September 16, 2020 - Message

Welcome to an academic year of challenge, optimism and hope

September 16, 2020

Dear Colleagues

We welcome our faculty, adjunct professors, graduate teaching assistants, academic professionals and staff to the start of another academic year. It was a summer like no other — the ongoing global pandemic, national reckonings about racial justice, and now, wildfires that threaten Oregon and the entire western United States. We hope that you and your families are healthy and safe. 

Thank you for the steps you have already taken to prepare for what promises to be a unique academic year. Over the summer, hundreds of instructors reinforced and enhanced your remote instruction abilities through workshops conducted by the Office of Academic Innovation. Dozens of you have been on the front lines of the fight for racial justice — whether through direct protest, providing critical public information or both. The vital call for racial equity will continue to impact our work in the months ahead, and we have scheduled an Oct. 30 Equity Summit, which is just the start of substantial efforts to combat racism and promote justice. We have much to look forward to and a solid foundation on which to build.

Yet as this term unfolds, we are experiencing a new, unexpected challenge, and our hearts go out to those across the state whose homes and communities have been damaged by the wildfires. Many at PSU — students, staff, and faculty — have had their lives touched by this disaster, whether they are fleeing homes that lay directly in the path of the flames, battling the blazes, or providing relief and support for evacuees. Evacuations — whether actual requirements to leave or notice of preparation to depart — dangerous air quality, and economic disruption from the fires have caused worry, pain and loss.

Wildfire support and relief efforts

Knowledge and service have worked hand-in-hand in our 75 years as a university, and we are quickly mobilizing to serve our community during this time of need. We were pleased to offer shelter by opening the University Place Hotel for free emergency housing for evacuees, and we are opening residence halls early to students who need emergency housing or who may need to make last-minute decisions to live in university housing. 

In addition, we are mindful that students who have been displaced by the fires may be unable to start classes on time. We ask faculty and graduate teaching assistants to please accommodate to the fullest extent possible all students who are firefighters or wildfire evacuees by considering the following:

  • Allow students who are firefighters or wildfire evacuees to delay attendance in your classes up to October 11;
  • Extend due dates for assignments for these delayed students and help them catch up accordingly. 

We are grateful to the Faculty Senate Steering Committee, who quickly reviewed and supported making these options available to our students.

We are asking advisors to help students understand the options available to them. Students impacted by the wildfires may choose to delay their enrollment until winter term; if so, they will be able to drop without penalty through October 11. 

The 2020-21 academic year is opening with another challenge, but it is also a time for optimism and hope. Thank you, in advance, for your understanding and compassion for our students and our entire community. Our resilience during these times stems from our commitment to community and our resolve to help our students chart a course to a brighter, more just future.


Dr. Stephen Percy

Dr. Susan Jeffords
Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs