Karen, David, and I are following up on the news from this morning that an individual in Addison County has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. We had a lot of information in there from a public health perspective and will, of course, continue to communicate that vital content as we follow developments around COVID-19.
We also know that you have questions and concerns about what working at Middlebury will look like in the months ahead, and how your jobs and lives—and those of your families and loved ones—will be affected. We know this firsthand from the many individual conversations we have had with you, and from our discussions with Staff Council. We would like to address those incredibly important issues here.
First, it bears repeating what was said in this morning’s email: This is a new moment for us, not just for us at Middlebury, but literally for everyone on the planet. We are in a changed environment and are all working tirelessly to navigate it.
Our new educational reality of needing to deliver a curriculum online is taking up much of faculty and staff time, and you are doing so in unusually stressful circumstances. We are also working with new financial realities, such as the extreme stock market volatility and our obligation to refund a percentage of room and board costs to a great majority of students, to name just two.
At the institutional level, we are guided by two overarching values that we hold side by side: the health and well-being of our people, and of Middlebury as a whole. As we have developed the workplace plan below, our goal has been to ensure that your pay continues—for as long as possible—and that your work continues—wherever possible.
Let us tell you what we mean by that:
- For benefits-eligible staff, we are committed to paying at their current level for the foreseeable future and will continue to evaluate on a month-to-month basis.
- For the next three months, we will provide all benefits-eligible employees what we are calling a COVID-19 Pay Bank of up to 21 days that you can use for circumstances in connection with the COVID-19 crisis. These are paid days that you can use in case of COVID-19 illness, or for caring for someone with a COVID-19 illness, or in the event that you are not able to work, or need to self-isolate, etc. These are not vacation or CTO days. We need to create a new pay code for this, which will take us a few days to configure.
- In addition to the Pay Bank, you will be able to use your CTO and SLR under our ordinary policies.
- Given the current nature of the pandemic, and how it is essential to practice social distancing, we will now require those who are able to work remotely to do so. You can find resources here.
- The College still has students living with us, and we are responsible for their care and well-being. In normal times, our employees in dining, facilities, health, and safety are understood as “essential personnel,” which means, when the college is full, they are required to come to campus. However, because we have a smaller number of students now, we must deploy a smaller percentage of staff whose work must be performed on campus.
- For those employees whose work is usually performed on campus—but whose work is now no longer necessary—we will make best efforts to assign alternative work with appropriate social distancing. Staff who are reassigned and perform other work will maintain their current rate of pay.
- For those employees for whom we cannot find alternative work on campus, we may be able to temporarily assign some people to alternative work off campus, in coordination with the hospital and the town, with appropriate social distancing. Details of how such assignments would work have not been determined yet, but we would make best efforts to maintain current rates of pay.
- If none of the above alternatives is successful, we will ask staff to use their COVID-19 Pay Bank, Medical Leave Assistance Program, and their own CTO or SLR. These employees will be given “on reserve” status and may be called back if work becomes available. If on-reserve staff are called back, they will be required to return to work. If they do not return to work when called back, they risk losing their pay and access to their COVID-19 Pay Bank.
- We will create special forms of recognition to honor those employees who cannot work remotely, and whose positions take them into the community—either in Middlebury College or the Town.
We know this is a lot to take in, and that it will take adjusting to, as well.
Given the twin values we held in balance during the making of this plan—the health and well-being of our people, and of Middlebury as a whole—we feel we have created a way forward that is compassionate, creative, and based in the realities of the day. We still have details to work out and will have more to tell you within the week.
In the meantime, while some of you are already working remotely, those of you with responsibilities that can only be performed on campus should continue to report to work on campus as long as you are not sick. Thank you for all that you do for Middlebury, for our students and faculty, and for each other.
With great respect and admiration,
VP for Human Resources
EVP for Finance and Administration