March 13 Message to Faculty/Staff: Remote Learning & Work; Additional Updates

To Our Faculty and Staff:

Today we conclude a week unlike any other in recent memory.

Starting with Monday’s news of three confirmed COVID-19 cases in Cuyahoga County, we have moved rapidly through several significant campus changes—as well as major state and national developments.

Amid so much fear and uncertainty, you have demonstrated extraordinary dedication: to our students, to one another, and to our shared mission of education and research.

For all that you have done already, and that we will face together in the days to come, we are truly grateful.

We will continue to update you often, but also want to remind you that our Health Updates webpage has the most current information available.

In addition, you can always direct questions to Staff triage these messages by the urgency and nature of questions, but do all they can to answer as quickly as possible. (In cases where common themes emerge, the responses may come via campus-wide messages.)

Today we want to let you know about some of our planning for next week, and also provide additional context for a few of Thursday’s announcements.

Remote Learning and Remote Work

The university transitions to remote delivery of education Wednesday for one reason: to help protect the health and well-being of the campus community. We believe strongly in the many benefits of in-person teaching and learning; such experiences more readily allow for serendipitous discoveries and nuanced discussions—not to mention participation in labs, performances and other aspects of active learning.

It is only because of the risks of continuing spread of COVID-19 that we have made such a significant change to this central aspect of our mission. In that context, we also want to do what we can to reduce the likelihood of inadvertent or unintentional transmission. Next week, we will provide guidance regarding opportunities for remote work across the university.

Some university functions require physical presence on campus, among them public safety, custodial and facilities maintenance, and many parts of our research enterprise. Nevertheless, technology has allowed an increasing number of activities to take place beyond the confines of our campus.

Given federal labor regulations and our own commitment to equitable treatment of employees, we are working to develop interim approaches to enable a substantial portion of our workforce to perform their duties from home—while also supporting those individuals who must continue to come to the university.

For now, we encourage you to begin thinking about whether and how some university work can take place remotely. This consideration also needs to include establishment of clear standards for performance that meet the university’s ongoing needs—as well as the resources that employees will require to meet them.

We will share additional information for supervisors and their direct reports as soon as possible, with a goal of instituting remote working by midweek.

Meanwhile, we appreciate that some already are anxious about working in close proximity to colleagues because they and/or their loved ones are at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19. We ask supervisors who receive requests to work remotely from individuals citing such concerns to consider accommodating such requests if at all possible.

Preparing for Additional Developments

Remote Work

Please visit [U]Tech’s webpage with information for working remotely; if you have not done so already, we encourage you to download and test software programs—such as Zoom and Box—that assist in collaborating with others online.

Child Care

Next week, students in the state’s K-12 schools will begin what Gov. Mike DeWine termed an “extended spring break” (from Tuesday, March 17, through Friday, April 3). This development creates significant challenges for faculty and staff with younger children, and our staff have begun working with parent leaders as well as area child care agencies to understand more about potential options for support. We will share new information as soon as it is available.

Prescription Medications

To support employees preparing for potential self-isolation or related measures, the Office of Human Resources has worked with the university’s prescription benefit manager, MedImpact, to allow employees to order prescription refills, even if the date is earlier than typically permitted.

Again, we deeply appreciate your patience, understanding, and exceptional efforts amid a time of profound uncertainty and change. We look forward to providing additional updates next week.

Barbara R. Snyder

Ben Vinson III
Executive Vice President and Provost