Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Due to the dedication, hard work, and flexibility of everyone in the Illinois State University community, we have survived through challenging times and along the way discovered new ways of teaching, learning, researching, and communicating.  We continued to adjust our operations based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and other governmental and public health agencies – sometimes taking incremental steps forward or backward and sometimes taking leaps.  We have learned to be flexible and to be innovative in ways of doing our work.  Thank you for all you have done to continue to make Illinois State University a great place to receive a quality education and to work.

As we look forward to the 2021-2022 academic year, we are encouraged by the reports from public health experts and government officials who indicate that the vaccination of Americans has resulted in significantly lower positivity rates that will result in a more normal fall than we experienced last year.  It is with this understanding that planning for the fall 2021 semester has progressed.

Plans for the fall are based on the assumption that the State of Illinois will be in Phase 5 of Restore Illinois.  We expect the fall 2021 semester will be a time of transition as Illinois and the nation return to life that is as close to pre-COVID times as possible.  The University will continue to follow the most up-to-date health and safety guidance from the CDC, IDPH, and other governmental and public health agencies and will make adjustments accordingly.

The University’s approach to the fall, Fall 2021:  Return to a More Traditional Residential College Experience, is based on the latest science and is the result of much discussion and debate involving the leadership of the University and shared governance leaders.  The plan is not intended to answer all the questions that may arise.  For one, guidance from public health officials and governmental agencies continues to change frequently, and adjustments are made to our plans based upon that guidance.  Second, employees and students have individual circumstances that need to be considered.  As an institution, we pride ourselves on individualized attention.  We will follow this value in addressing these unique circumstances, as best as we can. 

There have been many lessons learned over the last year that will impact how we work, teach, and learn into the future. We learned new technology that enhanced our abilities to teach and learn; we learned how to offer effective, unique programming opportunities in a virtual environment as well as in-person; we learned that we are resilient and able to be flexible and adaptive. 

At the same time, we are a traditional residential university that prides itself on in-person interactions in the classroom, in research, during formal and informal meetings between students, faculty and staff, and in the numerous programs and events on campus.  We value face-to-face collaborations and remain committed to being a student-centered institution. 

We recognize that some faculty and staff who have been working remotely and some students who have been taking online courses may be apprehensive about their return to the classroom and workspace.  By consistently following the guidance of the CDC, IDPH, and other governmental and public health agencies, the University has attempted to provide a healthy and safe environment for all.  Faculty, staff, and students who are anxious about returning to campus are encouraged to acclimate to being in a different environment and to seek support in the transition before the start of the fall semester.  Faculty, staff, and students seeking support can learn more by visiting the Redbirds Keep Thriving web pages on the Coronavirus website.  We pledge to continue to address the lasting effects of the pandemic on mental health, food and housing insecurity, financial distress, and collective trauma.

Let’s work together and recognize that everyone is making adjustments to a new normal and doing our best to adapt. 

Larry H. Dietz

Martha Horst
Academic Senate Chair

Elizabeth Chupp
A/P Council Chair

Stuart Palmer
C/S Council Chair

Rodrigo Villalobos 
Student Body President