Information for Faculty
Our faculty are central to the College’s mission. As we prepare to provide an outstanding educational experience in unprecedented conditions, we are committed to protecting the health and safety of all members of our community. The responses listed below to the questions raised at the faculty town hall meetings reflect preliminary responses provided at the town hall with some modifications based on review of additional information, including the budget models prepared for the Trustee Budget Committee. Health measures are based on best practices and may need to be adapted as guidance from state and county public health officials and the status of the pandemic evolves. We will keep the community informed of any updates.
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Q: Are there any graduation plans for class of 2020 and class of 2021?
A: It is too early to make definitive plans for in-person graduations—it depends on the state of the pandemic and vaccine delivery. We are still planning to hold in-person celebrations for the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021, we just don’t know when it will be possible. In the meantime, DSA will be working with the class presidents to plan celebrations appropriate to whatever constraints are in place in the spring, as well as on events such as 100 days before graduation that are usually held for seniors in spring semester. We will start off virtual until we can hold in-person events.
Q: What is the likelihood that the College will be allowed to bring students back to campus for all or part of the spring semester?
A: Given the high infection rate this winter in LA County, we expect to begin the spring semester remotely. We will apply for the pilot waiver program for higher education institutions, but that program will allow up to 500 students to return to campus only once L.A. county moves to the lowered red tier per county and state standards and remains there for at least two weeks. We hope that we’ll be able to bring students back at some point during the spring semester, but it’s impossible to know at this point.
Q: Is there anything that families can do to help with the College’s effort to petition the county supervisors to grant HMC a waiver to reopen?
A: The College is in regular contact with county supervisors and health officials, so we aren’t in need of extra petitioning.
Q: How many students have expressed interest in returning to campus, if allowed, for spring semester?
Q: If we are not allowed to bring students back to reside on campus, is there a possibility that we could consider some model to bring seniors to campus to work on Clinic or Thesis?
A: Right now, we are only allowed to have essential employees on campus. We would love to see our seniors be able to complete their capstone experiences on campus. We will have to wait and see we are allowed to do.
Q: If students are able to return to campus after the March break, will students who did not sign up to live on campus have another chance to choose to come back?
A: We don’t know yet how many students who already signed up would, if allowed, be able to return for sure. The numbers are fluctuating. We had 315 students signed up for our residence spots, and if we get a waiver, the maximum number we could have is 500. LA County has stated that schools that receive waivers can bring “up to 500” students back. We will take this question to Cabinet and to our advisory board to discuss.
Q: If students can return mid-semester, how will the College handle moving in? Will there be extra days off to mitigate the stress of moving?
A: The most convenient and least disruptive time would be during the week of spring break, but we don’t have enough information to make a prediction at this point.
Q: What metrics and evidence are being used to decide what the College will do in the spring? Is the decision in the hands of the state or county, or is HMC considering students being remote even if the state or county allow them to return?
A: Our guidance has been developed using information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and LA County Department of Public Health. In addition, DSA has been working with student leaders to develop revised protocols for students to follow on campus and the Academic Contingency Planning Committee has been working to develop plans around delivery of the academic program. All of this information is at StaySafe@Mudd. That said, ultimately the decision of whether or not the College will be allowed to have students on campus in person this spring will be up to state and county public health officials.
Co-Curricular Life on Campus
Q: The other Claremont Colleges appear to be on a path to reopening in the fall with students on campus, but they have not prevented their students from stepping on one another’s campuses. Why is HMC different? Why are we deviating from the rest of the consortium, and are we prepared for the longer-term social and political costs of going it alone? What is the board’s rationale in instructing the college to take this stance?
A: Given the increasing rate of infection in the county, there is no college that truly knows right now if it will actually be allowed to have students on campus this fall. While the undergraduate campuses have been able to agree to a shared academic calendar, in other areas it has been more of a challenge because we have five colleges with five boards and five sets of faculty, staff and students and everyone has a different culture and differences of opinion about how to approach the next academic year.
Q: Why are we maintaining the conceit that HMC students will isolate themselves to the HMC campus only, without crossing over to the other colleges, to the Village, or anywhere else? This is a fantasy. So much planning is being done, built on a foundation of this faulty assumption. Students’ courses are going to be thrown for a loop. CMS athletics are at risk of cancellation. The other colleges aren’t taking similar positions. Instead, HMC is planning for and living in a delusional state. We’re scientists — why are we embracing magical thinking?
A: We’ve consulted students in developing the planning scenario. They believe they can make the plans work and so do we.
Q: In reference to an apparent Board directive to make our campus “HMC students only” and prevent HMC students from going off-campus in the fall, Scripps Dean of Faculty recently said “The other four [colleges] are holding hands and not thinking about [such restrictions]. We are thinking about the Claremont Colleges as the Claremont Colleges.” Can you respond to this and why the Board is not aware of the Consortial nature of our residential and educational experience?
A: The two guiding principles that have focused our planning process are protecting the health and safety of all members of the HMC community while providing the collaborative educational experiences we treasure. We believe we can best protect the HMC community when we are able to limit its size to the 1,100 faculty, staff and students physically at HMC vs. the more than 10,000 in the entire consortium. This is a different world we are in, and while we don’t like the idea of limiting access to our campus, we believe strongly that it is necessary to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. We’re in an extremely challenging situation. There are no good answers. There is no way to make things the way we’d like for them to happen.
Q: Can HMC students eat on the other campuses?
Q: If you are putting HMC students on lockdown on campus to keep students and campus virus free, how will you control the strangers from coming on campus to walk their dogs etc.?
A: Campus Safety in conjunction with HMC staff will discourage strangers from entering campus. There is already signage at each public campus access point asking people who are not members of the HMC community to stay off campus.
Q: HMC has apparently decided to build a virtual moat around the campus, whereby students are not permitted to visit other colleges, the Village, etc., but this strikes me as unrealistic. Students have many relationships across campuses, and they overestimate their invincibility. Enforcement will be a challenge. How will this be policed? (terminology fully intended) What will the consequences be for violating the blockade?
A: This assumes we are allowed to have students on campus. In terms of preserving safety of all members of our community, we believe it is much better if we can be a community of 1,250 than be a community of 10,000 people if we add all the faculty, staff and students for all of The Claremont Colleges. Dr. G. has been working with a 22-person student advisory board crafting the student guidelines. We believe that the more conservative we are and the more we keep our community closed to visitors, the less likely it will be to have infection spread. It’s unrealistic to say there will be no infections, but the goal is to keep the number as low as possible so that we can remain open for the full semester once we begin with students on campus. I think the vast majority of students would follow the guidelines the vast majority of the time.
Q: If we are in-person/hybrid, what will be expected from faculty in terms of enforcing safety practices on campus? Will we receive training if we’re expected to do this? Will the college support us if we expel a student from our classroom for appearing sick or failing to adhere to social distancing practices?
A: Yes. We anticipate offering online training in the two weeks prior to the beginning of the fall semester. If a student does not abide by physical distancing and mask requirements in a course, that student will not be able to take the course and will most likely be sent home.
Q: I know student extracurricular participation is an important part of the mental health of many of our students, but that many of those activities, should they come back, will be on other campuses. Are we synchronizing with other colleges at all to let our CMS athletes and musicians in the Pomona ensembles participate if these programs return?
A: LA County Dept. of Public Health has said that they do not anticipate colleges and universities being able to offer athletics this academic year. It’s very hard to synchronize when we still have not received official guidance from the county. Each of the colleges in the consortium has been trying to adjust based on their own campus community’s needs. While we don’t have official guidance, we do expect that we likely will not be allowed to have musical groups, particularly choral and brass or woodwind instruments. In our planning, we have tried to carefully balance making difficult decisions that we know will negatively impact some of our students with the need to be thoughtful so that we can minimize the virus’s spread.
Q: Is there any possibility for winter sports?
A: Entirely dependent on the virus, a vaccine and whether LA County Department of Public Health allows it.
Q: Will HMC community members be allowed to use Roberts Pavilion, including the pool?
A: We are not sure what the plans are for use of Roberts Pavilion for the spring semester. Once we know more, we will update this information.
Courses and Modalities of Instruction
Q: Beyond course evaluations is there a way to provide feedback regarding remote learning to help shape spring semester?
A: We will be sending out a second round of the technology survey that we issued during the summer, which includes opportunities to provide feedback on remote learning to date. You can also reach out directly to faculty members, department chairs, academic deans and dean of the faculty with any feedback.
Q: How have fall classes and research worked from your perspective? Will there be any reports to families about how academics went in the fall and lessons learned? Any changes for spring?
A: Over the winter break, faculty will be looking at the assessments we’ve gathered about how classes went in the fall. We’ll look at teaching evaluations, which provides some feedback from students. We’ll look at the second technology survey. After the scholarly standing committee meets early in the break, the academic deans will have an opportunity to reflect on the data and synthesize what we know, and make recommendations regarding the spring. We’ve already sent faculty some provisional recommendations from the Student Advisory Board. We are always looking to improve our teaching and learning.
Q: Will the new Core changes planned for fall impact the Class of 2024?
A: It’s not clear yet whether there will be an impact on the class of 2024. Faculty will be discussing whether there are any modifications of the core that can be introduced for the sophomore class, but up till now the planning of the faculty has been largely devoted to managing the transition to remote education. The Core implementation committee continues to meet and we’ll have a better understanding of how the changes will impact the Class of 2024 later this spring.
Q: If courses begin entirely online, could practical/support/lab staff be on campus to produce filmed or interactive distance learning?
A: We are waiting for guidance from the state to let us know when people can return.
Q: Does HMC have a cutoff date by which time we will decide that we have to go online only if the state and county haven’t made a decision?
A: We do not have a cutoff date set.
Q: What would the College do in terms of in-person vs. online instruction if the finances of the College were not impacted by this decision?
A: Our primary reason for wanting to have students here in-person is that we heard strongly from them about how important it was for them to be able to collaborate with their classmates and how dissatisfied many were with the learning environment being totally online and their having to go home. We heard overwhelmingly that the faculty did a great job of moving online with little notice but the students found it difficult to work as hard as they wanted when they didn’t have a collaborative learning community around them. Given where things currently stand, it seems more and more likely that we may be forced to shift to online courses only for the fall. We will have to see things progress over the next several weeks. The finances of the College are impacted whether we have students in-person or not.
Q: Can students still change their on- or off-campus status, and at what point would there be too few students to continue with an in-person plan?
A: Yes, they can still change their decision. We don’t have a target number to live on campus. We would like to have students on campus because we believe being on campus provides them with opportunities for a better learning environment.
Q: 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?
A: We anticipate the planning group will consider this question and provide guidance for how to address this.
Q: What conversations are the Board and the Cabinet having about the potential for racial inequity that will result from bringing students back on campus this summer? For context, here is a quote from the Accessible Campus Action Alliance: “Campus re-openings are an issue of civil rights, particularly disability, racial, and gender equity. Given the disproportionate representation of COVID-19 infection and death in Black and brown communities, university policies that emphasize in-person work and teaching run the risk of compounding the impact of racial inequity. These policies also risk endangering already-marginalized members of university communities, including staff and contingent faculty who are less likely to have the option to take time away from work. As a matter of justice, equity, and ethics, we call upon university administrators and communities to value the lives of marginalized racialized and disabled people over the purported economic value of campus re-openings.”
A: We learned from the spring semester that some of our students are very disadvantaged if they are forced to work from home because they do not have the same access to support that they would have on campus. For some, this might mean they wouldn’t have access to a quiet place to study and work or wouldn’t have adequate access to high enough internet bandwidth to effectively do their coursework. We believe we are better able to address inequities by having students on campus. That said, we still don’t know if we will be able to have students on campus. We plan to offer students a choice about whether or not they wish to return
Q: To what extent are we limited in what we can do this fall because of our involvement in the consortium?
A: 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.
Q: What is HMC doing to better communicate and collaborate with the consortium?
A: While the colleges have chosen to take different approaches to the fall semester, we continue to work together in a variety of ways. The Presidents Council meets weekly, and we have regular meetings of the student deans, academic deans, business affairs, communications, admission and advancement leaders. In addition, there are a number of joint, cross-college committees working on projects such as the student information system as well as on projects related to shared services and resources. That said, it’s important to remember that while we are all part of one consortium, each campus still has its own unique mission and culture. We believe that makes the consortium stronger.
Employment and Benefits
Q: Has all the money currently in the EERF been spent? Will we need to raise more to support employees whose furloughs will be extended into spring semester?
A: The College raised $160K in the first round of fundraising for the EERF, both cash in hand and voluntary salary reduction contributions committed through August 2021. With available funds, we have been able to provide financial assistance to our furloughed employees and cover their portion of health insurance contributions through December 31, 2020. Since furloughs will need to be extended into 2021, given current LA County orders. We are doing another round of fundraising for the EERF in order to reach our initial goal of $200,000. Additional contributions will allow us to continue the health insurance subsidy into 2021 and to increase the amount of the EERF-139 awards. Please see the email from Andrew Dorantes for more information and for ways to donate.
Q: Is the Community Emergency Aid Fund meant to help us prevent furloughs if we cannot be in residence in the spring? 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? What is the EERF?
A: 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 cover unforeseen budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic. The College also has created an Employee Emergency Relief Fund to provide direct support to employees who were furloughed as a result of students not being allowed to return to live on campus.
Q: My daughter is in the process of getting braces, and I don’t know how this is going to work with our benefits if we have layoffs or furloughs.
A: 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. Please reach out to Human Resources to discuss your specific needs. Since staff members’ concerns and needs vary greatly, we can better respond once we know more about a person’s specific circumstances and needs.
Q: Have we looked at reducing health benefits?
A: It is our intention do to everything we can to preserve health benefits, and we plan to cover the cost of those for any staff we are forced to furlough.
Q: If students are allowed to return to campus, will the College also bring staff who are telecommuting back to campus?
A: Los Angeles County expects that most employees will continue to telecommute as much as possible in order to reduce density on campus.
Q: Are cuts to the dependent scholarship program being considered?
A: Not at this time. We felt cutting this program would have a direct and immediate negative impact on staff and faculty and wanted to avoid that.
Q: 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?
A: 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.
Q: If students aren’t allowed to return to campus in the spring, will the College need to furlough additional employees or cut salaries?
A: Due to the excellent work departments across the college have done to reduce spending and additional financial aid savings, salary cuts for FY 20/21 will not be necessary. If HMC is not approved for the pilot program unfortunately, we would need to continue with all of the current F&M and dining services employee furloughs. If approved for the pilot program, approximately two thirds of the dining and F&M staff furloughs will continue since we will only house one third our students on campus.
Q: Will the College accept more voluntary furloughs? If so, what is the process for interested employees?
A: Yes, the College will accept additional voluntary furloughs. For those employees interested in voluntary furloughs, the first step is to speak with your supervisor and then reach out to Dana Nagengast, AVP for human resources at email@example.com.
Q: How much notice will staff receive if they are to be furloughed partially or fully?
A: We will make every effort to give staff as much notice as possible so that you can adequately plan.
Q: If furloughed, can we cash out vacation hours?
A: Furloughed employees are allowed to be paid for accrued time.
Q: If furloughed, can employees collect unemployment?
A: Employees can apply for unemployment and decisions to award unemployment to an individual are made by the State of California Employment Development Department (EDD).
Q: If staff are furloughed, would the College continue to pay benefits?
A: Health benefits (medical, dental and vision), will continue. However, no other benefits, such as dependent scholarship or retirement contributions, will be provided for furloughed staff.
Q: If we go to furloughs, do we have to reapply for positions or do we keep our positions?
A: It is our intent is that you would keep your position and that furloughs would be temporary, however, this will depend on facts and circumstances.
Q: Can we hire students to work for us in the fall, even if they are not physically on campus?
A: Yes, provided they can perform their work remotely and they are currently enrolled full time. We are not able to pay international students who are studying remotely and are not in the United States.
Q: What legal protections are in place to protect the College from legal issues with students who contract COVID-19?
A: We are consulting with the College’s legal counsel to try and find ways to mitigate these issues.
Q: How can the College help employees with burnout?
A: We are looking into the possibility of offering a number of webinars by people who work in this area, some of them, alumni. We will plan to offer these wellness webinars to faculty, staff and students.
Q: What approaches can we take to address the feelings of loneliness and isolation that our students, faculty and staff may feel during the fall semester as a result of the social distancing that is required for health and safety? Working at home or in an office with the door closed can feel very disconnected from our community and colleagues, whom we miss dearly. In general, I am worried about the mental and emotional health of our faculty and staff (and students!) and I hope that the college can be resourceful and creative in how we operate within the necessary constraints that we must have in place to keep everyone physically safe and healthy.
A: We are looking into the possibility of offering a number of webinars by people who work in this area, some of them, alumni. We will plan to offer these wellness webinars to faculty, staff and students.
Q: It appears we are taking away a great deal of what contributes to our students’ personal growth and academic success during their time on campus. Moreover, we are adding measures (online learning, studying in isolation, not leaving campus) that will substantially increase their stress on campus. This is particularly true for students who experience marginalization in our community (and face a disproportionate burden of illness and death from Covid-19). Beyond teaching and staying healthy, what are we doing to help our students be successful this fall, particularly with “nurturing and developing the whole person” and “unsurpassed excellence and diversity at all levels”?
A: In spring, we did our best to pivot and do a lot of those things—we had more students take our leadership certificate that we launched in fall. We are looking to ramp up our online co-curricular offerings that look at how we build whole person. The intergroup racial dialogue will be moved to an online format. We will continue to look at ways we can support our students, including building community and offering programming and support, using online resources.
Q: On June 10, it was announced that a new position for a Coordinator for Student Accessibility Services was being posted. At a time when we’re looking at potential furloughing of staff, we have frozen faculty salaries, and we have a hiring freeze in place in other parts of the college, can you comment on:
- How the portion of the budget that covers administrative positions has changed over the last 5 years, and
- How was the decision made to approve an additional administrative position at a time when the uncertainty of the college’s financial future is being used to justify freezing wages and potential furloughs to current employees?
Q:The position is to help students who need accommodations due to various disabilities. There has been a rapid increase in these requests. Instead of being a part-time position, we decided it would become a full-time position—This has been in the planning for at least the last year. The ADA position has been discussed in DCC for a couple of years. The hire is contingent on students returning to campus. We will not hire unless we also have students back on campus.
We haven’t done an analysis of the portion of the budget related to positions in administration. Over the last five years, we can say anecdotally that the majority of the growth has been in Student Affairs as we have worked to add support resources that our students need for wellness and mental health as well as in diversity, inclusion and equity programming.
Q: I am sheltering with my family a few hours away from Claremont and will need to pack up things and move back to the area to begin working on campus. How much notice will I be given when I am allowed back onto campus?
A: When your supervisor or vice president contacts you, we will try to be flexible to allow you to have time to move back.
Q: In past meetings, kitchen employees were told to return to work Aug. 5. Is that still the case?
A: We may have to defer that date. We will let you know that as soon as we can confirm.
Q: 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?
A: 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.
Q: How will HMC support people working from home with kids?
A: The College can provide support in different ways, depending on the situation. If you can work remotely, college will continue to support that. If you can’t work remotely and are required to come to campus, we encourage you to work with your supervisor and Human Resources to identify if flexible work schedules might be a possibility. In addition, the College offers a backup care program with Bright Horizons, which provides the employee with 80 hours of care per academic year. We encourage you to reach out to Human Resources for assistance in accessing these benefits. If these options have been exhausted or are not possible, we ask that you work with your supervisor and Human Resources to look at any other option that might be feasible. This might include the employee taking an unpaid leave of absence for a period of time. Since everyone’s situation is unique, we encourage you to contact HR for assistance.
Q: If faculty salary cuts are required in the future, will Harvey Mudd commit to progressive cuts like the UC system’s 2008-09 policy, where those with bigger salaries took on larger cuts while those with smaller salaries faced smaller cuts (10% vs 4%)?
A: This would be a decision made by the board of trustees based on the recommendation of the board’s compensation committee in consultation with Maria and Cabinet. Maria is in favor of advocating for a “progressive cut” approach.
Q: If forced to go online only for the fall semester, how long would you anticipate the delay would be between that announcement and the faculty/staff being informed what their salary for the fiscal year would be?
A: We would anticipate getting the notice out as quickly as possible. We would have to determine in which pay period the salary reductions would begin, but we will let people know as soon as we are able.
Q: Faculty who are on sabbatical are already facing a pay cut. Will there be an additional cut on top of this?
A: If the College imposes pay cuts broadly, faculty who fall within the pay ranges requiring a cut will have their salary reduced regardless of whether they are on sabbatical.
Q: What is the extent to which the College would be willing to dip into its endowment or go to trustees to ask them to help out vs. cutting retirement, salaries or other benefits?
A: We have discussed with board leadership. The majority of funds in the College’s endowment are restricted—much of that by the original donors—so we cannot spend it on other things and the process to modify that would be lengthy. There is a portion of the endowment that the board controls and that can be designated. In many cases, these funds are being designated by the board for specific purposes such as to contribute to financial aid or to cover faculty salaries. Even if we changed those designations, we would still face a negative impact in areas where we would need continued support. It is important that we preserve intergenerational equity, ensuring that financial aid and other critical resources will be available for future generations of students, faculty and staff vs. addressing the current financial crisis by making short-term endowment payout changes that could have outsized impacts on future generations Mudders.
Q: Since across the board cuts dramatically affect early career faculty, has there been any accounting for adjusting for that in the long-term considerations?
A: With regard to salary reductions, we will have to use a uniform approach; we can look into whether there are any options, but at the present time, we aren’t aware of any.
Q: If there are cuts to pay or benefits, will those cuts be shared equally between faculty and staff?
A: We are hopeful that we will not be forced to have reductions in pay or benefits, 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. It’s also possible that those with higher salaries would be asked to take a larger pay reduction to help protect the salaries of people who make less. If furloughs are required, it is much more likely that staff would be furloughed than faculty, because faculty will still need to provide online instruction to our students.
Q: Have we considered implementing a pay ceiling, as in, we wouldn’t pay anyone more than $150,000?
A: This is not something we have considered, nor are we aware of any institution having considered this type of approach.
Q: Have you identified pay cut bands and associated cuts and can you share this information?
A: There has been no discussion at Cabinet yet about the specifics of the modeling; we prefer to not share numbers until we have been able to discuss the various modeling scenarios as a group. It is also important to note that any adjustments will need to be reviewed and approved by the board.
Q: Is the College still considering reducing or eliminating retirement contributions in 2021 to help meet the budget deficit?
A: In Scenario 4, where students are not allowed to return campus, the elimination of all 12% retirement plan is modeled. However the College is working on various strategies to attempt to generate the $3.2m needed to obviate the need for any retirement plan cuts in 2021. The strategies include: 1) additional anticipated financial aid savings in spring 2021; 2) identification of $1.6m in academic and presidential endowed discretionary funds as well as other academic departmental funds; 3) counting on academic startup fund budget not yet awarded to faculty; and 4) increasing non-salary expense reductions from 38% to 45%. We will keep faculty and staff updated.
Q: Can faculty choose to supplement their own retirement accounts though tax deferred annuities to get to 12% contribution?
A: Yes, any employee may do that as long as they do not exceed the maximum contribution limits. There are some exceptions for making additional contributions—for example, if you are over 50, you may make an additional $6,000 in contributions. We are happy to discuss options with you and coordinate with TCCS to make adjustments.
Q: Is the percentage that gets put into retirement from the College fixed or could it be variable on a per employee basis? Some might prefer to take less money home but would rather keep the same level of contributions to their retirement accounts—is that possible?
A: Most likely not. Since we have to amend the retirement plan agreement with TIAA, we will need to make sure we are consistent.
Q: 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?
A: 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.
Q: Would HMC consider implementing a vacation or sick leave bank?
A: The College made the decision back in March to allow any employee to accumulate a negative sick leave balance. If you are sick, we want you to stay home for your own safety as well as for the safety of others in our community. Given we are providing unlimited paid leave for illness right now, we don’t believe creating a bank is necessary.
Q: Under Section 2802 of the California Labor Code, employees should be reimbursed for Wi-Fi if they are expected to work from home. Will Harvey Mudd cover the cost of this?
A: Due to evolving government guidance, it is necessary for the College to implement a COVID-19 Telecommuting Policy beginning December 2020, which includes a taxable allowance to help cover costs associated with cell phone, internet, utilities and the use of non-HMC owned peripherals, such as printers and other devices. If you did not complete the COVID-19 Telecommuting Agreement, please do so at https://hmc.formstack.com/forms/covid19_telecommuting_agreement. If you are required to work remotely and you don’t have appropriate internet access to do so, we encourage you to contact your supervisor to determine what alternative work arrangements might be made. For any further questions, please contact Human Resources.
Health and Safety
Q: If antibody testing becomes available, will HMC purchase the kits so we can be tested and return to work?
A: So far, the antibody tests have not proven to be reliable. Also, there is currently no medical evidence that people who have been infected and recovered are not susceptible to future infections. Because of these factors, it is more likely right now that we will focus our efforts on testing people who may be infected and doing additional contract tracing to identify individuals with whom those individuals may have come in contact.
While we haven’t determined all of the procedures we will need to implement to open the campus for in-person classes this fall, our Board Chair, Wayne Drinkward ’73, has suggested that we might consider asking students to self-quarantine at home for the two weeks prior to arrival on campus and to do orientation and other activities during that time. Once students arrive on campus, we might consider asking them to participate in another two weeks of online classes only, with students quarantining in the residence halls, to minimize the risk of possible spread of infection. We do plan to have masks and thermometers available. We also are hopeful that cost-effective and fast testing will be available later this summer and can be used on campus this fall.
Q: If we need something from our office to bring home for work, will we be able to go on campus to get something from our office?
A: If you have not been designated as an essential employee who should report to campus for work, we ask that before coming to campus for any reason, that you please reach out to your supervisor or the vice president for your area to request permission and to discuss your needs. If you are given permission to come to campus, please limit your time on campus as much as possible and wear a mask/face covering.
Q: How will contact tracing happen? Is there a publicly available set of guidelines for contact tracing if and when an individual tests positive?
A: The current plan is to follow the guidelines from the CDC for close contacts. For COVID-19, a close contact is defined as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before the person began feeling sick until the time the patient was isolated. Right now, the general idea is that there will be two complementary approaches. One will be an app that people have on their phones. The other is to involve individuals to assist with tracing—those will most likely be people working with TCCS or possibly in Student Health Services with the addition of some students hired from CGU’s School of Community and Global Health who have been trained. There also will be individuals on each campus who have received training to assist. We will share additional information as plans solidify.
Q: Do we anticipate any staffing changes on campus with the post-Thanksgiving rise in Covid cases in L.A. County?
A: No, during our planning for the fall semester we determined which employees need to be on campus when students are not in residence and we do not need to make changes at this point.
Q: Are we okay with positive cases of COVID-19 like we have seen on other campuses around the country?
A: We are taking steps to try to prevent an outbreak on campus. That said, it would be naive to believe we will not have any positive cases on campus. We are making every effort to follow the guidance of health officials, including asking our students to quarantine in their rooms for the first 14 days as well as to follow stringent guidelines related to the use of masks or face coverings, social distancing, etc. We will be asking students to study and eat outdoors, maintaining social distance and not to have other students in their rooms. They are expected to only leave campus for essential services such as doctor’s appointments and to get groceries.
Q: Will HMC make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory if a vaccine becomes available?
A: The College is requiring that all students who plan to live on campus get both the flu vaccination and the COVID-19 vaccination once it becomes widely available. Requests to be exempted from this requirement for medical or sincerely held religious reasons must be submitted to (in the case of students) the AVP for Student Affairs/Dean of Students, Anna Gonzalez, via email by Jan. 11, 2021.
For faculty and staff, we recommend they consider getting both the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccination (once it is widely available) if possible. We encourage students, faculty and staff to refer to CDC Flu Vaccine Guidance for medical/allergy considerations.
Q: If a vaccine comes out, is that something that Mudd will arrange for students to have or will families have to do that themselves?
A: That would be arranged by Student Health Services. The first vaccines will likely go to essential health workers so we don’t know how long it will take to make its way to our community. We don’t anticipate vaccines being available to the wider community in the near future.
Q: What are the plans for COVID-19 testing? Will it be mandatory and how often?
A: We plan to test everyone on campus twice a week. We are hoping to have a saliva test available through the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. Testing would be mandatory, and the College will cover the cost. Regular testing can help prevent the spread of infection, and the colleges that have had biweekly testing available have had the fewest COVID-19 outbreaks.
Q: Will COVID-19 testing be available on campus?
A: Yes, through Student Health Services. Testing will be free to students. All students who live on campus or at the HMC-sponsored Arrow Vista Apartments will be required to be tested twice weekly. We also will have testing for students who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Faculty and staff who are experiencing symptoms should contact their health care provider to discuss whether testing is necessary. Students who are experiencing symptoms should self-isolate and not attend any in-person classes or other activities until they have been cleared to do so. Faculty and staff who are experiencing symptoms should NOT report to campus for work and should contact their direct supervisor.
Q: Will Student Health Services charge a fee for COVID-19 testing?
A: Student Health Services will not charge students to test for COVID-19.
Q: If students want to get tested outside the school administered tests, or if they have a health question, will there be a simple way?
A: Students are only allowed to leave campus and return for essential needs; that includes doctor visits.
Q: Will students, faculty and staff be required to take the Covid-19 vaccine if we resume residential living? Is Mudd one of the priority places to receive it?
A: We want as many students, faculty and staff as possible to take the vaccine and will strongly encourage all members of our community who are able to do so to receive it. Mudd is not a priority vaccine recipient; the first vaccines will go to frontline medical workers and nursing homes. As an educational institution, we are on the list of essential services but we don’t know the time frame yet for receiving the vaccine.
Q: Will students be able to get COVID-19 vaccinations through Harvey Mudd?
A: As far as we know at this point, we will not be able to administer the vaccine.
Q: Will Mudd still require masks in fall 2021? Safety protocols in 2021?
A: We will require masks throughout the spring semester; decisions about safety protocols for the fall semester will depend on the availability of vaccines and rates of community transmission.
Q: What are the College guidelines for masks/face coverings?
A: Essential employees who have been asked to come to campus for work, along with a small number of faculty members and others, must wear masks/face coverings when they are on campus. In addition, we have asked students to wear masks/face coverings when they come to the Dining Hall to pick up their meals. This is in keeping with recommendations from public health officials in order to protect people from the spread of COVID-19. Employees and students may wear their own masks/face coverings or if they need one, they should contact Theresa Lauer in Facilities and Maintenance.
Q: What are the expectations about wearing a mask when you are in your office?
A: If you work in an individual office, no more than one person should be in the same room unless the required 6 feet of distancing can be consistently maintained. If more than one person is in a room, masks/face coverings should be worn at all times. If you are the only person in your office with the door closed, you may remove your face covering. The College is investigating the possibility of providing face shields for those who need an alternative to the mask/face covering.
Q: How will the college and each department ensure that junior faculty and those coming up for review don’t feel more compelled than others to (1) teach on campus or (2) meet with students and colleagues in person? Beyond teaching, much of what we do happens informally outside of the classroom through meetings with students and colleagues. Junior faculty and those anticipating review will feel added pressure to say “yes” to requests to participate in these kinds of interactions and be present on campus.
A: The Academic Contingency Planning Committee (ACPC), which consists of department chairs for next academic year and many about to roll off, has been thinking about this. We’ve also thought about it in regard to thinking through tiering of our course offerings. We have asked department chairs to reach out to faculty to ask about their preferences. To the best of our knowledge, faculty members have been able to obtain their preferences. If a junior faculty member is concerned about being on campus, we encourage you to speak to your chair.
We imagine all meetings will be remote, including one-on-one meetings, office hours, committee meetings and faculty meetings, until we are advised that it is safe to do otherwise.
Q: Will laboratory research performed by staff and faculty (not students) potentially be allowed this fall even if students are not allowed back on campus?
A: 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. There is a good chance we’ll be able to let people into their labs at some point over the summer. It’s unlikely to be in the next two weeks, but possibly sometime in the next three to four weeks, provided safety protocols are followed.
Q: What legal protections are in place to protect the College from legal issues with students who contract COVID-19?
A: We are consulting with the College’s legal counsel to try and find ways to mitigate these issues.
Q: If I live with someone who is immunosuppressed, will I be required or even able to go back to work?
A: It depends on the facts and circumstances. We’ll handle it on a person-by-person basis. We encourage you to contact your direct supervisor, the VP for your area or to the Office of Human Resources to discuss your specific situation.
Q: Does Dana’s response to the question about living with a family member that has a pre-existing condition/high risk to contract COVID-19, apply to staff with family members who are first responders and exposed every day? They may not be high risk but they could be a risk for others on campus.
A: Yes, the response is the same (see above). It would be handled in a similar way.
Q: Have any staff, faculty, students or family members tested positive?
A: Yes. Announcements of results will be Coronavirus Information home page. It’s important to note that patient confidentiality requirements will not permit us to tell people the name of a person who tests positive, merely to inform people that someone they may have been in contact with has tested positive for COVID-19.
Q: Will staff and faculty have to use their own sick time to quarantine if there is a positive test on campus?
A: If you are sick, we ask that you do not come to campus, alert your supervisor as soon as possible, and you record your time away from campus as sick time. The response to the question of what to do if someone on campus has tested positive is nuanced. Just because someone tests positive on campus does not necessarily mean that employees should quarantine themselves and not report to work. The response depends on whether an employee has been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Close contact is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , as “someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic clients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.” If you believe you have had close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, and you are otherwise healthy and not showing symptoms, you should speak to your supervisor, who as necessary, will put you in touch with HR so they can walk you through an assessment of whether quarantine is advised by HMC.
Q: For those of us teaching in-person classes, what will be the protocol when a student tests positive 1-5 days after being in the classroom? Will we need to self-isolate for 14 days? Will we have immediate access to a test? Will our family also have immediate access to tests or will they (family members) need to self-isolate for 14 days?
A: The current definition of close contact from LA County Public Health is if you have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for more than 15 minutes then you should self-isolate. They do not recommend you get tested unless you begin to exhibit symptoms. Knowledge about this disease is changing on a daily basis. We will revise this response as we receive additional information and guidance. Faculty and staff health insurance will cover the cost of COVID-19 testing. We continue to look for additional options for testing as well.
Q: Will the entire class then be required to self-isolate? What will be the ramifications of having groups of students (along with some faculty and staff) needing to self-isolate after students begin to test positive. How many positive cases will result in the closing of the campus to in-person classes?
A: Right now, we believe so. However, the guidance from county and state authorities is changing rapidly, and we haven’t received finalized guidance yet. Last week the LA County Dept. of Public Health said they’d do investigation of any campus that had three infections. The general planning principle is that if we can offer a course online, we should. If a course requires that we be face-to-face, then we should do that in the safest possible way, whether that means half the class meets at one time and the other half meets at another time while all wear masks, practice physical distancing, etc. All of these things are ways in which we have been planning so that we can minimize infection.
Q: 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?
A: 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.
Q: How are we weighing the in-person reopening of our school against the possibility that someone will die as a result?
A: There are no easy answers or risk-free choices in the current situation, and we realize there could be very negative outcomes regardless of which decision we make. That is why we have involved students, faculty, staff, families, alumni and board members in our planning efforts. We are trying to optimize the best learning environment and outcomes for students while promoting safety and health of all members of the HMC community.
Q: On a safety level for all our employees what threat level do you think we are at if we start coming back to campus full-time/part-time?
A: Provided everyone is following the appropriate safety measures (face coverings, regular hand washing, maintaining physical distancing, etc.) the threat level should be low. Anyone who is not feeling well should not come to campus and should instead contact their immediate supervisor.
Q: 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?
A: It depends on the facts and circumstances. We encourage staff and faculty members to speak with their supervisor, 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.
Q: How confident can non-essential staff feel they’ll be allowed to work from home due to either having a pre-existing condition or living with family members that do?
A: The June 18 LA County Department of Public Health Order recommends that employers offer telework or other accommodations to those age 65 or older and all employees of any age who have active or unstable pre-existing health conditions. Therefore, if an employee has a pre-existing condition and if your presence is not required on campus and you can work remotely, the College will allow you to continue to telecommute. Remote working arrangements will be approved by your direct supervisor and area vice president. If your presence is required on campus and you cannot work remotely, you can currently take advantage of enhanced paid sick leave benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), which provides 80-hours of emergency paid sick leave (or equivalent for PT employees) if you are unable to work or telework due to qualifying reasons. These benefits are available during the period of time that the College employee count is below 500.
However, if you are living with a family member that has a pre-existing condition and if your presence is not required on campus and you can work remotely, the College will allow you to continue to telecommute. If your presence is required on campus and you cannot work remotely, please reach out to your supervisor, who will coordinate with HR, to discuss options, including ADA reasonable accommodations to meet your unique situation. This will be handled on a case by case basis, considering the various facts and circumstances for each employee.
Q: If we have a pre-existing condition that makes us more susceptible to COVID, will we be required to provide a doctor’s note?
A: As mentioned by Dana during the forum, each situation is unique and we will evaluate each situation based on the individual facts and circumstances. However, the following is our general response. The College has a policy and practice to require doctor’s notices when someone is sick and cannot come to work. Understanding the unique times we are in, including the difficulty of obtaining non-emergency medical care, when the CA stay at home order was enacted in mid-March, the College temporarily suspended the requirement that one provide a notice when someone was sick for more than three days. Since March, most, if not all medical providers began providing tele-med services that could be quickly scheduled. Recently some medical providers have begun providing in-person care. The following is the College’s approach regarding medical notes from a physician regarding pre-existing condition that makes us more susceptible to COVID:
- For individuals telecommuting, the College will not require a doctor’s certification that you suffer from a pre-existing condition that makes you more susceptible to COVID-19.
- For employees deemed to be on-campus essential employees, the College will require a doctor’s certification that you suffer from a preexisting condition that makes you more susceptible to COVID.
Q: Should staff with asthma be on campus?
A: We encourage staff with health concerns to reach out to Human Resources to discuss their individual situations as each situation is unique and we will evaluate each situation based on the individual facts and circumstances.
Q: Is the McGregor Center construction continuing despite the budget issues?
A: Yes, the McGregor Center is separate from the operating budget. The board made the decision last May to complete the McGregor Center. Construction is currently on schedule and on budget.
Q: Are there any updates about the timing capital projects on campus that you can share with us? (e.g. Platt roof, Jacobs-Keck renovations)?
Q: Can 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?
A: 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.
Q: Are the proposed cuts for a single year or are they propagating forward?
A: The budget reductions proposed in the various models would be for the 2020–2021 fiscal year only. Right now, the intention would be to return to the pre-COVID-19 funding level after the current fiscal year ends (on June 30, 2021).
Q: We’ve discussed the importance of ongoing reduction of spending; would it be helpful if we cut back on conference registrations?
A: Generally, we are referring to spending reductions realized in the operating budget, not from savings of grant support. There is the possibility that some grants would allow for operating purchases that could offset an operating budget expense. If there is this level of flexibility and you need to purchase something you would have had to purchase anyway, it could be helpful, but again, it depends on how the grant is written. If you have questions, we encourage you to reach out to Health Clark in Business Affairs.
Q: Do the budgeting scenarios change if we are required to be remote in spring?
A: If present this fall and not in spring, we will see similar kinds of cuts needed in spring. If we are online both fall and spring, then the furloughs and cuts we have modeled in the current scenarios would be more significant. Salary and retirement contribution reductions would be for full fiscal year. If we are forced to move to online instruction for the spring, we would have to readjust our models and propose additional reductions.
Q: Besides pulling from the endowment, has the College considered other options, such as taking on debt?
A: The College recently took out a significant amount of debt, and our current debt level is at the top of what our debt policy allows. In addition, there are constraints on our ability to cover the debt service from the operating budget if we go beyond the current amount.
Q: How can the individual arms of academic affairs help by reviewing budgets and considering potential cuts?
A: We are activating the Department Chairs Committee to think about budget scenarios, and we will be meeting with that group later this week to dig into that more deeply.
Q: Does any of the College’s endowment principle carry a stipulation that it may be withdrawn to cover emergencies or unforeseen hardships to the college?
A: The majority of funds in the College’s endowment are restricted—much of that by the original donors—so we cannot spend it on other things and the process to modify that would be lengthy. There is a portion of the endowment that the board controls and that can be designated. In many cases, these funds are being designated by the board for specific purposes such as to contribute to financial aid or to cover faculty salaries. Even if we changed those designations, we would still face a negative impact in areas where we would need continued support. It is important that we preserve intergenerational equity, ensuring that financial aid and other critical resources will be available for future generations of students, faculty and staff vs. addressing the current financial crisis by making short-term endowment payout changes that could have outsized impacts on future generations Mudders.
Q: Has HMC applied for and received COVID-19 aid?
A: Yes, we received some direct support from the CARES Act that went to help students. The other portion of those funds helped to offset the room and board refunds we provided to students and families last spring. We have been reviewing opportunities on an ongoing basis and believe we have taken advantage of those available to us. There are some programs to which we didn’t apply because the College doesn’t meet the criteria for various reasons.
Q: Do we have dollar amount for how much we’d need to save to avoid furloughs and pay reductions?
A: It depends on which scenario we eventually have to use. We continue to model various options with ranges of dollar amounts in the millions. As we learn more about state guidance for higher education, we hope to further develop our budget projections.
Q: What input have the trustees and board taken from staff on these various options? Has there been a two-way conversation on this?
A: We have been doing staff town halls; and each vice president has been in regular communication with members of their respective units. A lot of the approaches we have recommended have been informed by questions that have been raised or suggestions that have been made, particularly by staff and others.
Q: Would Cabinet consider polling faculty members on their desires for preventing furloughs or cushioning the blow for the staff if we are forced to move to online-only?
A: Faculty have been asked for their concerns regarding the fall semester in previous surveys and we have gotten suggestions and feedback during Town Hall meetings and via email suggestions. We do not anticipate further polling on issues related to furloughs or pay reductions. The Cabinet will make recommendations, but the HMC Board of Trustees ultimately will decide what budget adjustments to make given the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: When will the McGregor Center open?
A: The construction is going well and should be completed by March. We don’t expect to actually move in until the summer, simply because we don’t do move-ins to academic buildings in the middle of the semester.
Q: Our consortial partners include colleges with deeper and shallower pockets than us and several have committed to online fall semester—do we know what is happening with regard to staff furloughs or cuts there?
A: We have not heard details, but we would anticipate that like us, some of our sister institutions will have to consider budget reductions, furloughs and pay reductions depending on their individual situations.
Equipment (Laptops, iPads, Software)
- The laptop cart program has bee suspended for the academic year 2020–202.
- The laptops from the laptop carts will be placed in the loaner program for semester long loans to students.
- No justification is required for a student to request a loan.
- The Help Desk will continue to function as it did after we left campus in spring 2020.
- Remote support will be provided during help desk opening hours.
- No one will be physically present at the Help Desk in Sprague.
- If equipment needs to be handled physically by CIS staff, drop off and pick up arrangements will be made. CIS staff will sanitize equipment before and after working on it.
- Printing will not be required for submission of class work.
- Other printing is strongly discouraged.
- The Academic Planning Contingency Committee is working on a way to ensure that lab notebooks are not passed around.
- No networked shared printers will be operational. This is to avoid transmission of infection (people gather at shared printers; printers are difficult to sanitize on a regular basis.).
- Administrative and academic departments are strongly encouraged not to use shared printers and are responsible for cleaning them if they do.
Q: Why are we dividing the town hall meetings between faculty, staff and students? If we are one community, why not have them with everyone together?
A: The only reasons we’ve separated the groups so far is because the situations and many of the concerns are different for faculty and staff. We felt it was more efficient to have sessions with the different groups separately, so we could focus on the concerns specific to each community group. There is no reason we couldn’t have a joint session if everyone preferred that. If you feel that we should have a joint session, we encourage you to reach out to your direct supervisor or any member of the Cabinet.
Travel and Study Abroad
Q: Are there guidelines for distant travel which would require employees to quarantine?
A: We realize that employees will experience family emergencies that could require them to travel outside the local community. Generally, the College will not permit College-sponsored, business-related travel, either domestically or internationally. If you voluntarily travel away from your local community (i.e., visiting a tourist destination such as a beach, amusement park, etc.) know that these activities increase your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you will need to stay at home until you are no longer considered infectious. Please contact your supervisor and the Office of Human Resources for additional guidance.