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Messages from UH Hilo Chancellor Irwin on COVID-19 Response

August 12, 2020

Please plan for all students in hybrid courses to attend online for the first two weeks of this fall semester.

Aloha Kākou Faculty and Staff,

Graphic design of COVID-19 virus with words: UH Hilo COVID-19 InfoMahalo everyone for all of your preparations for the start of the fall semester! As you may have read, President Lassner is encouraging maximal reduction of unnecessary presence on UH campuses. The following are necessary adjustments to the start of our UH Hilo fall semester.

Please plan for all students in hybrid courses to attend online for the first two weeks of this fall semester. For all courses that have optional or required face-to-face instruction, please defer that in-person instruction for the first two weeks and prepare alternate activities for your students. An exception to continue face-to-face instruction is granted during this time for the Nursing Program and College of Pharmacy, as needed.

This does not mean a full-scale transition to an online semester.

Hybrid/hyflex classes should plan on some in-person sessions beginning in the third week of the term. It is important that we serve the students who have made an effort to travel to Hilo. These students are here because they need the classes we are planning to offer face-to-face to complete degree requirements, prerequisites, and applied learning experiences. Many have also willingly spent two weeks in quarantine to be able to be here and experience our unique educational and co-curricular programs.

Unlike the campuses on O‘ahu, we are not making this decision based upon a local surge of cases, but rather because of these two factors: reinstatement of the interisland quarantine and ongoing technology upgrades of our classrooms. I am hopeful that the interisland quarantine will be lifted in early September.

Preparation of classrooms will continue during these first two weeks. There was a slight delay in the arrival of some items ordered for the technology upgrades and we will use this time to optimize distance learning capabilities for our students who must attend remotely. We will have the 40-50 most heavily used classrooms ready by August 24. Faculty members who would like to use a classroom to deliver their remote instruction during the first two weeks should contact their deans, and we can make arrangements for you to do so.

Our campus remains open to students, especially for those that need to access computers and Wi-Fi. The library continues to offer a limited number of laptop computers for check out and as we did last spring, we will have computer labs open for use.

All service offices will be open from 7:45 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday (excluding holidays), starting August 17 with sufficient coverage. This includes college offices. Student support services and enrollment services continue to be available for those on campus and are additionally being offered by phone and online. We will have many students physically present on the campus, and even though their classes may be online, they are still in need of the other services we have to offer. Supervisors will work with staff on rotation schedules where possible.

I once again thank you for all you have done and are doing to remain nimble at this time, to support our mission, and to serve our students and your colleagues.

Stay safe and continue to look out for one another.

Me ka mahalo nui,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo

UH Hilo’s COVID-19 information webpage

Chancellor Irwin’s Countdown to Fall Semester columns


May 13, 2020

As we approach the summer, we see the legislature going back into session, and we will know more about our budget in the coming weeks. In the meantime, our finance colleagues on campus are running a variety of scenarios, some more optimistic and some pessimistic.

Dear Campus ‘Ohana,

Thank you for everything you are doing to support our campus and especially our students in this truly unusually stressful semester. I hope you are taking some time for self care along the way, too, even if it is just a quiet moment outside, some quality time with a friend or family member, watching a good movie, or reading a good book.

As we approach the summer, we see the legislature going back into session, and we will know more about our budget in the coming weeks. In the meantime, our finance colleagues on campus are running a variety of scenarios, some more optimistic and some pessimistic.

In order to get input from campus constituencies, Interim Vice Chancellor Kalei Rapoza and I will be reconstituting the campus long-range budget planning committee. If you have interest or expertise and would like to serve on this body, please inform your dean or director. I do expect the group to meet a couple of times during the summer and then throughout the coming year so that we can consult on the various decisions that need to be made.

We also have a link to an online suggestion form. As you consider the campus, what kinds of efficiencies do you think we can gain by changing the way we do things? You may offer suggestions here.

I would ask, however, that you do not merely target other areas of the campus that you think are flush with funds. We will all need to share the burden of these times of limited resources, so please look at what is essential for the good of the whole institution as you think about what helpful suggestions you might offer.

Aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor


May 4, 2020

There are many factors, such as the state’s quarantine policy and airline schedules that are beyond our direct control. Thus, our summer work is going to require that we are both nimble and flexible. It will test our creativity and our tolerance of ambiguity.

Aloha UH Hilo ‘Ohana,

If you read today’s message from the UH System, you will know that our plan is to open for face-to-face classes in the fall, allowing for social distancing. Most schools across the country who have made announcements thus far are making similar plans.

We will need to use the summer to make a number of decisions: which classes to keep on the schedule, which to take to a hybrid form, and which might be offered online. Similar decisions will need to be made about student support programs, services and activities. Our facilities will need to be prepared for this work: we will be removing some seats or blocking them off, we will need to determine which classrooms need to be set up with web cams to accommodate students at a distance as well as students in the classroom.

Similar processes will take place with office spaces: how will we maintain social distancing while still serving the students? To this end, you may see facilities personnel engaged in measuring spaces, moving furniture and equipment, and continuing the deep cleaning that was started in March.

We will be issuing surveys to both students and faculty in the coming days to assess what went well and what did not in our transition to the online environment. This information will help us plan for fall, including a back-up scenario in case we need to pivot back to online due to a second wave of the virus.

Brainstorming and planning groups will be assembled around curriculum and delivery of courses, IT and facilities preparedness, student support services, and health and hygiene. These groups mirror similar task forces being assembled at the System level, with which we will be in communication.

Other units, such as student housing, medical services and intercollegiate athletics, will also be formulating plans. We will be using a large portion of the second half of our CARES funding to support infrastructure improvements and training during the summer.

There are many factors, such as the state’s quarantine policy and airline schedules that are beyond our direct control. Thus, our summer work is going to require that we are both nimble and flexible. It will test our creativity and our tolerance of ambiguity. However, in my first year here at UH Hilo, I have learned that our campus community is resilient and resourceful. First and foremost, we care about students, and we will find the best way to support them that we can.

Mahalo,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor


April 24, 2020

Over the last week there have been directives sent out by Governor David Ige and Mayor Harry Kim related to COVID-19, causing some confusion as to what our actions should be as a campus community.  Effective immediately, the following requirements are in place for UH Hilo.

Aloha,

Over the last week there have been directives sent out by Governor David Ige and Mayor Harry Kim related to COVID-19, causing some confusion as to what our actions should be as a campus community. Details about the directives are provided later in this message for those who are interested.

Although the Mayor’s Emergency Rule No. 3 does not apply to the university as a whole, there are operations on campus that are impacted. Effective immediately, the following requirements are in place for UH Hilo:

  • Social Distancing: a minimum of a six-foot distance shall be observed to the extent reasonably feasible. Face-to-face meetings are discouraged.
  • Face Covering: Anyone who enters the Library, Campus Center Dining Room or Hale Kehau Dining Room must wear a face covering or mask.
  • Sanitizing: Anyone entering the Campus Center Dining Room or Hale Kehau Dining Room must sanitize their hands at entry. Hand sanitizer is provided.

Face coverings are easy to make / design, and the CDC has issued guidance found here.

Students who would like to request a face covering, please contact the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, (808) 932-7445.

For those of you keeping track of the directives and how it applies to UH Hilo, on March 23, 2020, Governor Ige issued the Third Supplementary Proclamation relating to COVID-19. In this proclamation, the Governor carved out different types of businesses as “essential businesses or operations,” and listed 25 different types. The University falls under #4: Educational Institutions.

Last Thursday, April 16, 2020, Governor Ige issued the Fifth Supplementary Proclamation relating to COVID-19. Section I.C. of that proclamation, relating to Essential Business and Operations Requirements, mandates that “all customers and employees of essential businesses and operations identified in the Third Proclamation shall exercise the additional social distancing and protective requirements identified herein to the fullest extent possible.” The Fifth Supplementary Proclamation lists several requirements for essential businesses and operations, which include social distancing, hand sanitizer and sanitizing products, and face coverings. Specifically regarding face covering, the Fifth Supplementary Proclamation stated:

“5. Face Covering. All customers shall wear a face covering as described and recommended in Section I.A., or as required by any applicable county order, while waiting to enter and while at an essential business or operation. All employees of essential businesses or operations who have any contact with customers or goods to be purchased shall wear the cloth face covering recommended by the CDC while at their place of employment.”

On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, Mayor Kim issued the Mayor’s COVID-19 Emergency Rule No. 3, which sought to clarify the Governors’ Third and Fifth Supplementary Proclamations. The clarifications provided in the Mayor’s Emergency Rule No. 3 pertaining to face coverings or masks, sanitizing, hoarding, social distancing, and signage, are not applicable to the University. Rather, they are applicable to other essential businesses referenced in Governor’s Third Supplemental Proclamation, specifically:

  • Stores that sell groceries and medicine
  • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation
  • Financial institutions
  • Hardware and supply stores
  • Laundry services
  • Suppliers for essential businesses and operations

In addition, the Mayor’s Emergency Rule No. 3 provides clarification for essential businesses or operations that handle food production or consumption and patrons or riders of county mass transit agency vehicles (e.g. Hele On Bus).

If you have questions, please contact Kalei Rapoza, Interim Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs.

Mahalo,

Bonnie D. Irwin, Chancellor


April 8, 2020

There will be much more information coming out from the UH System and the campus in coming days about the rest of the semester and the summer, but until then, stay hopeful, stay safe, wash your hands, and check in on your friends, colleagues, and families often.

We will get through this #AloneTogether.

Dear UH Hilo ‘ohana,

I hope you are well. When I escaped from my self-imposed quarantine after 14 days, I was delighted to come to campus, spend some time in my office, and walk around a bit. Campus, as you might imagine, is rather empty these days, which I look upon as both a cause of celebration (we are sheltering in place to protect ourselves and others) and a sad thing (I love to walk about a busy campus full of students!).

I saw students, staff, and faculty practicing social distancing as they went about their work. Library staff were at the circulation desk, wearing gloves and behind plexiglass; a professor was holding office hours with a student at opposite ends of a table outside; janitorial staff were power-washing the sidewalks; admissions and financial aid staff were answering phones and working at their desks; other student affairs staff who had offices were tucked away behind their desks; a faculty member was in an office participating in a Zoom meeting. But most offices, desks, walkways, and plazas were empty, as we all figured out ways to work from home while keeping the university and our students on course.

After two weeks, a “new normal” has settled in, but we are still UH Hilo, where faculty and staff care about students and are finding creative ways to serve them. Students are still reaching out for help from faculty and support offices, even though some of them are now many time zones away. There have been bumps along the road, no doubt. Some students have not been engaging as much in their classes as they need to, finding it easier to tune out rather than ask for help. This is the moment when we all must figuratively lean on one another a bit more, check in on one another a bit more, ask for help a bit more. There is no shame in that, and no one will judge us; many of us are overwhelmed and some of us have extra time and knowledge to share. That is the value of community, our community.

It’s also okay if you want to wear a mask while on campus. We have ordered supplies, but we do not know how long it will take for them to arrive. However, people on campus and in the community are stepping up to make cloth masks. Who would have anticipated that sewing skills would be one of the most valued assets one could have in 2020? If you want to make some yourself, there is information here. A separate email with information about a mask making project on campus will be shared tomorrow.

There will be much more information coming out from the UH System and the campus in coming days about the rest of the semester and the summer, but until then, stay hopeful, stay safe, wash your hands, and check in on your friends, colleagues, and families often. We will get through this #AloneTogether.

Aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin, Chancellor


March 27,2020

All UH Hilo employees must report out-of-state travel (personal or work-related) for tracking of possible self-quarantine period reporting and receive clearance prior to returning to campus. Students have already received a form through which we are tracking.

Aloha,

On March 21, 2020, Gov. David Ige issued a mandate that all travelers (visitors and returning residents) coming back into the state must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Starting Thursday, March 26, returning employees will be required to remain in their homes. Exceptions would be made for leaving for medical treatment or emergencies.

In addition, any traveler who returned from a CDC Level 3 Country or areas of widespread community transmission between 3/11/2020 and 3/25/2020 must also complete this form and undergo self quarantine for a minimum 14 days.

All UH Hilo employees must report out-of-state travel (personal or work-related) for tracking of possible self-quarantine period reporting and receive clearance prior to returning to campus. Students have already received a form through which we are tracking.

  1. Access UH Hilo Travel Disclosure Form.
  2. Log-in using UH User ID and password (same as email).
  3. Under Faculty/staff (Please enter UH User ID) to autofill information.
  4. Select Faculty or Staff.
  5. Input Travel Destination Outside State of Hawai‘i.
  6. Input Travel Date (from) and (to) using calendar icon.
  7. Input Date of Arrival in (return to) Hawai‘i using calendar icon.
  8. If you are required to or will undergo self-quarantine, then check the Self-quarantine box.
  9. Input dates of Self-quarantine (from) and (to) using the calendar icon.
  10. Use the Additional Information section to include relevant information.
  11. Click Submit to submit the form. Clicking Save will save progress, but progress will be lost if you exit the page.

Information submitted is confidential. As a reminder, if you feel that you have been exposed to COVID-19, you should contact your doctor immediately and report this to your supervisor. Supervisors shall report this information to their Dean/Director who shall report to the Chancellor.

Please watch for more UH updates on COVID-19 and stay informed through our UH Hilo COVID-19 web page and the UH System COVID-19 web page.

Employee FAQs may be found here.

Mahalo and take care,

Bonnie D. Irwin, Chancellor


March 25, 2020

The UH System, your vice chancellors, deans and directors, and I have been doing our best to keep you informed, but in a rapidly changing environment, we may have to update and revise previous guidelines. I hope you will remain understanding as we navigate through this situation. Please read this message in its entirety-thank you!!

Aloha UH Hilo faculty and staff,

During this difficult time, I am grateful for all of the extra efforts that you are making to support our operating values:

  • Supporting our students, both those in residence here and those at homes around the world.
  • Keeping our campus community safe and healthy.
  • Trying to do things that decrease rather than increase the anxiety that many are feeling.

The UH System, your vice chancellors, deans and directors, and I have been doing our best to keep you informed, but in a rapidly changing environment, we may have to update and revise previous guidelines. I hope you will remain understanding as we navigate through this situation. Please read this message in its entirety-thank you!!

For staff on campus:

  • We are making every effort to keep you safe by decreasing the amount of traffic on campus.
  • Please continue to practice healthy behaviors: hand washing, social distancing, etc.
  • Verify with your supervisor your work schedule, any rotations or change in hours and whether you will be asked to telework some days.

For staff and non-instructional faculty teleworking:

  • Be sure to fill out the telework form and consult with your supervisor on a workplan. Remember to complete a workplan within 5 days of starting your working from home.
  • Please use the new category in the online leave system to record those days you are teleworking as well. This will help us apply for federal funding that may be available.
  • If you need to come to campus as part of a rotation system in your unit or to pick up materials, open mail, etc., please observe social distancing and wash your hands frequently.
  • Note that many buildings will be locked, so you will need your keys to enter.
  • Make sure your supervisor knows if you will be on campus and in the office. We want to be able to tell security and maintenance/custodial staff which buildings are being used and how often.

For instructional faculty:

  • You do not need to fill out the telework form.
  • Please do let your dean and department chair know if you will be coming in and approximately how often so that we can inform security and maintenance/custodial staff.
  • If you come onto campus, practice safe behaviors: social distancing, and hand washing, etc.
  • Given the governor’s orders, you should not be requiring any face to face meetings, including proctored exams, with students through April 30.
  • Please do continue to hold department meetings, work on accreditation issues, and as much regular business as you can accomplish remotely.

For everyone:

  • When not at work, limit your exposure to the public: practice social distancing when out in the community, wash your hands frequently.
  • If you are sick, stay home and let your supervisor know. Follow the advice of medical professionals.
  • If you can work from home, do so.
  • Take good care of your families and stay connected with loved ones.
  • Check your email and the COVID-19 website for hours of facilities and offices and other important updates.

I am now in my 6th day of self-quarantine at home. Thanks to all who have asked after my health and that of my mother. My mother is fine in California and on the mend, and despite the fact that I still have a bit of a lingering cough from my cold, I am COVID-19 symptom free.

Let’s all stay healthy and calm. Take downtime when you can. I am confident we will emerge from the other side of this crisis as a stronger community.

Mahalo nui loa,

Bonnie D. Irwin, Chancellor


March 23, 2020

Our educational mission is crucial to the future of the state and our island. We still have a purpose. We still have students in our residence halls for whom our campus remains the safest place for them to be at this time. We will continue to serve our students wherever they currently reside, and set an example for our community in social responsibility during this crisis.

Aloha UH Hilo ‘ohana,

I hope you are doing all right in this new, albeit temporary normal, in which we find ourselves. Some of you may have heard the Governor’s press conference today, in which he announced a statewide order that resembles the one issued for Honolulu yesterday. Despite the fact that the order exempts the university, as indicated in the following provision*.

*4. Educational Institutions—including public and private pre-K-12 schools, colleges, and universities—for purposes of implementing appropriate learning measures, performing critical research, or performing essential functions, provided that the social distancing requirements identified herein are maintained to the greatest extent possible.

We will be following the general directive as closely as we can. I am working with the Vice Chancellors and campus supervisors to determine who needs to continue to work on campus and who will need to telework through April 30. We will get you more information as we have it. In the meantime, I encourage you to continue to fill out the telework form previously distributed and available here.

Supervisors have been asked to ensure coverage of campus operations while approving telework requests in an attempt to reduce the overall number of people on campus. Supervisors have also been asked to be as creative as possible in coming up with projects and work suitable to do from home for those of you whose normal work is going to be disrupted by this order.

By decreasing the number of people on campus, we also create a safer environment for those employees who must remain on campus to fulfill their duties. I am asking that those who are on campus continue practicing social distancing and wash their hands frequently.

Please be patient with those of us in administration as we define process and procedures for the coming days and weeks. Universities have been given latitude in following the governor’s order because of the important nature of the work we do. Our educational mission is crucial to the future of the state and our island. We still have a purpose. We still have students in our residence halls for whom our campus remains the safest place for them to be at this time. We will continue to serve our students wherever they currently reside, and set an example for our community in social responsibility during this crisis.

Mahalo nui loa,

Bonnie D. Irwin, Chancellor


March 18, 2020

Please continue to practice healthy behaviors: social distancing of 6-10 feet from other people, frequent hand washing, no touching of the face.

Aloha UH Hilo ‘Ohana,

First of all, mahalo for all the good work going on across the campus to prepare for online learning, to continue providing critical services to our students, and the care with which you are treating one another during this difficult time.

Directors and deans have been working on plans for continuity of operations in light of the fact that we are trying to support those in our charge. As these assessments are completed this week and we receive further guidelines from the UH System, we will be allowing those who can to work at home. We do owe our students as much care and continuity as we can supply.

Please keep a good thought for those in our campus community who cannot telework. For their sake and the sake of any other personnel and students who need to come to campus, please continue to practice healthy behaviors: social distancing of 6-10 feet from other people, frequent hand washing, no touching of the face.

Auxiliary services will begin deep cleaning classrooms this week. If you see them in masks and protective gear, please know that this is to keep them safe from the chemicals cleansers they will be spraying and not because we believe that there is any particular contamination present.

We have ordered or are ordering everything from gloves to masks to laptops for those whose work requires them, but as you might expect, some items may be delayed due to demand. I want to assure you that we have been working on these plans for a number of weeks.

I am also asking those who have been traveling to consult their supervisor before returning to campus. All non-essential work travel is hereby canceled. Supervisors, please keep track of when employees get home so that we can measure the 14 days of recommended self-quarantine. We also will be asking any students who have been out of state to report their spring break travel. At the same time, I hope our spirit of aloha will remain intact. Most people returning to our community have not been exposed to the virus, but we are continuing to be cautious. As a friend of mine recently wrote, keep everyone heart-close and body distant.

As many of you know, I have traveled to California myself to help my mother with a medical issue. Other than some lingering effects from my cold, I am fine, and I have only left my mother’s house for groceries and to take her to the doctor. I have been checking in with vice chancellors and others continually during my absence, and holding meetings by Zoom and phone. Out of deference to my staff and the campus community, however, I had already planned to quarantine at home when I return to the island on Thursday, even before the governor’s announcement that I should do so.

I and the administrative team will continue to share updates and guidelines as we have them. We are trying to make major decisions as a UH System, which means they sometimes take a little longer. Consider, however, how many students are enrolled at both UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College; some of our faculty also work at both places. We realize our community gets frustrated with delays in communication, but we also want to make sure we are doing things right; communication needs to be clear, consistent, and accurate.

In the meantime, be Kind, be Patient, be Smart, be Compassionate, be Sensible. In other words, be Pono.

Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin


March 16, 2020

As UH temporarily places courses online, our students are going to be challenged in the coming weeks to be adaptive, to trust in their abilities, and pick themselves up if they stumble.

Column by Chancellor Irwin the Hawaii Tribune Herald: Soft skills for challenging times

 

A topic that has gained a lot of attention in higher education circles lately is the importance of so-called “soft” skills.

Students who graduate from college need to be well versed in their field of study, to be sure, but they also need to be good communicators, possess a degree of emotional intelligence that helps them interact well and collaborate with others, and be agile to adapt to changing situations. The current situation around COVID-19 illustrates why these skills are so essential.

[….]

In our current health crisis, the doctors can treat the illness, but we need the epidemiologists to tell us how it spreads, and policy experts to take that knowledge and put guidelines in place. Everyone has their role, especially when a situation is changing rapidly.

And the rapidly developing situation of COVID-19 demonstrates why nimbleness is so crucially important. Adaptive leadership skills help us roll with the punches and react to a constantly changing environment. As UH temporarily places courses online, our students are going to be challenged in the coming weeks to be adaptive, to trust in their abilities, and pick themselves up if they stumble.

Read full column.


March 13, 2020

I ask that we continue to act with aloha and grace toward our students and colleagues.

Aloha kakou,

First of all, mahalo to everyone for helping our students and one another as we transition classes during this time of rapid change and anxiety around COVID-19. I will re-iterate President Lassner’s words from yesterday: “Fortunately, at this time, there have been no confirmed cases on any UH campus or significant links to UH.” We are doing what we can together to keep it that way.

I am grateful for all the contributions that our ‘ohana is making to keep us whole and healthy.

Faculty have raised the question about whether they can come to campus to meet with students. Yes, you can! In fact, I expect faculty to still hold office hours and be available in the mode that students need, both online and face-to-face. We know students have come to UH Hilo for our personal touch and our largely face-to-face experiences, and while we need to stay healthy, we also need to be understanding. We will still have students on campus and in the residence halls, and we need to be present to meet their needs. I also expect meetings and our other work to continue during this time. If you want to move those meetings to larger rooms to maintain a bit more social distancing, please do.

Campus services will continue. We are here to support one another and I do not expect that standard to change unless conditions on our island change dramatically. We are also allowing small events to continue, but if there is to be food, I strongly recommend it be served or individually wrapped and not served buffet style.

We have set up a COVID-19 campus page where we will post updates, as they are available. On this page, you will also find a list of canceled events, and helpful links to county and campus resources.

Many are asking about travel. Even if your interstate or international travel was approved before our more strict guidelines came into play, please check with your supervisor or dean. Only essential travel out of state should be completed at this time. Very few things are truly essential; thus, I will be granting very few exceptions.

I ask that we continue to act with aloha and grace toward our students and colleagues. In our attempts to address situations and concerns in real time, we all may make some mistakes. We are all trying to do our best and we need to recognize sincerity and humanity in one another. Your administrative team and I continue to always have your health and safety at the forefront of our discussion and decision making.

Do try to get some rest and give yourself some grace, too. We will weather this storm as we have weathered others before.

Mahalo,

Bonnie D. Irwin


March 12, 2020

I encourage everyone to remain focused on the latest news and developments in order to be prepared for the potential impact it may have on us.

UH System Update: Classes to move online after Spring Break.

Dear UH Hilo ‘Ohana:

In the last few days, news surrounding COVID-19 has escalated dramatically. While we each do our best to keep healthy, support one another, and go on with our lives despite what is taking place globally, I encourage everyone to remain focused on the latest news and developments in order to be prepared for the potential impact it may have on us.

With that said, I have decided to postpone delivering the State of the University address, even electronically. I feel strongly that any remarks given during a time like this that don’t concentrate on COVID-19 are distracting from our immediate concerns.

UH Administration discusses every morning the latest developments to assess decisions we should make in response to concerns and events taking place. For the time being, I prefer my communication with all of you be concentrated on decisions made to ensure we all continue to be effective team members.

Once a new date is set for the State of the University address, which I still hope to deliver in person, you will be notified. In the meantime, I appreciate your understanding and continue to ask for your patience and cooperation as we get through this together, and intact.

Mahalo nui,

Bonnie D. Irwin

Other updates

UH System COVID-19 Information. Latest update: Classes to move online after Spring Break.

UH Hilo COVID-19 Information


March 10

Our first concern is the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty, and everything we are doing is to help our community stay healthy.

Aloha kakou,

I write to assure you all today that we are continuing to monitor and prepare for situations related to COVID-19, and I sincerely hope that we will not need to put any of our plans into operation.

Please read this message in its entirety.

Our first concern is the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty, and everything we are doing is to help our community stay healthy. So far, Hawai’i Island is not under any kind of direct threat, and we hope that we will stay that way, hence the desire to monitor any international travel, even personal travel to Level 3 countries. We want to make sure that any member of our community who may have been exposed to the virus follows the CDC guidance to self-quarantine. I advise everyone to be prudent about personal travel during spring break. If you do choose to travel, please monitor CDC websites to keep up to-date on which areas are considered to be at risk, as this can change very quickly. If you can “stay put” at home during break, please do so.

At the same time, I realize that some of you have plans and obligations on the continent or internationally that may cause you to travel over break. Please practice every precaution to keep yourself healthy!

General communications will continue to come out from UH System, and when appropriate, I will follow up with campus-specific guidance. Likewise, vice chancellors, deans, and directors may issue unit-specific guidelines. The point of these is not to contradict the System messages but to make sure we address local situations. All of these messages will have as their subject line COVID-19 followed by more specific topic.

Also, the leadership team is working on a FAQs page that will include things such as Commencement (still planned to go forward unless circumstances change dramatically), current classes (still planned to be face-to-face but plans being made to transition to online delivery if necessary), and non-academic Core Operations such as payroll, IT, admissions, etc. We want to support our students and do everything we can to meet the needs of our entire ‘ohana.

Our team continues to answer any question posed to the COVID-19 email address. For students here at Hilo who have specific questions about a campus policy, please email Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes. Employees who have questions about non-academic policies can email Interim Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Kalei Rapoza. Employees with questions about academic policies may email Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ken Hon.

Insofar as possible, business as usual is the rule of the day, but I also want to make sure we stay as healthy as possible. In the midst of all this heightened awareness of health, I have come down with a cold and thus will be recording the State of the University Address so as to practice appropriate social distancing. This address to the campus has been planned for weeks, but I am changing its content to give me an opportunity to also address COVID-19 matters as needed.

In the meantime, I ask that we maintain our spirit of aloha in our dealings with one another. Perhaps a shaka will replace our customary hug or kiss on the cheek, but the patience, understanding, and empathy that is characteristic of aloha should still be our practice.

Be kind, stay healthy, and look out for one another.

Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin


March 6, 2020

I want to reassure you that the UH System has protocols in place to address various COVID-19 contingencies. We want to be prepared. 

Aloha UH Hilo Faculty and Staff,

I want to reassure you that the UH System has protocols in place to address various COVID-19 contingencies. We recently learned of one confirmed case in Hawai‘i and I am asking everyone to exercise caution, patience, and understanding with colleagues and students. Given our experience with lava and hurricanes, we at UH Hilo are more prepared than many communities to deal with emergencies, and that experience gives me great comfort at times like this.

You have seen the UH System guidance regarding business travel. Please be prudent when planning personal spring break travel as well. We just want our community to be as healthy as possible today and every day. Campus and community events will continue as planned unless or until there is reasonable cause to cancel.

I encourage faculty especially to be understanding when students who are sick ask for accommodation for absences. Now more than ever, we do not want to expose healthy people to sick people if we can avoid doing so. This extends to sick children; if your children or the children of one of your students have been asked not to go to school or daycare because of illness they should also not be on campus. I know this is a great inconvenience for parents, but again, our primary concern is with keeping the entire ‘ohana as healthy as we can. While we are striving to ensure continuity of operations, I would ask that supervisors also be understanding when staff are sick and unable to report to work.

You may have heard that the University of Washington has decided to put the remaining two weeks of their quarter online. We are not at that point yet, and we hope not to have to do that at all. However, as the UH System message earlier indicates, we are readying ourselves for the possibility. Thus, I encourage teaching faculty to think about how you might transition your class to fully online if the situation warrants. This is not currently in the cards, but we want to be prepared. We understand that not all courses may be appropriate for transitioning to fully online delivery and encourage you to discuss this with your deans. Please consult the Teaching Online During an Emergency web page.

What we all should be doing

  • Following UH System and Department of Health/CDC guidance on travel
  • Continuing to practice health hygiene habits: wash hands frequently, avoid touching your face with
    unwashed hands
  • Keeping ourselves informed by consulting the UH System Important Health Information: Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 web page and taking the time to read the various communications as they are issued from the UH System and my office
  • Avoiding panic by consulting with the appropriate vice chancellor or my office before sending out
    unit-specific messaging regarding COVID-19 to students, staff or faculty

Our colleagues in Auxiliary Services are

  • Placing more hand sanitizers around the campus
  • Ensuring that our custodial staff is vigilant about wiping down frequently used surfaces in
    classrooms

If you see these staff as they are out and about doing their jobs, thank them for their role in helping keep us healthy.

And I thank you for all you do for our students and our institution every day, but particularly during times of stress.

Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin

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