Planning for an August 2 Return to Campus for the Fall Semester
June 28, 2021
I write to update you on our plans for a return to normal academic and administrative operations on campus.
The School of Medicine and SLUCare recently announced their plans for all staff to return to campus beginning Monday, June 21. The guidance that follows in this message pertains to those of our non-clinical University staff who have been performing their job responsibilities remotely throughout the pandemic.
First, I want to thank and recognize those essential workers who continued to come to campus daily throughout the 15 months of the pandemic. We are grateful for their dedication to our mission, students, patients and colleagues. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
I also want to thank those staff who worked remotely to help reduce the number of people working on campus per our COVID protocols. Working from home has not always been ideal for many of our staff and faculty. And we appreciate that they have never missed a step.
Now, with the fall 2021 semester looking to be much closer to normal, the University Leadership Council, President’s Cabinet and staff and faculty from across various academic and administrative units have been considering when should our employees who have been working from home return to campus to do their work.
Those discussions have illuminated three important insights about remote work and on-campus work:
- Our faculty, staff, and most students have powerfully reaffirmed our shared value of in-person interaction, relationship and community.
- There is a difference between functionally keeping the University running/getting our work done (and for a relatively short period of time, given our 200+-year history) and fully living our value of shared community and experience.
- For certain staff positions, some amount of well-planned remote work can enhance efficiency and provide greater employee flexibility and job satisfaction – without sacrificing equity or commitment to our mission.
Those key insights inform the guidance that follows that pertains to the remainder of our University staff who have been performing their job responsibilities remotely throughout the pandemic.
This guidance addresses: a) our return to campus this summer in preparation for the Fall 2021 term; b) our commitment to creating mechanisms to support greater flexibility during the upcoming fall semester; and c) our beginning efforts to build a culture that supports a variety of remote work scenarios beyond the fall semester.
Return-to-campus expectations: Near term
We are planning for a full return of our non-clinical staff to campus beginning Aug. 2. This date was set after discussions with the ULC, Cabinet and others to provide adequate time for staff and departmental leadership to plan and prepare for normal campus operations.
Staff and faculty who need to be on campus to prepare for the start of the fall term (as they would have pre-pandemic) may begin returning immediately. Please keep in mind our summer COVID-prevention guidance that outlines the safeguards people may need to take as they are out and about on our St. Louis campuses this summer.
We recognize that COVID-19-related conditions will continue to influence the ability of some SLU employees to meet the Aug. 2 timeline (either fully or partially). In general, two main situations may warrant a different timeline for some University staff who need to continue to work remotely — and, with different approval processes:
- COVID-19-influenced personal medical conditions:
In these situations, an employee may need to request alternative work arrangements through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation process. An ADA request may be submitted by selecting the “Request” icon on the Workday home page. In addition, the employee must have their physician complete the ADA Medical Certification form found here. The form will be returned to the employee’s Human Resources consultant who will discuss the accommodation request with the employee and employee’s supervisor and determine if a reasonable accommodation can be made. It is important to note that personal medical information will not be shared by HR with that employee’s supervisor.
- Short-term (through September 7) COVID-19-influenced family/household member care responsibilities. In these situations, individual-specific extensions for working remotely may be appropriate. We encourage all supervisors to consider granting extensions of remote working arrangements for one-to-five weeks. If you believe your circumstances justify an extension, please work directly with your supervisor.
Such extensions may be appropriate if:
- The employee’s work can be adequately accomplished remotely in the short term (through Sept. 7) without significant disruption or negative impact on their colleagues and/or students.
- And the situation aligns with any other expectations for return to campus established by the division leader (e.g., Vice President, Provost). Note: as we prepare to welcome residential students to campus in mid-August, some staff/faculty need to be on campus for student-/family-facing events and activities that may not allow for remote work.
As we strive for the equitable fulfillment of our expectations to return to campus work, there will be some meetings or events in August and early September at which a small number of faculty/staff will still need to be included via Zoom. We all must play an active role to ensure those individuals who are participating via Zoom are welcomed — and not marginalized. Frankly, this is a challenge we faced pre-pandemic as well, particularly when working with our colleagues on the Madrid campus. We must be intentional about recognizing and accounting for the dynamics of such hybrid activities on all participants during this time of transition.
We also recognize that there are still open questions about the recently announced vaccine requirement for all faculty and staff. Guidance around the implementation of the requirement is forthcoming, as Dr. Pestello indicated in his message on June 8. Additional information related to campus health precautions will be released as CDC guidelines are updated and University policies are adjusted or established.
Enhancing flexibility for the fall semester and beyond
While we expect most employees to begin returning to campus by Aug. 2 and to be fully back after any granted extensions, it is important for you to know that we are also committed to addressing remote work for the fall 2021 semester and beyond.
Between now and early September, Human Resources will engage in a consultative process with key leaders and stakeholders, including FSEC, SAC, VPs, deans and directors from across the University, to develop an interim remote work policy that will apply to the fall 2021 semester. The goal is to provide detailed information on remote work, and guidance for both employees and their supervisors to discern an employee’s need or desire to work remotely. You can expect additional information on the interim policy, as well as appropriate training for supervisors and division leaders, to be shared by mid-August.
During the fall semester, using the interim policy and lessons learned during the pandemic as starting points, we will develop a permanent remote work policy that will balance our shared value of in-person interaction, relationship building and community with our need to attract and retain high-quality, talented individuals. We know equity and fairness will be important aspects of our long-term approach to greater flexibility in the workplace. We also recognize that the nature of work is changing, requiring us to be flexible as an organization while meeting the needs of our students, colleagues, and the wider St. Louis community.
I look forward to working on these policies with members of our University community.
Thank you again for your efforts during the past 15 months. Whether you worked on campus or from home, you adapted to difficult circumstances and we made it through together. I, along with so many others, look forward to our community being together soon.
Vice President, Human Resources