In a University of Arkansas System board meeting May 4 trustees and leadership resolved to begin preparing system campuses to open for in-person classes in the fall semester. Campuses would work in conjunction with the system in identifying next steps toward reopening campuses to faculty, staff and students.


The UA System task force, including campus leadership and representatives from the system administration, was directed to investigate and recommend steps to reopen institutions, including determining what measures will be needed to protect campus constituencies from the spread of COVID-19, according to UA news release.


Chancellor Peggy Doss of the University of Arkansas at Monticello, was selected to serve on the system task force.


“At UAM, we’ve begun to discuss the measures that would need to be in place to ensure the safety, comfort, and quality of our on-campus learning environment this fall and I’m looking forward to working with other system leaders to identify the most appropriate ways to do so,” Doss said in a UAM news release.


UAM’s fall reopening would follow guidance from the system, and align with Arkansas Department of Health, and CDC recommendations, she said.


“Our faculty and staff have been extremely flexible, and I am so grateful that they have the ability to adjust to remote environments when it was needed to follow federal guidance. At this stage, there are still a number of considerations to make as we look ahead, but I am encouraged by the latest board meeting,” she said. “I can’t wait to see our students back on campus in August,” said Doss. “They’re the best part about UAM.”


During the UA Board videoconference meeting May 4, the board unanimously passed several resolutions related to the UA System’s response to the ongoing pandemic.


The board passed a resolution directing UA System President Donald R. Bobbitt, chancellors and chief executives of all UA System campuses, divisions and units to prepare to reopen their institutions to students, faculty and staff for the fall semester. Trustees acknowledged the need to continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 and to ensure fall semester reopening plans are aligned with state and federal health directives.


Trustees also voted to give UA System institutions flexibility in addressing student needs during the upcoming summer terms, which includes giving Bobbitt the authority to waive certain student fees for that time period in coordination with chancellors at various campuses, according to the UA news release.


The board also approved resolutions to honor the leadership of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson during the Covid-19 response and another acknowledging and thanking the employees across the system who have served as frontline and essential workers during the pandemic, ranging from the doctors and nurses at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), to the custodial staff at every campus of the system who have worked to clean and disinfect campus buildings in the weeks since the outbreak of the virus.


The board also held a discussion with three UA System athletic directors — which included Hunter Yurachek at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Chris Peterson at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Padraic McMeel at the University of Arkansas at Monticello — about the prospect of playing football this fall, how athletic programs are planning to prepare for having student athletes back on campus, and how the pandemic has affected the athletic budgeting process and finances. This was not an action item, according to the UA news release.