From the President, re: Staff Returning to Campus

June 24, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

During the last three months, our staff have excelled with their dedication to supporting our students, and in many cases have gone above and beyond to ensure that “Virtual Southern” has been operating successfully.

Now, as we look to a fall reopening of the university, the  CSCU System Office has asked each campus to make plans to re-staff its administrative offices; with Southern commencing July 13. Students will be allowed to access on-ground services beginning Aug. 3.

As part of this planning process, I have requested that each vice president present a scenario for their respective divisions - our final repopulation plan must be submitted to the system office no later than July 6.  Employees will receive advance notice (at least three to five days) notice that they should return to work on campus.

A timeline will need to be prepared for the opening of each office or service, along with a schedule detailing the number of staff that will be present on specific days and times and whether services are being offered on-ground or remotely.

Requirements will include the rotating of employee teams in each suite or office space to control the number of people working together at any one time; maintaining 50 percent or less capacity to meet social distancing requirements, and allowing for remote work to continue for the balance.

To comply with social distancing protocols, employees, students, and visitors to campus will be required to wear face masks in public areas and open office spaces (excluding private offices).

The state Department of Administrative Services recommends that in person meetings be limited to a third of the normal room occupancy with at least 6 feet separation of those in attendance, with larger group meetings being conducted via Teams or WebEx.

Ensuring the health and safety of our employees is obviously a vital priority. And in doing so, we will be sensitive and responsive to the individual concerns and issues of our employees.

As you know, there are communities and individuals among us who have suffered greatly during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic – both from the illness and its economic fallout. And it is an essential element of our social justice mission that we display kindness and compassion during a time of great anxiety for many.

Employees who may be eligible to continue to work remotely, based on certain documented medical conditions, should contact Steve Weinberger, Chief Human Resources Officer, at for further information.

As I stated in my previous reopening update, our facilities team has been hard at work, measuring classrooms and meeting areas for social distancing; producing safe practices signage that will be visible all over campus, and ordering and assembling PPE and sanitary equipment.

We have obtained 85,000 facemasks (50,000 cloth reusable and 35,000 disposable). These will be issued to all students, faculty and staff as part of an individual Southern Cares kit that will also include hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to clean personal work stations.

All classrooms, labs, studios and conference rooms will have touchless hand sanitizer dispensers, with socially distanced seating. Ventilation airflow in campus buildings has been increased to 10 or more air exchanges per hour, and high-efficiency air filters have been installed. And all “greeter” points for departments, including reception and help desks and library check outs, will feature Plexiglas barriers.

Cleaning will follow CDC guidelines and electrostatic sprayers have been purchased to disinfect all classrooms and public meeting areas at the end of each day.

As was the case this spring, any faculty or staff members who experience COVID-19 symptoms should consult with their medical provider for testing and those with positive tests must quarantine until approved to return to work by their healthcare provider.

In the event that positive cases are identified on campus, we are working with the state Department of Public Health and other authorities to develop a contact tracing program to limit exposure and spread of the virus. If the health and safety of our campus is compromised, we will adjust our plans accordingly.

I will continue to update you regularly with additional information as our plans for a fall reopening evolve and begin to be implemented.

While this is an unprecedented event, we are sharing the challenge of reopening with colleges and universities across the state and around the nation. We will continue to learn from, and share with, our colleagues in higher education and the public health experts who are advising us.

I thank you as always for your patience, dedication and flexibility as we begin our return to campus in preparation for the arrival of our students in August.


Joe Bertolino