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COVID-19 FAQ for Faculty and Staff

From Dr. Curt Bennett, Richard D. Green Dean of CNSM

Dear CNSM Faculty and Staff,

I know many of you have many questions about how we are managing the most recent COVID-19 developments and in particular the Governor's Safer at Home order. We are endeavoring to get the information out to you as quickly as we can. Unfortunately there are many things that need to get done that are limiting the bandwidth of the dean's office. I am grateful to Kris, Barbara, Henry, and Margaret and the department chairs for all that they are doing. I also ask that everyone take a deep breath, because we will get through this. It will be tough, but we will survive.

Very short answers to the big questions I am hearing:

Is remote instruction really happening Monday?


Since we lost 8 class days, can I require students to meet over spring break?

No. Spring break is still spring break. Since we lost a little more than a week of class, you should change your course accordingly so that less material is covered.

Must all required synchronous activities happen during my scheduled class time?

Yes. You may only give exams or expect students to be online in your class during its scheduled meeting time.

What about students who have limited access to the internet?

This is a real concern. The university has been working on it, and students should be directed to the university COVID-19 page (or if they have no internet, you can read it off to them). We haven't fully solved the issue, but it is constantly on the minds of the administration. Unfortunately, because of the need to be "Safer at Home" and avoid a health care crisis, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We have to move forward as best we can.

I'm worried about those students, what should I do?

Part of what I love about our faculty is that you worry about this. I think what we can do is to ensure that those students will have the ability to catch up once the access issue is figured out. Suggestions for this include: recording your lectures so students can watch them later; ensuring that students who can't participate synchronously have other options through alternative assignments, YouTube videos; reducing the number and/or length of assignments (a good idea for everyone given the added stress and how overloaded with everything we all are); being flexible with due dates, etc. My number one request is that we all be very understanding of the myriad stresses on our students and on each other.

Should I really not come to campus?

Everyone should work from home if at all possible.  Currently the state projects that "25.5 million people in California will be infected over an 8-week period" (see Los Angeles Times story). It is paramount that we work to decrease this number or at least ensure that the subsequent hospitalizations are spread out so as not to overwhelm our health care system.

What if I have limited internet at home?

If you are 64 or under, then you may come to your office to hold your classes. However, we need to strongly limit the number of people in each of our buildings, so only come in for your classes. Contact your department chair about when you want to come in to teach, and see if we can accommodate that time.

If your department chair gives you permission, please fill out the CNSM Building Occupancy Survey.

With so few people on campus will it be safe?

We are doing everything in our power to make it so. This is a major reason for why the buildings are "closed" and locked. It is another reason we want to have information on who's on campus in which buildings.

The buildings are locked and the entrance I usually use has a disc over the keyhole. Why?

The campus has multiple concerns. First, with the limited number of people on campus, we want to ensure the buildings are safe. Locking the buildings and limiting the number of entry points on each building helps ensure only those who are supposed to be in the buildings are there. Currently the entrances are: HSCI front entrance across from the bookstore is open and the MLSC entrance from the courtyard. I also want to warn you now that to decrease the workload on our limited custodial staff, in each building there will only be one floor with open bathrooms (typically the 2nd floor).

What about my research lab?

You will receive more about this soon (I hope) both from ORSP and from me. With the Safer at Home rule, undergraduates should not be in research labs. Essential research work can continue. The university is defining essential research as research for which suspension of activities would cause irreparable harm to the research project. At this time, CNSM is interpreting irreparable harm to include delaying a graduate students graduation where a non-research lab option is not reasonable. 

What if my research is not essential?

Hibernate your lab ASAP. The hibernation process is on the Principal Investigator. More information on this will be coming soon.

What if my research is essential?

(See "What about my research lab" for definition of essential research.) If the research is essential then you should apply for lab continuity. With chair and dean approval (and also that of the safety office), you can continue with research on a limited basis. You may not require graduate students to come do research in the lab, but you may ask them to come in. However, to the greatest extent possible, everything should be done at home. If you have a student working on a project, think about if there are ways that you can change their project to require no (or less) time in the lab. Similarly for yourself, ask what research do you need to be on campus to do. At all times practice social distancing and good hygiene.

Do I need to tell anyone I'm coming to campus?

Yes, we ask that researchers fill out the CNSM Building Occupancy Survey so that we know who is on campus at what time. They should fill out that form for each of their graduate students in addition.

Is there the chance that essential research will be sent to hibernation?

Yes. Please be ready for this possibility. The situation around COVID-19 has been changing daily.

Wait, how do my purchases get delivered?

We have a hiatus on purchasing stateside. If you must order something from your grants, you need to deal with pick up. Please contact Receiving at 5-8119 after 10am once you know the items have been delivered to campus for pickup. The college office will not be open for deliveries. There is a strong likelihood that we will receive more information that will change how Foundation-side purchasing will happen for the time being.

Anything else?

YES, If at all possible, do everything you can from home. Please be safe and be well.