivery to provide the best options in these unusual circumstances. Be assured, that we are working hard to do what is best for our students’ continued academic success.
• Effective today, all university events are cancelled until further notice based on Federal Government guidance to cancel gatherings of 10 people or more. This includes, but is not limited to any gatherings for student organizations, department functions, theatre or musical productions, sporting events, externally-sponsored events, etc. Events such as the Alumni Gala, Trappings of Texas, Honors Convocation, Sully Showcase, Scholars Luncheon, Alumni Ring Ceremony, and many others are included in this cancellation.
• The above cancellation of university events includes May 2020 Commencement exercises in Alpine and Eagle Pass as scheduled for May 8, 2020 and May 9, 2020. This action was not decided lightly, and there are many students and families who will be broken-hearted. For that, I am truly sorry, but I hope that you understand that the rapid nature of this situation required significant and decisive action. Those students who were scheduled to graduate in May are invited and encouraged to participate in December graduation ceremonies, pending any new developments with COVID-19.
• Students whose primary residence is university housing may remain on campus or return to campus after the extended break. We recognize that many students live on campus and do not have plans to move away. We will continue to do our best to accommodate students in this situation. To better understand how we can best serve the needs of our residential students, please complete the survey at the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/8JXH6GT. Your input will assist us as we continue to determine next steps for Sul Ross. Students who use university housing and decide not to return are asked to schedule appointments with Residential Living staff for check out. Staffing is limited for this process and we want to avoid large groups as a prevention measure. Res Life will start taking appointment next Monday by calling 432.837.8190.
• Effective this week, ARAMARK transitioned to full service dining operations – no self-serving of food is allowed. ARAMARK will provide To-Go boxes for on-campus meals. Meals will be limited to on-campus residents with meal passes. Students and visitors will not be permitted to gather in the dining hall. While we understand that this is awkward and increases isolation, we want to take every precaution to avoid large gatherings or opportunities for people to spread the infection.
• Academic Advising will remain open to students through remote methods, but we ask that students schedule these sessions with faculty or on-campus advisors and discuss your academic path via email, phone, or video-conferencing. The platform that we use to provide advising will certainly change, but we are committed to ensuring that our advising remains at a high quality.
• The seriousness of the situation surrounding COVID-19 requires the university to provide quick, relevant, and at times urgent information for students and university employees. The current usage of the Sul Ross mass email system that includes the following list serves FS-ALL, FS-ALP, FS-RGC, STU-ALL, STU-ALP, STU-RGC often can be seen by recipients as undesired email or Spam due to the quantity of messages that individuals receive on a daily basis. Given the current situation, the university is enacting a strict mass email policy. Effective today, the list serve mentioned above will only be used for messages by university offices to send communications necessary for normal business operations. These mass email messages will generally include:
-Announcements or information from university executive officers.
-Information that directly relates to the continuance of University business.
-Alerts regarding campus community health and safety issues.
-Information that relates to changes in University policy or time sensitive procedures.
• Effective today, all athletic programs are suspended for the duration of the spring semester. This includes competitions and practices for both spring and fall sports. Given the decision to move to remote delivery of classes, we found it necessary to cancel athletic programs to discourage students from returning to campus while we experience this pandemic crisis. I cannot adequately express my disappointment for this decision as it certainly affects a large number of our students and especially seniors, but we believe it is the right action to take with the information we currently have.
On a positive note, the NCAA recently made the decision to grant an extra year of eligibility for spring sport athletes including seniors who choose to continue their academic career and work on graduate degrees. More decisions from the NCAA and the American Southwest Conference will come as actions are evaluated and lessons learned.
These decisions and many others will likely cause more questions and concerns. Like you, we find ourselves frustrated over issues out of our control and for not having answers immediately available. We share the concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and recognize that many people find themselves scared or anxious. If you or someone you know needs support, please reach out to the Counseling Services available at each campus.
We must all do our part to flatten the curve so that we provide time for our medical professionals to ensure resources are available. Our Sul Ross community is filled with grit, perseverance, and strength, please provide support to your fellow Lobos through this difficult time.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to make decisions about Sul Ross. As you can imagine, the information changes quickly, please regularly check our website (www.sulross.edu) for updates. I wish you and your family well during these difficult times. Please stay safe and cautious.
My best to you,
Bill Kibler and members of the SRSU Executive Staff: