To: Wellesley College Faculty and Staff
From: President Paula A. Johnson
Re: Update on Fall Planning
Date: June 8, 2020

While every day the events in the United States unfold, we are attending to the very important work of preparing for the next academic year. Once again, we are relying on the strength of our community to move this work forward. As I have said before, our most important priority continues to be to develop the health and safety protocols that will help us to enhance safety as we slowly bring community members back to our campus. We will not sacrifice safety for speed or for financial gain.

We will share our plan for the fall semester and the schedule for the next academic year later this month. In the meantime, I want to give you more details about our decision-making process. Over the past few weeks, we have formed a number of teams that are exploring several relevant areas in depth. These groups include subject matter experts and a broad range of faculty, staff, and student representatives. Their work and recommendations will be critical to informing our decisions regarding the fall semester and our return to campus. In the spirit of transparency, and with tremendous gratitude to the faculty, staff, and students who are engaged in these planning efforts, I want to share a list of the groups, the team leads, and their focus areas.

Health and Safety Team
Karen Petrulakis, general counsel
Focus: Work to enhance the health and safety of campus spaces for living, learning, and working for students, faculty, and staff by adopting best practices for testing, cleaning, PPE, campus density, and travel and visitor policies.

Human Resources Team
Carolyn Slaboden, chief human resources officer
Focus: Develop policies supporting a phased return to the workplace, which includes the continuation of remote work where possible and staggered on-campus schedules to minimize workplace density and potential contacts. Educate faculty and staff regarding the processes and policies for addressing individual health and safety concerns, and develop cross-training protocols to support increased absences.

Campus Facilities Team 

Dave Chakraborty, assistant vice president of facilities management and planning
Focus: Assess issues related to living, teaching, and working spaces as we bring faculty, staff, and students back to campus.

Academic Planning Team

Andrew Shennan, provost and Lia Gelin Poorvu ’56 Dean of the College
Focus: Design an academic calendar and program, with appropriate supports, that provides the greatest flexibility to Wellesley while delivering excellent in-person and remote learning, as well as making co-curricular opportunities available on campus and virtually for all our students.

Student Services and Supports Team  
Sheilah Horton, vice president and dean of students
Focus: Develop a plan that coordinates the services and academic and social supports needed for students living on campus or attending classes remotely. Services include the residential program, dining, transportation, and health; supports include retention initiatives, student code of conduct, health, counseling, and wellness.

Ad Hoc Student Advisory Group
Together with Sheilah Horton, I have convened an ad hoc student advisory committee to share thoughts with us regarding fall planning.

I want to express my profound gratitude to all the members of these working groups and thank them for their efforts on behalf of the Wellesley community.

Reopening the Science Center labs
When Gov. Charlie Baker announced his phased approach for reopening Massachusetts, Phase 1 included the opening of science labs. Based on this guidance, Megan Núñez, dean of faculty affairs, and Cathy Summa, director of the Science Center, worked with a group of Science Center faculty and staff to develop a comprehensive plan for beginning to bring faculty and staff back to the research labs on campus so that important faculty research can resume. Labs are open only to faculty who are conducting laboratory research and developing teaching materials and the essential staff directly related to that work.

Reopening the Science Center to allow work to occur on campus lets us pilot several health and safety protocols that we expect to use in later phases of bringing community members back to the campus. The Science Center group developed a comprehensive plan that includes staffing and operations protocols as well as guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and cleaning and disinfecting. Key steps and requirements for faculty and employees returning to the labs include:

  • undergoing Wellesley College approved COVID-19-specific safety training;
  • signing COVID-19 Return to Work on Campus Acknowledgment;
  • self-monitoring daily for symptoms of infection (fever, cough, difficulty breathing, loss of sense of taste/smell) and completing a daily health screening questionnaire;
  • using personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriately.

Last week, Science Center faculty and staff began using an electronic daily health-check application modeled on a symptom tracker developed by Partners HealthCare that is being used widely for health care and other workers throughout the Partners network. This daily health-check app, which features an easy-to-use, single-question format, is accessible on both computers and phones to all faculty and staff working on campus.

Employees who report symptoms are asked not to come to the College and to notify their supervisors. Note that the College’s implementation plan takes care to protect data privacy.

The COVID-19 Return to Work on Campus Acknowledgement asks each individual returning to campus to accept personal responsibility for complying with safety protocols, reflecting our shared responsibility to help minimize ongoing COVID-19 risks to the health and safety of our community.

In closing, I want to reiterate my thanks to our community for the extraordinary work many of you are doing to reimagine how Wellesley can continue to offer an outstanding academic program and residential experience to our students next year, while observing all appropriate health and safety protocols. I am confident that by applying the full measure of our creativity, determination, and resourcefulness to our planning and preparation, we will create a program of which we can all be proud.

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