Information for Staff
Staff members are vital to Harvey Mudd’s mission. As the College works 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 staff 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 plans for holding commencement ceremonies yet?
A: It will depend on the state of the pandemic and LA County guidelines. Current state and county guidelines do not allow us to hold large-scale events.
Q: Will LA County make an all or nothing decision, or decide for each individual school?
A: We are requesting that the LA County Board of Supervisors approve a set of guidelines or restrictions and allow colleges that meet all of those restrictions to reopen. They have not done that yet. The state of California has implemented a new tier system for loosening and tightening restrictions in the state. Information about these tiers and what can and cannot be opened at each stage, is available at Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
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.
Q: When will we know if we can move on campus for sure? When is the last day that living on campus could be cancelled?
A: The College has set January 11 as the “go-no-go” deadline to make a final decision. It’s important to note that under current orders from the State of California, in-person higher education is not permitted. In planning for the spring semester, Harvey Mudd College decided to proactively develop guidelines that we believed would allow us to open for in-person instruction if the state rescinds its original higher education closure. Our guidelines have been developed based on information gathered from discussions with LA County Department of Public Health (LADPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There is no review/approval of the College’s guidelines from the county or the state; the College must certify that it is in compliance with the guidance required for reopening by both Los Angeles County and the State of California.
LADPH has released guidance for institutes of higher education. We continue to review guidance from county and state officials to make updates to our plans as necessary. We appreciate your patience and we continue to adjust on a daily basis as the situation continues to evolve.
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: 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: 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: 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: Should staff anticipate changing job duties or having to work in other areas?
A: We have already done this in some cases, and we would anticipate possibly needing to do this as we progress into the fall. Every Cabinet member will review the needs of their departments carefully to make changes in job duties and responsibilities within their areas.
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: For how long are we going to be telecommuting?
A: At this point, we don’t really know. The College is following the guidance of the state of California as well as that from Los Angeles County. Once it is decided the spread of the virus has reached the point that will allow people to safely return to campus, we will let staff know.
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: Will you consider furloughs if the students are online and in person and if so, will furloughed employees be able to receive benefits?
A: If it is possible to have most students on campus for in-person classes this fall, we will try to avoid furloughs. If we are forced to furlough employees, our hope is that we will still be able to offer medical benefits, but not other benefits. For positions that are conducive to partial furloughs, we are looking into the possibility of using a 20% (one day a week) furlough approach. There are several positions, like our dining hall workers, who would not have work to do if most of our students are not back on campus in the fall and where partial furloughs would not work. Every Cabinet member will review the needs of their departments carefully to develop customized plans to meet the needs of our community. Again, our strong preference is that we be able to have students on campus this fall and that we not be forced to furlough employees. We would only consider this option if we are not able to have the majority of our students on campus this fall.
Q: If we don’t return to campus, will the people working in Dining Services be needed? Will they be laid off or furloughed?
A: If we are not able to bring students back to campus and provide instruction online, the dining hall will not be open and it will be unfortunately necessary to temporarily furlough most of the dining staff during the period when students are not on campus.
Q: If we have furloughs, will they be complete or partial?
A: We have spent an enormous amount of energy planning to have students back on campus this fall. Given the current situation with the pandemic, we now have to pivot and begin thinking about more detailed planning for what happens if we aren’t allowed to have students on campus this fall. For positions that are conducive to partial furloughs, we are looking into the possibility of using a 20% (one day a week) furlough approach. There are several positions, like our dining hall workers and F&M residential custodial workers, who would not have work to do if most of our students are not back on campus in the fall and where partial furloughs would not work. Every Cabinet member will review the needs of their departments carefully to develop customized plans to meet the needs of our community.
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: If students don’t return to campus in the fall, necessitating furloughs, your health benefits (medical, dental and vision), will continue for the fall semester. However, no other benefits, such as dependent scholarship or retirement contributions, will be provided for furloughed staff.
Q: If we have to go online only for fall, current models suggest this would mean potentially furloughing about 90 people. How large would the rest of the salary cuts have to be to continue paying those people, even if they cannot work?
A: A 1% change in salaries is between $350–380,000. Because of current position vacancies, we have reduced the amount to roughly $900,000. If we cut salaries 3% more overall, based on current projections, we could avoid furloughs. It is important to note that this is preliminary however. If the College is forced to shift to online-only for the fall semester, we may see additional students decide to defer and/or take a leave of absence. If this happens, we would have to adjust our projections based on these new data points.
Q: Would we consider asking for volunteers if we are required to furlough staff? Given what is happening with schools in the area, there are a number of people with younger children who might appreciate the option to have a lesser load. Could we ask if someone wants to be put under furlough and give them that option?
A: If we are not allowed to have students on campus, we would have to consider both furloughs and pay reductions. If we can find a way to do voluntary furloughs, it could minimize the amount of salary reductions required, but it would not necessarily eliminate employee furloughs.
Q: With so few students potentially coming back to campus, it seems like some furloughs will happen. When will we know for sure?
A: In our current plan, if we have students on campus, we believe we would not have furloughs. We anticipate receiving additional guidance for higher education from the State of California in the coming days. Based on that guidance, we may have to adjust our modeling and might be forced to consider a number of additional budget reductions including operating budget cuts, employee furloughs, pay reductions, etc.
Q: Can we voluntarily contribute some of our compensation into a ‘bank’ like we do with the Back-Up Care account for people who need it more to prevent layoffs?
A: We need to do some additional research on what might be possible.
Q: What can we do to help with operational savings to avoid layoffs/furloughs?
A: Each area vice president has been asked to begin discussing ways we can reduce operating expenses. The more potential reductions we identify, the greater flexibility we will have should we have to make additional budget adjustments.
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: 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: At what rate will furloughed staff retain benefits? Will the cost to the employee remain the same per pay period? What happens if the employee does not pay their portion?
A: We would continue to pay the HMC portion. The employee would continue to be responsible for their portion. We will need to verify this with our existing plans and post an update if there are changes. If the employee does not pay their portion of the premium, we believe that the coverage would end, but we need to verify this.
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: Please elaborate about the “level of pay for exempt” you mentioned when discussing minimum wage increases?
A: California is on track to raise the minimum wage in the state to $15/hour over the course of the next few years. As the minimum wage increases, in order to qualify for exempt status, an exempt employee has to earn at least two times the state’s minimum hourly wage. As the minimum wage in California increases, we are increasing the salary of some exempt employees to ensure we remain in compliance with state law. As a result, some exempt employees will qualify for pay increases next fiscal year despite the College’s anticipated salary freeze for FY 20–21.
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: Will the college still approve contributions to retirement accounts?
A: In the more financially difficult models we are projecting, we are considering a reduction in the College’s portion of the contribution, but this shouldn’t prevent people making or increasing their own contributions.
Q: You mentioned reducing the retirement contribution amount to recover $1.6 million and that the contingency fund is $2.5 million. Does that $2.5 million amount depend on the $1.6 million retirement contribution savings or do we already have the $2.5 million budgeted in the models?
A: There already is roughly $2.5 million included in contingency, of which, about $525,000 is already allocated to cover needed supplies such as tents for outdoor studying and dining, etc. The $1.6 million projected savings realized by reducing the College’s contribution to employee retirement accounts has been suggested as a way to accommodate the lower revenue projected from fewer students living on campus and a greater number of students deferring or taking leaves of absence. It’s important to note that we have not made the decision to do this yet; it is one possible model of what we might have to do.
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: Why is there no staff representation in shared governance at the college? Why do students have more of a voice in the running of the college than the staff do?
A: Shared governance with the faculty is fairly common in small liberal arts colleges. In our case, the faculty are primarily responsible for the curriculum and the policies and procedures found in the Faculty Notebook. Students primarily have shared governance in areas around student activities. We continue to seek ways to involve staff members in decision-making at the College where appropriate. If you have additional suggestions, we encourage you to share those with your direct supervisor or any member of the President’s Cabinet.
Q: Can staff (and faculty) anonymously vote our preferences for our preferred benefits or compensation cuts to prevent anyone having to be furloughed or laid off?
A: This is not a situation where faculty or staff can vote. The ultimate decision is made by the HMC Board of Trustees. There will be a recommendation by cabinet and we are using the feedback we receive through questions in these meetings to help guide our recommendations.
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: Given the re-opening of business in the state, more COVID-19 cases are expected over the next several weeks. How has the spike in COVID-19 cases affected the decision-making process?
A: We are monitoring the situation regularly. We anticipate guidance from the state and county public health officials soon and will adjust our plans as needed based on those recommendations or changes.
Q: Will the number of COVID-19 cases rising in the state mean that workers who did go back to working on campus will have to reduce their time on campus?
A: We cannot predict the answer. Given the rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic in California and across the nation, it is not possible to say. If the state issues another Safer at Home recommendation or if LA County Public Health officials order changes to when businesses can be open, we will comply with those orders.
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: If COVID-19 vaccine were developed, would the College require all employees to be vaccinated? Would confirmation of antibodies be accepted if an employee were to refuse the vaccine?
A: Once a vaccine has been fully demonstrated to be safe and effective, the College would recommend employees get vaccinated unless they have medical or religious reasons not to do so. In regard to antibody tests, right now there is no scientific evidence that if you have antibodies you are immune from getting COVID-19 again. Therefore, the College can’t consider antibody test results as a substitute for any effective vaccination.
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: 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: How are you bringing departments back to campus?
A: Each department and vice president is handling this issue differently given the needs of their particular area. Many areas may be working from home for most or for the entirety of the summer. For some areas, staff will need to return to campus right away to begin preparing for students possibly returning in the fall. We will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and ask staff to practice good hygiene, social distancing, and wear personal protective equipment, such as face coverings. We will also be implementing daily health screening checklists and limiting the number of people in any building and/or using any bathroom.
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: What will be the options for staff who cannot work remotely but still need to work?
A: I know this is an uncertain time for everyone, and I’m sorry we are going through this. We have two priorities for the college:
- Protecting the safety and well-being of all members of our community, and
- Providing a high-quality educational experience for our students.
Each vice president has been asked to develop plans that outline the needs of their particular divisions as well as the resources and procedures necessary for us to continue the College’s educational mission. If we are able to be on campus with special restrictions (cleaning, masks, sneeze guards, etc.) I am hopeful that we can avoid layoffs and pay cuts. Our strong preference is still to have students back on campus this fall with physical distancing and other safety measures in place to protect our community. Staff who cannot work remotely may reach out to their direct supervisor, to the vice president over their particular division, or to the Office of Human Resources. Since 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: 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: 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.
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.