Looking to the future

To the Temple community:

While the events of the past two months have changed our lives in many ways, one thing has not changed: the incredible ability of the Temple community to pull together on behalf of our students. As our spring semester comes to a close, it’s natural to look ahead and ask, “What’s next?”

Great question. We have begun sketching out how we can reopen our campus as soon and as safely as possible. I wanted to tell you about this enormous planning effort and let you know my thoughts on the future of Temple over the next several months.

I take great comfort that the university’s Mission Continuity Team, which has been making recommendations to me and university leadership since January, has been recast as the Return Team. Made up of key representatives of every aspect of our campus, including Student and Employee Health Services, these individuals have been working tirelessly to ensure Temple’s ongoing success.

It is the intention of every member of this team that we return to campus in a way that will maximize safety while ensuring that quality teaching, education and research can continue to take place.

To help the Return Team in this effort, I’ve asked Vice President of Public Affairs William Bergman to oversee preparations for the university’s return to campus. Bill has more than 20 years of experience at Temple and has been a trusted advisor to three Temple presidents. He is the point person between the Executive Office of the President and the Return Team.

The work to make this happen has already started. The Return Team has been meeting daily, building out scenarios for what campus life could look like over the next several months. These scenarios envision a broad range of possibilities, from a slightly modified traditional semester, to a blend of smaller classes, continued online teaching and gatherings that are limited in size, or anticipate greater use of online options.

In developing these scenarios, we know our plans must be flexible and include contingencies for changing conditions over time. After all, if there’s one lesson we have learned since COVID-19 became a part of our lives, it’s that we must be ready to take swift actions to keep our community safe.

To help flesh out the scenarios, the Return Team has established a “team of teams” structure, designed to take advantage of the expertise of faculty and staff across the campus. These additional teams cover all aspects of the Temple experience: Academic Continuity, Operations Continuity, Student Life, Business Continuity and Research. The goal of these teams is to gather the best advice from every corner of our campus: from deans and faculty leaders; medical experts and student leaders; athletics, operations and security specialists. As these teams meet, they feed their recommendations up to the Return Team, which in turn offers recommendations to university leadership.

To everyone who is part of this effort, I want to offer my most sincere thanks. If you are called upon to contribute to this planning effort, I hope you will do so with the same energy and devotion that I’ve seen since January.

Guiding all this effort is our unflagging commitment to the health, safety and welfare of everyone in the Temple community, from our students to our employees, from patients to researchers, from our neighbors to the many guests we traditionally have on campus. We are also committed to ensuring that—however it is delivered—the proud tradition of a quality Temple education endures.

For my part, Vice President Bergman and I will continue to speak with the governor’s leadership team and those in the City of Philadelphia, who will be setting state and local guidelines that will affect our future. I am also working with colleagues from other urban universities around the nation, the leadership of our athletics conference, and especially our Board of Trustees, who are equally devoted to your return.

Personally, I can’t wait to get back to campus and see the walkways buzzing with activity. If there is one realization I’ve come to through this period, it is that being with you on Temple’s campuses energizes me in a way that no Zoom meeting can duplicate. I can’t wait to see all of us back where we belong.

Overall, I remain strongly optimistic, but realistic. I know coming back will be complicated, but I also know this: No one works harder than the Temple community when it comes to the safety of our community and to ensuring the ongoing education of our students.

I expect to share more information on our plans by the end of May.

And as always, thank you for all that you do on behalf of Temple University.


Richard M. Englert