From the President: Reopening Plan for Campus Offices

July 9, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

During the last few months, all of you have done remarkably well to support our students and keep our university operating remotely, while our facilities team and university police have kept campus safe and secure for our return.

Now, in conjunction with Governor Lamont’s gradual re-opening of Connecticut, we will begin to open our campus administrative and student service offices on a limited basis, starting July 13. Please take the opportunity to read Southern’s office reopening plan with timelines, daily schedules and health and safety information – part of a Reopen 2020 website that will continue to be updated with new information moving forward.

You’ll note that we are taking a phased approach to welcoming our employees back to campus.  While the plan is structured, it is also, by necessity, flexible. Given the current upward trajectory of the virus in Sunbelt states and elsewhere, we are exercising caution and pacing our reopening – as we have all seen during this crisis, scenarios can change drastically during a period of weeks.

In creating this plan, we were also mindful of the equity, access, and inclusive challenges facing our campus community.  So it is designed to provide a safe and smooth transition to the workplace. 

My leadership team, in consultation with supervisors, has determined a schedule detailing which employees will return to campus and when, along with the capacity for each area (50 percent and below, dependent on the function and services offered). You will note that each division and department has adopted staggered work schedules. If they have not already done so, your supervisor will communicate to you which days/weeks you should report to the office.

This approach allows for the early return of individuals who are essential for reopening preparations, with other staff returning gradually during the next several weeks before on-ground student services commence August 3. Please note that employees returning to their offices should now be in contact with their director/supervisor, rather than informing University Police, as has been the norm during the summer.

In the intervening period, health and safety preparations for opening will continue, with the installation of plexiglass dividers, automated hand sanitizers, disinfectant spray stations, air handlers, and other health and safety measures.

It is important to emphasize that all employees returning to the office will be required to wear a face mask (except when working privately at their desks) and maintain adequate social distancing. Masks 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 of our health and safety efforts adhere to guidelines and procedures detailed by the CDC and the state Department of Public Health. And while we will do everything in our power to keep our offices as safe and healthy as possible, each of you will also be asked to do your part to help limit the threat of COVID-19 by observing the outlined protocols.

Next week, I and members of my leadership team will host a virtual Town Hall to provide more information and answer your questions about the workplace reopening process. I plan to hold a similar forum before the start of classes in August.

Soon, I will also provide you with our Four-Point Plan for the fall semester, which must be submitted to the CSCU System Office by the end of this week. It details preparations for reopening campus, monitoring health, containment of a virus outbreak, and a shutdown of campus, if necessary. Again, this and other relevant information will be found on our Reopen 2020 website, where you can also submit questions about any aspects of the plan.

I thank the many individuals who have spent a great deal of time on our planning to reopen campus. And I commend all of you once again for your dedication and flexibility during the challenging last few months.  I look forward to seeing you back on campus in the near future.

Sincerely,

Joe Bertolino

President