Dec. 8, 2023

Dear UNLV Community,

I want to start my message this morning by saying thank you.

Thank you to University Police Services for their remarkably swift and heroic action in the face of harrowing circumstances. While we continue to grieve for the heartbreaking loss of three of our faculty members, I will be forever indebted to all of the officers – and to first responders throughout our community. You have our back in ways we always knew, but at the same time never could have imagined. You continue to give our campus a sense of safety when we need it most.

Thank you to our large community of supporters – from local and state agencies to hospitality and business partners, elected officials, alumni, friends, and our sister institutions throughout the Nevada System of Higher Education and beyond. Your kindness, your generosity, and your deep commitment to UNLV and our people reinforce my belief that Las Vegas and Nevada are uniquely special places.

And thank you to our students, our faculty, and our staff. Your resilience amidst near insurmountable adversity continues to amaze me. In the short time since Wednesday’s incident, I’ve met with some of you to listen and to learn, and I acknowledge the pain, fear, and anxiety that many are experiencing right now. I feel it too.

Given the physical and emotional trauma that the university community has endured, and because of the impact to campus facilities, we have decided that faculty and staff should continue to work remotely through the end of the calendar year. Some staff may be asked to work from the office depending on their job function, and as we evaluate continuing campus operations. Please check with your supervisor for further guidance.

Many of you have shared questions and concerns about the remainder of the fall semester – including finals and winter commencement. We realize there is no perfect solution, we need to bring the semester to a close and issue grades before the end of the calendar year. There are numerous reasons for this – including the ability for students to continue to pursue their career goals, as well as the hard work so many of you have already put in this semester.

Alternative Plan for Finals Week

In speaking with Provost Chris Heavey and other university leadership, and in coordination with NSHE Chancellor Patricia Charlton, we have made the decision to cancel next week’s scheduled final exams as traditionally delivered. There will be no on-campus, in-person finals this fall. Instead, we are providing flexibility for faculty and instructors – as well as students – to bring this semester to a positive end:

  • Students will end the semester with the grade they have earned based on work completed before Dec. 6.
  • Some faculty may opt to offer an optional online final exam or take-home project before Dec. 18, allowing students an opportunity to improve their grade. If an instructor offers an optional online exam or project, students who do not opt in would earn their grade based on work completed before Dec. 6, without any penalty for not opting in to the online exam or project.

After final fall grades are posted, we will give students the opportunity to opt-in to S/U grading between Dec. 22 and Jan. 5. Undergraduate grades of C or better will be an ‘S’ and grades C- or below will earn students a ‘U’ grade. We will utilize the same simple online form and review process that we used during the pandemic. Some classes in professional programs may be excluded from this option.

Professional schools such as the Boyd School of Law, Kerkorian School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, and some programs within the School of Integrated Health Sciences are exempt from this plan for final exams and will each determine how best to finalize their semesters.

Winter Commencement

We’ve heard from students – and their parents and loved ones – who have expressed their feelings about Winter Commencement, which is currently scheduled for Dec. 19 and 20 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

One common thread that emerged was a desire to come together. The milestone moment of commencement is the most special day on the university calendar, and it's in difficult times like these that we can and should celebrate our graduates’ academic dreams fulfilled.

With that in mind, we have decided to proceed with our planned commencement ceremonies on Dec. 19 (12 p.m. and 5 p.m. for undergraduates) and Dec. 20 (4 p.m. for master’s and doctoral degree recipients). We know that the trauma of this week’s tragedy impacts each one of us in different ways. For those eligible to participate in this winter’s commencement who choose not to attend at this time, you will have the option to walk and participate fully during the May 2024 commencement ceremonies. We believe these decisions regarding finals and commencement provide flexibility for both students and faculty, and offer the best path forward for our university.

The road to recovery is long, and it most certainly isn’t easy. Again, I remind everyone to reach out to one another, and to use the numerous wellness and counseling resources available at UNLV and through the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center.

From the moment I arrived at UNLV, I saw in our people grit and determination. I have no doubt that, together, we will emerge from this tragedy stronger. Thank you all for your partnership and patience during this difficult time, and I encourage you to visit for continuing updates on campus operations and resources.


Keith E. Whitfield, Ph.D.