COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions by Faculty

C When do we expect a decision to be made about plans for the fall semester?

We hope to have a decision from the Board of Trustees in July or early August at the latest. As mentioned in his memo to the community, Wayne Drinkward ’73, chair of the board, outlined three possible scenarios for the fall semester. In planning for these scenarios, we are focused on two guiding principles:

  1. Protecting the safety and well-being of all members of our community, and
  2. Providing a high-quality educational experience for our students.

Each vice president has been asked to develop plans that outline the needs of their particular divisions as well as the resources and procedures necessary for us to continue the College’s educational mission.

U What do we do about faculty or staff who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus and do not feel it is safe to be on campus? Could some people continue to work remotely even if others do not?

It depends on the facts and circumstances.  We encourage faculty members to speak with their department chair, with Dean of Faculty Lisa Sullivan, or Dana Nagengast in the Office of Human Resources. Staff may reach out to their direct supervisors, to the vice president over their particular division, or to the Office of Human Resources. Since faculty and staff members’ concerns and needs may vary greatly, we can better respond once we know more about a person’s specific circumstances and needs.

K Are there any updates about the timing capital projects on campus that you can share with us? (e.g. Platt roof, Jacobs-Keck renovations)?

As mentioned in the recent communication from the board, the Platt roof replacement and Jacobs-Keck renovations will be postponed, although the board did approve funding for some asbestos abatement and patching the Platt roof is possible. Refer to the memo for complete details.

D Is there a deadline for when administration will decide on what format we will be teaching in fall 2020?

A planning group comprised of Dean of Faculty Lisa Sullivan, the Department Chairs Committee; Chair of Faculty Tom Donnelly, Registrar Mark Ashley, and Senior Director for Emergency Preparedness and Safety Theresa Lauer will develop plans around these issues. That work will begin soon, and updates will be provided. In addition to the planning work each HMC vice president is doing, the consortium has several groups working on joint planning efforts. The Presidents Council also is meeting weekly to discuss issues related to fall plans.

U Is the Community Emergency Aid Fund meant to help us prevent furloughs if we cannot be in residence in the fall? Is the HMC Community Emergency Aid Fund something staff, students, and faculty in need can apply to or is it intended to support the operating budget?

The Community Emergency Aid Fund provides operational support to the College following the unforeseen expenditures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically, the need to provide more than $3 million in room and board refunds to our students as well as the additional expenses necessary to transition to online learning for the remaining portion of the semester. More than $300,000 has been raised during the 2019-20 fiscal year, which helps offset these unforeseen expenses. In hindsight, we realize that there was some confusion about the purpose of this fund, and for that we apologize.

K In the past several years, mental health services at Harvey Mudd College and the Claremont Colleges have struggled to keep up with student need. What is Mudd doing and what is the consortium doing to help make sure we’re not regressing in care for our students?

Despite most students returning home to complete the semester, Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services (MCAPS) has remained available for our students via phone and other remote means. In addition, the consortium added resources for our students—including the TeleDoc program by AETNA for students on SHIP as well as counseling services offered through TimelyMD Campus Health. Based on information provided to the Division of Student Affairs, HMC students have been accessing these resources. We anticipate continuing these services as we move into the fall semester and will augment them with continued support from MACPS as well as staff from the Division of Student Affairs and DSA Care Team.

U Can the Maria and Andrew, working with FEC and the budget committee, commit to a presentation in the fall semester that spells out the financial state of the College?

The Faculty Executive Committee moved the budget discussion to the fall semester given everything going on with the Core vote and shift to online learning for the remainder of the semester. Once this meeting is scheduled this fall, President Klawe and VP for Administration and Finance/Treasurer Andrew Dorantes will be happy to attend and share the budget information.

U Do we have a timeline for knowing when we will be allowed back into our offices and labs, assuming we have no students working for us?

Not yet. We hope the planning group being led by Dean of Faculty Lisa Sullivan will be able to develop a response to this soon. At this point, we anticipate it is highly unlikely we will be able to have students on campus this summer for in-person activities.

U What resources are available to support community members that are most impacted by the pandemic? How will equity be taken into account in future decisions about wages, budget, and staffing?

We are hopeful that we will not be forced to have reductions in pay or furloughs, but given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and the uncertainty around what government and public health officials will allow, we cannot predict what may happen. In the event we do have to offer fall courses online, we have committed to continuing health insurance for our staff who may have to be furloughed. While we have modeled various mechanisms for meeting budget shortfalls in the online-only scenario, it is too early to predict which of those specific actions we may be forced to take.

U Given the trustees’ decision to freeze salaries for the coming year, will there be a time when a later increase will be large enough to get salaries back to where they would have been?

Given that this is a global pandemic that will most likely radically affect incomes around the world, it is unlikely that there is a scenario where we or most other organizations/colleges will be in a position to make up the difference.

U To what extent are we limited in what we can do this fall because of our involvement in the consortium?

There is a lot of planning going on across the consortium. Planning committees have been in place to look at issues such as health and safety, co-curricular life and housing for several weeks now. In addition, the Academic Deans and Student Deans committees have been meeting to discuss curricular and co-curricular issues for fall. I think everyone’s preferred choice is that we be on campus next academic year. These consortial planning groups—along with the Presidents Council—are meeting regularly. We continue to work on what an in-person fall semester might look like and what changes will need to be implemented to make some form of in-person experience possible for our students.

D Has there been any consideration of a four-course teaching load for faculty this fall given our anticipated workload?

The planning group will look at this suggestion. It’s certainly true that there are colleges across the country that are looking to at least temporarily shift to a lighter load for faculty, perhaps through fewer preps as a way to manage the transition. This might not be the best moment to make a long-term decision on this issue, but we might be able to model some form of what we might like to see happen next year.

U How do we envision doing things like laboratory courses this fall? Should we anticipate we will be in some form of hybrid model with physical distancing in place?

We anticipate the planning group will consider this question and provide guidance for how to address this.

U I’m wondering how the College is planning on supporting parents with school age or preschool children when we are looking at many more months without full school or child care?

We encourage faculty members to speak with their department chair, with Dean of Faculty Lisa Sullivan, or Dana Nagengast in the Office of Human Resources. Since individual concerns and needs may vary greatly, we can better respond once we know more about a person’s specific circumstances and needs.