April 28, 2020

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SIU Faculty and Staff,

Thank you for your continued work serving students and sustaining operations during the most unusual challenging time in recent history. I am impressed and humbled by the work, outreach and care our faculty and staff model every day.

I am grateful to those of you who are supporting the healthcare community with face masks and testing materials, conducting research on COVID-19 antibodies, engaging student volunteers to assist local health departments and much, much more. Your work is telling the world what those of us at SIU Carbondale already know – this is a special place.

I am also grateful to everyone who continues to teach, conduct research, provide housing and meals to our students, clean facilities, pay employees, advise students, and simply do your jobs every day. You, too, speak to the resilience and nature of SIU. The past weeks have given me great confidence that we can continue to operate effectively during the extended stay-at-home order.

Face-coverings 

A number of people have asked about the provision of face masks for “essential” employees, including student employees, starting May 1. As background, the governor has directed wearing a face-covering or mask in public places when you can’t maintain a six-foot social distance. Face masks are required in indoor public space regardless of the ability to maintain social distance. For the purposes of the governor’s order, we consider indoor public places to include spaces anyone can access, such as reception areas with walk-in access and the lobbies of buildings. However, we expect staff to wear masks at all locations, including offices and laboratories, where multiple people are present and social distancing is not possible.

If you need a mask effective May 1, please contact your supervisor, who will follow up with the appropriate vice chancellor. Please note that we will have a limited number of disposable and reusable masks available, so we encourage employees to use their own masks when possible. We are also exploring options for providing face-coverings to all employees when the stay-at-home order is lifted and to students when they return in the fall. Please stay tuned for more information.

Fall semester

As you know, we have plans in place to complete the spring semester and conduct summer classes fully online or in alternative formats. We will also use the summer to plan for the fall semester. As President Mahony said in his message last week, we are hoping to operate as normally as possible, although “normal” may look different based on the prevailing recommendations and decisions from health and government officials.  Our goal is to offer a combination of face-to-face and alternative-format courses while taking the steps necessary to protect the health and safety of our community. We are looking at multiple options, and we are participating task force to ensure that we are considering the best ideas from across the system. 

Budget

As Dr. Mahony has noted, we do not know when we will have information about our state allocation for the 2020-21 fiscal year. We continue to see promising trends for the enrollment of first-time and transfer students, and we will do everything possible to demonstrate why they should commit to SIU. But we should not take either state funding or enrollment for granted given the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stress it has put on the state and prospective students. For this reason, I am asking the vice chancellors to prioritize filling vacant positions and defer hiring whenever possible. I also ask that all offices manage spending, again prioritizing essential needs and delaying purchases whenever possible.

Student updates

We have sent a number of messages to students about topics of interest especially to them. If you get questions, please refer students to the coronavirus web site. Anyone may also submit questions to pandemicinfo@siu.edu. Meanwhile, here are a few items we have shared:

We have also advised students that via the federal CARES act, emergency funds will be available to some students to assist with unexpected educational costs. We will distribute the funds according to federal guidelines. Our goal is to distribute funds as quickly as possible once we have a clear interpretation of the guidelines. We will post new information on the coronavirus website as it becomes available.

In addition, we will continue to operate our Saluki Cares program so that you can apply for resources even if you don’t meet the guidelines for the CARES funding. Our resources are not unlimited, but we are committed to doing what we can to assist.

Finally, we have surveyed students scheduled to graduate in May about their preference for a future face-to-face commencement, a virtual commencement or a combination. While the majority of students prefer a face-to-face commencement, we continue to explore all options.

Resilience

I have spoken before of the resilience of our faculty, staff and students as we made the transition to new ways of teaching and working. Now that the temporary transition is largely made, I continue to witness faculty and staff members adapting quickly to change and going above and beyond to ensure that SIU Carbondale fulfills its mission on behalf of our students, our community and state.

Thank you again for your commitment.

John M. Dunn
Chancellor