hilo campus

This message was shared with the students, faculty and staff of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo on April 29, 2021.

Aloha UH Hilo ʻohana,

Believe it or not, we are less than four months away from the beginning of the fall 2021 semester. I know you are all thinking of spring finals right now, but I also know many are making their fall plans. The prospects certainly look better for fall 2021 than they did for fall 2020. More and more people are getting vaccinated and the COVID cases are being kept low on Hawaiʻi Island. As we plan for our campus reopening to more in-person activity, the health and safety of our community remains our highest priority alongside keeping students on track toward their graduation.

Irwin headshot
Bonnie Irwin

We face two challenges in re-opening our campus to more in-person activities: vaccination rates and physical distancing recommendations. We had to set the fall course schedule in late March and now in late April, we still have not received new guidance from the CDC or the Hawaiʻi Department of Health on whether we can reduce the 6-foot physical distancing. That requirement reduces the number of people we can get into a classroom by two-thirds. As more people get vaccinated, there is a probability that those distances will be reduced.

Many of our classrooms are set up for a hy-flex (some in-person, some online) format, and we may be able to accommodate more students in the face-to-face portion of the class as the distancing requirements are lessened. Our current breakdown of classes is:

  • 54.13% entirely online
  • 15.33% entirely face-to-face or in-person
  • 18.67% some in-person and some online (hybrid)
  • 6.67% simultaneous in-person and online (hy-flex)
  • 5.2% Variable: Internships, thesis, or other individualized study

Because we know that many students are registering for classes based on these modalities, we cannot change them dramatically, but we will continue to work with faculty and staff on providing more face-to-face activity. This is accompanying further increasing our campus housing capacity so that we can accommodate more students in residence.

We are also currently working toward re-opening our campuses to the public. I hope to soon be able to announce a schedule for re-opening the Performing Arts Center and the ʻImiloa Astronomy Center as well as a projected date for re-opening our athletic competitions for spectators. Student organizations will once again host in-person events, faculty will be holding more in-person office hours to meet with students outside of class, and academic departments will be offering more activities on campus.

The UH System is also considering the possibility of requiring vaccines for participating in some in-person activities. No firm decisions have been made and this decision will depend on many factors, including state health department guidance. We will keep you informed via regular email communications and periodic Zoom town halls throughout the summer. In the meantime, get a vaccine if you can.

I appreciate your patience, students and employees alike, as we work toward having more of you back on campus. We are looking forward to a vibrant and active fall semester!

Mahalo,
Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor