Dear McCombs Community,
First, I want to thank you for your understanding and patience as we move through this process of establishing what could be a new normal throughout the university, and in our own McCombs community, due to the presence of Coronavirus, COVID-19, here at home.
Our leadership team is committed to keeping your health and wellness at the forefront of all our decision-making. We will communicate with you regularly and openly as our circumstances change in the coming days, weeks, and months.
The sudden closing of campus Friday may have created a new level of anxiety and uncertainty, so I want to remain transparent and answer as many questions as I can, and use this message to inform you of Texas McCombs’ current action plan for faculty, staff, and students.
As some of you may already know, my family and I are self-isolated for the next 12+ days, as we returned from Europe on Friday. Prior to that, I attended a Texas Edge event in New York City along with President Fenves, his wife, and members of our development team.
Like many of you, I will be learning to use Microsoft Teams and Zoom to replace in-person meetings and conversations. These tools, in addition to more traditional email and phone conversations, are allowing me to be in frequent contact with school and university leadership.
Earlier today in an email you should have received, President Fenves outlined the immediate top priorities for campus. These include plans to distinguish between employees who are expected to work on campus versus those who will work remotely for at least the next couple of weeks. His administration has charged each college and school with implementing these plans, adapting for the needs of their own communities. This document outlines how we plan to handle operations beginning Monday, March 16, 2020.
Our high-priority activities for Monday are:
- This week, all departments will develop work plans that include who will need to be on campus and who will work remotely—based on the criteria outlined below— and what tools and resources are needed to facilitate remote work. We will get to work on providing those tools and resources, as well as exploring ways to relax any constraints that may hinder our ability to deliver on our mission under these alternative arrangements.
- During the extended two-week spring break, faculty will prepare to teach remotely, with assistance from Associate Dean for Instructional Innovation Prabhudev Konana and members of the McCombs media services and computer services staff. Collaboration should occur virtually whenever possible, but we understand that may not always work; our team is prepared to provide in-person assistance while maintaining social distance.
- Key program leaders and staff will be working on content and resources to support students across all our programs, guiding them on how to engage with program staff, many of whom will be working remotely in the near term.
- Over the next two weeks, faculty and staff associated with delivering working professional programs (Evening MBA, DFW and Houston MBA, Executive MBA, and MSTC) will ensure that they proceed as scheduled per program communications. Those programs will be delivered remotely.
As we progress through the coming days, our list of high-priority activities will change. These activities, along with whether UT is open or closed, will drive who may need to be on campus. As our campus moves toward working remotely, I expect that Texas McCombs and UT will be able to remain open under this modified model. But, as Friday showed, things may come up that lead to temporary closures.
On Monday, departments will be developing and communicating plans for the rest of this week. Department leaders and I will communicate additional changes as they evolve.
To help guide supervisors and their teams on how we move forward, we are establishing the following definitions around staff work:
Essential staff are designated by their departments as critical to current high-priority activities, such as assisting faculty as they move to remote teaching. Essential staff should plan to work in the event of university closures, if directed to do so by their department, and are likely to need to work on campus at designated times during the next few weeks (as their personal health situations allow).
Core staff are the those whose work allows us to maintain business and program operations. Core staff are unlikely to be required to work in the event of university closures and are likely to work remotely the vast majority of the time during the next few weeks.
As a follow up to this message, your department leaders will communicate with staff teams about what this looks like specifically for your unit, beginning tomorrow. Faculty members, please expect similar communication from Eric Hirst.
Per the emails on Friday from Eric Hirst (faculty) and Beth Egbert (staff), we have launched a new page within the Texas McCombs intranet, which contains crucial information and answers to questions faculty and staff may have. We have added language that clarifies action plans in the event that campus is deemed open or closed. It will be updated with new information as we receive it. We are also working on ways to collect similar school-specific information for students, and will communicate about that once it is available.
Additionally, UT has a thorough and comprehensive webpage with messages and information updates that you may find helpful.
Thank you for all you are doing to adjust your daily norms. I understand that creating new ways of doing things and new operations is challenging, but you have strong support. If you have questions, please reach out to your direct supervisor or whomever you would under normal circumstances.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will also produce new video Q&As and I will be happy to take questions from you. Expect to receive a Qualtrics survey from the dean’s office with further instructions. I’ll do my best to answer your questions with the information I have. We are in this together and I am confident we will emerge from this more unified and prepared to handle any other crisis that we are faced with.
Jay Hartzell, Dean
Lois and Richard Folger Dean’s Leadership Chair
Centennial Chair in Business Education Leadership
Trammell Crow Regents Professor