Topics: COVID-19, President, Human Resources

March 21, 2020

Last evening, the Delaware County Commissioners issued a Disaster Emergency Declaration (PDF). In this Declaration, the Commissioners ordered most businesses and services in Delaware County to close, with specific exceptions, several of which apply to Ball State University.

This morning, in response to this Declaration, I promptly convened a meeting of our leadership team, many of whom participated telephonically. Based on their input and guidance, and after consulting with the Chair of our Board of Trustees, I have decided that, consistent with the Declaration, the following actions are necessary to stem the spread of COVID-19 and to mitigate the harm that this pandemic may inflict.

Faculty and Staff

Effectively immediately, we will continue to maintain only those facilities and operations that are presently vital to fulfill our mission and to support our students.

Therefore, I am directing all supervisors, based on guidance and direction from their respective Vice President, to permit their employees to work remotely, unless the supervisor determines that working remotely is clearly not practicable or the supervisor determines that the employee’s physical presence on campus is vital to our mission.

All supervisors should consider, where possible, developing and assigning special projects to enable their employees to work remotely. I expect that all supervisors will exercise their discretion in favor of the safety and health of our employees.

If a supervisor determines that an employee must work physically on campus, the supervisor must make the necessary arrangements so that the employee can exercise “social distancing” and work in a manner consistent with other guidance from public health experts.

If a supervisor determines that an employee is not able to work remotely and is not required to be physically present in order to enable the University to fulfill our mission, at this time, the employee should consider using various options to secure paid leave. Information regarding available leave options is available on the University’s COVID-19 website

Employees should be aware that recent emergency legislation enacted by Congress last week provides the possibility of additional paid leave; that information is also available on our COVID-19 website. We are presently developing policies and procedures to implement this legislation. We are also going to seek the approval of our Board of Trustees to authorize our employees to use unearned paid leave time from next fiscal year during this COVID-19 emergency period.

Within the next 24 hours, the Vice Presidents will communicate more specific information to their respective employees. Please recognize that supervisors may have to modify or adjust their decisions in order to ensure that we are fulfilling our mission and maintaining vital services.

Residence Halls

In light of the Declaration, I strongly urge all students who still remain in our residence halls to move out as soon as possible, unless you have obtained or immediately obtain permission to remain in a residence hall because of extraordinary extenuating circumstances.

I also strongly encourage all students who are living in off-campus residences, if they have a safe alternative place to reside, to return to that location.

Dining Halls and Other Food Services

Consistent with the Declaration, our dining halls and other food services will remain open, but with “take out” options only. Over the next two weeks, as the number of students and employees on campus declines to a much smaller number, I anticipate that we will close several dining halls. For daily updates, check the Dining Services website.

Library, Testing Labs, and Technology Support Services

Effective 5:00 p.m. today, our library, testing labs, and technology support services will be closed to patrons and users. Internal operations will continue, so that our staff can provide support either on-line or by telephone. If you have an urgent and compelling need for physical access or in-person services, you must make an appointment. Information for making an appointment for these services will be posted on the University’s COVID-19 website.

Building Security

In light of the Declaration, the University will secure most buildings throughout campus, with the exception of dining facilities still in operation. Information about access to other buildings will be posted on the University website. Employees may access the buildings, if their assigned responsibilities require them to do so. Questions regarding access should be directed to immediate supervisors. Recreation and athletic facilities were closed earlier this week, and they remain closed.

Conclusion

These actions are consistent with the Declaration, while enabling us to provide those services and functions that are vital to our mission, even in these extraordinary times. We will continue to adopt and adjust as the circumstances compel us to do so, and we will evaluate this plan in 14 days.

Finally, I understand that this public health crisis is having a profound impact on you and your families. In this unprecedented emergency, we are all managing our professional and educational obligations, while tending to those whom we love. Let us extend patience and understanding to each other. And let us continue to respond to this challenge with strength, courage, and hope.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey S. Mearns
President
Ball State University