May 26, 2020
Dear University of Oregon community,
I am writing to provide an update on the university’s plans for resuming some on-campus operations once the governor’s executive order for higher education expires on June 13 and to address the UO’s ongoing planning for fall term. The planning process is complex, wide-ranging, and growing almost every day, and my goal is to give you a sense of the structure and approach we are using to plan for a safe and responsible resumption of on-campus instruction in the fall.
Much of the information I’m providing today is available on a new Return to Campus page on the UO’s COVID-19 response website. While we will continue to communicate with the entire campus and specific groups in the coming weeks and months, you can always refer to these web resources to find the latest news and information about our planning efforts and broader COVID-19 response.
- We will put student, employee, and community health and safety at the forefront.
- We will comply with Governor Kate Brown’s strategy to reopen Oregon and will be informed by guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Oregon Health Authority, and Lane County Public Health.
- We will continue to coordinate with local and state public health experts, and work closely with our higher education counterparts nationally and on the West Coast.
- We will explore a variety of methods to safeguard our community, including continued remote and flexible work; reducing density in classrooms, research labs, offices, residence halls, and dining facilities; enhanced cleaning of all facilities; and testing and contact tracing for students and employees.
Guidance Following Expiration of Executive Order
Gov. Brown’s executive order that suspends in-person instructional activities and limits campus operations at Oregon institutions of higher education expires June 13. That does not mean that the UO is returning to normal operations on Monday, June 15. We have already made the decision to continue with remote instruction for the summer term. Next month, we will slowly and methodically start resuming some on-campus functions. Here’s what this means for you:
- If you are working remotely, continue to do so unless your supervisor has specifically asked you to come back.
- You will be given an opportunity to let Human Resources know if you need to continue to work remotely for health, childcare, or other reasons.
- As we begin to resume on-campus activities, we will prioritize functions that require on-campus access, such as research activity and some student services. This will occur unit-by-unit. This is to protect the safety and wellbeing of those in the campus community who will be returning to campus, and continue to reduce exposure to, and slow the spread of, the coronavirus.
Whether or not you are coming back to work on campus, please remember that the best prevention methods have not changed:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Maintain physical distancing.
- Cover your face when you are around others.
- Stay home if you do not feel well.
It will be up to us as a community to collectively demonstrate our commitment to these important approaches to fighting the disease.
Planning for Fall
Key to our strategy is a slow and measured approach to resuming activities on campus. It will not happen overnight. We are working to develop strategies to safely operate under the new reality of COVID-19 and need everyone’s commitment to limiting the spread of the disease. Departments will be asked to develop operational plans that place their services and functions into the following groupings:
- REMOTE/OFF-SITE OPERATIONS: We need to maintain some offsite work arrangements to allow for the safe resumption of on-campus operations and create space for functions that must be performed on-campus.
- ON-CAMPUS OPERATIONS: Services, functions, or activities that need to be on-site (such as functions that maintain buildings and infrastructure, or need tools and resources that are only available on campus, or where an employee has expressed a need to return to campus to better complete their assignments and a unit agrees).
- HYBRID OPERATIONS: Services and functions that may need to be on campus periodically to engage in instruction, research, and campus administrative operations but can work remotely at other times.
Initially we will focus on developing physical distancing plans for operations that are on-campus or hybrid. Guidance on plans will continue to be added and will be available on the Return to Campus website.
We have created the following work groups to address questions and planning for fall resumption and to engage appropriate unit leads for local planning:
- INCIDENT MANAGEMENT TEAM: This is the university’s trained team comprised of individuals from across campus. The team is responsible for the coordination and oversight of the return-to-campus effort, including management of the logistical, fiscal, planning, operational, safety, and campus issues related to the UO’s COVID-19 mitigation, response, and return-to-campus activities. The team reports to the president’s policy group. The following work groups and sub-groups report up to the IMT.
- MITIGATION STRATEGIES: This group is charged with reviewing state and federal guidance and engaging campus partners to assess and develop a variety of resumption strategies for consideration. The team is made up of individuals from Safety and Risk Services, Environmental Health and Safety, Campus Geographic Information System, and the Office of the Provost. The team will develop campus-wide, building-level, and department-level guidance on the following topics: physical distancing, illness detection, public health interventions, face covering recommendations, and cleaning.
- ACADEMIC AND INSTRUCTIONAL PLANNING: This group is comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators who are working to help maintain the university’s academic mission. The group is focusing on how to assist students in navigating the new academic terrain around remote learning, and making sure faculty and graduate employees have access to the resources they need to teach effectively in this new environment. The team will continue to work on developing the resources needed to make sure remote instruction is done in a way that engages our students and helps them succeed.
- RESEARCH PLANNING: This group is comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators who are working to help resume and maintain the university's research operations. Principal Investigators have been asked to develop resumption plans identifying how their labs can resume partial operations.
- HOUSING AND DINING: This group is comprised of Housing and Environmental Health and Safety staff and is developing occupancy and operational plans for on-campus housing for fall term.
- TESTING: This group is comprised of researchers and staff from the University Health Center and is charged with developing a testing and monitoring program for campus and potentially the broader community.
- CONTACT TRACING: We are assisting Lane County Public Health (LCPH) to identify and develop contact tracing capacity in two ways. First, we are working to identify researchers with experience in contact tracing to be part of the network for LCPH. Second, a faculty group is working on training students to assist with contact tracing. All contact tracers will work directly under LCPH.
There are more than 150 administrators, faculty members, and front-line employees who are members of these groups, each working diligently to help move the UO toward a safe and responsible resumption of operations. In addition to getting feedback from employee groups on these recommendations as appropriate, institutional leadership will use recommendations from these subject-matter experts and professionals to guide decision-making as we go forward. We will also look for opportunities to incorporate the broad range of student perspectives.
We recognize that you have many questions about how our careful return to on-campus operations will impact your work, learning, or research. As we make decisions we will continue to share them with you and update the Frequently Asked Questions section on the COVID-19 page. As we go through this process, we want to hear from you. If you have questions, ideas, or potential solutions related to our resumption plans, please use the COVID-19 web form to submit your thoughts using the “Resumption Planning” category.
Finally, thank you for everything you are doing to support the university’s mission and to serve our students. It is indeed a challenging and uncertain time, and we have been so grateful for your commitment, as well as your patience and flexibility. As I have said previously, I have tremendous faith in the UO community, and firmly believe that together we will overcome the challenges that are ahead of us and position the institution to come out the other side stronger and more resilient.
André Le Duc
Chief Resilience Officer and Associate Vice President
Safety and Risk Services