Fall Semester Decisions
08/10/2021, 01:05:01 PM
President Khator

Dear Students,

Welcome to the University of Houston’s Fall Semester!  We are delighted to have you as a member of our Cougar family and even more delighted that you have chosen us to be a part of your educational journey.

As you prepare to begin the academic year on August 23, I am sure you are both excited and anxious. To be honest, I feel the same. While I trust that we all will take personal responsibility and safeguard ourselves from the virus, I also know that some institutional decisions regarding vaccinations, masks, testing and instructional formats are necessary to keep our community safe. I write to you today to present these decisions.

Fall Classes
Seventy-eight percent of fall classes are scheduled to be offered in the face-to-face setting.  We understand the important of the face-to-face experience; however, we also understand the anxiety that some of you may feel regarding safety in the classroom.  Let me assure you of the following safety measures:

  1. All buildings and classrooms are now equipped with safe air filtration systems.
  2. All buildings have sanitization stations and strict cleaning protocols.
  3. All classrooms will have signage reminding people to wear a mask.
  4. Your professor may offer a soft opening to class for the first two weeks. It means that in order to reduce the classroom density, your professor may design a format that reduces the number of students physically present in the classroom while assuring that every student gets to be on campus at least once a week. Please read all emails from your professors promptly.
  5. The UH COVID-19 Response Team monitors the situation daily and is prepared to move to other alternatives, should the situation warrant it.
  6. My cabinet and I are working with our Texas colleagues and state leaders to continue to find strategies to create a safe learning environment for you.

Provost Short will follow up with another communication giving you further details about classroom instruction. If you have any questions, please ask your professor or write to the Provost.

COVID-19 Vaccination
 Consider taking the vaccine: The data suggests that vaccination remains the best intervention for reliable protection. If you have already been vaccinated, thank you. If you have not, I sincerely ask that you familiarize yourself with the pertinent information, consult with your doctor and seriously consider being vaccinated.

Earn free tuition or parking: To further encourage vaccination, we are launching the Cougar Vaccination Incentive Program (VIP) for students, which will launch Wednesday, August 11.  Each Cougar VIP will receive $50 in ShastaBUCKS, accessible through your Cougar Card for use at on-campus dining locations, the UH Campus Book Store, vending machines, and select off-campus merchants. You may also be eligible for additional incentives including free tuition and parking. Vice President Richard Walker will follow up with a detailed letter tomorrow to help you participate.

Keep it convenient: We will be holding a special vaccination clinic on campus August 16. Please register online and take advantage of this opportunity. In addition, vaccinations are widely available at no cost throughout our area. 

Face Coverings
According to the CDC, face coverings are an effective deterrent, and it can help prevent infections. The University of Houston strongly encourages everyone - vaccinated or not - to wear masks in all public indoor settings.

COVID-19 Testing
As another layer of protection, we are asking that unvaccinated people get tested at least once a week. To make it easy and convenient, we offer free testing on campus. We continue to provide $2 in ShastaBUCKS per test to any student who undergoes testing at the Curative kiosk.  

Additional free testing resources in Houston may be found on the Houston Emergency Operation Center COVID-19 Testing page. 

If you are vaccinated but have concerns or show possible symptoms, we encourage you to get tested as well.

Reporting Requirements
Transparency of data and information on infection are critical in combating COVID-19 spread. We ask that anyone testing positive should follow the University guidelines and inform the UH COVID Coordinator immediately. All reported incidences of COVID-19 are confidentially handled by the coordinator, but they are essential in our effort to provide necessary cleaning and contact tracing when appropriate. They are also essential in sharing aggregate data with the campus.

We are cautious but optimistic that if we all take safety precautions and make it our personal responsibility, we can overcome the COVID challenge. We are committed to providing you a Tier One education in the safest possible environment possible. You have shown remarkable resiliency and creativity over the past 18 months. I have no doubt that you will continue to do so this semester.  We are here to help you get a great education along with a memorable experience.

I look forward to seeing you around campus. Please stay safe. Go Coogs!

With warm regards,
Renu Khator

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