Provost Burish: faculty update on COVID-19

Author: Andy Fuller

Note: Dated communications are archived here for reference, but may not reflect the most up-to-date information available.

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for your committed and diligent efforts to take all necessary precautions to safeguard, as much as possible, you, your family, and your colleagues from exposure to the COVID-19 virus while also doing all you can to ensure the best possible distance education for our students.  I know that I start each note to you with thanks.  Please know that this is not formulaic; it is heartfelt.  The selfless efforts so many people have made are extraordinary.

In consultation with Fr. Jenkins and other university leaders including the deans, and after considerable thought and consultation with several faculty, we have decided to take several additional steps to address the health and safety of our faculty and staff members while at the same time continuing to support online teaching and research.  These steps also will position us for additional anticipated measures that state and local governments are likely to take to control the spread of coronavirus.

First, we are now encouraging faculty members and others involved with instructional activities to teach classes from home if they are able to do so.  You will continue to have access to the campus network, your offices on campus, and, for those with specialized needs, a limited number of technology-enhanced classrooms.  Faculty members, graduate students, teaching assistants, and others providing instructional support who plan to use campus facilities for teaching will be classified as essential on-campus personnel and provided authorization for local travel.  However, no one should feel any pressure to come to campus if doing so poses a health or safety risk or if they can teach just as effectively from home.

Second, we are preparing to suspend laboratory research operations in an orderly manner by next week, with an anticipated complete suspension of laboratory operations by Friday, March 27.  The only exception to this suspension of laboratory research will be for those conducting coronavirus-related research.  The labs will be placed in a “hibernation” state, during which time only a small number of formally approved essential personnel will be provided access to maintain equipment and specimens, so that laboratories can be smoothly returned to normal operations when that is possible.

As you prepare your labs for hibernation between now and next week, we ask that faculty members, graduate students, postdocs, and staff members who visit the laboratory maintain a safe (6-foot) physical separation from others who may be working in the labs.  Also, consider setting a rotational schedule as needed to ensure such social-distancing measures can be implemented.  A memorandum from Vice President of Research Bob Bernhard describing additional details about the lab closings will be forthcoming.

Third, in parallel with the planned suspension of laboratory research, campus libraries are also preparing to suspend physical access to on-campus libraries by the end of next week.  The Hesburgh Libraries and the Kresge Law Library will continue to provide service continuity for both faculty and students via virtual access to expertise, online resources, and remote services in support of teaching and learning.  While we regret the need to limit access to this important community resource, doing so lessens the risk to faculty and staff members who require this vital teaching resource as we begin to deliver online education during this unprecedented public health threat.  Visit the Library Service Continuity webpage for daily updates and reach out to your subject librarians and liaisons for virtual consultations.  

While many of you will be able to continue your research remotely by engaging in such activities as computational work and simulation, data analysis, and paper and proposal writing, please know that we understand the significant impacts the decision to close the labs and library will have on you, your students, and our University.  We will do all we can to work with you to minimize these impacts.  

Finally, I again want to emphasize my profound gratitude for your continuing efforts to serve our students and our University under these challenging and unpredictable circumstances.  I hope and pray that all of you and your family remain healthy in the days and months ahead. 

Yours in Notre Dame,