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Chancellors, faculty discuss an in-person fall at UNT System town hall

Chancellors, faculty discuss an in-person fall at UNT System town hall

Chancellors, faculty discuss an in-person fall at UNT System town hall
April 01
10:00 2021

UNT System Chancellor Lesa Roe attended a virtual town hall hosted Monday, in which she and other high-ranking faculty discussed preparing for the upcoming fall semester.

Roe reaffirmed the university’s push for face-to-face activities for the fall 2021 semester. Roe said the university recommended staff and faculty to look elsewhere for vaccination, instead of relying on the university.

“We recommend that all of our faculty and staff look for multiple locations for access to vaccination,” Roe said. “Our [main campus] has also made available a limited number of vaccinations as well which is exciting.”

While students and remaining faculty will return to campus this fall, Chief Information Officer Chris McCoy said he doubted a major decrease in telecommunications and other alternatives to face-to-face learning.

“We feel like we’re plowing new ground, not because we’re coming back to campus but because we’re coming in after a major event,” McCoy said. “We’ve trained our students and employees to work remotely over the last 14 months. Regardless of the mode of their day-to-day services, they’ve come to rely upon new ways to communicate, access information and use technology. I don’t think that’s going to go away quickly at all. I’m not sure, but I suspect this is not going to drop drastically. It’s likely we’ll still see lots of virtual meetings until we find a new normal.”

Another potential obstacle for opening this fall is not only  the number of people coming back, but also the number of computers, McCoy said.

“Some were left idle, others were taken home and used for remote access,” he said. “While a lot of UNT faculty and staff returned home a long time ago, there are still pockets of employees that haven’t. Bringing [those computers] back may require additional virus scanning and updates.”

McCoy said the UNT System would continue to implement changes and advance various projects dedicated to streamlining IT services.

“I won’t go into detail about all 17 projects,” McCoy said. “But they involve everything we would expect from IT, generally. Those are really focused on finding costs so we can create that margin for innovation across the system.”

While the university suffered financial losses, the damage could have been worse, UNT system Vice Chancellor Jack Morton said.

“We actually survived this fairly well,” Morton said. “I think we did a great job of identifying and reducing expenses. I think we did a great job shifting our priorities to online education. A significant issue is the loss of revenue from having to shut down through the summer, losing a bunch of auxiliary money we’re used to allowing for all operations. “

The university will also continue to seek funding for additional buildings across all campuses, Morton said.

“We requested new buildings at virtually all of our campuses,” Morton said. “We asked for a research building at Denton for about $126 million, we asked for a second multipurpose building at Frisco for about $85 million and at UNT Dallas we asked for a science building that’s $136 million.”

For employees struggling with mental health,  Sheriane Gillam-Holmes, Vice Chancellor for Government Relations,  pointed to the Employee Assistance Program, “a free and confidential service that offers counseling for help with family, legal and financial issues,” and expanded online mental health services, such as Therapy Assistance Online.

“Currently, UNT employees have access to TAO, which provides access to therapists via short phone conversations or video conversations,” Gillam-Holmes said. “There will be more information available on these services in the coming week, so keep an eye out.”

For the recently-posted position of Chief Diversity Officer, Roe said a candidate will be found this spring.

“We’ll be selecting someone this spring,” Roe said. “The CDO will report directly to me and work very closely with the campus leadership and advisory groups to lay out the vision and provide the System-level thinking that we need in [Diversity and Inclusion] moving forward. Really put the aspiration goals out there as well as the plans for change, follow-through and accountability as part of what we’re trying to do in D&I. Diversity is all of us and I’m just so excited about the plans going forward.”

An unlisted recording of the meeting is available on the UNT System YouTube channel.

Courtesy UNT Town Hall

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Will Tarpley

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