March 23, 2020
Dear Staff Colleagues,
I cannot tell you how thankful I am for your support and goodwill in these challenging times. We are navigating uncharted waters together, with each other as a compass, and as I said in my letter of March 16, I continue to marvel at all you have done to help our students, our faculty, and fellow staff members find their way. The spirit of the Connecticut College community—defined by creativity, hard work, and openness to change—has never been more vivid.
Still, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is demanding unprecedented levels of patience, flexibility, and strength—as each day we receive stricter and more urgent state and federal guidance. In the last week, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont issued executive orders shuttering restaurants, businesses, and churches in order to limit the contagion and reduce loss of life. On Friday, he released his newest order requiring all citizens to “Stay Safe and Stay Home.” The order goes into effect tonight at 8 p.m.
As you know, the College has already been working aggressively toward this goal. You helped our students move home safely during the spring break. You helped our faculty shift to remote teaching. And last week, more than 300 of you made the transition to teleworking. The governor’s executive order requires us now to limit on-campus personnel to those most critical to the health and safety of the campus.
The senior administration and I have been working around the clock to create compassionate and equitable campus policies in response to these changed conditions. Our guiding principle has been to honor both our mission and our community: to ensure that the College meets its educational obligations and that staff have the ability to contribute to that mission in a safe and supported way. In this light, we are making four commitments:
1. COVID-19 LEAVE BANK: We have created a new COVID-19 leave bank, with up to 10 days of additional paid leave available for benefits-eligible staff who under certain conditions related to COVID-19 find themselves unable to perform their job responsibilities. Details about those conditions and about how staff may draw on this leave bank, as well as other sick and vacation leave, can be found in the COVID-19 leave policy, located in CamelWeb. After logging in, you can find this policy under the HR/Finance tab (Employee Handbook/Leave Benefits). Please note that the new COVID-19 leave bank replaces the sick leave guidance that was sent to all staff on March 12.
2. CONTINUITY OF ON-CAMPUS WORK: We will continue to rely on a small portion of our staff to care for the reduced number of students who remain on campus, while enforcing social distancing measures. This includes staff in Student Life, Facilities Management, Dining Services, Student Health Services, and Campus Safety. In some areas, fewer staff are needed because of the smaller number of students being served.
3. CONTINUITY OF PAY: We will continue to pay staff at current levels for as long as there is work to do and there are staff to do it. Staff hours, however, may need to be decreased in cases where the closure of campus buildings or the reduction of campus activities has significantly reduced job responsibilities. Where possible, we will try to reassign work at the staff member’s existing rate of pay. We are in the process of creating a shared list of work opportunities for division heads to use for this purpose.
4. ON-RESERVE STATUS: If no work opportunities are available, staff will be placed into a new status that we are calling “on reserve” beginning with the next pay period. During this time, they will receive 40 percent of their normal pay along with benefits, if eligible. This status also makes it possible for staff not just to apply for immediate unemployment assistance, funded by the College, but also to be called back quickly when work becomes available. You may find the new on-reserve policy by logging into CamelWeb and clicking on the HR/Finance tab (Employee Handbook/Salary and Wage Policy).
These commitments will remain in place through mid April, at which point we will reassess our needs and resources. They may be adjusted if the public emergency extends far beyond the next month.
Your health and safety are always our highest priority. Thank you again for your dedication to the College, your compassion for each other, and your forbearance in the wake of an unparalleled public health crisis. I look forward to working together with you in the coming weeks to keep our community sound, connected, and strong.