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Dear Faculty and Staff,

Thank you for joining us today for the virtual faculty and staff townhall. We hope this question-and-answer session helped answer many of your questions about USD’s return-to-campus plan. A recording of the webinar may be viewed online. If you have any remaining questions about USD’s return-to-campus plan, please reach out to your supervisor, visit usd.edu/COVID19 or email hr@usd.edu.

Below you will find additional information regarding USD’s approach to returning to campus next week and the values that guide the university’s decision-making as we return to face-to-face classes this fall:

Guiding Values:

  • We value an interactive and responsive learning community for students, and as such find inherent and unique value in offering in-person instruction.
  • We value in-person interaction of staff across campus as necessary to support high-quality instruction and provide quality customer service to our students.
  • We value individual action and social responsibility to improve public health outcomes.
  • We value keeping people as safe as reasonably possible without undermining our educational mission or quality.
  • We value using data and facts to guide decisions when weighing risks. We make adjustments to operations when confronted with new, heightened risk.

What we MUST DO:

  • Grant reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities (including serious health conditions that put them at greater risk from COVID-19) if the accommodation allows the person to accomplish all the essential functions of the job, and is not overly burdensome.
  • Consider and engage in an interactive process with faculty and staff who have an underlying health condition qualifying as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act that puts them at higher risk of COVID-19 complications to determine what accommodations might be reasonable. Note that typical pregnancy and advanced age are not recognized as disabilities, but that the university may still consider additional protective measures for these higher-risk groups.
  • Respond to known outbreaks on campus and constantly monitor and reconsider plans (including accommodation requests) in light of facts of the moment.
  • Maintain confidentiality of employees’ (and students’) medical conditions, including positive COVID-19 diagnoses where the identity of the person can reasonably be ascertained.
  • Follow South Dakota Board of Regents Policy and all applicable laws.
  • Encourage good public health practices. Advance initiatives that recognize groups and individuals who set good examples of recommended health and hygiene activities. Together, we must take reasonable measures to clean and sanitize university spaces.

What We MAY DO:

  • For staff, the university may offer some flexibility in transitioning back to on-campus work arrangements, including telework, on a short-term basis where essential functions of the job are fulfilled and student experience is not compromised.
  • For faculty, consider requests to convert limited numbers of classes to ONLINE (not remote) modules as needed on a per-semester basis to meet approved accommodation requests or ease burdens on space/capacity, remembering that offering face-to-face instruction is an essential function of faculty workload for those assigned to teach in that modality. Such conversions must not substantially limit overall student choice in accomplishing an all in-person schedule.
  • Ask faculty to submit accommodation requests for the fall term 30 days before the beginning of classes, so those requests can best be evaluated to meet both university and faculty needs.
  • Require additional training in online course delivery and compliance with USD’s current Quality Assurance process for faculty whose courses are converted to an online format.
  • Offer alternative work schedules where customer or team member interaction is not an essential function of the job.
  • Grant an unpaid leave of absence, where a position can be filled temporarily or done without temporarily.

What We CANNOT DO:

  • Keep every person safe and disease-free. The university setting is not conducive to keeping all spaces and surfaces sterile, and therefore personal handwashing and other hygiene measures are paramount.
  • Promise students an in-person learning experience and then deliver a remote or online learning experience, absent necessity of government/public health official direction to close the campus. A quality in-person learning experience necessarily requires in-person support of staff across campus.
    Guarantee social distancing in every interaction on campus for students, faculty and staff.
  • Control the actions of all people or the adherence of young adults to social distancing protocols.
  • Require all persons to wear masks. The South Dakota Board of Regents has determined that face masks should be strongly encouraged but that the university should not require facemasks, including in the classroom setting.
  • Grant the request of all faculty and staff to work remotely, or otherwise take action to diminish the quality and quantity of on-campus experiences for students.

Thank you for your continued commitment to USD. We look forward to seeing you again next week.

- COVID-19 Task Force