The following message was sent March 17 to all UW-Eau Claire and UW-Eau Claire – Barron County students, faculty and staff:
Dear faculty, staff and students of UW-Eau Claire, UWEC-Barron County and Marshfield,
As I noted the other day, the past two weeks have been perhaps the most challenging in the 104-year history of our university. But as we have done throughout the past century, we have faced this most recent COVID-19 challenge together. I have been so heartened by the spirit of the faculty and staff who continue to put the needs of our students first and who are supporting each other as we create new solutions to problems that change daily. Thank you for your dedication and continued creativity.
About 15 percent of our residence hall students remain on campus and we estimate that about half of students living off campus are still in Eau Claire. We will continue to have our residence halls and dining services available for them. I was also pleased to learn that as of this morning we have more than 300 of approximately 700 staff who have received permission to work remotely. I expect that number to grow this week as units finalize their work plans.
New COVID-19 Leave Policy
I know that there have been some concerns about employees who cannot continue to work, either at home or on campus, due to the nature of their jobs or health issues. To ease concerns, UW System has announced a special COVID-19 Leave Policy that is effective immediately. It will be especially useful for some of our hourly staff who may find that they cannot continue their current work or for those with health issues who must be quarantined.
I encourage you to read the full policy, but in a nutshell, up to 80 hours of COVID-19 leave (pro-rated by full or part-time status) will be available to any employee who cannot work —either on campus or telecommuting—due to the pandemic. This applies only to employees who cannot perform their assigned duties in person or remotely, those in self-quarantine or self-isolation, those who are ill, or those who need to care for children or a family member.
I know that many of you who are able to work remotely will also be caring for children, now that our schools are closed. I’ve gotten questions from staff worried they won’t be able to commit to a full day of work. I’ve told them to take care of themselves and their loved ones. You do not need to take leave to make up the difference as you juggle your work at home with your family duties. I’ve asked supervisors to be as flexible and supportive as possible. We understand all the demands on our staff and ask only that you give your best effort. I know you’ll get the work done.
Support for Working Remotely
I have also informed our Finance and Administration office that if there are faculty or staff members who must work remotely but currently do not have any internet access in their home, we will reimburse them for basic service. If this applies to you, please work with your supervisor to determine how best we can support your work from home.
LTS has also provided lots of resources to help set up computers, phones and email, available here.
Governor’s Order Prohibiting Mass Gatherings
This afternoon Governor Tony Evers ordered a statewide moratorium on gatherings of 10 people or more, in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This replaces our policy limiting gatherings to 25 or fewer people, effective as of 5 p.m. today.
In order to support this directive, and to better protect our students and those who must remain on our campus to provide services, we are announcing the following changes, effective this evening:
We are closing campus services currently available to community members. This includes the Library, our fitness facilities, gyms, etc. Offices that work with the public should inform regular users, if possible.
The Library and our fitness and recreation facilities and programs, including McPhee, are closed to everyone, including faculty, staff and students.
All service offices will move to provide online or phone support instead of in-person services. Staff will be available during regular hours for phone or email consultation. Counselling, Health Services, Police and dining services will still be available face-to-face, but we are working to find ways to offer digital assistance when possible.
And finally, you may have heard that some UW System campuses have decided to go 100 percent online for the rest of the semester. Our semester runs a week later than most of them and I’ve heard from students hoping they will get a week or two at the end of the semester for labs or performance time. We continue to monitor the situation.
As I have said before, the impact of COVID-19 touches everyone and changes daily. As we need to make further changes, I will let you know. In the meantime, please be kind to each other. Together we will continue our mission to foster excellence, no matter the challenge.
James C. Schmidt
Chancellor, UW-Eau Claire