TO: Dean, Directors, and Department Heads
FROM: MSU President Mark E. Keenum
RE: Operational Guidance - PLEASE READ THIS ENTIRE MESSAGE
I first want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your outstanding leadership efforts during this unprecedented time. I know that you are all facing unique challenges and issues in each of your units, and I assure you that our administrative team is committed to working through each of these with you. The information below is intended to answer some of your most commonly asked questions.
Mississippi State University is open for business and your department should continue to conduct full university operations unless your department has been specifically notified that it must close or alter operations (e.g. Library, Sanderson Center). At the same time, this is far from “normal” operations. Continue to encourage your faculty and staff to work remotely as much as possible, and while you need to maintain operations, rotate staff as much as possible to share the workload and minimize on-campus presence.
HOW LONG WILL THIS CONTINUE?
At the current time, we cannot answer that question. We are monitoring the guidance from the CDC, MSHD, and IHL and are making decisions day to day. We will let you know as soon as possible when we can resume normal campus operations.
Please remember that all of our students will begin taking all classes online or in an alternative format next week for the first time in the history of the University. This will cause some new challenges and will give us all an opportunity to learn. Please be flexible in responding to the needs of your faculty, staff, and students.
DEPARTMENTAL PHONE LINES
All departmental phone lines should be answered Monday through Friday from 8 am – 5 pm as usual. This does not mean that someone must be physically present in the office to answer the phone. Your departmental phone line may be forwarded to a home phone number or to a cell phone number and may be answered from a remote location.
Unless you are notified otherwise by your supervisor, there does not have to be someone physically present in each department. Many departments are able to operate remotely without someone being physically located in the department. If your department can continue to provide services remotely, you are encouraged to do so.
WHO SHOULD BE WORKING ON CAMPUS?
While there is no clear definition of essential staff, the only employees who should be working on campus at this time are those that must be on campus to perform their work functions, those work functions are essential to the operation of campus, and those work functions cannot be performed at a remote location. This determination will be different in each unit. We are asking that you make these decisions and notify your employees if they need to be physically present on campus.
For example, campus buildings which remain open must have a limited number of personnel in them. Other services must continue across campus which require individuals to be physically present such as mail delivery, utility operations, trash pickup, landscaping, maintenance, and custodial, counseling services, health services, many of our research projects, animal feedings, etc. This is not an exhaustive list. Many other services can only be provided by having someone physically on campus.
Those employees who are on campus should be reminded to have their employee ID card with them at all times.
Please continue to be flexible with your employees and rotate the employees who must report to campus to the greatest extent possible.
ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE/GRADUATE ASSISTANTS/STUDENT WORKERS
During these unprecedented times, all employees who are unable to work for whatever reason or who are not essential to your current operations will be placed on administrative leave with pay.
Graduate teaching, research and service assistants will continue to be paid. If these individuals will not be physically present on campus, they should be assigned work that can be completed remotely. For example, they should be given research to do, special projects should be assigned, or something should be developed for them which will enable them to continue working remotely. We want to be able to continue paying all of our graduate students, but we can only do so if they are given work to do.
Student workers will not be paid unless they are working. Your student worker may also work remotely if possible. If you have a student worker in financial need who is not able to work or would like to work but cannot do so in your department at this time, please direct that student to the Dean of Students’ Office. If you need a student worker for your department or have work available that a student worker could do, please contact Human Resources and Human Resources will attempt to assign an available student worker to your office.
EMPLOYEES WITHOUT ACCESS TO INTERNET/PHONE SERVICES
If you have employees who cannot work remotely due to a lack of internet or phone capabilities and their work is essential to the operations of your unit, they may work from their office. ITS does have a limited number of internet hot spots and laptops available for those employees.
Additionally, many internet providers are offering free internet to the public at this time. Please encourage your employees to reach out to them.
EMPLOYEES WITH ACCOMMODATION REQUESTS
If you have an employee who requests an accommodation due to a medical condition, please work with your HRM generalist to ensure that proper accommodations are made. Employees with medical conditions may need special computer and/or other devices to enable them to work remotely.
Please keep the following previous notifications in mind:
· Employees returning from travel to impacted areas must self-isolate for 14 days.
· Employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 should not come to campus.
· You should be mindful of your employees who have children at home and attempt to rotate when those employees must be physically present on campus.
· You should limit meeting attendees to less than 10 and require social distancing at all meetings.
· All meetings should be hosted on an on-line platform or by conference call to the extent possible.
· No travel, domestic or international, will be approved without prior Vice President approval.
For consistency across campus, we ask that you direct all employment related questions to your HRM generalist. HRM is in constant communication with all necessary administrators and will answer your questions as quickly as possible with necessary input from campus administration.
Follow msstate.edu, https://www.msstate.edu/coronavirus and MSU social media for updates. We will continue to utilize the Deans, Directors and Department Heads email network, so check your email frequently.