Show Me Renewal Faculty & Staff Town Hall Transcript
July 21, 2020
EMILY SPAIN: Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s “Show Me Renewal Town Hall.” My name is Emily Spain. I’ll be serving as this afternoon’s moderator. I’m a proud MU alum and also evening anchor at KOMU 8. So, this town hall will focus on the plans for this upcoming fall. We’ve pulled together different university leaders to answer your questions about their plans so far. And here’s how the town hall will work. They’ve already received hundreds of questions, about 300 for both today’s town hall with faculty and staff and tomorrow’s town hall with students and parents, and we will be accepting live questions throughout the event. To submit your questions, please see the link to submit questions. It’s on the event page where you’re viewing this webinar right now. I’ll read those questions and direct them to the appropriate university leader to respond. Now, after the town hall, they will be posting this online for you to view the full session later if you miss any of that. That will be at president.missouri.edu, under the “Town Hall” tab. Before we begin, we’re going to send it over now to President and Interim Chancellor Mun Choi for a few words. President Choi.
MUN CHOI: Thank you, Emily, and good afternoon, I hope that everyone is in good health, and also in good spirit. During the past three months, a dedicated group of faculty and staff and administrators have been developing a plan that we call “Show Me Renewal.” I’d like to ask if the slides can be shown, so that I can discuss the highlights from this very important plan for the university. And this plan, as you can see from this particular slide, really focuses on your health, and your well-being as the top priority. The path to renewal, we know, has to be developed with a cautious but also a strategic approach, and during this process of developing the plan as well as implementing the plan, even with the potential pivots depending on conditions, we’re going to follow all of the guidelines from the Boone County Health and Human Services organization, the CDC and, obviously, our top medical staff at the Student Health Center, as well as MU Health Care. And as part of this plan development, we have had seven task forces, looking at areas ranging from student affairs as well as the academic program and athletics to communication. In each of these areas, we had our top experts provide the input. The ideas were vetted through many stakeholders, including faculty, staff and students. So, as part of this, as you can see in the testing, tracing and quarantining, it’s an activity that’s led by Dr. Stevan Whitt, Dr. Scott Henderson and Dr. John Middleton, with other leaders from the university, to develop the testing capacity at the university to be able to hire contact tracers to work with Boone County Health and Human Services, and to provide the quarantining spaces that we need on campus for our students. And the key expectations are really no different than what we’ve been hearing from Dr. Fauci and also the CDC, and that is to maintain that social distance of 6 feet or more, wear the face coverings, wash your hands, monitor your health and, at the same time, practice these precautions whether you’re on campus or off campus. Many of you, many of our faculty and staff, want to get back and to engage in camaraderie and in-classroom teaching as well as research, but that ability will really depend on all of you following these guidelines, not only for your protection but the protection of those around you. And we are really in a unique place at this university to be able to work with a hospital that is owned by the university with outstanding physicians and nurses. During the height of the COVID crisis in Boone County, we had prepared 400 beds to treat COVID patients, so, we have that capability to go into critical mode, to be able to handle potential surges that occur at this university and in the community. With the efforts of Drs. Whitt and Henderson, Mark Diedrich, our emergency management official, and John Middletown, we believe that we’ll have the capability of doing 3,000 tests per day, the PCR test, by September. There’ll also be two two-lane drive-through testing facilities with results typically within 24 hours. In terms of face coverings, we decided that we will follow the Columbia city ordinance regarding face coverings, and so, in buildings, whether it’s in classrooms or offices, in the hallways and within the general meeting areas of buildings, face coverings will be required. You don’t need a face mask if you are alone in a private workspace, whether it’s an office or it’s a research lab, or if you’re outdoors and you can maintain at least 6 feet of distance from another individual. Instructors, like you see in a smaller classroom, will be wearing a face shield. That way, students who need to read lips to understand the faculty member, can do so. So, the thought that went into this process by Dr. Matt Martens and many others, really should be commended. If you look at our lecture hall, there will be very, very few large lecture classes, given the need to socially distance, and reduce the number of participants or students in the classroom. But when we do have these opportunities for lectures, then the students will be spaced 6 feet apart. They’ll also be wearing face coverings, and the instructor, who will always be at least 6 feet away from the students, will wear the face mask. The common areas, whether they occur in buildings or residence halls or the library, will have proper spacing. So, our facilities staff have been working overtime to reconfigure all of our spaces in both classrooms and laboratories, as well as the common areas, as you can see from this slide. I believe this is the last slide, and it shows the Student Center with the proper spacing, for students to study and interact, but still maintaining the guidelines that we seek, for maintaining the health and safety of all of our students, faculty, staff and visitors. So, that is the last slide. I look forward to joining you for some of the questions, but now it’s time for me to turn it over to Ms. Hannah Clampitt, and she is the chair of the Mizzou Staff Council.
HANNAH CLAMPITT: Thank you, President and Interim Chancellor Choi. I want to start out by acknowledging my counterpart, David Miller, who is the staff advisory council chair for UM System. All right, so, I want to start out by thanking my fellow staff members for your flexibility and commitment during these just unprecedented times. We managed to quickly pivot to working from home, we have experienced furloughs and pay reductions, we have had uncertainty about our jobs and we have had to say goodbye to our peers who are no longer working at MU. These have been very challenging times. I also want to thank our operations team for their work in cleaning and preparing campus for repopulation. As we return to campus, I think it’s important for us all to work together to follow the safety and health precautions to keep our students, our faculty and our fellow staff safe. Our personal opinions on precautions are going to vary, but I think that we can all agree that keeping our students safe is the most important thing, and we all need to do our part to keep them safely on campus. A lot of staff are experiencing concern and hesitation about returning, and I think if we can follow precautions, that’s a way for us to show that we care about them and their very real fears. I think our leadership has done their best to plan for our safe return, but as we know, plans change in these times, so I think if staff can continue to be nimble and flexible, we can adjust as needed. As always, Staff Council is here for your feedback and concerns. If you’re experiencing a practice or a policy that you think can be improved, or you have other suggestions, please reach out to us, and we can share those concerns with leadership. So, again, I just want to thank you, my fellow staff, for all of your hard work, during just these incredibly challenging times. I am proud to be your colleague. Thank you.
SPAIN: Now, we’re going to hear from Faculty Council Chair-Elect John Middleton. John.
JOHN MIDDLETON: Thank you, Emily. So, on behalf of the faculty council, I’d like to welcome you to this town hall, to discuss the Show Me Renewal Plan for fall semester. As Emily said, I’m John Middleton. I’m a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. I’d like to start by thanking the members of Faculty Council for their input on matters related to the issues that we’re dealing with, and I’d specifically also like to thank our outgoing members, especially Clark Peters for his leadership of Faculty Council over the last two years and particularly during these last few months when we’ve dealt with many different issues on our campus, including COVID. We learn more every day about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID disease, and while much has been learned over the last six months, this is an ever-changing situation, where we learn more every day. It’s a fluid situation that requires an evolutionary planning process, and as has already been iterated by President and Interim Chancellor Choi, and also Hannah, we’re going to have to remain flexible as we move forward here. There are no perfect solutions to the issues that we face and those we will continue to face here in the months ahead. A great deal has been rapidly published in the press, on social media and in the scientific literature, and as members of the public receive that information, it can be daunting to filter out and interpret that information. Therefore, as we put this plan forward, we assembled a group of people to filter that information as best as possible and come up with the best plan based on the information we have at the current time. That plan is aimed at reducing disease transmission within our MU community and the community at large while enabling us to do those on-campus activities that President Choi referred to. So, while representatives from various campus constituencies have been involved in this planning process, it’s now time for us to hear from you and continue to hear from you as we move into fall semester, so that we can get feedback from you and adjust the plan accordingly as we move forward.
SPAIN: OK, John, thank you so much. Let’s now introduce all of our panelists joining us here today: Provost Ramchand, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs; Beth Chancellor, the vice president for information technology and chief information officer; Marsha Fischer, associate vice president for University of Missouri System, human resources; Maurice Gipson, vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity; Patty Haberberger, associate vice chancellor for human resources and chief human resources officer; Matt Martens, associate provost for academic programs; Mark McIntosh, vice chancellor for research and economic development; again, John Middleton will be joining us; Jim Sterk, director of intercollegiate athletics; and Gary Ward, vice chancellor for operations and chief operating officer. The very first question, it comes from a staff member, and this is going to go out to Matt Martens. It says, “Can a faculty member pivot midsemester, and shift their class online?” Matt.
MATT MARTENS: Thanks, Emily. Basically, faculty and other instructors should not be making unilateral decisions to shift the way a course is being delivered midsemester, and I think it’s important to remember for our students that if they sign up for an online course, then they’ll be expecting online delivery throughout the semester, same for a face-to-face, same for a blended course. It’s certainly possible, as President Choi mentioned in the opening remarks, that as a campus, we may make decisions to have to change the mode of the way we’re doing instruction in general for a time, but that on a class-by-class or a case-by-case basis, faculty should generally not be making those types of decisions. Now if a faculty member has some type of health or medical concern during the course of the semester, then they should, of course, talk to their department chair or their HR rep or other appropriate individual depending on the issue to discuss what work accommodations might need to be made.
SPAIN: OK, Matt, thank you so much. This next question goes to John, “What will be the threshold for shutting campus down? Is there a certain number of cases that needs to be reached?”
MIDDLETON: So, the decision to change what we’re doing on campus may not be actually shutting down campus. It may just be changing the things that we do, the educational platforms that we use and so forth. They are going to be based on a variety of metrics, and those metrics are going to include cases in Boone County and on the MU campus, but other things come into play that might not be inherently obvious, and that will be do we have hospital capacity to deal with a certain number of cases in Columbia, in Missouri and on the MU campus? And what is the availability of things like personal protective equipment? So, as the situation changes nationally, personal protective equipment could become consumed. We may not have ability to do some of the things that we’ve planned to do on campus, and therefore, we may have to change our plans. So, there’s a number of metrics that will be considered, and therefore, like I said a few minutes ago, we’re going to have to remain somewhat fluid in our plans and also flexible as we move forward because as I said before, this is an evolutionary process.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, John. This next question, it comes from a faculty member, and President Choi, we’ll begin with you for answers for this question. It’s kind of a long one. Here we go: “Some other public SEC schools are implementing far more rigorous safety procedures, including required testing before students are returning to campus, mandatory self-screening using an online app at least every three days and sentinel testing of students, faculty and staff throughout the semester to track community spread. It does not appear that any such measures are in the current Show Me Renewal Plan. Why were such measures not included, and is there any consideration being given to adopt such strategies?” So, President Choi we’ll begin with you, and then, Mr. Middleton, if you have anything else to add after President Choi.
CHOI: Thank you, Emily. That’s a great question. We have been following many universities within the SEC and the AAU to determine if our current practice is up to the standards that we expect relative to our peers. And with regards to the testing strategy, at the beginning of the process we did consider having mandatory testing. We also learned from the CDC that mandatory testing is not recommended because all that does is provide you one snapshot of the situation. What is more important is to constantly evaluate the symptoms, and we will be working with Roche Pharmaceuticals, to implement their symptom-checking app, that would be required for all of our faculty, students and staff to implement into the app every day, so that we can better learn how the symptoms are tracking, through which we can determine if and when the outbreaks will occur, so we’ll have that big data to be able to accomplish those goals. And so, as we stated from the beginning, this is really a living document, a living plan, so as new information is provided by let’s say the CDC or Boone County, we will always implement our plans to be able to accommodate. I would also like to say that many universities that made the claim that they will do testing for all of their faculty, students and staff, and claims that were made several months ago, have now decided that that’s not the right approach, and they’re following the approach that we have currently. John.
MIDDLETON: Yeah, so as Dr. Choi said, point-in-time testing — in other words, you test everybody on entry to campus. We’ll probably find that there are positive individuals, but we’ll also find people that are negative that may have been exposed two days ago, their test is currently negative today, and therefore, that really doesn’t inform how we do infection control on our campus. So by using symptomology as the initial test, that helps better inform who we should test, and we get a better outcome of that because we then know the people that we should quarantine and isolate. Then what we do is follow up with those individuals that would test positive through contact tracing, so that we can minimize the spread of disease on campus. And that gives us a much more efficient strategy for following the disease on our campus.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, John. This next question goes to both Patty and Mark, and Patty, we’ll have you respond first. “Where can we submit concerns or feedback if we see that policies are not being followed?” Patty.
PATTY HABERBERGER: Thank you, Emily. Concerns about student behavior can be reported utilizing an online form that is linked on the Show Me Renewal Plan for students under the Accountability Measures heading on Page 19 of the plan and also in the students FAQs. Regarding concerns about employees, we are currently working to develop a similar form that will be placed on the employee page. We are hoping to have this form ready very soon, but until then, you should report concerns either to your supervisor or campus HR professional. Mark, I’ll pass it off to you now.
MARK MCINTOSH: Thank you, Patty, again. So, in the research setting, laboratory safety has always been one of our top priorities, and obviously there’s a heightened awareness at this particular point in time. Our Show Me Renewal research committee has developed guidelines for laboratory safety and new compliance tools to address the unique challenges posed by coronavirus in the research environment. They worked very closely with Environmental Health and Safety to create a one-page interface that allows all of our research and lab personnel to report their concerns related to laboratory safety and personnel health. This tool reports behavioral concerns, such as social distancing and the availability of appropriate personal protective equipment, as well as proper laboratory safety practices and safety features. While it’s not required, researchers and lab members may provide their name and contact information while reporting these concerns. It is important to note that this tool called Health and Safety Concerns, is available on both the Show Me Renewal and the Research to Restart websites, which empowers our research community to keep safety as our No. 1 priority.
SPAIN: Mark and Patty, thank you very much. This next question comes from a community member, and this is for Jim Sterk. “Jim, what are the plans for athletics? Will there be games that fans can attend, and what is athletics doing to ensure safety of athletes?”
JIM STERK: I’ll start with the latter question first. Creating safety is the No. 1 priority, and we’ve been working with all the experts on campus and obviously with the CDC. The SEC has a medical task force as well before we even talked about bringing in student-athletes back to campus, and so we’re trying to create the safest environment possible and moving towards voluntary activities and then moving towards competitions. And so, we still have a target of the first part of September, and we haven’t varied from that. If we need to pivot and adjust due to things out of our control as far as the epidemic, then we’ll do that, but as of right now, we’re planning on playing in September.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, Jim. This next question is for President Choi, and this one comes from a faculty member. “The COVID-19 cases were lower in March when classes were moved online. How do you rationalize opening campus at the height of a pandemic when a vaccine is still not available?” President Choi.
CHOI: That is an excellent question, and those are the questions that our testing, contact-tracing and quarantining task force members have been addressing for the past few months, but we believe that there will always be risks in opening up a campus whether there’s a pandemic or not. But our preparation, our preparation for the education and training of our students to better understand the health requirements that we have through the CDC, as well as that same training for our faculty and staff, and using the proper social distancing, symptom checking, as well as face covering, will protect our community. And this community has followed the rules very well. During the past four or five months of the pandemic, there were only two deaths in Boone County, and the level of community spread is lower than what it was in Kansas City, St. Louis or Chicago. So, our goal is to continue with the education training, monitor very carefully the rate of disease spread on our campus and in Columbia, but also at the same time, be prepared for more hospitalization required for COVID patients, and so we will pivot when necessary to be able to go into remote operations again. Because like I shared with you before, the health and well-being is very important for all of us, for our stakeholders.
SPAIN: OK, President Choi, thank you so much. This next question comes from another faculty member, and it’s for Matt Martens. “Data show that face masks are the best effective way to prevent COVID transmission. Can faculty use masks with clear plastic over the mouth, that are currently being used for the hearing impaired if we feel it is a better option than the face shields?”
MARTENS: So, I think the best course of action for that particular situation, would be for the faculty member to first have a conversation with their department chair, and then at that point, we can discuss with the dean, and the other representatives who sit on the academic operations team, to figure out if that’s a viable alternative. As President Choi mentioned at the beginning of the discussion, the critical piece for us when thinking about this was can we make sure that we have a situation where the instructor can have the face covering but also be able to deliver the content, too, in a way that the students would be able to fully experience what’s being covered, so that might be a viable alternative. So, in that particular situation, bring the request to their department chair, and then we will figure out if it’s something that we can implement.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, Matt. This next question is for John. It reads, and it’s from, it isn’t saying who it’s from, but it’s for you, John. “Would I be alerted if one of my students tests positive?”
MIDDLETON: So, a positive test result is a piece of medical information, and therefore it’s medically protected information. A student can self-identify that they have tested positive to a dean, department chair or faculty member, and therefore, they would be aware of the fact that a person has tested positive. Because somebody tests positive in a classroom situation, does not necessarily mean that that has downstream implications for the rest of the class, because of the infection-control procedures that we have in place: the distancing, the face covering and so forth. So, it’s possible that a person could test positive, and we would not get to know on campus, because it is medically protected information, and therefore it does have to be self-reported by the individual.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, John. Our next question is for Beth Chancellor, and this one is from a staff member. “If I continue to work remotely, is there assistance to help pay for a suitable internet connection?”
BETH CHANCELLOR: Yeah, so, right now we are working with HR and within IT to develop policies for that. There’s a lot of questions about remote work, not just for IT people but for all employees related to what type of equipment they would need at home whether it’s computers, internet connection, and so we don’t have the results of that policy. There’s still discussion going on about that, as to whether or not internet connection costs would be provided, but those policies are in progress right now.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, Beth. The next question comes from a community member, and it’s for Maurice Gipson, “How will we continue to support our underrepresented minority community members during this time?” Maurice.
MAURICE GIPSON: Thank you, Emily, and that’s an excellent question. And quite honestly, as we are developing all of our processes and procedures, we think of all of our stakeholders, and the community, obviously, is one of our most important stakeholders as well. So, we want to make sure that they still have access to the university. Obviously as a state school, we make ourselves available to the university, but we want to make sure it’s done in a safe way. So, I know people are probably accustomed to being able to come into the library and use the union as they want, but we want to make sure that we’re maintaining the social distancing and our mask policies, not only for our campus community but also our community partners. We have done, particularly in this division, done a slate of programming, and they will have that available for the fall. Wtill we’ll have some of the interaction, there won’t be face to face, but we’ve done a lot of virtual programming, so that we can make sure that we maintain that connection to our community partners. So, again, we definitely have not left them out, and we intend to continue to engage them on, through COVID and afterwards.
SPAIN: OK, Maurice, thank you so much. This next question is for Provost Ramchand, it’s from a faculty member. “Will in-person classes end at Thanksgiving break, and all finals be online?”
LATHA RAMCHAND: At this point, the plan is not to end classes at Thanksgiving. If the situation changes, then we will make appropriate changes, but as of right now, the fall semester is unchanged.
SPAIN: OK, thank you, Provost. This next question comes from a faculty member. “How will the requirements for social distancing and PPE be enforced in the context of student activities, like parties, concerts or sports?” President Choi.
CHOI: Well, it’s going to come through education. We can’t be everywhere to enforce our rules. We’ll do the best we can, obviously, enforcing the rules while students, faculty and staff are on campus, but it’s really instilling in our students that the health and welfare of each one of us depends on how seriously individuals take that responsibility. And there are many students, faculty and staff who want to come back to that rich, campus in-person experience, but that experience will be diminished if we have to have a reversion back into remote operation because members of our community did not take the safety and health precaution seriously. So, it is constant reminders and constant enforcement while they’re on campus and also using the buddy system to make sure that we have people who understand how their actions can affect all of us in our community.
SPAIN: OK, President Choi, thank you. This next question is for Provost Ramchand. “If I’m notified through the contact tracing process that I might have been exposed, do I need to shut the class down for the duration of quarantine, am I empowered to move the class online temporarily if I’m feeling well enough to teach during that time and should I make arrangements for a sub?” Provost.
RAMCHAND: Good question. If a contact tracer notifies a faculty member that they had close and sustained contact with someone who tested positive, then you will be asked to quarantine, and you should do so. The recommendation is that you inform your department chair immediately and work with them to have a buddy or someone else take over the class, and at that point, working with the department chair, you can decide how the class moves forward while you are in this post. If a student in your class informs you that they did test positive, you don’t really have to do anything. Now, of course, recognizing that the student does not have to do that, as John Middleton explained, this is private information, but even if you do find out, there is no need for you to transition to an online modality unless other things change at the same time. I also want to point out that what we’re talking about here is close and sustained contact, which is, at this point, defined as contact with someone who tested positive within a 6-foot distance and for 15 minutes or longer.
CHOI: Without a mask, without a face covering.
RAMCHAND: That’s right.
SPAIN: OK, moving to the next question, this one comes from a student, and this is for Matt. “Matt, have you considered the possibility of allowing students to choose whether or not they want to do their courses online or in person?”
MARTENS: So, with the way that the course schedule is shaping out, as President Choi mentioned at the beginning, we are having to reconfigure a number of our courses in order that in-seat classes can meet physical distancing guidelines and other safety precautions. So, compared to prior semesters, there’s going to be a more diverse array of modalities. We’re certainly still continuing to offer a high percentage of face-to-face courses but considerably more blended courses, where some of the class is online, some of the class is in person, and more online courses than in previous semesters. So, I would encourage students to work with their advisors, wait for a couple of weeks until we can get all of the updates to the schedule finished, but if they want to take more online classes, and to take more blended classes, to look for options to so. What we cannot guarantee, because it’s just simply not feasible, is that a student could take any class in any format. That that’s just not logistically possible, but we’re confident that in most cases, students will be able to fill their schedule with courses that they want, or courses that they need, in different modalities, particularly, if they want to be in more blended or online courses.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, Matt. This next question comes from a faculty member, and it is for Gary Ward. “Gary, what are the current guidelines for hosting events “for the upcoming semester?”
WARD: So, there’s a committee that is looking into that, they’re meeting every week, trying to determine are we going to have outside groups be able to come on or just inside groups, and how those are going to look. Obviously, we’re going to have to keep social distancing and mask wearing and have those type of parameters in place. We hope to know more about that within the next week or two, and to be able to publish that as part of our Show Me Renewal plan.
SPAIN: OK, Gary, thank you very much. This next question is for Patty. “Patty, can staff shift back to working from home at any point if they don’t feel safe or if cases rise?”
HABERBERGER: Thank you, Emily. As we move forward with repopulating campus, college, school and division leaders are responsible for implementing work plans for their areas. This can include working on site, remote work or hybrid work options that might stagger the hours or days that employees are scheduled. Employees with their own underlying health conditions have the option to notify their supervisor and our Human Resources Office, and primarily their assigned HR professional, of their concerns and request a reasonable accommodation. Employees should work with their supervisor, and/or unit leadership to receive approval for their specific work arrangement requests. Supervisors and leaders should consider a number of factors such as the employee’s particular job duties, their ability to work remotely, meeting the business needs of the unit, the overall work environment, etc. However, if feasible, supervisors are encouraged to provide telework options to employees, or groups of employees, whose job duties can be performed remotely without disrupting university operations. As some of my fellow panelists have already mentioned, the university will continue to implement public health practices, such as social distancing, face-covering requirements and more, and we’ll adjust health and safety guidelines to provide the safest working and learning environment possible for faculty, staff, students and others in our community.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, Patty. This next question comes from a faculty member, and it’s for Provost Ramchand. “Provost, it sounds like a positive COVID student in my class, might not become information to me. As a high-risk individual, this is alarming. I initially chose face to face for my class, but now I’m rethinking that decision as I do not want to live and teach in fear every day. Is it possible to change my class election at this point?” Provost.
RAMCHAND: Thank you, Emily, and thanks to the faculty member for that question. We sent out guidance on those issues about a week or so ago, and my suggestion would be that the faculty member contact their chair, who will then work with HR to the extent possible, to decide how best to address that situation.
SPAIN: OK, Provost, thank you very much. This next question, also from a faculty member, is for Beth Chancellor. “Beth, how is IT preparing for the influx of support that will undoubtedly be needed for faculty members who might have to make quick changes after hours? Beth.
CHANCELLOR: Thank you, Emily. So, we have a team of IT staff that are distributed all across the campus. Many of our IT people are working remotely, but in some cases, IT staff can’t work remotely because there’s a physical nature to a lot of the work that they do. We have regular schedules of cleaning of IT equipment that is shared, including recently some discussions about making sure microphones are cleaned. We’re spacing computers farther apart if they’re multi-use computers, we’re placing hand wipes, as long as supplies are available, in classrooms and auditoriums, so that faculty who go into those spaces and aren’t 100% sure that the equipment that they’re using is clean, they can clean them themselves, if they want to take extra precautions. Then, of course, to protect our own IT people, we’re giving them protective equipment and putting in shields for our IT office and other places where we do have to meet with people face to face. For faculty, who’ll need to make last-minute changes, I would ask that they contact their IT support team. All of the teams are gearing up and have been gearing up to provide equipment and software that allows them to work remotely if they need to. Then, of course, our eLearning team is prepared to help faculty get their courses online if they need to get their courses online in a pinch.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, Beth. John, this next question is for you. “What information will be provided about campus data, positivity rates, number of tests?”
MIDDLETON: So, we’re currently working with the health department, as well as MU Student Health to construct a dashboard that will give information, such as the number of positive cases of those tested through Student Health. Bearing in mind, as I said before, that this information at the individual level is protected, but what we’re hoping is to give some high-level data, so that folks have an estimate of what’s going on on campus, very much like you would see if you go to the como.gov website and look at their dashboard. Bear in mind though, that because we’re using student health care data, that not all of our students may seek testing or health care through the Student Health facilities, and therefore, we may not have complete data, but it will at least give you a snapshot of what’s going on on campus.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, John. This next question is for both President Choi, and Provost Ramchand. It comes from a staff member. “In response to the economic crisis created by COVID-19, the Program Audit and Review Committee that you established has been making recommendations for program closure or consolidation to you and Provost Ramchand. When are their processes and recommendations, going to be made public?”
CHOI: So, let me ask the Provost to begin, and I’ll have some comments. So, Provost.
RAMCHAND: Thank you. Thank you, President Choi. So, the process for moving the recommendations from this committee is as follows: The committee shares their recommendations with the president and myself. We then invite faculty, the department chair and the dean of the unit that might be impacted by that recommendation to present any data, provide us with any input that might suggest otherwise, that might give us other indications about the recommendation. We review all that information and then make a decision, which is publicly shared. We do not intend to share the recommendations unless they are converted into actionable decisions, and we have been following that process to this point. At this point, I just want people to know that the process is in place, and we are working on that, but we don’t have anything to share as of yet.
CHOI: Nothing more to add, other than, the primary focus of PARC, is to identify or is to really create and sustain programs of excellence at the university, and there may be some programs or units that made sense 20, 30 years ago, but we’re asking the question, are they still relevant and do they provide the return on investment that we expect at an AAU university?
SPAIN: OK, President Choi and Provost Ramchand. Thank you very much. This next question is for Matt, and it is from a staff member, “It has been discussed that there are measures being taken to ensure social distancing being observed in classes. Is there a percentage of capacity that is being used to help with enrollment in classes, and is there any idea of how many students will be returning in the fall?” Matt.
MARTENS: So, we’re actually doing more. I know a number of our peer institutions have been using percentages, we’ve actually, much to my chagrin sometimes and especially operations’ chagrin, gone a few steps further, and I’ve actually figured out classroom capacity to where the 6-foot social distancing could be maintained, with the exception of lab classes, where we have some different parameters in place, including extra precautions in terms of face coverings. So, the gist of it is that our thinking about our traditional classrooms, this goes back to the question that Provost Ramchand had centered on, our students should all be at least 6 feet apart from each other and from the instructor, which, along with the face coverings, means that the best available evidence suggests that this is a low-risk disease-transmission environment. So, we’re really doing all that we can, and we really have to give a major kudos to operations here for all the work that they’re doing to ensure not just making kind of an estimate based on fire-code capacity or something like that, but actually trying to figure out what is the most number of students we can put in a classroom and maintain the distance, and that’s our capacity, and we’re not going one student above that. So, I’m really proud of the work that different groups have done to ensure that whatever the cap is in the particular classroom, it’s meeting our current public health guidelines in terms of physical distancing.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, Matt. This next question is for Gary, and it comes from a faculty member. “Gary, are there any dates established for when campus is reopening to faculty and staff, when can we expect to freely return to our offices and when will staff be asked to come back to campus if possible?” Gary.
GARY WARD: So, each unit is to be working on their return plan through their department chairs, their deans or through their vice chancellors and their heads, and then that plan is the one that we are looking at for implementing. Those plans are sent to me and others, and I’m making sure that, or we’re making sure that, those spaces are properly prepared for those returns. So, those plans if they haven’t been communicated, will be the same for every single individual.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, Gary. This next question, we’ll start with Marsha, and then Patty, if you have anything to add, feel free to chime in. This comes from a staff member, and it says, “What is the protocol should a staff member be exposed to another person that has tested positive for COVID? Will the office with the exposed staff member need to shut down for a designated period of time?” Marsha.
MARSHA FISCHER: So, again, maybe a little more details, to note precisely what we’re saying. If they’re saying that they’ve been contacted by the contract tracers, that they need to quarantine, and similar to the answers that have previously been given related to faculty, then they would be asked to do that. Additional cleaning measures would be taken to ensure that the space is then available for that. I don’t know if Gary wants to add anything from the facility standpoint as well?
WARD: Thank you, yes. We do make sure we go in. We disinfect every single space that has any kind of contact tracing that leads back to this, and we will continue to clean this space. We just don’t do it in one time, we continue to go back to all of our spaces on campus.
SPAIN: So, Gary, when that staff member is potentially exposed, and you shut it down to clean, I’m assuming no staff members in the office will be allowed in during cleaning?
WARD: Depends on the shape of the suite. If it’s a small suite, no, but if it’s a larger suite, we can take a part of it off. We can just get in there and disinfect that or fog it, or whatever we need to do, to get in.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, Gary and Marsha. Patty, was there anything you wanted to add?
HABERBERGER: No, I don’t think so. I think it really does depend on, like, how if they were in close contact even or not, and it’s just kind of hard to tell without knowing a little bit more details, but I think I agree with what everyone else has said.
SPAIN: Our next question will be for President Choi, and this one is from a community member. “What can alumni do to help in your efforts?” President Choi.
CHOI: Oh, yeah, they can do a lot, and provide us with moral support, and whenever they see a student that you believe is attending Mizzou, remind them to wash their hands, wear their face mask but also participate in some of our events with us. We’re going to be having many Zoom webinars that really illustrate the best of what we do and share the message, the positive messages that this university serves the entire state of Missouri and how proud they are of our strong efforts to prepare for a safe reopening in the fall.
SPAIN: OK, President Choi, thank you so much. Mark, this next question is for you. “Can those who manage labs have their own stricter class policies if they are worried about safety? For example, can a lab manager say, ‘N95 masks are required for this lab,’ not just a face covering?”
MCINTOSH: Thank you for that question. No, in general laboratory practice and laboratory coursework, we expect faculty, staff and students to follow the campus guidelines, as Matt noted in the academic spaces. Also in the research basis, proper social distancing, physical distancing and face coverings, will minimize the risk of transmitting the virus, and so those guidelines are put in place with that precaution in mind. Now, obviously, there are some very special circumstances in laboratories, where elevated containment is required, but that is really based upon the research being done in there and not safety precautions related to general laboratory in-classroom work.
SPAIN: Okay, Mark, thank you very much. This next question is for Beth Chancellor, and it comes from a staff member. “Beth, what is the status of the transition to Microsoft Teams, and is IT ready to help those working remotely, to make that transition?” Beth.
CHANCELLOR: Thank you, Emily. Yes, Microsoft 365 is available now. There are instructions on how to get your account set up on the DoIT website at doit.missouri.edu, or you can call the help desk, and they can talk you through it. Microsoft Teams is part of that suite of tools that are available, and if you have trouble using Microsoft Teams, you can call the help desk, and we can get you additional help. It’s fairly intuitive. I think that everybody on this panel has been using Teams on an occasional basis. And then, if you need extra help with Teams, or with any of the Microsoft tools, reach out to the IT pro that supports your department, and we will find resources to get you additional training. You might want to keep in mind that there is a lot of training available on the internet. You can go to Microsoft’s website; there are videos on how to use the tools and instructions. Again, most of them are intuitive, but if you need extra help, either contact your IT professional, or go online and Google it, and you can you can learn a lot that way, too.
SPAIN: OK, Beth, thank you. This next question can go to either Patty or Marsha. You both can answer if you’d like. It comes from a staff member. “Is the university making any further plans to support families in the event K-12 school is called off for an extended period? Many departments would struggle with a large void that working parents would leave to home school and care for their family. I am most concerned about single parent families, those who have no extended family support nearby and families of many young children who will need supervision at home. This describes a large portion of university staff.” So Patty or Marsha?
FISCHER: Patty, I might start and then you can fill in what I miss. I think what I’m hearing most out of that question is the key for communication, the communication between the employee and the supervisor, to see what arrangements can be made. Of course, all of us at the university want to meet our responsibilities to the students, and to our constituents and fulfill our job duties. So, I think key is communication with the supervisor, to see if working from home arrangements, and things like that, are available or not. There still remain in place some policies, HR-700, that folks can look at, that do allow some paid time off, as well as some unpaid time off if a school is closed, and that may depend on whether they’ve used some of that leave in the prior semester. So, I would encourage them to talk to their supervisor, talk to the HR professional and have a good line of communication.
HABERBERGER: Yes, I totally agree. I think that we will be encouraging our supervisors to exercise some flexibility and adaptability, and depending on what their situation is, as Marsha said, we may have some policies that might be able to help them.
SPAIN: OK, thanks, Patty. Our last question will go to Gary Ward. “Gary, what is the status our HVAC systems on campus? How will adequate safe ventilation in all buildings be assured, even during the winter?” Gary.
WARD: Thank you, Emily, and this is a question I’m asked quite a lot. So, there’s a national organization called the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers, or ASHRAE for short. This is our nation’s indoor air quality experts. They have been all over this COVID since February, and they’ve been putting out recommendations to the building owners and managers groups since then, and I can tell you that we meet or exceed all ASHRAE recommendations, but as you’ve heard throughout this presentation today that things change, and as they change, we will continue to watch and listen for the recommendations and make whatever changes are required, but right now, we meet or exceed all the recommendations for our buildings’ HVAC systems.
SPAIN: Gary, thank you very much. So, that concludes our first town hall today. Thank you so much to everyone watching and streaming this right now. If you missed anything, it will be available at president.missouri.edu under the “Town Halls” tab, where you can watch the full recording once it’s uploaded there, of course. We received hundreds of questions today. A lot of them were very similar, and we touched on a lot of them today. Some of them were more individualized, so, we’ll be working on getting those, and more individual-specific questions, to the departments that will do a clearer job at answering those questions for you. For now, I’m going to turn it over to President Choi to close. President Choi.
CHOI: Emily, thank you for that outstanding job as a moderator, and let me close by saying how proud I am of the faculty and staff, who really stepped up, stepped up to prepare the university for the reopening. We have faculty members, staff and students in engineering, developing and printing 3,000 face shields for our instructors, with faculty members and staff in biochemistry, developing new technologies to test sewage to be able to determine the presence of COVID-19. And our faculty members and staff in health professions and the School of Nursing are training our contact tracers, and on top of that, our outstanding faculty in the School of Medicine, developed the first clinical trial for a very rapid optoelectronic technique for determining COVID-19 at the point of care. These types of innovations will help us and our community and the rest of the country become safer. And I’m so proud of their work and the work of more than 150 professionals at the university that developed the Show Me Renewal plan. We can’t wait to have you back, and we look forward to seeing you in a few weeks, so, thank you.