I hope this letter finds you enjoying our summer weather!
Things are definitely heating up, both literally and figuratively, as Washington State University’s plans for resuming face-to-face instruction in August start falling into place.
Although President Schulz and WSU administrators already announced many policy changes at the June 24 WSU COVID-10 Town Hall, including then transition to an entirely distance learning approach for the final few weeks of Fall Semester following Thanksgiving break, I wanted to provide you with a brief update on some of the other things that are happening around the University and our college:
As noted in my June 10 letter, we are still 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, I outlined some important steps to take prior to transition.
To aid in the coordination of this effort, our team has created an online Return to Campus Request Form for each Voiland College employee to complete and their supervisor to approve prior to returning to work on campus. Please complete this now if you are already spending some time on campus or do so whenever you need to return to on-site work. The form may be updated over time if your on-campus schedule evolves.
Today, WSU launched its WSU’s COVID‑19 Employee Symptom Attestation program, which requires all employees to attest they are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms prior to returning to a WSU work location. This attestation will be required each day the employee is reporting to their work location. More information about this program is included by following the link above.
In addition, Voiland College today implemented its Return to Work Location Distancing and Disinfection Plan, which provides guidance on how faculty, staff and students respond and meet the state of Washington and WSU’s requirements to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19. I’ve attached the document to this email for your review, and will post it to our website in the coming days.
Many of you saw Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement last week that requires masks must be worn at all times while at business. This policy essentially was already in effect for those few Voiland College employees who work on campus. Our efforts to procure masks for each of our college’s employees has been slightly delayed, but I expect they will arrive within the next week or so. Look for communication from your unit administrators when they become available. Until then, if you are on campus, you must wear a self-provided face covering while working at any WSU work location when in the presence of others and in public settings.
While it is WSU’s goal to provide as many courses in a face-to-face format as possible, we know that many courses will be offered using the Zoom modality. State and University policy require any class with more than 50 students enrolled will be taught via distance. For classes with fewer than 50 students, we are now prioritizing the use of classrooms to those courses that truly benefit from on-site teaching including many laboratories, recitations, design, and studio courses. We will continue to work closely with administrators to ensure we are allocated optimal teaching and learning environments for our students and faculty. If you have not already done so, please let your School Director or Department Head know of your availability to teach face-to-face in the fall. No questions asked and no guarantees that we will be able to provide a classroom. At this point, we just need to gather information so that we can optimize use of the limited spaces available.
We’re also working with WSU Facilities/Operations and the WSU Provost’s Office to coordinate space planning that adheres to Gov. Inslee’s Safe Start Washington Employer Requirements (PDF), as well as cut down on unnecessary expenditures. One area of improvement in both safety and savings is expanding the temperature bandwidth in our classroom and office spaces– thermostats are being readjusted to warmer settings in the summer and cooler settings in the winter, which, although less comfortable, is a change that could save as much as $1 million a year, and lower the amount of recirculated air.
Likewise, WSU recently initiated a “freeze” on purchasing using state funds. Only purchases that are deemed to be critical and essential will be processed with my approval. Equipment purchased on research contracts or service center accounts is exempt from this freeze.
These are just a couple of cost-saving efforts the University is exploring as it develops a proposal to meet Gov. Inslee’s $37 million budget reduction target for FY21. As part of this exercise, all WSU units submitted 10% budget reduction suggestions to WSU administrators for their review. Now, an administrative team will evaluate options and develop a finalized set of budget reduction actions. President Schulz has indicated that the University’s plans will be announced on or before July 15. I will share any updates as they are available.
So, long story short, there are LOTS of things are going on, and still lots more to do before classes begin August 24. I know there are still many, many, many questions that need to be answered and issues that need to be resolved before then, so I invite you to our next VCEA Town Hall on Tuesday, July 7 at 10 a.m. where we can provide updates and attempt to answer any questions that you may have.
As always, keep an eye out for up-to-date information in your email inbox, on Voiland College’s website, 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!