Presidential Update, July 24

Dear Students, Parents, Faculty, and Staff,

Understandably, we have all been searching for certainty in these very uncertain times. I appreciate your patience, your support, and your input while we worked to create a comprehensive Roadmap to Return for the fall 2020 semester over the past four months. Our roadmap prioritizes the health, wellness, and safety of our students, faculty, and staff, while allowing us to deliver on our mission of excellence and innovation in teaching, research and creative expression, and public service.

Students are the heart and soul of Texas State University. Our focus throughout this planning process has been to preserve the personal engagement, attention, and instruction they have come to expect and cherish from our faculty and our staff.

As we move toward the start of the fall semester on August 24, 2020, I want to assure you of these certainties: 

  • We will continue to implement significant precautions based on the latest health guidelines and science to protect our campuses and our community;
  • We will be true to our mission to provide educational environments that nurture student academic excellence and success;
  • We will provide new choices for course delivery and engagement with university services; and
  • We will remain flexible and vigilant, in our response to COVID-19 and how we address the needs of our university community.

I am providing this update so our students and their families, faculty, and staff have the most current information as they plan for the fall semester. Although this semester will look different from any other in our history, we are thrilled to welcome our students, both face-to-face and online, and eager to support them on their educational journey.

Safety: First and Foremost

Above all, Texas State is committed to mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Our Roadmap to Return, which I encourage you to review, will be updated as we move toward and through the fall 2020 semester. Below are several of the important initiatives we have implemented:

  • Everyone is required to wear a face covering indoors and outdoors unless alone. Research shows the most effective action we can take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is to wear a face covering. This, combined with hand washing and social distancing, is the very best defense against the spread of COVID-19 and the best plan for protecting our university community.
  • We are following a detailed set of health and safety measures developed by a team of experts and based on the latest research.
  • We have implemented capacity limits for classrooms, meeting rooms, and other spaces, so that no more than 50 percent of the room’s rated maximum occupancy may be present at a given time.
  • We have bolstered face-to-face and online delivery of health services, including mental health services, and provided opportunities for higher-risk students, faculty, and staff to request additional work and academic modifications.
  • Examples of the health and safety measures we are taking on both of our campuses include: reconfiguring furniture in learning spaces to support social distancing, optimizing air conditioning systems for better ventilation, adding hand sanitizer stations in multiple locations, adjusting walking traffic patterns to minimize personal contact, modifying dining services, and enhancing cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

Choice and Flexibility

Providing our students with many choices is critical. To that end, we will be offering four different instructional formats:

  • Online classes: instruction is delivered online.
  • Hybrid classes: instruction is delivered primarily online, with some face-to-face instruction.
  • “Flexible” face-to-face classes: instruction is delivered primarily in-person, with some online delivery.
  • Traditional face-to-face classes: instruction is delivered in-person.

We have introduced “flexible” face-to-face courses that use both in-person and online instruction to reduce classroom density; this allows for social distancing while maintaining the benefits of face-to-face instruction.  We have significantly increased the number of online classes. Finally, we will provide face-to-face course instruction for those students who choose it or need it for degree completion.

We know a portion of our students will thrive with fully online instructional delivery and student support, while others prefer, or even need, more face-to-face and personal interactions. Faculty members have worked with their departments and schools to propose the best way to deliver classes to meet learning goals, degree and licensure requirements, and students’ needs. Our faculty have worked hard to enhance online course delivery and to identify the best way to deliver class material and instruction. To support them, we have installed new technology in classrooms to allow for online instructional delivery, recording of lectures, and other features that add even more choice and flexibility.

We encourage students to review options for their fall 2020 semester schedules as soon as possible. Due to the nature of some classes, including degree or licensure requirements, not all classes will be available online. Students are encouraged to meet with an academic advisor in their college or degree program to identify degree-applicable courses and options available to them.

Transparency and Testing

We recently added a dashboard on the main page of the Roadmap to Return to provide a daily count of positive COVID-19 test results for students, faculty, and staff recorded by or reported to the Student Health Center. Additionally, the Student Health Center has dramatically increased its tele-health services and COVID-19 testing and contact tracing capabilities. Testing is available through the center for those with symptoms of COVID-19 or those who have been in close contact to someone who has tested positive.

Moving Forward

As we constantly monitor the changing COVID-19 situation, decisions about university operations rely on scenario-based planning. The framework and related factors used to inform the status of university operations are derived from a combination of state, local, and federal guidelines; a wide variety of resource and research materials; and comparisons with other institutions of higher education across Texas and the United States. This planning process enables us to modify university operations as conditions change -- either worsen or improve -- based on a holistic analysis of key factors such as number of tests administered, percent of positive tests, active cases, hospitalizations, recovered cases, geographic concentration of cases, prevention methods, testing capacity, and contact tracing capacity. Our Chief Medical Officer, local public health officials, the President’s Cabinet, and I are monitoring the COVID-19 situation daily, and we will adjust university operations accordingly. Every decision is made with the goal to prioritize the health, wellness, and safety of our students, faculty, and staff, and to deliver on our mission and shared values.

We launched the Bobcat Pledge as a commitment we make to each other to cocreate a healthy and safe environment. We expect all members of our community to share in practicing and promoting the tenets of the pledge whether they are on our campuses, at home, or spending time with family and friends. The pledge calls for us to:

  • Respect others,
  • Respect ourselves, and
  • Respect our TXST community.

I have taken the pledge and hope you will, too. These are the values and actions that will carry us forward. Together, we will emerge stronger, more resilient, and ready for a promising future.

Stay safe, stay tuned to our Roadmap, take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and join me in taking care of our Bobcat community.