May 27, 2021

Message from the Dean – College Guidance on Fall Return to On-site/Hybrid Work

To:  Full- and Part-Time Staff in the College of the Liberal Arts
cc: Deans and Department Heads
From:  Dean Clarence Lang 
Date: May 27, 2021       

Dear Colleagues, 

I hope this message finds you well and that you have had an opportunity to catch your breath since the end of the spring semester. 

As you are aware, Penn State has announced plans for returning to full in-person teaching and learning and a corresponding return to on-site work for staff by Monday, August 16 (a week before the start of the fall semester). At this time, I would like to summarize the college’s plans for transitioning to on-site work over the summer in anticipation of a full return on August 16. 

  • All College offices are expected to maintain a regular staff presence ​between 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, beginning no later than August 16. While we recognize there is no “one-size-fits-all approach” to office staffing, departments are ​expected to honor University and College expectations to provide a full in-residence campus experience for students and visitors beginning August 16.
  • College units are strongly encouraged to begin transitioning employees back to on-site work this summer​, officially beginning June 1, through August 16. This will allow staff to reacclimate to their on-site workspace; identify and correct any issues or concerns; and ensure that ITLA, OPP, and/or other support services can handle the additional requests that returning to on-site work will likely cause.  
  • While staff will continue to have the option to work remotely or hybrid through the summer, our expectation is that all college staff will return to work on site by August 16. Although remote and hybrid working arrangements will continue to be available after August 16, all such arrangements beyond this date will require supervisor or manager review and Dean approval. Also, while consideration for which employees are fully on-campus, hybrid, and or fully remote will be applied consistently to all staff, we recognize that not every job or set of job duties lends itself to remote work, and that not every individual prefers or is most effective working remotely.  
  • Flexible/hybrid work arrangements (i.e., alternating days/weeks that an employee works on-site and remote, creating alternate work schedules outside the traditional 8:00-5:00/M-F timeframe that meet the needs of the College department or unit) will also be considered, after accounting for factors such as cross-training, work priorities, adequate office coverage during normal business hours, and office setup/occupancy rates. Staff schedules should account for coverage for regular mask ​breaks and other breaks.  
  • Supervisors and managers will meet with each member of their team (individually or collectively depending on the size and complexity of the team) to identify a plan for fall staffing and to discuss employee working arrangements.   
  • Once fall schedules have been finalized and approved, employees will be expected to adhere to their assigned schedule​s. Any substantive schedule change requests must be submitted to the employee’s supervisor or manager for approval.  
  • Those returning to on-site/hybrid work arrangements this summer and fall will be required to adhere to University health and safety protocols in place at the time. As of today, those requirements include wearing a face mask and practicing physical distancing at all times in campus buildings and on public transportation​, regardless of vaccination status; avoiding casual drop-ins with internal and external visitors in offices and hallways; and establishing office protocols for using and cleaning shared convenience items (refrigerators, microwaves, toasters, coffee pots, etc.).   
  • OPP Janitorial Services will continue their COVID cleaning protocols on a daily and weekly basis throughout all campus facilities based on current guidelines. Th​ese protocols include wiping down all high-touch surfaces such as conference room doors, stairwell bannisters, water fountains, and countertops in all common areas. Janitorial Services will also maintain and refill all hand sanitizer stations placed around high-traffic areas.   
  • We recognize that many units are again considering hosting in-person events – both on and off campus – beginning this fall. In the instances where meetings/events/workshops have proven to be more successful being held virtually rather than in person, we strongly encourage units to continue hosting those events virtually. For those planning in-person events, please refer to the college’s Application Process for On- and Off-Campus Meetings document for guidance.  
  • Food and beverages purchased with University funds may not be offered at events, either on- or off-campus, without the approval of the unit executive.  
  • To help ITLA assist as many people as possible, staff returning to campus are asked to set up their own computers and plug in monitor(s), keyboard, mouse and electrical components when they return, and to allow 3-4 hours to update and reboot their office computers if they have been turned off for long periods of time. ITLA will be available to assist with updates on computers and troubleshoot connectivity issues as necessary; tickets should be submitted to the Helpdesk at  

The guidance outlined here is effective June 1 until further notice. I say that knowing that local, state, and federal guidance is extremely fluid and subject to change at any time​. Therefore, revised guidance will be distributed promptly as University guidance evolves. I also realize that you may have additional questions surrounding our return to work that have not been addressed in this summary. If that is the case, please reach out to your supervisor or manager so that they may either answer your questions themselves or contact the appropriate person(s) to obtain an answer. 

Wherever possible and appropriate, I have continued as dean to advocate for a University vaccine mandate for all students and employees who do not have health or other related circumstances that would prevent them from receiving it. I expect that conversation on this point will continue​. ​​In the meantime, I strongly encourage all of you who can be vaccinated to please do so.       

Thank you for all your dedicated work on behalf of the ​College, especially during these past 15 months. I will keep you apprised of any changes to our plans throughout the summer​, as needed.