The University of New England (UNE) is pleased to present this plan for resuming on-campus operations for Academic Year (AY) 2020-21. This plan provides important information about UNE’s implementation of the framework for reopening Maine’s higher education institutions, which was developed in the spring of 2020 through a partnership of all of Maine’s private colleges, the University of Maine System, and the Community College System: Sustaining Higher Education and Sustaining Maine: A Framework for Reopening Maine’s Colleges and Universities in Fall 2020. This framework served as a guiding foundation for UNE’s planning efforts.
The highest priority of UNE’s plan is maintaining the health and safety of the University’s students, faculty, and professional staff, while recognizing that our community, like our state and nation more broadly, cannot completely eliminate risks associated with the COVID-19 virus until an effective vaccine is available. Our plan reflects the complexity of UNE as an institution and its diverse array of programs – from Humanities to Marine Science to Osteopathic Medicine. The plan is inherently flexible, allowing the University to pivot quickly in response to changing conditions in Maine, the region, the nation, and at UNE’s study abroad locations. In this context, several other resources inform this plan, including, but not limited to, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Maine CDC, the World Health Organization, the State of Maine Office of the Governor, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the evolving science on COVID-19, and emerging best practices in higher education.
A group of administrators, faculty, and professional staff have been working diligently since April 2020 to develop this plan and remains engaged in implementing and updating it. With its array of graduate and professional programs that run throughout the calendar year, UNE has already welcomed back students in June on both the Biddeford and Portland campuses. Likewise, faculty with research laboratories began returning to campus in June and will continue to do so throughout the summer months. The experiences of the students, faculty and professional staff in the College of Dental Medicine, College of Osteopathic Medicine, Westbrook College of Health Professions, and the Office of Research and Scholarship will allow us to further refine this plan in advance of the new and returning undergraduate and graduate students in fall 2020.
UNE’s mission to prepare students to thrive in a rapidly-changing world and, in so doing, to improve the health of people, communities, and our planet could not be more relevant than today. The plan reflects this core mission and is a living document. The University continues to plan for various scenarios related to changing conditions in Maine, the region, and at UNE’s study abroad locations. If restrictions continue to improve, UNE will remain vigilant in its gradual and cautious approach to relaxing any of its policies and procedures related to the pandemic. The University is also well-prepared and positioned, because of its experience in March 2020, to quickly pivot in the other direction by enhancing restrictions, including shifting again to a fully remote operations model, should that need arise. We know some of the decisions we have made may need to be revisited and revised in the future, and there are questions yet to answer. As such, we will continue to update this plan throughout the coming months to include evolving information from government agencies, the scientific literature, and the higher education community.