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May 14, 2020

Dear colleagues,

As President Monaco shared in his email this morning, we are now developing plans to repopulate our campuses, starting with gradual expansion of services at our veterinary and dental clinics and the first phase of our on-campus research ramp up. I recognize that this increased activity raises questions about returning to work on our campuses, and I hope this email and subsequent communications will help address these questions.
 
As we develop our plans, we are fortunate that President Monaco is a member of the group of higher education leaders advising the governor on a framework to reopen colleges and universities in Massachusetts. And while the governor’s plan to gradually ease restrictions across the Commonwealth after May 18 is an important milestone, our decisions on how and when to resume operations at the university will be based on a timeline that is appropriate for our various schools and divisions.

Though our timeline is still being developed, I can state with certainty that our community will not be returning to on-campus work all at once. As we gradually open clinics, labs, residence halls, dining facilities, libraries, and classrooms over the next several months, the number of staff required on campus will grow steadily to support those operations. At this time, however, unless you are already working on campus as directed by your school or division leaders, you should continue to work remotely.

For some members of our community, a return to campus will be a relief and an important step toward a new normal. For others it may raise concerns about health and safety. And for yet others, it has the potential to heighten challenges posed by personal situations—such as childcare, elder care, and individual health issues—that have emerged or taken on new importance during the pandemic. In our planning efforts, we are doing our best to be respectful and responsive to all these perspectives. 

Before you are asked to return to campus, your supervisor will clearly communicate with you about new safety guidelines that we will devise and put in place, including: social distancing; guidance on meeting sizes; health surveillance; and sanitization and cleaning procedures. In addition, we are producing a Return to Work guide that will provide instructions to maximize health safety when we do come back to the workplace. As you can imagine, a successful return will require a shared effort, and I thank you in advance for your willingness to work with us as we move forward.

The repopulation of our campuses will be a complex operation. I ask for your patience as we figure out the details, both large and small. Please be assured that in all our conversations and all our decisions, reducing the risk to our campus community is our utmost priority. Throughout this crisis, I have been inspired by the work of our staff. You have remained undaunted despite the challenges and obstacles the pandemic has placed in your path. Now that we are taking the first steps to repopulate our campuses, I look forward to moving forward together.

Sincerely,

Mike Howard