As the percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated continues to climb and COVID-19 positivity rates throughout the region and country drop to all-time lows, we are planning for a fall semester that should look and feel much closer to normal.
In his April 23rd message to the TC community, President Bailey announced the College’s plan to begin a gradual return to on-campus work on August 9th in preparation for primarily in-person academic operations in the fall. Today, we would like to describe what returning to campus could look like for faculty and staff who are currently working remotely.
Phased Return to Campus
In our discussions and planning efforts, it has become clear that in-person staffing needs vary across TC’s departments, and that there are many variations on how our new work schedules might develop as more employees return to campus for the fall semester.
Supervisors and their staff colleagues are developing return plans that support the objectives and operational needs of their respective departments and the College. We will give everyone as much advance notice as possible regarding the timing and procedures for their own return to campus while making every effort to accommodate individual circumstances.
Staff who work directly with students, as well as employees who provide critical support to campus operations, will be among the first groups to return to campus. Some employees are planning to return as early as July in order to help prepare for our students’ arrival on campus.
We will continue to consult with our Columbia colleagues and public health experts to ensure that our decisions take into account density requirements, protocols for sharing workspaces, and all the other considerations that have an impact on the safety of our campus and employees. And we will continue to ensure that our faculty, students, and staff have the support and technological or other training they need to be effective and successful as they resume work on campus.
Academic Instruction and Research
The majority of courses will be offered in person for the fall semester. Any program comprising more than two-thirds of international students by the start of the fall term will conduct most of their courses online. We appreciate that a limited number of faculty and students may have unique situations that will make it impossible to return to campus for in-person instruction. Requests for exemptions or accommodations will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The Research Compliance and Safety Committee has developed requirements and phases to support the gradual approach to re-starting in-person research. Information on the policies and procedures regarding in-person research is available in the Research Compliance and Safety section of the TC Preparedness site. To complete the required training modules for researchers who plan to resume in-person data collection, visit this page. For questions about human subjects research, contact IRB@tc.edu or visit the TC Institutional Review Board’s website.
Flexible Work Considerations
As part of the transition, our plans will include staggered start dates along with flexible, hybrid, and remote work schedules to allow for a smoother re-entry process and lower density as employees return to campus.
Decisions about who returns to campus, when, and how often will be made by vice presidents or their designee in collaboration with supervisors and Human Resources, based on the critical functions of positions and the need to access on-campus resources.
As outlined in the College’s Telecommuting Policy, professional staff may submit a request to arrange to work remotely. Remote work arrangements must be documented and approved through a Telecommuting Agreement. All requests will be considered on an individual basis at the discretion of the department. We ask that employees confer with their supervisors and department heads prior to submitting requests, since departmental plans for returning to campus will vary based on operational needs.
Although some staff positions may provide the flexibility for telecommuting, the critical functions and business needs of other positions will require some staff to work on campus. Effective September 1, 2021, we expect all staff to live within commuting distance of the College, with some exceptions.
Union staff covered under a collective bargaining unit should follow the work schedule as stipulated by their respective bargaining agreement provisions.
While planning is underway across the College, we ask for patience as you await further direction regarding your return to campus or adjusted work schedules. As we have done from the outset of the pandemic, we will need to be flexible as we transition back to more in-person work and campus operations. If you have questions about the return to campus plan, please reach out to email@example.com
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Teachers College will provide reasonable accommodation to staff with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities who believe they need reasonable accommodations to perform the essential functions of their job should contact TC’s Office of Access and Services for Individuals with Disabilities, at (212) 678-3689, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss those concerns with OASID staff. Supervisors must not informally authorize remote work as a disability accommodation outside of the formal accommodations process.
Campus Access Health and Safety Precautions
As President Bailey announced previously, effective August 1, 2021, TC will require all new and returning students, faculty, and staff who will be on our campus to be fully vaccinated for the fall 2021 semester. Keep in mind that, if you are receiving two vaccine doses, you must receive your second dose at least two weeks before the date you will return to campus.
The vaccine mandate and all other campus access requirements are outlined on the “Campus Life During COVID-19” section of TC’s Preparedness site. The site will be updated as details are announced in the coming weeks, including how to get vaccinated in preparation for the fall, how to submit proof of vaccination, and how to request religious and medical exemptions.
We continue to evaluate and may adjust our health and safety protocols and requirements based on the vaccination mandate, updated guidance from the CDC and State, and ongoing consultation with our Columbia colleagues and public health officials.
Based on the findings from the employee survey on returning to campus, we understand that the primary concern across staff roles is the ability to return to a safe work environment. As part of our COVID-19 response, the College has put in place a number of measures to promote environmental safety, including increasing the fresh air circulating on campus and enhanced cleaning protocols. Visit the Health and Safety Measures section of the TC Preparedness site for more information on steps the College has taken to ensure a safe work environment for members of our community on campus.
Wellness and Support
Undoubtedly, the pandemic has had an emotional, physical, and psychological impact on all of us. It is important to recognize when additional resources are needed and to seek the help you need for yourself or a family member. We encourage everyone to take a moment to find out more about TC’s Employee Assistance Program, which is available to all full-time employees. Additionally, TC continues to offer a number of health and wellness resources for faculty and staff available here. As you look for ways to care for yourself and your loved ones, we also encourage you to take Summer Fridays and vacation time for yourselves to rest and recharge over the summer.
As we look ahead eagerly to the fall, we will continue to do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of our community on campus and support a smooth return for staff who will be transitioning from remote to in-person work.
In the meantime, whether you have continued working on campus or are preparing to return, we thank you for your work and dedication to the College’s mission during these incredibly challenging times.
Vice President for Administration
Co-Chair, COVID-19 Working Group
Vice President for Finance and Operations
Co-Chair, COVID-19 Working Group