Commencement Postponed (Not Canceled), State Order and Advocacy Actions

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Dear UWM Faculty and Staff,

Over these past few weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, each day has brought new changes. Today is no exception. I have a promising update about UWM Commencement for the class of 2020, news about how Gov. Tony Evers’ executive decision impacts UWM, and a brief update on our advocacy efforts to receive aid.

Postponement – NOT Cancelation – of Commencement
In my March 20 update messages, I shared the unfortunate news that our May 17 in-person commencement would be canceled. What I didn’t spotlight enough then are the efforts underway to plan for alternative ceremonies. We are actively seeking future dates to hold in-person commencements for our Class of 2020. While we do not yet have dates determined, we are looking at the possibilities of adding ceremonies in October or November or expanding our Dec. 20 ceremonies. Availability of the UWM Panther Arena, whose scheduling is controlled by the Wisconsin Center District, will be a factor in the dates we ultimately select. For May, we are asking UWM schools and colleges to consider what limited, interim and virtual recognition within academic units would entail. Please note that eligible graduates will still graduate on time; there is no postponement of graduation (just the ceremonies).

State Safer at Home Order
Today, Gov. Tony Evers directed the Department of Health Services to issue a Safer at Home order that prohibits all nonessential travel, with some exceptions. The order goes into effect at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, March 25 and remains in effect until April 24. Please know that the City of Milwaukee Health Department has also issued a Stay at Home order. UWM is subject to both the state and city orders.

Both orders allow UWM and other educational institutions to continue to operate for the purposes of alternative/online learning, critical research, and essential functions as determined by the institution.  At UWM, deans and division heads have authority to determine what functions are essential and need to be performed onsite at UWM, whether full-time, part-time, or periodically.  These decisions also may change from week to week. We will be working to provide deans and division heads with more guidance on how to make these important decisions consistent with the letter and spirit of the orders.

There is also a Department of Administration request for UWM and other universities/colleges to provide housing space for COVID-19 emergency operations. We are permitted under both the state and city orders to continue moving students out of University Housing. The safety of our students, families and staff is our top priority, and we have carefully orchestrated our move-out process to align with social distancing standards and other healthy practices. Further details are available in the modules below this message.

UWM and UW System Advocacy Efforts to Receive Aid
Yesterday, I joined UW System President Ray Cross in asking Congress to include emergency funding for UWM and other UW System schools in the economic relief legislation it is considering in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In my letters to U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson, I emphasized the important role UWM has in our community as an institution committed to our access and research mission. Details on our specific requests are included in President Cross’ letter to both senators.

We are in a period when great patience, empathy and understanding are of the highest value. None of us has a playbook for the pandemic that is wreaking havoc on our daily lives. What I can assure you of is that everything we do is grounded by our guiding values and the maxim of what is best for our students, faculty, staff and UWM during these extraordinary times.

Additional important updates on campus operations and services are found in the full version of this email.

Best regards,

Mark A. Mone
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee