Message from the Office of the President: Spring Break Travel, Commencement, and Other Updates

February 25, 2021

Dear Twin Cities students, faculty, and staff,

In a few weeks, our community and the world will turn its attention to the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. That trial is currently scheduled to begin with jury selection on March 8 in Minneapolis.

In anticipation of the trial and the way in which it affects members of our community, we have several levels of planning underway. First, we are working with the City of Minneapolis and partners from local government and other agencies to ensure the safety of our University community. If there are identified safety issues for our Twin Cities campus, the University will communicate directly with you.

Second, we know that the next few weeks may be challenging, and recognize the impacts and stressors for many across our community, particularly for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. We have support available, including mental health support for all students, as well as staff and faculty.

Third, we are reminded that even the most challenging times can help us learn and grow. We will be announcing additional programming from the University that will help all of us understand and process this moment in history—and if you are planning such programming, please let us know so that we can make the community aware.

We also have a few other updates:

COVID-19 Testing

We have expanded the testing services offered through Boynton Health to now include all students, faculty, and staff systemwide. Continue to make your appointment through this link and visit the RecWell site in Minneapolis for your test.

Vaccination Update

Multiple state-run programs are aimed at connecting Minnesotans with opportunities to receive the vaccine. The state’s Vaccine Connector, which you can find here, is one way to find out when, where, and how to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, there is more information available at the Minnesota Department of Health site about the Community Vaccination Pilot Program.

News reports suggest that the spread of COVID-19 and the severity of its impacts are diminishing. So it’s not surprising that we may experience a natural tendency to relax our precautions. But we must remember that we will only be successful in ensuring our safety by vaccinating a majority of our population. In the meantime, remember that the simplest actions—wearing a face covering, practicing physical distancing, staying home if you are sick, and hand washing—remain the most important things you can do to protect yourself, your colleagues, and your family. Let’s stay focused, knowing that we may reach herd immunity through vaccinations in a matter of months.

Spring Break Guidance

Many of you have asked about spring break travel guidance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you defer travel if possible, but that if you do travel:

  • You know the testing requirements for your destination, and for returning, even if traveling domestically. Many states have current or recent quarantine restrictions that could continue throughout the spring.
  • You test before leaving and test again five to seven days after returning.
  • For international travel, remember that all air passengers arriving in the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board their flight.

Commencement Update 

We have been in communication with the State of Minnesota and understand that soon officials will issue commencement-specific guidance for higher education institutions. In the meantime, Provost Croson has informed all Twin Cities colleges that they should begin contingency planning for graduation this spring to be either online, hybrid, or in person, understanding that current state restrictions limit gatherings to no more than 250 people.

We appreciate that planning for multiple possibilities is frustrating, and our hope is that this planning, in combination with updated state guidance, should allow us greater flexibility for commencement than last spring. As the guidance is released, and our planning continues, we will finalize the guidance and convey it to you as soon as possible.

M Safe

Last month, we announced receipt of Dr. Cedric Alexander's report exploring public safety and policing on our campus. Articulated across eight broad categories, the report provides dozens of recommendations to consider, evaluate, consult, and prioritize. To more closely examine and implement these recommendations, and as proposed by Dr. Alexander, we are standing up an M Safe Implementation Team, co-led by Dr. Kathy Quick, associate professor at our Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and Dr. Mylene Culbreath, director of Diversity Consulting, Outreach, and Recruitment at the Graduate School. My sincere appreciation to Dr. Quick and Dr. Culbreath for their service and to all who have, and are planning to, submit nominations to be a part of this important work. We will provide ongoing updates on the M Safe website.

Finally, 163 years ago yesterday, Minnesota was nicknamed the “Gopher State.” As proud Golden Gophers, we are focused on learning and discovery, vigilant in our efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and engaged as active members of our University community. I appreciate and admire your efforts and look forward to the day, in the not too distant future, when we can once again say hello in person.

Be healthy, safe, well, and warm.

With warmest regards,
Joan Gabel