Important message from Interim Chancellor Greg Cook regarding COVID-19

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Interim Chancellor Greg Cook

Dear Warhawks,

     Today, I come to you with a plea that each of us do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We said before the start of the semester that we only had 79 days until we move to remote classes on Nov. 20. Today, that number is 67.

     UW-Madison announced that all of their classes will be remote delivery for two weeks. Two of its largest residence halls have been placed on quarantine. UW-Madison made this move not only to try to rescue the remainder of their in-person semester, but more importantly, for the health of their university and the greater community. UW-La Crosse took similar measures over the weekend.

     I know students want to be on campus this fall. I want to see our students on campus. Yet, we’d be fooling ourselves to say that what happened at UW-Madison and UW-La Crosse won’t happen here. If we change our behaviors immediately, we may be able to avoid a similar situation.  

     What do you need to do?

  • Wear your mask—inside and outdoors, on campus and off campus
  • Maintain 6 feet of social distance, no matter the environment, inside and outdoors
  • Limit your activities to essential ones only
  • Stay home if you are not feeling well
  • Wash your hands often, and for a minimum of 20 seconds
  • Report to the COVID-19 hotline if you have COVID-19 or if you’ve come in contact with someone who is positive
  • Avoid any unnecessary gatherings on or off campus where these simple steps are not being taken.

     Understand, this is not just about our students. Everyone – students, faculty and staff – needs to follow these safety measures.

     The last point regarding gatherings is critical. The weekend before the start of classes, Whitewater saw a number of large-scale parties. At some parties, those in attendance were not following even the basic safety guidelines. There were very few masks. People were not social distancing. These sorts of events put everyone at risk.  On Friday, [../Details/16758]Whitewater Student Government released a message asking students to change their behaviors.

     In Wisconsin, big parties are just part of the typical college experience. But the Fall of 2020 is not typical. It has been more than 100 years since we’ve seen a pandemic of this nature. We cannot act as if everything is fine and think there will be no consequences. None of us can act as if this is any other start of an academic year.

     At a special meeting last Wednesday night, I made an impassioned plea to the Whitewater Common Council regarding an ordinance to limit large scale gatherings. If we don’t change the course of this virus now, we will join other campuses in moving to remote delivery, maybe for two weeks, maybe for the remainder of the semester. This isn’t something any of us wants to do, but it may be required. We’ve said all along your health and safety is our main concern. Nothing has changed in that regard, and we will continue to put your health and safety first.

     Therefore, please be aware that the university will invoke state law and UW System policy UWS 17.08(2) which gives the Dean of Students Office the authority to discipline students when their behavior both on and off campus:

  • presents or may present a danger or threat to the health or safety of themselves or others, or
  • seriously impairs the university’s ability to fulfill its teaching, research, or public service missions.

     The COVID-19 virus has the immediate potential to impair our ability to fulfill our normal teaching mission. Failure to follow safety precautions impairs our ability to continue.Failure to wear a mask, observe social distancing, or take other suggested precautions will therefore be investigated aggressively and may lead to disciplinary action up to and including suspension and/or expulsion. This applies to student activity on campus, and it also applies off campus at any location when the student is expected to return to campus or participate in university events of any type. My official notice to you about this policy is attached to this email.

     What I am asking you to do is simple and at the same time difficult. I am asking you to forego gathering with groups of people and to stay where you live as much as possible. For our students, I am asking you not to have the typical experience. I am asking you to follow the well-established safety guidelines to keep you and others safe.

     Let’s all put we before I. The collective, the we, need to change our behaviors immediately. The impulse to act upon what the “I” wants, can have a ripple effect that changes the course of the semester for everyone.

     As Warhawks, we take care of each other. Let’s make the necessary changes, and reach Nov. 20 together.

     Sincerely,

     Dr. Greg Cook

     Interim Chancellor

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