COVID-19 Response and Remote Staffing Model

Sunday, March 15, 2020 - 11:00pm

Dear Colleagues and Students,

As you already know, The COVID-19 outbreak is leading to rapid changes in the way we live and work. I am so grateful for your support and patience as we have continued to make changes to the way we operate in order to respond to the outbreak.  I am also so thankful for the care and concern you have shown for this institution, for each other, and for the many individuals who are working hard in support of this effort. Our community has demonstrated its extraordinary commitment and flexibility in responding collectively and quickly to an evolving situation, and I want to extend my thanks to all who are dedicated to protecting the Mount Holyoke community, as well as the wider communities of which we are a part.

The College remains committed to delivering a vibrant academic program to our more than 2,100 students — even if, now and through the end of the semester, it will be delivered quite differently than we anticipated. While most of our students have recently left or will be leaving very soon, more than 350 students have been approved to remain on campus through May 5, 2020. I very much appreciate all the efforts to provide continuity of instruction and advising, albeit in new ways, as well as the continuity of some services for those who must stay here on campus.

Today, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered a three-week suspension of all public and private schools, effective Tuesday, March 17 through April 7, and has banned gatherings larger than 25 people. We must do our part to mitigate the community spread of COVID-19 and to ensure that we flatten the curve of contagion. Our local health system, while not currently overwhelmed, could easily become so if we do not act with both expediency and discipline.

We have, therefore, determined that we should move quickly to a remote work model, beginning on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

For Staff:

A remote work model is one in which all employees who can work from home will do so. Let me first reassure all of our staff: if your presence on campus is deemed non-essential for the COVID-19 situation, and your work cannot be accomplished remotely, you will still be paid through the end of the academic semester.

Division leaders have been developing flexible staffing plans for this very scenario, and some departments have already implemented remote working strategies. In this remote model, some staff whose work is needed to maintain critical services will continue to report to work in-person. The current situation requires that we define “essential” staff, since our usual definition — the one that applies in weather emergencies, for example — does not address the specific needs of our campus response to the coronavirus outbreak. Your department head or chair will inform you of your status before the end of the day tomorrow, Monday, March 16. As we move through the coming week, that definition may change as the number of students and employees on campus diminishes.

Staff who are not already working remotely should come to work on Monday to gather materials and equipment needed to work from home, and to discuss their work plans with their supervisor. We expect supervisors and department chairs to contact employees on Monday to discuss their work and communication plans. Technology support for students, faculty and staff can be found at https://lits.mtholyoke.edu/.

While some staff will be spending all of their time managing COVID-19-related issues or working on continuity from home, there may be others whose time is freed up to some degree and can take on new tasks. Most redeployments will happen within divisions, however there may be opportunities to distribute work among available staff in other departments in the future.

Employees should continue to follow the guidance sent out on March 13 regarding campus building access, event cancellation, and travel registration. Please note that, as of March 21, building access will be limited to those staff whose work requires them to be on campus to complete it.

For Faculty:

Please continue your work with the Dean of Faculty’s office to transition your curriculum to alternate modes of instruction. Research labs and other facilities that support critical curricular needs will remain accessible, though with limited or no on-site staffing. More information from Dean Western is forthcoming.

For Students:

Please continue to follow the guidelines set out in the emails you have received from Dean Hall, emails dated March 14 and March 15If you are among those who have received approval to remain on campus, you must not travel more than a 10-mile radius from South Hadley. Additional information on the availability of student services will be communicated soon to those of you who have permission to remain here.

The many individuals dedicated to Mount Holyoke's emergency response to the COVID-19 outbreak are continuing to respond to the evolving situation, and to address the many details of campus preparedness. We will be revisiting and reviewing plans on an ongoing basis, and communicating any changes as quickly as possible. The COVID-19 outbreak is upending every aspect of life in Massachusetts, from healthcare and education to social activities and more. Mount Holyoke is committed to keeping our community safe, to rising to these challenges, and to demonstrating both our tenacity and our resilience in the face of these challenges. 

I am thankful to you all for your understanding, for the community’s grace in these difficult times, as well as for your flexibility, compassion, and great fortitude.

With my admiration, as well as my very best wishes for good health,

Sonya Stephens
President