Dear campus community,
I have written to you over the years about the need for agility, creativity, and especially humanity to succeed in an uncertain future. As times ahead test the extraordinary talents of our faculty, staff, and students, we must draw from our strengths to safeguard the physical and emotional health of our campus and region, all while fulfilling our mission. Among our strengths is our collective wisdom to be guided by the latest science, our awareness of ourselves as part of a global community, our compassion and empathy for one another, and our grit and work ethic. These virtues have manifested in concrete ways.
I have seen our community at its best over the past week. The student affairs staff have worked around the clock to assure the health and safety of our students on and off campus. The unions collaborated with HR and campus leadership to assure the campus remains running while we tend to the needs of all workers. The academic affairs staff have worked across campus to provide leadership in the pursuit of education. CITS have shifted all academic programming and non-academic services online and offered training opportunities for the entire campus. The communications team have updated the website and social media. The amazing faculty restructured their courses on the turn of a dime while learning new skills and safeguarding academic quality. The facilities crews are keeping our physical environment clean and healthy. The professional advising and tutoring offices moved their services online to offer uninterrupted service. The Office of Faculty Development supported the efforts of faculty to get up and running online. The library staff have ensured seamless services and support. The Health Services Office have guided on all health-related issues. The dining staff have provided food for students who must remain on campus. Moreover, of course, our students remain committed to their education and academic aspirations.
So many more people have gone above and beyond. I am so proud to be a part of this campus at this moment. Our empathy, collegiality, and care for one another are nothing short of inspiring.
With that in mind, know that the steps we have already taken are based on science, caution, and the notion that we must play our part in the larger actions of society. As the situation escalates, we continue to follow guidelines and recommendations from the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health. We must focus on providing the healthiest and safest possible environment in which to teach, learn, and work.
The proactive measures outlined below are supported by a growing body of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of deploying robust social distancing tactics. These strategies, and many others, are essential to reducing the rate of infection and preventing sustained community transmission. Our actions so far have kept the risk of infection on our campus low and there have been no cases of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) at UMass Dartmouth.
With this as context, beginning Monday, March 16 through Sunday, April 5, employees who have jobs that are suitable for working remotely are encouraged to work from home. UMass Dartmouth is not closed for business. Classes will continue via online modalities and our students still need support.
Department heads, in consultation with division heads, will determine which staff members have work that is suitable for a remote work arrangement and will notify staff members as soon as possible. Staff members, who, because of their job requirements cannot work remotely, will continue to report to campus as usual.
Staff members who work remotely will be available during regular business hours through now-familiar technology, including video conferencing. However, even with the best technology, communication will be more limited; managers and staff members must develop clear expectations to ensure that we are all as productive as possible during these challenging times. All staff members, regardless of their work location, will be paid their regular salary; no special codes or forms will be required.
I am also mindful that many staff members now have increased family and childcare responsibilities. We will continue to be flexible to allow the use of paid leave to meet those responsibilities and will work with those who, for any reason, may have exhausted their available paid leave.
Now, we might not pass each other in the halls, stop by each other’s offices, see each other in the line at Starbucks, or meet in the classroom, but we are still together. Distance does not diminish the fact that we are a united community of learners that strive to make a difference in the world. I ask that everyone take time to check in on their coworkers via video conferencing or email and be supportive of one another. We will get through this, but only if we work together.
There will be more information coming from Human Resources and your departments. In the meantime, please review our Coronavirus Updates page.
Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D.