Wednesday, August 25, 2021

To: OSU faculty and staff

Becky Johnson, Interim President
Edward Feser, Provost and Executive Vice President

August 25, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Steady, principled, informed, unified. These values have underpinned OSU’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic the past 18 months, as we continued delivering our mission, bringing expertise and resources to the aid of communities throughout the state, and contributing to the health of students, employees and neighbors. They remain our values as we prepare for the start of the new academic year, excited as ever to welcome new and returning students to OSU to pursue their goals.

When we wrote after Commencement in June to thank you for your outstanding work during this unusually challenging period, we were optimistic that the end of the pandemic was imminent. It is now clear that the Delta variant represents a new phase in the pandemic. In response, public health measures like supporting vaccinations by all, wearing face coverings, testing, and careful management of gatherings must continue, and with these measures, we continue to plan to responsibly return to onsite university activities.

You have undoubtedly seen our announcements in recent days regarding such measures.

Yet, we are not in the same place today as we were last fall, and we are not in the same place as other institutions, which are responding to their own specific circumstances. As of Monday, 94% of the more than 19,500 students who have complied with OSU’s vaccination policy to date have provided proof of having been vaccinated. Meanwhile, OSU employees are responding quickly and affirmatively to the university’s vaccination attestation website that was launched Monday. We know nationally that the vaccines are proving extremely successful in preventing serious illness among the vaccinated and that the use of face coverings substantially reduces transmission. These last 18 months have shown us that our students and employees take our culture of mutual care seriously and comply with guidelines like masking and testing. We also know that while remote work, teaching and learning are possible on a large scale, they are not measures required at this time, nor what most members of our community wish to become the “new normal” for OSU.

It is within these evolved circumstances that we affirm the return to on-site teaching and other activities within our Pathway to Fall plan, and the measures announced on Friday. This approach was developed in concert with stakeholders across the university, and it is based on regular consultations with local health authorities and guidance from state and national health authorities. Consistent with our approach throughout the pandemic, and emphasis on safety and care, this plan offers managers and supervisors appropriate flexibility to accommodate employees’ special circumstances. 

We also recognize that OSU’s pivot to remote work – and more broadly in society – has surfaced new ways to work, live and engage with one another that in some cases can benefit our mission and enrich our lives. We can capture many of those opportunities without abandoning the richness of face-to-face engagements at all our locations and our residential campus experience in Corvallis and Bend. But we must do so thoughtfully, as the nature and quality of our interactions with one another are critical to our success in creating new knowledge, disseminating it to students and society, and innovating and engaging in service to humankind.

This fall, we will charge a Future of University Work Task Force to take a deliberate, balanced, and creative look at emerging innovative remote work approaches and their benefits and drawbacks. The task force will develop recommendations for OSU policies and practices that will help guide us in a rapidly evolving work and technology environment.

Steady, principled, informed, unified. These values have served OSU’s response well, and they continue to guide us during this challenging time. We do not know how this pandemic will evolve, but we do know that as a community of teachers, scholars, professionals and students, we will navigate it. And we will remain engaged with care for one another and our neighbors; and with patience and courage, face all uncertainty.

Thank you for all you do for Oregon State University. We look forward to seeing you for the start of fall term.

Becky Johnson
Interim President

Edward Feser
Provost and Executive Vice President