Spring Break is just two weeks away, and our COVID-19 cases have fallen to the lowest levels since before the Omicron wave. Going “mask optional” everywhere except classrooms and instructional spaces has gone well, and we will continue to closely monitor disease incidence and changes in CDC guidance to determine when further changes in our mitigation policies are in order. We have every reason to believe the end of our semester will be far better than the start when it comes to COVID-19. Enough on the virus – there are several topics to cover this month that I’d like to make you aware of.
First, an update on the police incident of February 4. At this point, the investigation is in the hands of a special prosecutor, who will determine whether there were any laws broken during the incident. As President Daniels has indicated, once the investigations and reviews are complete, all findings and evidence that can be released will be made publicly available. This will include all body-worn and in-car camera recordings. I deeply appreciate the support so many of you have provided to those directly and indirectly impacted by the incident.
February was a busy month and, despite COVID-19, important and insightful events took place across campus. In addition to celebrating Black History Month, with the support of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (ODIB) and Marketing and Communications, our Office of Engagement hosted the Engagement and Service Learning Summit; the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence hosted the 4th Annual Conference for Associate Professors; and ODIB and Teaching and Learning hosted the Maximizing Student Potential Conference focused on belonging and steps we can take to help every student feel they belong at Purdue. Many thanks to all involved in planning and delivering these events and the conversations and follow-on activities they have launched.
While we may be thinking about spring, we also are planning for the possibility of a new winter instructional period we are calling WinterFlex. If approved, WinterFlex will be a completely optional three-week term between the fall and spring semesters. The term will focus on providing opportunities for Study Abroad and for asynchronous online courses – there will be no on-campus instruction during the WinterFlex term. Students who have not been able in the past to participate in Study Abroad due to summer work, internships, etc. can benefit from WinterFlex. In addition, WinterFlex will create opportunities for development and delivery of creative online courses, assisting students with degree completion or taking a course they might otherwise not be able to include in their schedule.
Again, WinterFlex will be an optional instructional period. My thanks to Kris Wong Davis, vice provost for enrollment management; Marion Underwood, dean, College of Health and Human Sciences; and Kristi Mickle, senior director of finance and business operations, and their planning committee for all the work on this concept. The University Senate will vote on the WinterFlex proposal at their next meeting and, if supported, we look forward to offering new Study Abroad programming during WinterFlex in December/January 2022-23, with online courses starting in December/January 2023-24. You can find much more detail on WinterFlex here.
Finally, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is deeply disturbing on so many levels. We are certainly thinking about our Ukrainian and Russian students, staff, and faculty and those from surrounding countries, as well as anyone with friends and relatives in the region. My thanks to the Office of the Dean of Students, CAPS, International Students and Scholars, the Graduate School, and to so many of you for the outreach and support they – and you – are providing to those impacted.
I wish each of you every success as we enter the back half of our spring semester. Thanks for all you will continue to do to support each other and finish strong as we move toward the close of this academic year.