August 17, 2020
It has been a very busy spring and summer as we’ve all worked to ensure our campuses are as safe and welcoming as they can possibly be amidst this worldwide pandemic. We are writing with updates in several areas for our faculty and staff communities.
Education and classroom instruction
We continue to work through the informed consent process with our students. We are removing the “defer” option and contacting those students (~11%) as well as the approximately 850 students who have told us they prefer not to be on campus this semester. Only students who select “yes” will be allowed on our campuses. This information will be coded on their IDs and a system to access this information is being developed.
We have appointed two new working groups to provide guidance and address academic issues. Each year academic affairs provides guidance to faculty around additions and language to be included in syllabi. Given the many complications that we face as a result of COVID this year, a broader group has been formed to make these recommendations. Andrew Coppens, chair of the Faculty Senate student affairs committee, and Kate Ziemer, the new senior vice provost for academic affairs, are leading this effort. The group will provide guidance around expectations of students consistent with the COVID public health campaign, required use of masks and the flexibility that will be necessary if our mode of operations changes or individuals need to quarantine. The second working group is reviewing proctoring software and developing guidance for the use of Respondus Monitor in online exam proctoring. The committee is chaired by Michel Charpentier, chair of the Faculty Senate IT committee, and Terri Winters from Academic Technology.
Testing and tracing
We are well into our pre-arrival COVID-19 testing program and appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through the challenges of using external testing partners until our own lab and testing process is up and running. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any difficulties getting your results. The current plan is for students to be tested every four days and on-campus faculty and staff to be tested once per week when the semester starts. We will share more information about regular testing expectations, results reporting and other information in a subsequent email; please watch for it.
Only medical personnel in UNH Health & Wellness will have access to positive test results, which are protected medical information for every one of us. Supervisors, faculty members and colleagues will not receive that information. We are working on two systems to help inform and protect the health of our community, while protecting individual rights and maintaining HIPAA compliance. One will enable faculty and staff to know if a student can or cannot be in a classroom or office. Another will allow anonymous reporting of individuals or groups who are not complying with COVID protocols.
Anyone who tests positive will be contacted by UNH Health & Wellness and the NH Department of Health and Human Services as will anyone identified as a close contact. You can learn more about how a close contact is defined and quarantine protocols at the NH DHHS website. If an employee is contacted, they need to notify their supervisor that they will need to work remotely. NH DHHS has been clear that you cannot “test out” of quarantine.
Again, thank you for your patience. The vast majority of requested accommodations for faculty and staff have been approved for flex work or ADA compliance. Faculty and staff have worked with their supervisors to work out mutually agreeable plans for the semester. We acknowledge that K-12 education remains in flux and that is causing many of our faculty and staff members concern. We want to be as flexible as we can and will be following up with additional information.
Campus opening condition
Current data in the state and region, combined with our pre-arrival testing, supports our opening in the yellow condition. Our campuses moved to the yellow mode of operation Monday, Aug. 17. We continue to monitor data in consultation with medical professionals and state officials daily. If we need to modify the condition of operation, you will be notified immediately.
Your commitment to our students and the community are making a difference, and we know you’re as excited to welcome them back as we are. We sent them this video Friday to be sure they knew that as well as our expectations. Thank you for everything you are doing.
James W. Dean Jr.