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: Will Commencement be virtual this year?
A: The classes of 2020 and 2021 have surveyed their classes and determined that each class would prefer an in-person commencement. We will plan for this some time during spring semester 2022 some time between Family Weekend and Alumni Weekend. We do plan to have celebratory events with the Class of 2021 and faculty, departments, Maria, etc., in May, but that will not serve as commencement.
Q: Are the two commencements (2020 and 2021) happening together or separately?
A: We are working on that now. Some students would like it separate and some would like it together. It will happen on the same day. We would prefer to have them together given that we will only have around 200 students in each class and not all will be able to come. We also will need to follow whatever protocols may still be in place for events at that time.
Q: Are our decisions about opening and other requirements based on county or state requirements?
A: Our decisions are based on requirements from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Q: Is there a timeline for when we’ll know about returning to campus in the fall?
A: LACDPH has told us that barring any additional surges in cases, they expect we will be allowed to have students in residence on campus this fall. We are waiting to receive additional protocols to learn what additional safety measures will be required.
Q: Is there any expectation of coming announcements from LA County that would affect us?
A: Yes. We participate in a weekly call with LACDPH. Our ability to bring students back to campus and resume normal operations this fall depends on how well vaccinations roll out and how the numbers of positive cases and hospitalizations decrease. The county has stated clearly that even when schools reopen, we should expect to continue the COVID-19 precautions we’ve been following.
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.
Q: Is there a mechanism for faculty to be involved in conversations about the shared academic calendar for next academic year?
A: The dean of the faculty is on the agenda for Monday’s FEC meeting to seek input on components of the calendar that are up for consideration. She will be seeking information in advance of the call for courses.
Co-Curricular Life on Campus
Q: Will Clinic presentations be virtual this year?
A: For Clinic and Thesis presentations, we’ll have asynchronous virtual presentations and small synchronous virtual gatherings to celebrate the students’ achievements. Additional details on those will be shared once complete.
Q: Have students and faculty been successful in pursuing their clinic experiences this year?
A: We believe so. We recruited clinics last summer with expectation that we might have to have projects continue remotely for the entire year. As of this call, it looks like we will have deliverables for each clinic team. All clinics are on track to be completed on time with students partnering with their clinic liaisons and faculty advisors remotely.
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: Faculty are allowed to come to campus to conduct essential activities related to course development and delivery. Please coordinate with your department chair and/or the dean of the faculty.
Q: If only a portion of students can return in the fall, has the College been thinking about how difficult it will be for both faculty and students if classes are both in-person and remote?
A: Yes. We are looking at all these issues and options for addressing the situation. We are optimistic that with the increasing vaccine availability, we will be able to have all students on campus.
Q: What is the likelihood we will need to do hybrid instruction in the fall?
A: We haven’t talked about it yet – we are hoping to bring all students back to campus and are waiting until the situation becomes clearer before having that discussion.
Q: While we are excited about the enthusiasm for HMC from black and brown applicants, I am concerned that not much has changed since protests from earlier. How do we plan to support black and brown students recognizing that the burden falls mainly on black and brown faculty?
A: The work has continued by a number of departments on campus, but it hasn’t been the same as what could have been done if we had been allowed to be together on campus. There has been a strong partnership with OID and Professor Van Heuvelen to look at the systemic ways to address these issues. We’ve also worked on programmatic elements to address this. Some of the work they’ve done has allowed us to be named a First-Gen Forward institution. In the next few weeks, we will be developing a committee of faculty and staff who can look at this work and what we need to do strategically for the institution. The board of trustees made a commitment to try to recruit more board members of color. We acknowledge that there are issues for people of color at HMC. We are constantly trying to address those. Every step forward we make, we learn of more things we need to address. We are committed to trying to improve the situation for every person of color in our community.
Q: Has there been any progress on the issue of faculty workload, particularly, instituting a four-course load for faculty?
A: The Faculty Executive Committee would be the best place for that conversation to begin. There are two main levers for reducing the teaching load: adding faculty and/or reducing the number of courses students need to graduate. We have discussed the potential need to add faculty positions over the coming years, but the faculty would have to address the number of courses required for graduation.
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 $180K 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 the end of February 2021. 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 until August 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: 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 to do 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: When students return in the fall, to clarify, will there be a limited number of students, class in person or online or hybrid? Will staff be able to continue working from home, or will we all be expected to return to campus?
A: Until we receive additional guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, we don’t know. We anticipate there will continue to be some people who will be asked to work from home to reduce on-campus density. We also anticipate that there might be some mix of remote classes and lab classes taught in person. For many positions, given the nature of their roles on campus, if there are students in residence, they will be expected to return to campus to support the students.
Q: If and when faculty and staff are allowed to return to work, will they be given an option to work remotely?
A: Cabinet will be discussing this question in the coming weeks. At the present time, we are still encouraging those employees who don’t have to physically be on campus to continue to work remotely if they can.
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: Will we be bringing back furloughed staff this summer since we’ll have students in the labs?
A: The College is working to identify which of our furloughed employees will need to return to work since we are now allowed to have a limited number of students in residence for the summer.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 that you would keep your position and that furloughs would be temporary.
Q: Can we hire students to work for us in the spring, 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: How can the College help employees with burnout?
A: The College, through the Office of Alumni Relations, is offering a number of workshops to which staff and faculty are invited. For details, visit Online Offerings on the alumni website.
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.
Q: How will HMC support people working from home with kids?
A: The College can provide support in different ways, depending on the situation. For staff members, if you can work remotely, the 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 or department chair and human resources to look at any other option that might be feasible.
Q: If 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 President Klawe and Cabinet. President Klawe is in favor of advocating for a “progressive cut” approach.
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: If there are cuts to pay or benefits, will those cuts be shared equally between faculty and staff?
A: We do not believe we will have 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. 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: Has there been a change to retirement contributions?
A: There has been no change. At the present time, the College is continuing its contribution with no interruption.
Q: When will we know the final answer on whether cuts to the College’s retirement contribution for faculty and staff will be necessary?
A: We believe we will not have to make cuts to the retirement contribution. However, we are still verifying that we can redirect some of the endowed funds to make adjustments to other budget areas. Once we receive that verification, we should be in a position to provide a final update to everyone.
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. 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: The College is working with Student Health Services to provide testing to essential employees who are required to come to campus on a regular basis. Additional information is available in the College’s COVID-19 Testing Policy.
Q: If we need something from our office to bring home for work, will we be able to go to campus to get it?
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 your area vice president to request permission. If you are given permission to come to campus, please complete the symptom screening questionnaire before traveling to campus, limit your time on campus as much as possible and wear a mask/face covering at all times while on campus.
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 College follows 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 and spring semesters 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 (once they are allowed to return to campus) 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 the college test wastewater as part of surveillance?
A: We investigated this possibility and there isn’t enough separation of water from the residence halls to make it feasible to identify a specific building as having an issue. The County is satisfied with twice weekly testing, especially for this fall.
Q: Can you comment on the LA county DPH / CDC guidance that recently vaccinated individuals don’t need to be tested or quarantined in the event of exposure?
A: We asked the county for clarification on that guidance. If exposure is >2 weeks after final dose and <3 months after, then the guidance does not require quarantine/testing for fully vaccinated individuals who are exposed to the virus. In all other cases, quarantine and testing are still recommended for exposed individuals.
Q: What are the plans for COVID-19 testing? Will it be mandatory and how often?
A: We plan to regularly test faculty and staff who are required to be on campus. Additional information is available in the College’s COVID-19 Testing Policy.
Q: Will COVID-19 testing be available on campus?
A: Yes, through Student Health Services for asymptomatic individuals. Testing will be free to students, as well as to those faculty and staff who are deemed essential workers. All students who live on campus or at the HMC-sponsored Arrow Vista Apartments will be required to be tested twice weekly. Faculty and staff who are experiencing symptoms should contact their health care provider to discuss whether testing is necessary. 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 my daughter can be vaccinated in our home state, will that be acceptable?
Q: Can we do special housing accommodations for students who are vaccinated?
A: We are not planning to offer that at this time because of HIPAA.
A: Absolutely. We encourage any student who is able to be vaccinated in their home state to do so as soon as possible.
Q: Are you mandating vaccination to students if they want to live on campus?
A: We are strongly encouraging everyone who is able to be vaccinated to do so. It’s not clear if colleges can choose to require it. If it did become a requirement, there would be exceptions for those with certain disabilities or who object for religious reasons.
Q: If we do require vaccination for fall, will we still need to do twice weekly PCR testing?
A: The current advice is that even if someone has received vaccinations and it is two weeks after the second shot, they should still be tested. That may change, and if so, we will review our requirements and adjust as warranted. We still expect everyone will follow all required safety protocols (masks, social distance, hand hygiene, etc.)
Q: We’ve heard that UCLA has given student workers access to vaccines within California, is Mudd going to be able to do that at some point?
A: At the moment, we don’t have any students working on campus, whereas UCLA has many grad students on campus. We hope that LA will soon make all students eligible for vaccines. If you are eligible to get the vaccine in your home state, we encourage you to do so as soon as possible.
Q: Will we be providing the vaccine on campus or through Student Health Services?
A: Student Health Services was approved to be a vaccination site, but we have only received a very limited number of vaccine doses. With the new partnership between the California and Blue Cross, we expect the prioritization to shift to larger-scale vaccination sites. Visit COVID-19 Vaccination Resources for more information.
Q: The human resources vaccination policy email requested that we provide proof along with details. Why is it necessary for the College to know which vaccine I received for the College to keep track of employee vaccinations?
A: We are predominantly interested in learning whether employees have received the vaccine so we can plan for what additional measures may be required once we are allowed to return to campus.
Q: If we are vaccinated, will we still need to be tested before going to work?
A: Yes, we will still require regular testing for students, faculty and staff living and working on campus based on the advice of public health experts.
Q: Is there a plan for campus to get all students vaccinated?
A: Students are not a priority in Los Angeles County or the State of California for vaccination right now, and given the speed at which vaccinations are occurring, it may be some time before students are even eligible to receive the vaccine. The college presidents have been discussing whether we can require vaccination for students who want to live on campus. It is more likely that we would strongly encourage students to be vaccinated if they want to live on campus, but the situation is constantly evolving.
Q: What can you say about the California COVID-19 variant and its infection and mortality rate?
A: We don’t really know a lot about it at this point. California and the United States’ genetic testing efforts have been a lot less intensive than in other states and countries. We don’t have a lot of info about variants and their spread. Even when we come back in fall, we still anticipate having some social distancing and masking measures in place.
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. 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. For additional details and requirements, visit the College’s Guide for Faculty, Staff and Student Employees Returning to Work.
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 the 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: 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 posted to the 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: 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: Are there minutes available from meetings of the Academic Deans Committee (ADC)?
A: No. The ADC does not keep minutes to share publicly.
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: Will we still have a large budget reduction for 2021–2022 in our departments?
A: It depends on whether we are allowed to have students in residence this fall and if so, how many students will be allowed to live on campus. In the “business-as-usual scenario,” we don’t anticipate any cuts. If we are limited in the number of students who can live on campus, we anticipate some cuts will be required.
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.
Q: Do the budgeting scenarios change if we are required to be remote in spring?
A: Since we have announced our intention to remain online for spring 2021 and given that there will not be students living on campus, we have had to extend the furloughs of those employees in F&M and Dining Services who were already furloughed. At this point, we believe that the existing furloughs, coupled with additional budget savings, should obviate the need for additional furloughs or salary reductions. If that changes, we will notify everyone as soon as possible.
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 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: 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: Talk about the opening and the use of the McGregor Building
A: This building is amazing. There are some videos to look at on our website. Much of the furniture is in place. We expect the Makerspace to be set up this summer; student stewards will be working this summer to set it up and write documentation on how to use the equipment. Computer Science faculty members will be moving into their offices this summer as well. We are not expecting to allow others to be in the building before fall, but we expect the building to be very popular with our community as well as with off-campus majors and students.
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.
Q: Can we make a commitment that those who delay their tenure review are not hurt financially by that decision?
A: This will need to be discussed at the Department Chairs Committee and Cabinet level.
Q: I appreciate the invitation to add pandemic disruption statements to our files. What’s missing at this stage is a clear sense of how these statements will be evaluated—that’s a discussion we need to have as a faculty. My question is about the financial impact on those who choose to delay a tenure or promotion review. I have concerns about pay equity—have we had discussions about those issues?
A: We do an analysis every year about equity within the faculty and staff with respect to race and gender. This is something we will keep close eye on. The data so far in the country is that women were disproportionately affected by pandemic. As for the discussion about how the pandemic statements are treated—because an elected faculty committee is playing the primary role in that process—it is a good conversation to have among the faculty starting with both the FEC and DCC. As to the question of how we will apportion salary increases, the DCC will discuss once we know more about the final board decision related to annual salary increases.
Q: You have alluded to the extraordinary amount of work that everybody at all levels of the institution had to put into this. As we look forward, I’m interested in your thoughts, Maria, Lisa, about how you see the College trying to help us in all the ways that we have sacrificed in this year, and I don’t just mean financial and the costs that puts on our lives and careers, all the scholarship that didn’t get done, all the things we want from our careers that we willingly or unwillingly sacrificed to rise to the moment. How can the College repay faculty for that?
A: I wish I could tell you that starting July 1 everything will be back to normal. Realistically, there are many ways that we are much more fortunate than other institutions. At many institutions, the faculty and staff had to work incredibly hard, and their enrollment numbers were down. We are moving into the quiet phase of a campaign, and assuming we’re successful at that, it’ll give us more flexibility for how we can help the faculty. At the moment, we’re trying to address the short-term needs first. Obviously, for people who are tenure-track, we want to make sure that the pandemic doesn’t prevent anyone from receiving tenure. We will be trying to find ways to help faculty return more quickly to their scholarship after having been kept out of their labs, but we know that the budget for next year will be tight. The only thing we can commit to right now is that my and the board’s top priority is taking care of our faculty.
Q: As a follow-up question, I wonder if it would help if faculty were able to articulate “here’s what I need from the institution to make up for the last year.” Would that help?
A: We discussed this with the Faculty Executive Committee—I don’t want faculty to have to take time to clearly articulate something like that until we have greater hope of being able to fulfill some of those needs. At this point, we simply don’t have the resources. As soon as I have a donor who says, “I’m willing to make a commitment of so many millions of dollars to help our faculty,” then it will be helpful to have faculty articulate their tangible needs.
Q: Has the College looked at purchasing cameras and white boards for classrooms so that we can videotape our lectures in case we have some students who cannot be on campus in the fall due to health reasons?
A: We’ve been looking into what it might take to equip rooms with video cameras, but so far it is quite expensive. As we gain greater clarity about the number of students who should be able to be in person this fall, we will be in a better position to plan what courses might need flexibility and to ensure that wherever possible, faculty are able to teach via a single modality. If we need to, we’ll pull together again a cross-constituency Planning Committee at the beginning of the summer.
Q: We received a message that the College would no longer pay for the Piazza service. Why were faculty not consulted on this decision?
A: It is our understanding that the service is still available, albeit in a contribution-supported model. We decided not to purchase a site license at this time, given the College’s current budget crisis, and instead, are waiting until we can do a more thorough review of all site licenses in consultation with faculty this summer.
Equipment (Laptops, iPads, Software)
- The laptop cart program has been suspended for the academic year 2020–2021.
- 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.
- HMC COVID-19 Testing Policy for Faculty and Staff
- Teaching and Working Remotely
- Employee Benefits Information Regarding COVID-19
- Provisional course modalities (access to this document requires you to be signed in to your HMC Google account)
- TCCS Contact Tracing Team Chart (PDF)
- Contact Tracing Protocol (PDF)