Message from Dr. Stuart R. Bell, UA President:
Dear Faculty and Staff,
Like other institutions around the world, our UA community faces unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. I appreciate each of you and your dedication to this great University. Together we will meet these challenges and continue our mission.
The extraordinary need for social distancing continues to be a focus of the guidance and recommendations from the CDC, ADPH and our own health officials. We recognize recent announcements, such as the closing of K-12 schools statewide, have far-reaching impact for our faculty and staff, including health and safety, and childcare concerns.
The quickly evolving situation has already prompted us to take substantial, proactive measures to ensure safety. I have been in close consultation with our human resources team, leaders across campus and the UA System Office to assess our operational needs in an effort to remain in front of this unprecedented situation.
As you know, The University of Alabama already maintains extraordinarily limited business operations during Spring Break. UA will continue to operate under limited business operations, which includes essential staffing and remote work assignments, for an additional week, beginning Monday, March 23, through Sunday, March 29. This plan may be extended beyond this time period and any decision to do so will be promptly communicated to the campus community.
UA has existing plans for business continuity, and the University’s colleges, divisions, departments and operating units should all be prepared to engage those plans. Our goal is to promote social distancing and limit on campus work to the fullest extent possible. Given these objectives, we anticipate most faculty will be able to work remotely while the vast majority of staff should fall into Staff Groups 2 or 3 noted below. Everyone is encouraged to explore the remote work tools available to all University employees to help achieve these objectives. Consistent with this, the following guidelines for all UA employees apply to this limited business operations plan.
Faculty are asked to work remotely (if you are instructing online, do so from your home, not campus), and come to campus only if required (e.g. a critical administrative role, direct patient care or critical research responsibilities that require a physical presence on campus).
University staff members have been classified into three groups by their supervisors who will communicate their group assignments and expectations to each staff member by 5 p.m. Friday, March 20.
Staff Group 1 – Staff needed on campus/on site to continue mission-critical University work.
Staff Group 2 – Staff needed to continue their work, but who can do so from home.
Staff Group 3 – Staff not immediately required to work during a time of limited business, but who may be reclassified to Group 1 or 2 should critical business needs arise.
Group 1 staff should report to work on campus as normal (unless the employee is sick or has been in immediate contact with a person known to have COVID-19) with the following guidance:
- Maintain social distance, good hygiene, and use phone calls and virtual meetings as much as possible (even for small groups). Any gatherings of more than 10 people, even work gatherings, will require approval from a dean, vice president or AVP.
- Student-employees should not be included in Group 1. If a supervisor thinks a student employee’s role is essential, approval must be granted by HR.
- Even for this group, staggered times on campus are encouraged, as are remote performance of duties when possible.
Group 2 staff will work remotely with the following guidance:
- Prepare to effectively work from home. If a visit to campus to retrieve essential items (laptop, supplies) is required to facilitate remote work, coordinate with a supervisor to stagger campus visit times and limit contact with others.
- Sign a temporary telecommuting agreement, which will be provided by your supervisor by 5 p.m. Friday, March 20. The agreement must be completed and submitted by noon Monday, March 23.
- Be prepared to shift to Group 1 or 3 as business needs change.
Group 3 would not actively work.
- Group 3 employees will be paid during this initial limited business period. The University will determine the necessity for any further limited business operation periods, and the related employment terms will be communicated.
- Group 3 designation may be subject to change if business needs arise.
This is a dynamic and fluid situation, and this plan is subject to change.
Please know these complex decisions are not easily made. In addition to guidance from federal and state health authorities, I know that each of you will be balancing concerns for your loved ones while adjusting your work responsibilities. Please don’t forget to take care of yourselves mentally and physically. Our employee assistance program provides a tremendous resource, as does the University Medical Center. Employees with particular health concerns that impact their group designation should contact their supervisor.
These are difficult and dynamic times, and we will all face new experiences and unprecedented challenges. I know the strength of our campus community and the spirit that drives us all. Thank you for all you do and will do in the time ahead.
Stuart R. Bell