Chancellor’s weekly update on countdown to open for fall semester: Preparing for screening, testing, contact tracing, physical distancing

July 13, 2020 Update. Countdown to Fall 2020: 43 days remaining until fall semester begins.

Aloha Kākou,

Bonnie Irwin
Bonnie Irwin

As I can see from the number of people attending last week’s Brown Bag meetings, there are many questions and concerns as we prepare for fall. I thank those of you who logged on to the meetings to learn more and I thank those of you who continue to contribute through service on a working group, prepping for hybrid classes, reconfiguring classrooms, planning for hybrid student support and onboarding events, and all the other things that will enable us to best serve our students who return next month.

As we all continue to get campus ready for fall, I also want to acknowledge the increased questions around telework as K-12 schools have released schedules and employees are wondering what they are going to be allowed to do. Campus will be notified as soon as the University of Hawai‘i System provides an update.

As we were preparing to post this update, Governor Ige announced he is postponing the August 1 incoming travel guidelines. We are working to address what additional preparations that might require of us and details will be shared once a decision is made.

Here are updates for this week:

Testing and Tracing (Carolyn Ma, convener)

The committee continues to formulate a plan for screening, testing and contact tracing.


UH System is in the process of developing a symptoms app that will be utilized to check daily symptoms for individuals who plan to physically visit the campus. The app would be available online or on phone. Anticipate beta testing as soon as next week, with a couple rounds of testing by the end of July. The app will be updated or revised as the pandemic changes.


Discussion continues with the State Department of Health, Hawai‘i County Health Office and the UH Health and Wellbeing Work Group to decide on the best strategy for testing, especially for our returning out-of-state students, for both on-campus and off-campus living. The committee will be creating plans based on the rapidly changing status of statewide active cases, out-of-state cases, fluidity of the supply chain of testing kits and turnaround time of tests. The committee is working to align with the Department of Health guidelines for strategic testing but may impose more testing in order to provide the safest living and working environment on campus.

Contact Tracing

All contact tracing must be conducted under the auspices of the Department of Health Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). Contact tracers for Hawai‘i Island have been trained and are available. There is discussion to provide UH Hilo-dedicated support to the contact tracing process to not only contact trace for campus cases, but also provide methods by which to support DOH in regards to campus movement. Readily available information will aid DOH case investigators to swiftly identify possible contacts. Methods such as class attendance, class schedules, student rosters, use of QR codes for entry and exit into common areas, and assigned seating, if possible, will aid in timely information.

Academic and Student Support (Farrah-Marie Gomes, convener)

This working group met with the Physical Distancing working group last week. As some distancing signs are ready for distribution, you may start to see them appearing around campus. While the goal is to be able to have a 6-foot distance between student and staff members when support services are being provided, this will not always be possible. In an effort to ensure safety in the delivery of services especially in those situations, some work spaces will have a see-through barrier installed, other spaces will have mobile barriers available. Installation and purchase of these barriers are already underway. For the most extreme cases when distance and barriers may not be enough, separate rooms will be outfitted with technology availability so students will still be able to access the services they need. At this time, all of the writing tablets previously purchased have been distributed and are currently being piloted for use in classrooms and tutoring sessions. Access to student success videos have also been broadened with the next steps focused on incorporating into programming.

Physical Distancing (Kalei Rapoza, convener)

Our Auxiliary Services employees have been hard at work implementing physical distancing in classrooms, removing chairs and desks, blocking of seating in fixed classrooms, and determining new seating counts. In addition, our information techonology specialists in the Computing Center are installing new tech in classrooms to accommodate distance learning.

Here are a few photos to give you an idea of what some classrooms will look like in the fall (click to enlarge):

Online and Hybrid Learning (Joseph Sanchez, convener) 

This working group is finalizing faculty professional development compensation rates for summer and continues with ongoing training and certification for DL instruction.

Fall Course Schedule

There will be a second Brown Bag with the interim vice chancellor tomorrow, Tuesday, July 14, at noon. Meeting ID is 925 5537 4780; password is 821879.

Office of Equal Oppotunity 

The Office of Equal Opportunity and Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center are taking a break from the weekly HULIAU SERIES: Broadening Perspectives Through Courageous Conversations, and continue to seek your input on topics or speakers for this ongoing series, books or articles for our reading group, and your participation in making UH Hilo a safe, inclusive, anti-racist place of learning. Contact Jennifer Stotter or MaryAnn Baricuatro with your ideas or to volunteer. In the meantime, we encourage you to keep the conversation going in your own circles.

Here are some links to recent panels held across the country to help you do so:

Community Colleges for All (CC-ALL) is a series of digital material that promotes and fosters success and equitable programs for diverse learners as they move through their guided programs. OCCRLʻs bite-sized video vignettes show topics of critical importance that aim to foster student success and equitable outcomes.

Episode 1: Equity-Conscious Practices
Episode 2: Identifying Equity Consciousness Gaps
Episode 3: Developing Critical Consciousness for Advancing Equity
Episode 4: Equity-Conscious Leaders and Cultural Proficiency – Leading for Change
Episode 5: Recap

Module 2: Advancing Racial Equity in Education

Episode 1: Why Race and Equity Matter in Education
Episode 2: Anti-Racist Education
Episode 3: Racialized Realities on Community College Campuses
Episode 4: Action Steps to Advancing Racial Equity in Education
Episode 5: Recap

Module 3: Race, Racism, and Moving Toward Racial Justice

Episode 1: Race, Racial Antipathy, and Racialized Role Strain
Episode 2: Racial Microaggressions and Racial Battle Fatigue Across Educational Contexts
Episode 3: Racialized Realities – Examining Whiteness, White Privilege, and Unlearning Colorblindness
Episode 4: Strategies and Resources to Address Race, Racism, and Move Toward Racial Justice
Episode 5: Recap

Strategic Doing

The Relationships and Importance of Place Doing Committees have July meetings scheduled where members will bring more perspectives and ideas to the groups through outreach to their networks. Please see the Strategic Doing webpage to learn more about these committees and read the notes from the first meetings of both committees (scroll down and click on Read more about this committee’s work for each committee).

The University of Connecticut surveyed students about what would help make the fall semester a success. I imagine our students have and will tell us many of the same things. Chief among those things is empathy. Just as we saw last spring, our students are facing a number of economic, academic, and emotional stress. They want to be in class, they want to see friends, but they are also anxious about the virus. Physically distanced activities that are not all online was a desire among Connecticut students. They want to be busy and engaged, but they want to be safe.

Like all of us, students are seeking specificity in guidelines and expectations, and we will be working hard to provide them.

Have a wonderful week and mahalo for all that you do!

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

UH Hilo’s COVID-19 information webpage