Important Information Regarding Spring and Fall Semesters

Update from President Houston Davis to students, faculty, and staff

As we prepare to take a well-deserved mental and physical break next week, I wanted to visit with all of you regarding the remainder of the spring semester and share some information regarding the fall semester. From short-term questions related to vaccinations and possible changes to state COVID requirements to longer-term conversations regarding fall classes and resuming normal campus activities, I know that current and prospective UCA students are eager to hear about our plans going forward.

Progress on Vaccinations: Our university’s access to vaccinations has exceeded our hopes and goals from January of this year when higher education was included in phase 1-B. By the end of February, all UCA employees, including student workers and graduate assistants, had opportunities to receive their vaccine. Recent developments in phase 1-C opened up eligibility to our students that have risk factors related to COVID-19, those that work in food service, and students that live in congregate settings, crowded housing, or student housing such as residence halls and Greek housing. Because of the state of Arkansas’s accelerated eligibility schedule for higher education, UCA is far ahead of most universities nationally in access to vaccines, and we are confident that all students will have access by May. For those still waiting beyond phase 1-C, I encourage you to get your vaccine as soon as you are eligible.  We will continue to keep you apprised of developments at the state and local level.

Possible Changes to State Requirements: We anticipate changes by the State of Arkansas at the end of March to mask and social distancing rules for private businesses, state government, and other entities. We expect that the Governor and the Arkansas Department of Health will provide further guidance for how adjustments will provide more accommodation to organizations like universities. Those changes will undoubtedly provide us more flexibility with scheduling events and allow more participants in those events.

One thing that will not change for us after spring break and through the remainder of the spring semester is the requirement that face coverings must be worn inside university facilities such as classrooms, residence halls, offices, student center, library, HPER, and cafeteria. While we likely will have the ability to have more people in spaces as social distancing requirements are relaxed, we will stay the course on face coverings as we ensure that we finish the spring strong and position our university for a return to normal operations in August.

We will also continue to operate our robust testing, tracing, and isolation protocols through the spring and beyond. As a reminder, we have a planned mass testing opportunity on the Monday following Spring Break for anyone desiring to be tested. The free testing event on Monday, March 29 will be held in front of the Student Center from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Fall Semester Planning: Our board of trust and leadership team are very optimistic about being able to return to normal university operations and regular occupancy of classrooms and other spaces for August. The schedule of classes and building use for fall of 2021 is being finalized with the traditional UCA in-person courses again being the norm. While some academic departments may continue to offer some online and hybrid classes, the move from last spring to convert the majority of UCA courses to online and hybrid because of an emergency situation will end with our 2021 summer term.

Those words of hope and optimism are coming to you 370 days since we announced on March 13, 2020 that most classes would shift to online, and we began our work to manage the pandemic in a careful and responsible manner while still focusing on delivering a quality educational experience to our student body. While we are growing more excited by the day regarding the UCA family reestablishing our strong relationships and community, we are going to stay true to careful planning and response as we move forward.

As most of you know from talking to friends and colleagues at other universities, UCA has been an outlier and exemplar in managing the pandemic via robust testing, tracing, and isolation while continuing our campus operations. We have earned those exemplary marks by embracing hard work and going the extra mile to help our neighbor. As vaccinations have become as important to success in March 2021 as testing became in June of 2020, we will continue to look around every corner for what is next and put in the work to ensure that UCA remains a leader in American higher education.

As we end the month of March, the reason that 2020-21 has been a year of progress and success is that our students, our faculty, and our staff have risen to the challenge and been remarkable in their responses to the pandemic, care for one another, and adherence to our campus plan. Because of our consistent attention to protocol, we will be able to end the spring semester by celebrating our May graduates with in-person commencement ceremonies in the Farris Center. We safely and successfully held in-person ceremonies for December 2020 graduates, and we know how grateful our graduates and their families were to mark their accomplishment in this traditional way. I look forward to presenting well-earned diplomas to all of our spring graduates on May 7 and 8.

I wish you all a relaxing and restorative spring break. I thank you all for your uncommon commitment to your university and for setting us up for a great finish to the spring and an exciting year to come. Thank you all!