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Message to the Syracuse University Senate and Community
The University Senate meeting scheduled for March 11, 2020, was canceled due to the current precautions against the coronavirus. Chancellor Syverud submitted the remarks below to the Senate for distribution.
Dear Senators and Community:
I had intended to say what follows to you at our meeting on March 11. But the rapidly evolving situation surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic has led us to cancel large public gatherings, including the Senate meeting.
Our university, and our community, face a public health emergency that is unprecedented in recent times. The COVID-19 coronavirus has reached a stage in our country where community spread, including to our own main campus in Syracuse, may be difficult to avoid completely, although we may delay it with great effort.
The virus puts all of us at risk, but the risk is greatest for older people and for people with pre-existing conditions, of whom there are many among our students, faculty, staff and the Central New York community. The health and safety of those at risk has to be our touchstone and our first priority, beyond any of our unique local concerns in our departments, schools, colleges, programs or activities. The choices each of us makes now need to be driven by concern for our whole community, and for all of those who are at risk.
This is why I have been consulting widely with our faculty experts in public health, with our deans and staff, and with health authorities. This is also why I have appointed Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie to assume operational leadership of a Universitywide team to coordinate a whole university coronavirus response. Although as I write this, we still have no cases in Central New York or at Syracuse University, we must be prepared for all eventualities and we must make decisions as quickly as feasible.
For many weeks now, we have been getting prepared. As you know, we are moving all instruction to distance-learning modalities starting after Friday. We will not resume in-person instruction until at least March 30. We will assess the situation each day to decide whether further extensions are needed. We are also sharply curtailing in person meetings, events and activities. This helps promote the social distancing that is a key step toward delaying spread of the virus.
Our community has a wide range of questions about the details. We are sending a daily update to all and also regularly updating our central coronavirus website at Syracuse.edu/coronavirus to share the latest details, news and steps. We do not know all the answers now. But many people across our university are working around the clock on the highest priority issues so that we can take necessary steps quickly.
I am particularly concerned that those in our community at highest risk should have as limited exposure as possible to those who, because of travel or other circumstances, may transmit the virus unknowingly. That is one reason why students who leave campus for spring break should not return until such time as residential in-person instruction is restored.
I am very confident our university community will weather this challenge. We have the people, the will and the resources to do so. We are also fortunate to have outstanding partners who understand that we are interconnected and must rely on each other. These include SUNY-ESF, Crouse Hospital, SUNY Upstate Medical University and the Onondaga County Health Department. But if there was ever a time for each of us to put aside our own valid personal concerns to do what is needed for the health of our whole community, this is that time.
I ask each of you to follow public health instructions and to carry on, at times in new ways, as best we can with the important work of our university. Thank you for all you do for Syracuse University.