The core questions for everyone in the university community since in-person operations were suspended in March has been how and when Maine’s public universities could return to on-campus instruction and campus life. Chancellor Malloy formed the University of Maine System’s Safe Return Planning Committee in April to answer those questions and to help the development of a proposed framework for the safe reopening of Maine’s 38 public and private institutions collectively educating 72,600 students annually and contributing $4.5 billion to the state’s economy.
Informed and supported by the UMS Scientific Advisory Board chaired by University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy, the spring 2021 Safe Return Planning Committee has established seven unifying principles regarding the nature of instruction, campus life and the essential work of public higher education for the spring 2021 semester.
Each university within the University of Maine System has developed and will continue to adjust and refine reopening plans aligned with these unifying principles. The presidents of Maine’s public universities and the dean of the University of Maine School of Law will begin sharing the details of their specific plans with students and families, faculty and staff and stakeholders beginning on July 1 with regular communications and updates throughout the summer.
The planning effort included wide consultations with many stakeholders and has been aligned with parallel groups on all the campuses. Simultaneous academic departments and faculty have been and will continue to work together to be prepared to support students on our campuses or wherever they may need to be this fall.
A list of the UMS committees and members who have contributed to our work to be Together for Maine this fall are included at the end of this document. These collaborative teams have met multiple times per week, sometimes daily. More than 200 planning meetings and the equivalent of more than 40 weeks of effort already have been invested in these meetings alone. Thousands of additional hours have been invested by individual team members and by the important planning and implementation teams specific to each university.
The work that will bring our universities together for Maine this fall and the University of Maine System’s commitment to student and community safety will persist throughout the pandemic. The University consistently seeks to take steps to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infections (or any other spread of disease) in accordance with applicable law, regulation and guidance provided by health authorities. These efforts may include policies and safeguards implemented by the University, such as symptom checks, physical distancing, use of facial coverings and isolating and quarantining when required. Despite these efforts, the university cannot categorically guarantee that any person entering UMS campuses or facilities will not contract COVID-19 or any other communicable disease, and any such person must assess and accept the risks of illness or injury for themselves.