Fr. Jenkins: Guidance on continued remote work, future steps

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

Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

I hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and doing well in this unsettled time. I once again thank each of you—both those working remotely and those filling important roles on campus—for your creativity and flexibility as Notre Dame has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am truly grateful for all that you are doing.

As Tom Burish, Marie Lynn Miranda and I outlined in our letter last week, we are guided by our central University goals and principles, as well as by advice from medical and public health experts, as we formulate plans for the reopening of campus and the eventual return to full operations.

As you no doubt have heard, Indiana’s Governor Eric Holcomb on Friday announced a five-stage approach, Back on Track Indiana, to gradually reopen the state between now and July 4. In light of the Governor’s announcement, some may have questions about when you should plan to return to campus for your work.

There has been no change in the State of Indiana’s guidance for institutions of higher education. Specifically, “Educational institutions (including public and private pre-K-12 schools, colleges, and universities) may be open for purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of 6 feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible.”

Consequently, if you are working remotely, please continue to do so until further guidance is offered.

The Governor’s plan continues to emphasize the importance of social distancing, personal hygiene, use of protective masks, and stay-at-home practices, especially for vulnerable populations, and prohibits gatherings of more than 25 people through May 24. At the same time, the plan does allow certain businesses, including restaurants and retail businesses, to reopen with limited capacity this week, with the lifting of additional restrictions in the weeks ahead.

While we are not asking most of those who are working remotely to make any immediate changes, we will begin to bring groups of faculty and staff back to campus in a phased approach over the next few months—always with careful attention to your health and safety, and in a manner consistent with all federal, state and local health requirements.

Below are some steps we will take in coming weeks:

  1. Beginning on May 22, students and their families will be able to retrieve their belongings from campus residence halls according to a pre-determined schedule, with specific appointments for move-out that will support social distancing. The presence of our students and their families and related activity on campus will necessitate the return to campus of a number of employees. Supervisors will be in touch with those who are asked to report to campus, and we will, of course, employ all workplace safeguards.
  2. Thanks to the efforts of the Research Task Force led by Bob Bernhard, we are developing a plan for the safe and gradual re-opening of our campus research labs and libraries. We expect to have additional details to share by May 15. As these plans are finalized, we expect some of those who work in and support the various labs and libraries will return to work on campus in the coming weeks, with others returning later. Again, we will employ all of the recommended workplace safeguards.
  3. By May 15, as was previously announced, we will communicate the University’s plans for the second half of the summer, specifically whether we will offer in-person courses and host other activities on campus after July 6. Depending on the decision we reach, more employees may return to work on campus to prepare for the second half of the summer.
  4. In accordance with guidance from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, we expect that public Masses will once again be celebrated in the Basilica in the coming weeks, with strict rules around social distancing and hygiene. This too will result in a limited number of employees returning to work on campus.

At any point, if you have questions about your work, please speak with those responsible for your department or unit.

We remain committed to doing all we can to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff as we work to reopen campus and continue the vital work of Notre Dame. We will communicate decisions and plans as appropriate.

Thank you for your continued patience, flexibility, and commitment. I am deeply grateful for your dedication to Notre Dame. Know that you have been and will remain in my prayers.

In Notre Dame,

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
President