A Message from President Freeman re: Preparing for Returning to Campus
May 7, 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff,


As we near the end of an unimaginable semester, there is much work already underway to plan for summer operations and our fall semester. Interdisciplinary teams of experts from across the university are being brought together to gather feedback and make recommendations that will inform how we move forward. These groups are working collaboratively to evaluate different scenarios as they consider how best to return to campus for working, teaching, learning and engaging in research, artistry and more. The driving principle for all groups is ensuring the safety and well-being of our NIU community.


New ideas are always welcome, and I encourage you to contact a work group leader should you have something to share. Teams are:


Returning to Work on Campus - Chaired by Chief of Staff Matt Streb, this group is comprised of individuals from a cross section of the university, including Facilities, Academic Affairs, Information Technology, Human Resources, Student Affairs and the Office of the General Counsel. This team is exploring when to bring employees back to campus for work and how to do so safely. Among the issues the group is considering are cleaning and sanitation protocols, social distancing guidelines and PPE requirements and distribution.


Protocol Development and Testing, Tracking, Tracing, Surveillance and Quarantine (T3SQ) -  Led by Chief of Staff Matt Streb, this group is drawing upon the expertise of faculty, staff and community members from areas such as public health, technology, student housing, workplace safety and public safety. The group will focus on necessary public health procedures that must be implemented for the safe return of students and employees to campus in the fall. In particular, the group will discuss possible health screening requirements that would need to take place before individuals can work, live or study on campus; develop a tracking and tracing protocols for the university; and review the current quarantine plan.  


Opening of Research, Scholarship and Artistry Facilities and Space - Led by Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnerships Jerry Blazey, this group is working to gradually open research, scholarship and artistry facilities and spaces on campus. The group is nearing the completion of recommendations that call for a four-phase sequence to reopen spaces. The draft plan outlines everything from how labs and other spaces must apply to reopen, to the type of safety precautions that must be taken when activities resume. The group includes representatives from Sponsored Programs Administration, the Graduate School, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.


Teaching and Learning - Provost Beth Ingram is working with academic leadership groups that include deans, vice provosts, directors, faculty and others to develop academic plans for fall semester classes. Much of the planning is taking place at the department and college level, led by the deans, associate deans, chairs and departmental faculty. In addition, several ad hoc working groups are addressing specific issues. The provost has established an advisory group of about 20 individuals (including seven members of the Academic Planning Council and Faculty Senate President Kendall Thu) to act as a sounding board on proposals developed by various working groups. Issues under discussion include classroom scheduling, course modalities, utilization of teaching spaces such as computer labs, availability of classroom technology and streaming services, remote and face-to-face advising and tutoring, course registration, placement testing and more.


Student Life Working Group - Overseen by Provost Ingram and led by Vice Provost Omar Ghrayeb, Dean of Students Kelly Wesener-Michael and Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edgehill Walden, this group will create proposals for how students can be engaged with campus and with each other while following public health guidance for the safety of our students, staff and faculty. In particular, the group is assessing housing and dining options for students, changes to social and co-curricular opportunities that allow for virtual engagement and the protocols for resuming student events and activities. The group is working closely with the teaching and learning groups to ensure that curricular and co-curricular planning is aligned around shared understanding of how students will interact as they return to campus.


We will continue to communicate with our university as recommendations take shape and become actionable. Thank you for your continued excellent work and care for our community.


Together Forward,



Lisa C. Freeman


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