Dear Faculty and Staff,
We began implementing our Show Me Renewal plan last month, and more than 2,600 university and UM System employees have been approved to return to campus or offices. We expect these numbers will continue to increase in the coming weeks as our phase-in process continues.
These individuals represented the first phase in our plan to bring employees back in person and resume important research. Over the coming weeks, supervisors will begin to slowly and carefully populate the campus and system offices as we reimagine our work spaces and practices to accommodate social distancing. Supervisors will continue to work with employees to determine how and when each person will return.
Achieving social distance
Our workplace practices have changed, and each team will adapt to the “new normal” differently. Depending on work spaces and the nature of each team’s responsibilities, social distancing may involve rearranging furniture, having groups of employees alternate time in the office, or using “hoteling” workstations on campus as needed. Many will resume their full schedules in person, while others will continue to work from home until further notice from supervisors.
It’s also important that those who may be at higher risk work closely with their supervisors to make appropriate plans. More information is available in HR-700, a UM System policy instituted to address the evolving challenges of the COVID-19 situation.
Although the university hallways and sidewalks are still sparse, we are encouraged to see more colleagues returning to campus — particularly in our research labs where our scientists continue their work to find solutions to pressing problems facing Missourians, including the coronavirus.
All employees, graduate assistants or student workers returning to campus or UM System facilities must first complete a Return to Work Authorization form. Following completion of the form, school or division leaders will review it, and requests will then be evaluated and approved by a team that includes academic, facility, research and health leaders.
Each individual who returns will agree to follow certain guidelines and practices, which may be adjusted depending on latest public health guidance. They now include:
- Daily temperature check — Individuals are required to check their temperature daily before leaving for work or as they arrive. If an individual’s temperature is above 100.4°F (38.0°C), they must report it to their supervisor and remain off-campus until it is again within the normal range.
- Maintain social distancing —Remain at least 6 feet from others. Where social distancing is not easily achieved, face coverings must be worn. At this time, face coverings are not required when social distancing is in place, but individuals may choose to do so.
- Meetings — Virtual meetings are preferred. If a meeting must be in-person, it must be in a room that permits attendees to be 6 feet apart.
- Hand hygiene — Frequent hand washing (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds) should be practiced throughout the day. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%-95% alcohol.
- Take immediate action and report symptoms – If you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, stay home and notify your supervisor. We also suggest you contact your health care provider for guidance regarding testing. If advised to be tested for the coronavirus, stay home until results are known.
Planning for the fall
Planning for our return to in-person teaching, research and engagement in the fall is well underway. Seven work groups — Academics, Research, Student Affairs, Testing and Tracing, Facilities, Athletics and Communications — are working through various scenarios and planning for how we will resume our in-person campus experience with safety as our highest priority and with flexibility in a changing public health environment.
Our faculty members are also developing robust remote class offerings to support the university’s contingency plans for the fall depending on the status of the pandemic, as well as to support on-campus social distancing plans.
As the state’s leading public research university, the Columbia community and state are watching closely as we prepare. Details will be shared as they are developed on a new website that will be launched soon, with opportunities for our community to review the plans and to submit ideas.
Fall schedule revision considered
Many universities around the country have decided to begin the fall semester earlier, forego fall breaks and complete the in-person part of the semester before Thanksgiving. A scenario under consideration would have classes beginning Aug. 12. An option will be considered that would keep the university open on the Sept. 7 Labor Day holiday. That option would end in-person classwork on Nov. 20, and finals would be given online from Nov. 30-Dec. 14. Please keep in mind that the above scenario is a proposal. It will be considered by the MU Faculty Council this week and, if passed, would require approval by the University of Missouri Board of Curators. We wanted to be sure you were aware of it in order to plan appropriately.
We are grateful to our local health department, state and federal authorities and our own medical experts who have provided guidance to the many volunteers in our campus workgroups who are diligently charting our safe and timely return. We look forward to seeing more of you on campus soon as we prepare for the much-awaited return of our students and continue the vital missions of this great university.
Mun Y. Choi, Ph.D.
President, UM System and Interim Chancellor, University of Missouri
Latha Ramchand, Ph.D.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs