Daily COVID-19 Update: March 15, 2020

I am happy to report that the move-out process was completed in an effective and orderly fashion on Saturday.  Kudos to the Student Life staff and labor students who worked so hard to make this complex operation work so smoothly.  I am especially appreciative of all the students who managed their own personal moves, having just three days to do so.

For Staff Employees

I am also grateful to the faculty for their cooperation in making extraordinary plans to offer the academic program for the remainder of the semester so that all course work can be completed.  With these arrangements nearly in place, the Administrative Committee has turned its attention to the well-being of our loyal and hardworking staff members, who are also essential to the mission of Berea College.

The Administrative Committee met this afternoon and has made some important decisions that I now share with the entire campus community.

  • Effective Tuesday, March 17, all staff who can complete their work responsibilities from home and who have adequate Internet access at their home, will be encouraged to telecommute.  This follows guidance from public health officials and our state government in seeking to minimize the number of staff on campus, thus protecting all of us.  If you need guidance on whether your particular job responsibilities are such that you can telecommute, your vice president will be available to work with you tomorrow (Monday).
    • IS&S will be available to assist with matters relating to taking your computer and peripherals home and ensuring applications function from there.
    • Staff with labor supervision duties on campus will need to continue to report to work on campus.
    • Please note that these arrangements will continue in effect only for the duration of the current health emergency that has been declared in the United States.  Upon its conclusion, the Administrative Committee will advise all employees when they can resume working on campus.  If conditions worsen and the civil authorities further limit our operations, the Administrative Committee will provide further guidance to the campus community.
  • For staff whose responsibilities require them to be on campus, we thank you for your necessary service.  We also wish to recognize this service with additional consideration.  Specifically, those who are required to serve on campus during the current emergency will receive an additional vacation day for each full week worked.  These earned vacation days will be “Appreciation Days,” meaning that they can be accumulated in excess of the standard maximum accrual of 240 hours.
  • In addition, every employee working full days on campus (whether able to telecommute or not) will be eligible to receive a free Sodexo box lunch.  (Please do not come in just for the lunch—this benefit is only for folks working a full day on campus.)  It will take a little time to get this set up, so we’re hoping this benefit will begin on Wednesday, March 18.  More on that later.
  • Finally, we are considering the possibility, perhaps the likelihood, of additional adjustments that will need to take place if and when we have a confirmed case on campus.  There are no plans for layoffs of any College employees.
    • At that point, only essential employees will be expected to report to work on campus.
    • We recognize as well that the particularity of the risk factors associated with COVID-19 make it important to provide additional protection for workers who are in a particular age category as well as those with other risk factors.  If and when we have a confirmed case on campus, we hope to put on place arrangements to protect those at greater risk.  For now, vice presidents are working on contingency plans that will enable us to maintain essential operations while allowing employees in the at-risk categories to be excused.
    • Please know that we intend to make these adjustments without requiring unpaid leaves for those affected by these preventative measures.
    • We are also prepared to comply with all the provisions of the forthcoming Family First legislation that should emerge from the U.S. government within the next day or two.  At minimum we are anticipating that additional paid sick leave will be mandated.
    • Finally, please know that as previously announced, any employees for whom mandatory self-quarantine has been imposed, this will not count against the sick leave provided through our employee benefit program.

Regarding Student Labor

Questions have also emerged as to student labor during this period.  It may be helpful to understand the following categorization and requirements.

First, the categorizations and associated expectations…

  • Category I – Students who did not relocate as a result of this situation, whether living on campus, in the Eco Village, or with permission to live off campus

All students in Category I are expected to complete their labor obligations and may be re-assigned to other positions based on the need for essential services.

  • Category II – Students who did relocate but live within commuting distance of the College and who wish to work for the College

All students in Category II may make themselves available for work assignments at the College.  They may be re-assigned from their current work to other positions based on the need for essential services.  Students in Category II are reminded as well, that they continue to be eligible for any meal plans they have paid for.

  • Category III – Students who did relocate but have skills essential for particular positions of value to the College and work in positions that can be handled in a telecommuting arrangement

Category III students may be invited to continue their work for the College on a remote basis.  A requirement will be that such a student has sufficient Internet access where they are living.

Next, the requirements.  (All the following apply only for the duration of the present emergency situation)

  • All students working for the College in categories I, II, & III will be compensated at the summer rate of $8.75/hour.
  • All students working for the College in categories I & II will be expected to work a minimum of 10 hours/week and up to a maximum of 20 hours/week, depending on the willingness of the student and the needs of the position.
  • All students working for the College in category III can work for any amount of time per week between 1 and 20 hours/week.
  • All students in none of the above categories will be compensated at the rate they were being paid in their campus position, prior to relocation.

Please note that the Administrative Committee is continuing to evaluate the need for other non-essential student labor positions on campus.  There may be further announcements regarding opportunities for student labor later in the coming week.

All of these arrangements concerning student labor are subject to further guidance from public health officials and civil authorities that may affect all of us.

As we are looking forward to our first week under new arrangements, I wish to thank each and every Berean, whether student, staff or faculty member, for your goodwill and generous spirit of cooperation in this extraordinary situation.  Laurie and I are exceedingly grateful for your support and understanding.  Together, Berea and our larger community will endure through these difficult times.