March 20, 2020
Important Message for Humanities Staff and Supervisors (from Kathleen Canning and Anita Norwig)
Dear Humanities Staff and Staff Supervisors, Department Chairs and Directors School of Humanities department chairmen and program and department directors. ,
First, let us thank you for the way you've been handling the constant day-by-day changes and supporting our faculty, students and each other in such professional and caring ways. If you need assistance now or in the future, please know that you can count on each of us in the dean’s office to continue to support you. We want to share some information we've just received from HR that affects all of us.
As you can imagine, transitioning from 2,700 staff on-campus daily, to 300 staff on-campus by Monday, March 23 as directed by President Leebron, is no small feat for HR and for us all. Fortunately, we have received the Staff Telecommuting Needs Assessment and Telecommuting Agreement forms from most of you and those will guide us in the weeks to come. If you have not returned one or both of those forms please do so immediately.
Working on Campus and Working Remotely
Although Rice is not in an officially designated emergency mode, the goal of the university's staffing plans is to minimize the number of people working on campus. In other words, if you are not designated as an "essential - on campus" employee (of whom we currently have none identified in Humanities) you will be working off campus beginning March 23. If you believe that there is work that must be, and can only be, done on campus you need to let Anita know that immediately. We need to know what that essential work is, and why it can only be accomplished on-site, in order to change your status and job description to essential on-campus. This doesn’t mean that you can’t come in for an hour to set up a dissertation defense, or pick up some files, so long as you adhere to the social distancing procedures Rice has set. It does mean that you don’t work any prolonged time in the office. These rules are to protect you and your family and if anyone feels pressure to do otherwise please report that pressure to your supervisor or Anita.
Rice is making an exception to the usual policies regarding Rice equipment. During this emergency, if you do not have equipment that allows remote working you will be allowed to take home your desktop and other hardware that is essential to fulfilling your responsibilities. Central administration has waived restrictions on individuals taking their desktop equipment (computers and printers) to their residence to work. The removal need only be authorized by your supervisor. Please ensure you are following best IT practices. Additional information and resources are available at https://kb.rice.edu/page.php?id=98505
We strongly encourage you to forward your office telephone to your personal cell phone during regular working hours. Your personal number will not be seen by the caller, it will appear as if they are calling the office line. This can be done on your office phone or from your computer. (https://kb.rice.edu/77512). All dean’s office staff will forward their phones and be available to answer questions and assist you as usual during the day. Anita thanks staff for sharing their personal cell phone numbers and will be sharing hers with you privately. We will only use that information in case of emergency and will not share it with others without your express permission.
Staying in Touch
The Dean's office staff will be staying in touch with programs such as Zoom and Slack. As you know, Rice has recently given every employee a Zoom Pro account. The dean’s office has a Slack group and we’ve been using to stay in contact. Departments, Centers, Programs, and Units may want to adapt to Slack as well. It is free and has an app for the desktop and smartphones. Slack also allows for private conversations using channels. This YouTube link is really good at explaining what Slack can do: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RJZMSsH7-g
Andrew and/or Anita will be contacting Academic Administrators to set up weekly Zoom meetings where we can touch base, check in on what challenges we’re facing and explore ways to meet them together and discuss how you’re doing and what you need. Hopefully we’ll also be able to have a laugh or two to share during this isolating experience – perhaps meeting each other’s kids and pets? We will create others as necessary and welcome the opportunity to be part of other groups as they are formed and learning to be social by cameras and microphones instead of in person.
HR is working on an updated set of Supervisor FAQs which will be available soon, and we’ll get those out to you as soon as we have them, if HR doesn’t send them directly to you.
If you find yourself with less urgent work since faculty and students have scattered, events are canceled, and we’re heading toward the summer months when some have less to do, we ask that you to use that time to work on migrating and updating the department/center/program websites, organizing electronic files, and for professional development. Update your skills by searching YouTube. There are great tutorials on just about everything. For more advanced training, also consider asking your chair/director/supervisor to purchase a subscription to LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com). Their training modules provide sample documents for you to practice on and after completing certain sequences of training, you receive a certificate of completion. The license is $85 for a year. More information (including how to purchase) is located here: https://kb.rice.edu/68559. You can even view the entire catalog of courses to see if you feel it is worth the cost.
In the meantime, thank you again for accepting these every-changing restrictions with flexibility and good nature, for your ability and willingness to work in ways that may not be comfortable in your particular surroundings, for the ethical and professional manner in which you have and will continue to carry out the responsibilities of each position, and the humor so many of you have already exhibited in this very trying time. We’re all in this together and there is no group of people we’d rather be with.
We wish you and your families good health and good luck.
Kathleen and Anita