Planning a return to campus work

Dear faculty and staff,

Following Maud’s email, we are writing to offer information that will help prepare for transitioning back to working on campus this summer.

As a reminder, offices and units whose staff are working remotely are expected to shift back to working on campus sometime between June 14, when students begin to arrive for summer programs, and the end of August. Each unit can choose its own best timing within that window. We do ask that you keep in mind that students will begin returning to campus for fall semester on August 13, so all student-focused services and programs should account for that fact in your scheduling.

Our goals are to return safely, to respond to changing circumstances, and to allow for reasonable flexibility across and within individual areas of the college. We hope the following details will help you ensure that happens:

Assumptions

Unit plans should be based on the following assumptions, which the college is also using in our own planning work:

  • The Covid situation locally and nationally is improving although still fluid.
  • Fall semester classes will be held in person, and athletic competitions, artistic performances and academic events will resume.
  • We expect that most campus community members will be vaccinated by next fall.
  • Returning students will be required to produce proof of vaccination next fall unless approved for a medical or religious exemption.
  • We have not yet decided whether vaccination will be required for faculty and staff. However, we very strongly encourage it for everyone who is eligible.
  • There is a cautiously optimistic outlook for reopening schools, preschools and daycares next fall. Return plans may have to be adjusted if that outlook changes.
  • Summer camps and daycares may be disrupted, and all planning for employees’ summer return should take that reality into account.
  • All of the above assumptions are subject to continued review and possible reconsideration based on changes in the public health situation or expert guidance.

Testing, masking, and social distancing

  • The college will continue our surveillance testing program through the summer, with weekly testing required for all students, faculty, and staff who will be on campus at any time during that period. For now, people who have been vaccinated will still be required to participate in testing in order to be on campus.
  • Massachusetts recently relaxed its requirements on mask wearing in public places, but maintained the mask requirement in indoor public places. If this guidance remains in place during the summer, it would mean that you would be able to move about campus without a mask, but would need to wear one in meetings and in shared interior spaces. As is already the case, you will not need to wear one when alone in a closed office.
  • Guidelines are still calling for six feet of social distancing, both indoors and outdoors.
  • The college will allow visitors, in outdoor spaces only, starting June 14.
  • A select few buildings, including WCMA, will open to indoor visitors sometime this summer. These units have submitted detailed safety and capacity plans that have been reviewed and approved by Senior Staff.

Flexible timing and return-to-campus plans

We recognize that the optimal timing of a return to campus work spaces will differ across areas of the college. We would like to provide areas with some flexibility in timing their return to campus, but asking all areas to return sometime between June 14 and the end of August. We ask managers and chairs of academic units to work with their areas to fill out a return-to-campus form, which will help the college support a smooth transition in your area and highlight any areas of particular concern or specific needs, such as solutions for shared office spaces or air handling.

Everyone involved is likely to have questions or concerns. As Maud mentioned, we ask that you start by taking these to your supervisor. Managers and academic chairs will be asked to compile questions from their units and share them with us, so we can develop answers that are clear and consistent across the college.

Please note that staff members are free to return to campus work before the rest of your areas if you wish, as long as you obtain permission from your supervisors and are participating in college testing.

Individual exceptions

There will need to be individual exceptions to the summer re-entry schedule, whether because of childcare or family care responsibilities, or other personal circumstances. Managers and chairs of academic units have been asked to provide individual accommodations for any staff who need to postpone their return for these reasons. Any such exceptions have to be approved by area supervisors, Human Resources and the relevant member of senior staff.

Please understand that our expectation is that campus units will begin by having everyone resume ordinary work on campus first, and then address individual needs from that basis. Accommodation requests will be reviewed based on need, and should not be used to seek remote work arrangements based on preference.

Domestic college travel

The CDC recently updated its recommendations around travel, noting that “People who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States.” In parallel with the return to campus, we will also begin allowing domestic college travel for faculty and staff who have been fully vaccinated. Vaccinated employees will be allowed to travel after June 14. You may begin to book such trips now, including charging expenses to college accounts, as long as you do not actually begin travel until you are fully vaccinated, and no sooner than June 14.

The college’s carbon emissions have dropped very significantly because of the elimination of air travel. We would like to protect as much of that reduction as possible without harming our mission or operations. Wherever possible, please consider alternatives to flying or look into remote substitutes for in-person events. There is no simple rule, but we ask that each of us hold ourselves accountable for helping to minimize collective environmental harm.

International travel is complicated by variation in country risk profiles and restrictions. The college is currently developing a process for handling international travel requests. We plan to send a separate announcement with further details about both international and domestic travel at the end of next week.

Remote work

Many of us have been working remotely for over a year at this point. There is no doubt that we have learned important lessons from our experience. People have asked whether these lessons will inform our remote work policies in the future. As Maud announced in her letter, she is forming a committee to study how, if at all, the lessons of the last year might shape our future policies, including the role of remote work. We encourage you to share your own thoughts when the committee announces opportunities for participation.

In some respects, the return to a fully in-person campus will be more complex than the transition to remote work last spring. There was essentially one way and one time to get everyone off campus, but there are many possible approaches and timings for the return. We will rely heavily on you all to be involved in developing re-entry plans that recognize the specific challenges and needs for your specific area, and which continue to protect the health and safety of the whole campus community.

We look forward to supporting a successful transition to campus work (for those areas that are not already fully on campus), and we look forward to seeing you in person in the months ahead.

Sincerely,

Dukes Love and Fred Puddester