May. 19, 2020
Earlier this month I introduced a plan to have our workforce start transitioning back to campus gradually – and in stages –likely beginning in June. That remains the intent. Ultimately though, the timeline will be determined by Governor Steve Sisolak, the state, and public health officials who are tracking trends of the COVID-19 pandemic in Southern Nevada. Although nothing is certain yet, we need to begin planning for the transition as such a move cannot occur overnight – and we all will return to campus eventually.
Under the initial resumption of on-campus operations, senior leadership and designated staff will be the first to return to campus at the beginning to middle part of June. This initial phase also includes very limited support services and opening approved research labs that maintain social distancing guidelines and mitigate risk.
Remaining staff would come back later this summer in the second (likely early July) and third (likely early August) phases as we build up for the fall semester and hope to resume some level of classroom instruction like the majority of higher education institutions across the country. This timeline is also predicated on no public health setbacks between now and then, or new statewide directives.
I know this may generate anxiety for some – perhaps many – of our staff. The pandemic has created fear and a high-level of uncertainty throughout the world and we’re no different. However, we need to follow the Governor’s lead and slowly – and thoughtfully – begin resuming on-campus operations while continuing to closely monitor the pandemic. Simultaneously, we will follow the statewide strategy of mitigating the risk until a vaccine and more effective treatments are developed over the next year or more. We are using a collective and comprehensive process to make decisions based on multiple data points and guidelines from the following stakeholder groups:
- The Governor of Nevada
- Local, state, and federal health guidelines
- Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor and Council of Presidents
- UNLV Incident Management Team (consisting of faculty and staff)
We will be asking all of you to be involved too as we want to get input on your individual situation. Later this week, Human Resources will distribute a questionnaire to Administrative Faculty and Classified Staff to help employees who identify as vulnerable – or if they have such members in their household – as they may be at greater risk based on CDC guidelines
. The information in the questionnaire will help determine how and when we bring staff back. As always, our decisions will be made with the safety and well-being of our employees, students, and visitors top of mind.
The plan to transition staff back to campus will be centrally guided, and locally organized and implemented, as we recognize areas across UNLV may have their own set of unique circumstances. Each department head or supervisor will be required to develop a plan that outlines how they will resume in-person operations and bring staff back to campus in a responsible manner while minimizing risks, and what changes may be needed to maintain social distancing in employee work locations. Further, supervisors will be given the flexibility to adjust work schedules and/or stagger shifts to support social distancing, and remote work remains an option since the transition of staff will occur in stages through the summer.
Part of our plan to prepare for employees returning to campus involves Facilities Management deeply cleaning and sanitizing work areas and public spaces with industrial level products – similar to what hospitals use. We also are purchasing face coverings for employees who may not have their own, and ordering bottles of hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for all departments. Additional hand sanitizer dispensers also have been installed throughout campus and more will be added over time.
Every employee (and student) has a personal responsibility to follow recommended public health measures, and Human Resources has developed comprehensive guidelines for all employees
and for managers
The steps outlined include:
The other responsibility we all share is to respect one another and openly reject xenophobia or bigotry, related to the pandemic or otherwise. Specific instances of discrimination should be reported to the Office of Equal Employment and Title IX, and the university will investigate any matter of which it becomes aware to determine the appropriate course of action.
One thing is certain in all of this: our circumstances, like at many organizations during this time, continue to evolve and remain fluid and we need to be ready to adjust. Any and all of this is subject to change as we follow the lead of Governor Sisolak and the state, and public health officials. We will need more of that great resiliency all of our faculty, staff, and students demonstrated earlier this spring when we transitioned to remote work and delivery of instruction. A careful and thoughtful re-entry to campus is our next collective challenge and I am confident that together we will get it right.
Thank you for your patience, understanding, and commitment during these unprecedented times.
Marta Meana, Ph.D.