May 22, 2020

President M. Roy Wilson hosts virtual Presidential Town Hall

Nearly 5,500 participants viewed the second Campus Restart Town Hall to hear President M. Roy Wilson address questions concerning the campus restart process and what the future may hold for Wayne State University amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Joining Wilson were subcommittee chairs of the campus restart committee, representing several areas of the university including:

Academic/teaching and learning; human resources, research; finance and budget; public health; facilities; and housing, dining and campus retail. Other subcommittee chairs joined the call as participants.

Wilson said the restart process comprises two phases: The return-to-work phase, contingent on the governor’s lifting of her stay-at-home order on May 28, and the return-to-campus phase for the fall semester.

Fall semester status

Referring to the fall semester, Wilson said the university will hold off on making a decision until later in the summer. “When you really think about it, that's three months away. And I always try to remind people that three months ago we were dealing with a very different situation here. We didn't even have our first taste of COVID-19 infection. A lot can change in three months.”

Responding to an audience question about the timing for a decision on the fall semester, Wilson said probably around mid-July. He added that the most likely scenario is that there will be a combination of face-to-face and remote or online teaching and learning, but that the university is preparing for a range of potentialities.

Working from home

Addressing phase one, should the governor lift some of the restrictions on employees reporting to their workplaces, Wilson said that the university will ask employees to continue working from home if they can do so effectively. He also said employees who return to the campus will be required to continue practicing safe distancing and follow all of the health and safety guidelines, which “cover expectations not only for yourself, but for anyone who has business on campus. We have an open campus. It's very important that we make sure that everybody follows the guidelines to protect everyone else. Warrior safe is Warrior strong.”

Education modules for all campus community members

Laurie M. Lauzon Clabo, chair of the public health subcommittee and dean of the College of Nursing, noted that the committee is finalizing the development of two education modules that must be completed by all members of the campus community before they return to campus. The modules, which will go live on the coronavirus website next week, include basic information on COVID-19 and its transmission, as well as new campus-based strategies to promote a safe environment.

Campus maintenance and sanitizing

Rob Davenport, facilities subcommittee chair and associate vice president for facilities planning and management (FP&M), covered a range of steps being taken by FP&M to help ensure the campus is appropriately cleaned and sanitized. He said the committee is drafting a playbook for all facilities-related components including custodial services, space management, parking, transportation and construction services. The playbook is based on industry standards and governmental regulatory requirements, including the new COVID-19 OSHA standard, CDC standards and the governor's recent executive order, with safeguards to protect Michigan workers. Davenport said custodians are now receiving training in pandemic preventative maintenance cleaning and post-case discovery cleaning. The training should be completed in about a week. Current cleaning efforts include utilizing a product known as NanoSeptic, which is applied to doors and buttons, elevators, and control-type buttons. In the common areas, high-traffic and touch-point cleanings include doors and handrails.

Human Resources updates

Carolyn Hafner, human resources subcommittee chair and associate vice president for human resources, said HR supports employees working remotely. Two surveys will be distributed to staff over the next few days regarding their experience working remotely. Also, Human Resources is collaborating with other units to develop training and e-learning on campus to help manage remote teams and provide coaching and support in the new environment. HR is also developing webinars and virtual trainings related to financial, mental health and wellness.

During the question and answer portion of the hour-long event, a range of topics from nearly 150 questions received were addressed:

Will Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) be available, and what are the testing requirements?

The university has ordered three cloth face coverings for each employee, which will be provided when they return to campus. Information on when and where they will be available will be added to the website. The current recommendations for testing are that people living in residence halls will be tested prior to their return to campus. The Campus Health Center will arrange testing for people who are symptomatic.   

Will the university let people know about confirmed COVID-19 cases?

The university will be sharing information with the campus regarding confirmed cases while ensuring the privacy of those infected. Anyone who has been in contact with someone who is either suspected or diagnosed with COVID-19 will be contacted by the Campus Health Center through the university’s contact tracing process.

Is the university considering furloughs or layoffs?

Wilson said the pandemic has created significant financial challenges, and adjustments will likely have to be made that include some level of furloughs and/or layoffs, “But, we want to be very clear to not make these types of decisions, and these are very big decisions, until we absolutely have to, when the financial picture is a lot clearer.” Factors influencing the budget will include tuition, fall enrollment and the state’s higher education budget allocation.

Will the university have housing?

More than 400 students still live on campus. At this time, Wayne State is planning for housing to remain open and applications are being processed. There will be specific guidelines for housing residents that will posted as soon as they are finalized.

For further information about coronavirus COVID-19 updates and the university’s restart process, visit wayne.edu/coronavirus.