Dear Colby Community,
We are writing with updates based on recent developments, including the State’s guidelines for re-opening Maine’s economy, as well as planning efforts to open for the 2020-21 academic year that we are initiating.
Stay-at-home mandate, phased re-opening guidelines, and campus protocols
The stay-at-home mandate has essentially been extended to May 31 and now requires individuals to wear face coverings in public settings where social distancing is not possible. Employees should follow this guidance when on campus—if you do not have a face covering, you may obtain one from the bookstore or contact your supervisor.
For now, campus safety protocols described in our April 2 letter remain in place through May 31. Importantly:
- If you are sick, especially with respiratory symptoms, please stay home and contact your health care provider if needed.
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer, cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow, and refrain from touching your face.
- Meetings or groups are limited to no more than 10 people and participants must adhere to distancing guidelines (six feet apart).
The State’s plan envisions re-opening business sectors in various stages through the summer—the next phase is tentatively set to begin June 1, subject to health trends. Colleges and universities are not specifically listed and our scope of summer operations bridges a number of business categories (e.g., lodging, dining, camps). The order does indicate that the Governor’s office will be “working with stakeholders to develop plans for a safe return to school in the fall.” We are in regular contact with other institutions and the State to clarify how the guidelines apply to Colby, but planning is still in the early stages.
Finally, we anticipate returning to standard workweeks beginning May 17 in facilities, dining, and security, however, schedules and work assignments will be designed to accommodate social distancing requirements.
The Provost’s Office and Human Resources have been in contact with employees since mid-March to assist with work accommodations and other needs. We strongly encourage faculty and staff to reach out to these offices if your circumstances have changed or you need assistance.
Faculty and staff working groups
We have established a two-track planning process for the College. First, more than 50 faculty have volunteered to serve on a series of working groups to consider a range of options for the academic program next year. They will be working through a series of questions and analyses this month; their work will be reviewed during a special faculty retreat on May 22.
An administrative task force has been created to explore how to operate Colby in this new environment in a healthy, safe manner. Groups will be reviewing approaches to health care management (including testing); housing and dining capacity and protocols; classroom, office, and laboratory occupancy, utilization, and cleaning; and, student, faculty, and staff support and accommodation procedures, among others. Given the timing of the faculty retreat and the need to incorporate its findings, the task force has a goal of developing a preliminary framework—with multiple options—by June 5, which will allow for decisions to be made about the fall by early July.
In developing plans for next year, our planning will be grounded by the principles that have guided our decision-making thus far: the health and safety of our community, the primacy of our academic mission, our commitment to the residential program, Colby as an exemplary employer, and the College as an engaged citizen in our community.
Based on current Maine CDC guidelines and working with our program sponsors, we have canceled all Special Programs for the month of June. We have deferred decisions about hosting groups and conferences for July (and likely August) until June 1.
We normally have a significant summer employment program, including student research assistants in the academic departments as well as temporary summer staffing in a range of academic and administrative offices. Given the current guidelines, and the goal of reducing expenses over the next few months, we will be taking the following approaches to summer hiring:
- We will not be hiring on-campus summer positions for the month of June—this includes faculty research assistants and non-academic summer positions.
- We will decide by June 1 whether or not summer hiring for on-campus positions will be possible for July and August, based on the State’s re-opening guidelines, staffing needs to support campus operations, and updated budget projections.
- For faculty summer research assistants, some of these positions may be converted to remote research opportunities, with grant funding, in lieu of summer employment. Russell Johnson, Associate Provost for Academic Programs, will coordinate the approval and grant award process. Faculty with approved summer research assistant positions should contact Russ for information.
- We will be able to offer a limited number of remote summer experiences through DavisConnects grants. The application and award process is expected to be finalized by May 15.
At the April trustee meeting, we reviewed a range of scenarios for next year that looked at different enrollment levels, academic calendars, and financial projections. Not surprisingly, the projections showed modest surpluses to significant deficits, depending on the assumptions for key budget elements, particularly enrollment and financial aid.
Given the current environment, we did not propose a budget for fiscal 2020-21 as we normally would at this time. Instead, we explored different approaches we might take to address potential shortfalls without sacrificing highly valued services or emerging opportunities. Our financial planning and past discipline provide Colby with significant flexibility, provided we can operate a full academic year on campus.
We will be working with the vice presidents and deans in the coming weeks to re-evaluate requests submitted last November in order to develop a preliminary budget that funds our highest priorities—faculty and staff positions and compensation and financial aid—while limiting growth in other expense categories. That budget will be reviewed with the campus Budget Committee and the board in late May.
Computer Allocation Process
Information Technology Services normally begins a spring computer inventory and allocation process in April to facilitate planning for technology acquisition in the upcoming year. That process will begin in mid- to late-May.
We remain deeply grateful to our faculty and staff colleagues for their creativity, support, patience, and above all, flexibility over the last few months. These are truly extraordinary times and we cannot imagine a better community to work with in addressing today’s challenges. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to our students and to the College.
As always, please contact us if you have questions or concerns.
Provost and Dean of Faculty
Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer