Dear Colleagues:

As many of you have seen, HRS distributed its Return to Work guidelines last week, which is the latest of several forthcoming announcements you should expect to receive from the University as we prepare for classroom instruction this fall.

I think you would agree, “Return to Work” is a bit misleading – we have all been working dutifully and successfully for the past several months from our homes, and most of us will continue to do so for the near future. “Return to Campus” seems more appropriate!

If you haven’t read it, please take a moment to review the document as it provides a thorough checklist of the procedures, practices, and policies that will be in effect as we work in accordance with Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start Washington” (PDF) guidance on re-opening Washington while minimizing the health impacts of COVID-19.

And as you can imagine, there is a lot that we will each need to do before we return to campus.

Currently, we are under the directive that if you can work effectively from home, then you should work from home. For those who cannot work effectively from home and who intend on resuming work on campus, there are some important steps to take prior to transition:

First, notify your supervisor immediately of your intention and your proposed work schedule. This will help us coordinate access and janitorial issues associated with your presence on campus and will help you coordinate the completion of several procedures to ensure your safety.

Second, the WSU COVID-19 Safe Return to Work and Disinfecting the Workplace for COVID-19 trainings must be completed by all employees before returning to a WSU work location.

Third, as noted in the Return to Work guidelines, face coverings must be worn by all employees working at any WSU work location when in the presence of others and in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. We are currently procuring these masks and developing a way to distribute them to each of our employees. It is unlikely we will be able to do this prior to June 15, so if you plan to return to campus prior to then, you must wear a self-provided mask.

Fourth, some of those who intend to return to campus in the near term include laboratory researchers. This week, WSU released updated Staged Return to On-site Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities guidelines (PDF) which describe WSU’s plan to resume research, scholarship, and creative activities in a staged manner, including system-wide efforts to assist researcher success. Please review and implement these guidelines and receive written approval from your school director or department head before returning to your campus laboratory.

Finally, those returning to campus must follow the physical distancing requirements articulated within the Governor’s guidance, including:

  • Wearing face masks when in the presence of others or in public spaces.
  • Ensuring 6’ distancing between yourself and others.
  • Holding meetings that can reasonably be carried out remotely in that manner (e.g. utilizing phone, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams). In-person, face-to-face meetings should be the exception.
  • Modifying either work schedule or office seating to ensure that individual’s desks/seats do not violate the 6’ physical distancing requirement.

If you have questions about the implementation of these rules for your personal situation, please contact your supervisor and/or your unit leader. We know that some members of the college have a shared office setting and alternatives will have to be developed to ensure compliance with these specifications.

We recognize that as more and more faculty and staff researchers return to their experimental laboratory spaces, we may need to increase the number of administrative staff to support them; when and how this happens will vary from unit to unit. In general, those staff members should continue to work from home to the extent possible.

I want to thank those of you who are currently working hard to create safe environments for everyone when they return to campus. Darlene Neunherz, Miles Pepper, and their teams especially have been diligently working with the guidelines of the CDC, the health department, and the University to create safeguards that minimize the risk of transmission. Expect to see restructured workspaces and plexiglass – lots and lots of plexiglass – in high-traffic areas this fall.

There will be much more information to come as we mobilize and develop new policies and procedures to address the new safety challenges we are facing. Look for up-to-date information on Voiland College’s website, reach out to your safety committee representative, or contact your unit leader or myself if you have any questions or concerns as we move continue to move forward in this process.

Be Safe Cougs!

Dean Mary Rezac's signature
Mary Rezac (she/her/hers)
Dean, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture
Washington State University
Phone: 509-335-5593
Twitter: @VCEA_Dean