Bianca Cseke | The DePaulia
DePaul leadership held a town hall open to faculty and staff to outline the current state of the university and address any questions and concerns from the community. Overall, the administration remained committed to sustaining the innovations that came about during the pandemic, chiefly hybrid learning and working options.
President A. Gabriel Esteban began by commemorating a year since DePaul first made the decision to go online because of the pandemic.
“I’m extremely grateful to our students who have persevered through the hardships and remain dedicated to pursuing the DePaul education, to our faculty adapting courses and providing students with the flexibility and support needed in this moment and to our staff who kept the university operating safely and effectively,” he said.
Looking ahead, Esteban laid out the school’s reopening plans.
“DePaul intends to offer a full complement of in person classes” in the fall, he said. “Students will choose between trimodal learning options” including online and hybrid instruction.
When asked for clarification, interim Provost Salma Ghanem said that “full complement” by no means translates to a guarantee that all students will be offered in-person classes. Instead, “there are going to be multiple options for students to take with the majority being face-to-face once the pandemic is over.”
When asked about the prospect of online courses and degrees in the future, Ghanem noted that the future of DePaul will most likely include a mix of online and hybrid courses as well as an overall expansion of which courses are offered virtually.
Some faculty and staff might also qualify for potential remote work options moving forward.
“The University is planning to go toward what I would call a more dynamic workplace and go toward a hybrid model,” said Stephanie Smith, vice president of Human Resources. This hybrid model would impact each employee on a case-by-case basis depending on the demands of their role and the feasibility of working remotely, she said.
As far as reimbursement for the costs of working remotely, interim Executive Vice President Sherri Sidler recommends that staff and faculty refer to the current reimbursement policy and submit claims for the reimbursement of business, technology and other work from home expenses accrued by faculty and staff.
“Going forward, as we move into this hybrid work model, we are looking to put some additional procedures in place that will make it a bit more efficient to request these reimbursements,” Sidler said. “In the meantime you need to just continue to follow the current policy that’s in place.”
DePaul officially received the second of three federal grants covered under the CARES Act Wednesday night, Sidler said. With just over $22 million total, DePaul will allocate $7.1 million directly to students, similar to the stimulus funds last year, while $15.5 million will be used for institutional spending that has yet to be specified, she said.
Many of the questions from faculty and staff were regarding Covid-19 safety protocols, testing and vaccinations. The administration reiterated that DePaul is still very much following the mandates and guidance of the Chicago Department of Public Health. The on-campus guidelines that were put in place early in the pandemic will continue as the situation persists, including social distancing and mandatory mask-wearing.
“At this time, DePaul will not have a vaccination site or a separate registration portal for DePaul members and they are encouraged to continue using the city-provided registration options,” Zdziarski said. This is due in large part to the city’s overall supply of vaccines, he said.
When asked if DePaul will require vaccinations in order for students and faculty to return to campus, Zdziarski said that at this time they cannot require members of the community to be vaccinated because they were authorized for emergency use by the FDA. However, DePaul is keeping track of students who have received the vaccine to monitor the immunity levels on campus, Zdziarski said.
Finally, Rev. Guillermo Campuzano, the vice president of Mission and Ministry, introduced a new university mission statement. Every five years, the Board of Trustees is tasked with reviewing DePaul’s mission statement, written in 1985 and revised minimally twice in the years since.
“After a rich participatory process this year, our community has expressed a collective belief that the time has come for a substantially revised mission statement,” Campuzano said. “If we really want to see transformative change, we must embrace a vision of a society that truly values the dignity of all people and the protection of our common home.”
The newly revised mission statement was approved unanimously by the Board of Trustees on March 4 and was unveiled during the meeting.
Campuzano concluded: “The work of the new mission statement has just begun.”