Coming together for the fall

To the Temple community:

As we turn the calendar from July to August, I know you are thinking about the beginning of the school year. We have been working for months to prepare our campuses for this unique year. I want to review what we’ve done so far and outline the essential role you will play in keeping our community safe.

Faculty coming together
As we have assembled detailed plans for our return to campus, one vital group of experts has continuously contributed to our efforts: our extraordinary faculty and researchers. These world-class professional scholars, instructors and investigators have stepped forward time and again to offer their guidance and advice as we have worked through the complex questions that the COVID-19 pandemic presents.

Dozens of these skilled faculty have given untold hours, without seeking recognition or reward. They have challenged us to come up with creative and innovative solutions. Whenever feasible, we have integrated their recommendations into the many protocols and procedures that have been created to ensure our community’s safety as we look forward to the start of the fall semester. From our instructions for students and employees, to guides on building safety and cleaning, and from our advice to visitors to information on fitness and safety and exercise, the input of Temple faculty has been invaluable.

Their expertise has helped us make decisions about providing face coverings; installing plexiglass shields and hand sanitizer stations; making and distributing face shields to faculty who request them; implementing a robust cleaning schedule; creating testing plans for our students in housing and contact tracing for those who come up positive; and the reshaping—and in some cases construction—of our classrooms to ensure a six-foot distance is maintained.

And it was their guidance which was so invaluable to the faculty and students who were on campus for in-person instruction during the highly successful Summer II session. That session was a pilot program for our efforts. The faculty who taught their classes in person reported that while there were challenges, there was also great value to being back in the classroom with their students, and that they are looking forward to the full start of classes at the end of the month. We have learned a tremendous amount from the faculty and students who participated and have shared their experiences. Those lessons are being integrated into our fall plans.

In my 45 years at Temple, I have been constantly impressed by the talent, intellect and dedication of our distinguished faculty. So while it does not surprise me that so many faculty and researchers have stepped up in this manner, I could not let it go unacknowledged.

To each of you, I offer my personal thanks, and the gratitude of this great university. I have been truly humbled by your selfless commitment to Temple and, especially, to our students. Students have made it clear they want to come back to the campus that they love and to the faculty they respect and admire.

The state, city and Temple coming together
It is the guidance of our faculty and researchers—coupled with the seemingly inexhaustible dedication of our professional staff at all levels—that has led to a comprehensive series of plans, protocols and procedures. More than 150 people at all levels have been involved in this effort. In recent weeks, those documents have been submitted to the education and health professionals in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia.

Both the state and the city gave our plans an intensive review. I am proud to report that they approved our plans. These expert and professional reviews give me the confidence to say that we are doing all we can to ensure the welfare of our students, faculty, staff and greater community.

I want to thank the city and state for their support. We have built strong partnerships with their leadership and I look forward to continuing those relationships over the weeks and months ahead.

A community coming together
These extraordinary efforts have been successful because devoted individuals came together in the service of our university. They provide a model for the rest of us—one that we will all need to follow in the upcoming weeks. If our efforts are to succeed, we must recognize more than ever that we are a community that needs one another to come together to be safe and healthy.

Already, we have had hundreds of employees integrating our guidelines into their daily work habits as they prepare our campuses for the fall. Every day, dedicated Temple employees from Campus Police, construction crews, housekeepers, IT Services teams, the Project Delivery Group and many, many others have been coming to work and integrating new protocols into their daily lives. I commend them for their efforts.

These employees have already adopted our four public health pillars: using facial coverings, physical distancing, hand hygiene and personal health monitoring. You’ll find the details behind these pillars in our Return Guide for Students and our Return Guide for Staff and Faculty. We’ve also put together this video featuring Mark Denys, senior director of Student and Employee Health Services. A few months ago, Mark was also the chief operating officer for the surge hospital that was established at the Liacouras Center. His experiences there, coupled with the advice of faculty and research experts I mentioned earlier, have been invaluable elements of our return planning.

I urge you to educate yourselves as you prepare to return to campus. We are completing the details on a COVID-19 testing plan. That plan will initiate our expectations for students before moving back to campus.

Students will be taking these measures as part of their investment in returning to campus. We will do all we can to ensure the blend of course opportunities that have been created for them will be the finest quality that Temple can provide. In turn, we will carefully monitor and respond to new information about COVID-19 and its impacts. By developing our return scenarios, it is understood that our plans must be flexible and include contingencies for changing conditions over time. We are prepared to deviate from outlined plans in order to take swift actions to keep our community safe if conditions change. And if that means we must once again establish an all-remote learning environment, we will be prepared to do so.

As always, thank you for all you do as vital members of our university community. Each of you has an important role to play in ensuring our safety. We are in this together, so we can be together.


Richard M. Englert