Message to faculty/staff from President Mantella, May 4, 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff,
First, thank you for all you have done to help our students finish the Winter semester successfully, albeit not in a way that we could have predicted. We made history with our first virtual commencement on April 24 and our first virtual Board of Trustees meeting held earlier the same day. We have worked to take away as much uncertainty and anxiety as possible during these unprecedented weeks, in which we’ve stayed home and stayed safe, by communicating often and consistently to our community – faculty, staff, students and their families and supporters.
We have been teaching and serving students remotely, and providing for those who remain on campus. The administration and supporting units have been conducting our business virtually. The Senior Leadership Team and the Incident Management Team meet daily. Our faculty and staff have maintained employment and benefits during this uncertain time. All of you, and in particular the critical staff who have been reporting to our campuses each day, have my deep appreciation for your attention to our students, our operations and the safety of our facilities.
We have secured our path to fulfill our promise of a high-quality student experience. We have taken measured actions to preserve flexibility as we come to understand the full impact of this public health crisis. We have a great opportunity to lessen that impact by using our creativity, energy and personalized approach to all we are currently doing.
Our approach to leading in challenging times
While we would never choose this path, it chose us. Amidst these deeply challenging circumstances, lives an opportunity to elevate our approach to education at a time in which the characteristics at our core – safety, personalization and highly-engaged learning – is exactly what is on the minds of our students and citizens. We must lead with courage and our values, fighting for learning to continue in multiple modalities – face-to-face, online and hybrid. We are working to secure a robust on-campus experience in the fall, with the necessary modifications to assure public wellbeing. We are working hard on scenarios to protect us against the unknowns. We will approach any reductions, due to cost and revenue shifts, in measured, data-informed steps, and we will communicate with our valued community members at every step. Below are the decisions we have made to date.
- Spring / Summer 2020
The Spring semester, beginning May 4, and the Summer semester, beginning June 22, will be solely online learning and teaching for our students and faculty. I want to underscore how much I appreciate the tremendous amount of work by all our faculty and staff to design and deliver high-quality courses in an online environment. Having made the decision to be online for Spring and Summer, we have the opportunity to use our experience and ongoing training to enrich our online course offerings even further.
- Fall 2020
We are doing all we can to ensure a strong Fall enrollment, and continue to invite your ideas and full participation. We are considering several scenarios that prioritize the health and safety of the community and allow a safe and robust on-campus experience, with necessary modifications. We will abide by all health guidelines, including optimal conditions for social distancing, sanitation and health check protocols. Because circumstances are dynamic, we will do our best to have a decision about course delivery for the Fall semester by mid-June, and we will keep you informed.
University Finances and Budgets
Our steadfast financial planning for many years has left us in a position to move through this difficult time and focus on our students’ successful finish in the Winter semester. We are now approaching the next fiscal year and budget, and it’s clear the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will last for months – the possibilities of prolonged or reoccurring disruptions remain. Because of the unknowns surrounding COVID-19 and the economy, we must make cost-saving decisions now and review a variety of scenarios as we plan for the 2020/2021 budget cycle. As you know, our financial situation is dependent on multiple factors, including enrollment and state appropriations, neither of which is known at this moment. But we do know there will be many challenging decisions ahead. Some factors are out of our hands – the virus, the overall economy – but much is in our control, and we must embrace those actions we can take to ensure the best outcome for the university. We have identified cost-saving practices we must implement immediately. This coordinated effort throughout the campus community reflects prudent fiscal practices that will give us flexibility as the future unfolds.
We have made the difficult determination that there will be no pay increases for the 2020/2021 academic year. Staff evaluations will continue.
Only positions approved by the appropriate executive officer and determined to be essential to the university’s operation may be posted and filled.
Only essential expenditures approved by the appropriate executive officer should be made. Every effort should be made to limit or curtail expenses, including but not limited to, outside consultants, services and travel.
- Printing costs
You are encouraged to produce only digital communication and move items currently printed to digital. This includes promotions, flyers, newsletters, invitations and other similar items.
No university-sponsored travel should be planned at this time. This includes fall 2020 conferences and trips.
Your life circumstances may have changed during this time. If you are reconsidering your professional path, there are resources available to assist you in making decisions. If you would like to explore reduced working hours, a voluntary unpaid leave or retirement, please connect with your appointing officer or Human Resources.
Return to campus
The State of Michigan continues under the current Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order through May 15, 2020. Recent changes to the order allow students to move their belongings out of campus housing, which began May 1. The housing team is conducting the ten-day move-out in a scheduled, safe manner, using practices deemed appropriate by public health agencies.
The majority of us will continue to work remotely through mid-June, with only critical staff on campus. There will be access for research activities directed by Dr. Robert Smart, vice provost for Research Administration, in coordination with the deans’ offices. For your personal planning, we have a multiple-week ramp-up plan for all faculty and staff to return to campus. Consult with your appointing officer for details. We are planning to be fully back on campus, should circumstances allow, by mid-July to finalize preparations for the Fall semester. The Incident Management Team is working diligently to determine the safest plan to reopen our campuses when allowable. There are several groups on campus planning for academic continuity that address a variety of scenarios. We will continue to share information and firm dates with you as the situation evolves.
Throughout, Grand Valley will maintain CDC and scientific safety protocols, including social distancing, staggered shifts and additional cleaning and sanitation measures. We will provide face masks and other protective equipment. We will require temperature checks and monitoring, and employees should not report to work sick or if they were in contact with someone who is sick.
Reach Higher Together
One quality that makes Grand Valley special is all faculty and staff see enrollment and retention as everyone’s job. It matters. We all have a stake in the outcome, and our students and families are counting on us to deliver the high-quality, high-value education for which Grand Valley is known.
Thank you for your commitment to our students and your efforts on their behalf. Do not hesitate to contact me as we get through this together. We will be even stronger.
Philomena V. Mantella, President