March 16, 2020
Dear staff and faculty colleagues,
I want to express my deep gratitude for everything you have done—and will continue to do—to support our students as we deal with the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past few days, I have watched in awe your efforts to help students return home on short notice; to keep people fed and campus buildings clean; to develop new online tools for teaching; to reimagine classes and exams and assignments; in short, to maintain the strength of our community and allow us to fulfill our educational mission under extraordinary circumstances. Thank you.
As you know, the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are evolving rapidly. Since I wrote on Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases in the United States has tripled and the Centers for Disease Control has issued new warnings about large gatherings. The senior administration and I have been meeting daily to discuss these developments both to consider how to mitigate local community spread of the disease and to protect your health.
The first important step has been to reduce the number of students in residence—by asking students to move home and complete their courses remotely. This is now in progress.
The second step will be to reduce the on-campus presence of staff and faculty—by asking as many employees as possible to work remotely. We would like to move toward an environment where only critical employees are on campus. This phase will begin tomorrow.
Therefore, with approval from your division head, all staff who are able to perform your duties from home are asked to begin doing so on Tuesday, March 17, through a new telework agreement. Please take time to complete the agreement, which you will receive today, and, when approved, transport appropriate books, files, and equipment to your home by the end of the day.
Of course, many of you are critical employees who cannot perform your jobs from home, and so we would like you on campus. Students are still moving out of residence halls, and the services of staff in dining, custodial, campus safety, and facilities are ongoing and necessary. We know that many faculty, too, are redesigning courses and need to be here for workshops and other consultations. We ask everyone who does come to campus in the coming days to be rigorous in following protocols on social distancing. This is for your wellbeing as well as for the health of the community and the region.
Because the situation is fluid, we will continue to assess our approach and keep you informed of all future developments, including ongoing updates on our COVID-19 website. Again, I appreciate your flexibility, creativity, and collaborative spirit as we work through an unforeseen and unprecedented global health crisis. You have been exemplary.