Faculty

Important Information for Faculty

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FACULTY COMMUNICATIONS

Date: April 21, 2020

From: Curtis N. Powell, Vice President, Human Resources

Many organizations in the United States, and throughout the worldcontinue to struggle with financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Rensselaer is no exception. As a result, the Institute has made the difficult decision to furlough a portion of our workforce whose duties and responsibilities cannot be performed remotely, or where the normal workload has diminished significantly due to the impact of COVID-19. The furloughed employees were notified earlier today.

The furlough is effective May 1, 2020, and we anticipate it will last until July 31, 2020; however, we will continue to regularly assess the external guidance and our internal circumstances. Rensselaer will reinstate furloughed staff based on federal and state guidelines, as well as the business needs of the Institute.

Our furloughed employees will continue to receive the health and welfare benefits for which they are currently enrolled. Additionally, furloughed employees are eligible to apply for up to 39 weeks of NYS Unemployment Insurance benefits, and benefits assistance under the Federal CARES Act through July 31, 2020. The CARES Act provides furloughed employees who are eligible for unemployment insurance with an additional benefit of $600 weekly. The CARES Act is designed to assist employers and employees with situations like ours, in which employees cannot perform most or all of their job-related duties due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The Division of Human Resources has provided the NYS Department of Unemployment verification of employment for furloughed employees. However, furloughed employees must initiate their individual claims.  

Furloughed employees should contact Mr. Louis Padula, Director of Benefits, Retirement, and HR Information Systems, at (518) 276-6164 or by email should they have any questions regarding the continuation of Rensselaer health benefits during the furlough, or navigating the New York State Unemployment Insurance application process. 

The Capital Employee Assistance Program (EAP) continues to be a valuable resource for all employees and their families. As our community continues to cope with anxiety precipitated by the global COVID-19 crisis, and faculty and staff face personal and professional challenges, Capital EAP continues to operate 24/7 and provides access to confidential counselors and support services. Confidential counselors and services can be accessed at https://capitaleap.org or by calling either (518) 465-3813 or (800) 777-6531. The access code for Rensselaer is 105293.

We appreciate your understanding of this difficult decision, and regret that the COVID-19 pandemic crisis has required us to take this action. This decision is not a reflection of the skills, knowledge, ability, or overall job performance of furloughed employees.

Please continue to stay safe during these challenging times, as we look forward to better times.

Date: April 10, 2020

HR Health MemoDuring this COVID-19 pandemic, please know that the staff in the Division of Human Resources and vendors that support our benefit programs are prepared to address your health, welfare, and retirement needs. The Division of Human Resources staff are available to answer any questions or concerns from you or members of your family, and we appreciate your understanding and patience as we continue to work through this crisis.

Please view our enhanced health, welfare, and retirement program details.

Date: April 7, 2020

From: Prabhat Hajela, Provost, and Peter Konwerski, Vice President for Student Life

Even as we approach the final weeks of instruction for the spring semester, planning is in full swing for the summer semester. With an emphasis on protecting the health and safety of our community, and reducing the risk from COVID-19 disease, President Jackson announced that instruction for the summer semester, including Arch classes, will be delivered remotely.

To support students throughout the Arch summer semester, as well as any students taking online courses with us, Rensselaer student and academic services will be fully operational including the Advising and Learning Assistance Center (ALAC), Student Success, and Class Deans.

The Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) will continue to provide comprehensive and individualized services to assist all students with their searches for away semester opportunities, co-ops, internships, and full-time jobs. Students enrolled in the Arch Preparation Course should complete all assignments; the course outcomes are critical for success in securing semester away opportunities. To connect with the Career Counselor for a specific school, students may schedule an appointment on Joblink. Students may also utilize the “Chat with an Advisor” feature on the JobLink main page for on-demand assistance between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday, or email the CCPD.

In addition to information on the summer semester, we also want to provide additional information on a question that many of you have raised about adjustments to room and board charges for the spring 2020 semester. The Institute will be providing pro-rata room and board credits, net of Rensselaer financial aid. Credits will be posted in the coming weeks. Additional information on this topic will be available on the COVID-19 website

We look forward to continuing to support you throughout the rest of the spring term and beyond. Please be well and continue to take the recommended steps to keep yourselves and our community safe and healthy.

Date: March 22, 2020

From: Prabhat Hajela, Provost

In light of the transition to remote instruction necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are implementing a temporary change to our academic and grading policies for the Spring 2020 semester. This decision has been taken after consultation with the academic leadership and subsequent review and recommendation for adoption by the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee.

With this change, all students will have the option to convert a letter grade in any Spring 2020 course to a Pass/No Credit grade by May 15, 2020. Additionally, a grade of Pass in the Spring 2020 semester can be counted towards the graduation requirements for any program of study at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The selections for P/NC for this semester will not count against the P/NC limits stipulated in our academic catalog.

Please contact the Advising Hubs in your Schools should you have additional questions related to these changes.

Read our Student Guidance on P/NC and FAQ

Date: March 15, 2020

From: Curtis N. Powell, Vice President for Human Resources

This past week, due to the growing public health crisis, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a pandemic; the President of the United States declared a national emergency; and the Governor of the State of New York declared a state of emergency.  

Rensselaer does not have a known COVID-19 case on campus, and there are no known cases in Rensselaer County. However, in our continued efforts to decrease the number of people on campus and to minimize contact among those who are here, we are expanding our social distancing protocols through telework. 

Effective Wednesday, March 18, through Tuesday, March 31, only faculty and staff whose work is deemed “essential” to current operations will be expected to report to work on campus. Faculty and staff who have not been designated as “essential” are not required to report to campus. These individuals will work remotely, with the expectation of fulfilling all assigned duties and responsibilities, on their assigned work schedule. Portfolio leaders will inform faculty and staff members if they must report to campus, and will provide further information regarding work assignments.

All faculty and staff will continue to receive their salary and benefits, with the expectation that they will continue to be productive in performing their assigned duties and responsibilities. Non-exempt staff are ineligible for overtime pay during this period.

Faculty and staff working on campus should practice social distancing by not gathering in groups and maintaining six feet of distance from others whenever possible.

We will continue to assess the situation each day, and keep everyone updated. The Rensselaer COVID-19 website remains our central source for news and guidance. Please regularly consult this website for updates.

Date: March 12, 2020

From: Robert Hull, Acting Vice President for Research

In light of the global COVID-19 outbreak (info.rpi.edu/coronavirus) we wanted to follow up with further guidance to ensure research continuity, especially as it relates to graduate students and the research staff.

1. Immediate Situation

As described in the universitywide message from President Jackson of March 11, 2020, the university is moving to remote instruction for all classes from March 23, 2020, through the end of the spring 2020 semester.

As we transition to remote instruction, other Institute operations will continue, including research programs. In this context, President Jackson's March 10, 2020, message states that where possible, graduate students pursuing research will work remotely.  This means that Ph.D. and other graduate students should perform their research away from campus when it is possible.  This may apply, for example, to many students pursuing computational work, analyzing data, or documenting the results of their research. For students pursuing experimental work or studio research, research activities on campus can continue, but only when social distancing can be enforced. In these activities as well, research time out of the laboratory (data analysis, report or paper writing, etc.) should be performed away from campus.

Research laboratories and facilities will continue to operate, but again in situations where research staff can pursue their tasks away from campus, they should be required to do so.

To maximize the effects of social distancing, please implement the following guidance in your laboratories and groups:


  1. Staggering work time in laboratories and offices so that a separation of 2 meters or more between occupants can generally be maintained.

  2. If protective clothing or apparatus is used in your lab or facility, please implement a plan to ensure that they cannot transmit a virus from one user to another, for example providing disposable masks and gloves, and personalized safety glasses and clothing.

  3.  Ensuring adequate disinfecting supplies and protocols for cleaning working surfaces, including keyboards and instrument controls.

  4. For "living systems" such as animals and cell lines or tissues, working with your facility manager or developing protocols in your own laboratory to ensure sustenance and preservation.

  5. All graduate students should receive a training session on hygienic protocols.

  6.  

2. Contingency Plans for a Potential Campus Shut-Down

If case(s) of coronavirus are detected in the Rensselaer community; there is a community-spread case proximate to the Rensselaer campus; or cluster cases in Troy (regardless of origin), the Institute will shut down the campus, except for essential campus operations. This includes the shutdown of all laboratories and facilities, except those requiring continued baseline operations and oversight. In this case, on-campus research work will cease.

To prepare for this possibility, the following steps are required:


a) Please designate essential personnel, where necessary, to ensure safe and stable conditions of all laboratories.


b) Each faculty researcher and research laboratory must develop a Business Continuity Plan in the event of such a shut-down.  If you have not done so already, please review your plan with your staff and research students as soon as possible.  This plan must include all necessary information to implement safe shut-down or stabilization of your laboratories.


c) Ensure that you, and all researchers in your group or center, have the necessary records for grant operations (e.g. submitting annual, final, or progress reports) and/or proposal submissions.


d)  Ensure that you and your group/staff have the necessary materials to continue your research to your best ability from home (data analysis, writing of papers, etc.)

While we all hope that there is as little impact as possible on the campus community, and on the continuity of our operations as a result of the coronavirus, we must be prepared to act quickly to protect people and critical facilities.  We know that there will be questions that an email of this length cannot directly address. If you have additional questions or need further information, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for your assistance in this important matter.

Sincerely,

Robert Hull, Acting Vice President for Research

Prabhat Hajela, Provost

Date: March 12, 2020

From: Campus Leadership

From: Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy, Professor of Engineering Sciences; Prabhat Hajela, Provost; Leslie Lawrence, M.D., Executive Director for Health and Wellness; Curtis Powell, Vice President for Human Resources; Claude Rounds, Vice President for Administration; Peter Konwerski, Vice President for Student Life; Craig Cook, Secretary of the Institute and General Counsel; Graig Eastin, Vice President for Institute Advancement; Barbara Hough, Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer; Robert Hull, Senior Associate Vice President for Research; Richie Hunter, Vice President for Strategic Communications and External Relations; John Kolb, Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer; Jonathan Wexler, Vice President for Enrollment Management; Jonathan Dordick, Special Assistant to the President for Strategic Research, Howard P. Isermann Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Vadim Thomas, Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Emergency Management

In an ongoing effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus within our community, on Friday, March 13, 2020, Rensselaer will implement a campus stand-down from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to allow faculty, staff, and students to deeply sanitize personal workspaces and common areas. During this time, we will focus as a community on one of the best strategies we currently have to help keep everyone safe and healthy: continually sanitizing our workspaces and maintaining the best personal safety hygiene.

The coronavirus situation remains fluid, and public health advisories and health precautions can change with little notice. We must keep our community safe by listening to public health experts, remaining calm, and doing all we can to protect the most vulnerable in our midst. Using common sense, following the best hygiene and cleanliness practices, and adhering to our values are our best strategies for keeping everyone safe and healthy. 

Date: March 11, 2020

From: Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy, Professor of Engineering Sciences

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak has spread rapidly across the globe and presents a unique public health challenge that is compounded by the uncertainties associated with its spread and severity. In continuing efforts to safeguard the health and safety of our community, yesterday I communicated that Rensselaer would suspend all in-person instruction and move to online and other alternative learning options from March 16, 2020, to March 30, 2020. 

Today, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 a global pandemic. New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo also announced that, in light of the evolving novel coronavirus situation in New York, the State University of New York and the City University of New York will implement plans to reduce in-person classes and maximize distance learning, beginning March 19, 2020, for the remainder of the spring semester. 

The COVID-19 disease, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is easily spread through close human contact. The residential university environment, whether classrooms, living spaces, dining halls, or gatherings at university events, promote such contact and the likelihood of transmitting infections. In the absence of a cure, definitive treatments, or effective interventions, the best mitigation is through social distancing, which epidemiologists indicate is better early, than late. 

In an abundance of caution and care for our community members, some of whom may be in high-risk groups, we are extending remote instruction until the end of the spring semester. 

Further, and in the important interest of public health, we are requiring all undergraduate students in Rensselaer Residential and Greek Commons to move out of these residences by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2020. Rensselaer will review requests from students to remain on campus due to extenuating circumstances that may, for example, relate to their inability to return home due to restrictions created by the COVID-19 pandemic; such exemptions will be very limited. 

We recognize this transition will be disruptive and the Division of Student Life staff will assist our residential students. To facilitate this transition, we will extend Spring Break through March 20, 2020. Spring semester classes will resume with remote instruction on March 23, 2020. 

Shortly, we will provide detailed guidance and instructions to assist students with moving out of our Residential and Greek Commons.

Normal Institute business operations will continue.

The university website is the comprehensive source for information and updates from Rensselaer. We will continue to share new information as quickly as we can. 

I thank you for your cooperation and support. Please take steps to keep yourselves and our community safe.

Date: March 10, 2020

From: Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy, Professor of Engineering Sciences

In an effort to protect the health and safety of our community from the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19, beginning Monday, March 16, through at least March 30, the university is suspending all in-person instruction, and is moving to online and other alternative learning options. 

Following directives from the Office of the Provost, students will hear from their respective faculty regarding specific course guidance. We will continually review the coronavirus situation, and may extend the alternative learning approaches if necessary.

The campus will remain open with limited and/or reduced services. To enhance social distancing, students are strongly urged not to return to campus during this time period. Students who must remain on campus will also receive instruction remotely. Where possible, graduate students will work remotely. Students with questions concerning housing and/or dining services should contact the Office of Student Living and Learning at (518) 276-6284 or by email.

Effective immediately, and until further notice, we are suspending all university-sponsored events, including events sponsored by student organizations. At this time, NCAA competitions will be allowed according to previously promulgated guidance.

We have suspended all university-related international travel to any country. Effectively immediately, university-related domestic travel is also suspended.

Planning for Commencement on May 23, 2020 continues. However, we will continuously evaluate the overall situation. We will make as timely a decision as possible, and promptly inform our community of any changes.   

For information and updates related to the actions Rensselaer is taking to address this public health situation, please visit the COVID-19 Outbreak Communications website.

Now, more than ever, we will pull together and do what Rensselaer does best – collaborate, find solutions, and move forward. I know we are up to the task, and that we will emerge from this stronger than ever as a community. Thank you in advance for your support.

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