Dear Liberal Arts Faculty, Staff, Graduate Students, and Post Docs:
I apologize for having to welcome you back from Spring Break under less-than-ideal circumstances.
As you know, Penn State is responding to the COVID-19 national emergency by moving temporarily to remote teaching for faculty, remote learning for students, and telecommuting (as is appropriate and permissible) for staff who are able to effectively meet their work responsibilities remotely. This period begins tomorrow and will extend through at least Friday, April 3. Although the University is not closed, all planned events that are not absolutely essential should be cancelled, rescheduled, or offered virtually through April 6, regardless of their anticipated size.
If you will be on campus, be mindful of personal cleanliness and social distancing. Do not come to the office if you feel ill. For those of you who are at high risk for complications from contracting COVID-19 and/or have specific health concerns, contact your immediate supervisor and our college’s HR team — Emily Bloom, Jessica Fatica, and HR Strategic Partner Amanda Gallo. For more comprehensive guidance, everyone receiving this message should review the attached document, “Guidance for Faculty and Instructors, March 13, 2020 (5:05 pm).” If you are teaching this semester, I also encourage you to visit Penn State’s Remote Teaching website and Remote Learning website for helpful information and Frequently Asked Questions on these important topics.
If you are a staff employee and have not yet done so, you should speak with your supervisor about telecommuting options that are possible or available. For additional information regarding remote working arrangements, see the attached document, “Employee Expectations — Temporary Teleworking Arrangement, As of: March 11, 2020.” You may also consult COVID-19 (Coronavirus) FAQs for Penn State Staff Members on the Penn State Human Resources website.
I have communicated separately to our undergraduate students that their academic progress and success are our college’s top priority, and that instructors and staff are working hard to make the shift to remote teaching and learning as smooth as possible. At the same time, I have informed them that technological mishaps will most likely occur and that they should report any internet connectivity and/or course accessibility difficulties to instructors and advisors. Above all, I have asked them to be patient and understanding, and assured them that faculty and staff will act as quickly as possible to troubleshoot and resolve issues as they arise.
I ask you, as well, to be patient and forgiving of others and yourselves. Due to this pandemic, most of us are balancing parenting, caregiving, and other personal obligations in new and unexpected ways alongside our work lives. I trust that we will all keep these human dimensions of this crisis in mind over the next few weeks. I recognize that this may be a stressful moment for many; do not neglect your personal wellness, mentally as well as physically. If necessary, consider consulting our University’s Employment Assistance Program if you need support and assistance. I encourage you to also stay updated on the latest campus community news through the University’s COVID-19 website.
A few of you have shared with me your concerns about hateful language and actions directed at international students and faculty, and those at similar risk of being targeted as “others.” I am not aware of any reported episodes on our campus along these lines; however, if you witness or experience any such incidents, report them immediately to the Office of Educational Equity. As a courtesy, please also notify our college’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Earl Merritt (email@example.com).
In the meantime, our dean’s office team continues to discuss, consider, and fine-tune responses to this rapidly unfolding situation, while also maintaining the normalcy of routine processes, procedures, and deadlines. We will do our very best to strike a healthy balance between keeping you informed while also not drowning you in a continual flood of information. I am also engaged in conversations with University partners as a member of the Office of the Provost’s Academic Leadership Council. At the end of last week, moreover, your department heads, academic program directors, and I held the first of several emergency conference calls that likely will continue over the next several weeks. Please continue to share your questions and concerns with them—they have been doing a diligent job so far of bringing your urgent matters to my attention.
At our best as a Liberal Arts community, we are distinguished by our capacities for creative problem-solving, cooperative labor, ethical judgment, critically informed decision-making, respect for the strength of our diverse identities and perspectives, and collective empathy for one another. I am confident that we will pull together to meet the challenges that the current moment demands.
I look forward to checking in on you again soon. Take good care of yourselves in the meantime.