April 20, 2021
Dear CU Denver Faculty and Staff,
Two months ago, we announced our plans to be back in-person this fall semester with full operations to the extent possible. We know that in-person learning is best for many students and for certain subjects, and we are committed to offering a rich and engaging educational experience that is largely on campus and complemented by digital and hybrid experiences.
In February, we did not have all the facts on what the COVID situation would look like this fall and, truthfully, we still don’t know every detail. But vaccine availability is now widespread, and more than 2.3 million Coloradans have received at least their first dose. In Denver, 55% of the eligible population has been vaccinated, which is quite impressive considering full eligibility only opened earlier this month. Studies show that vaccines work and we have confidence that our students can safely return to the campus for the fall semester. But we can’t do that without you, our valued faculty and staff. After many of us have been away from campus for more than 12 months now—diligently working at our home offices—it’s time to come back downtown.
We know some people are eager to be back in-person, while others are reluctant for a variety of reasons. We accept that and know this transition will take time. We’re not all jumping into the deep end of the pool at once. Let’s dip our toe into the water. Slowly and steadily.
Starting June 1, colleges, schools, and administrative units will commence a “soft return” to the office, with staff coming back about one or two days a week. This will allow employees to slowly transition into new routines, while providing time to make arrangements for transportation, childcare, and other aspects of daily life. We envision that staff will increase their office presence to about two or three days per week during July, so our units can ramp up to their “next normal” states in August as we begin the fall semester.
We have also heard about the unique challenges this summer poses for parents, who do not have the regular suite of childcare and summer camp options available. We ask supervisors to be flexible and consider alternative in-person arrangements, such as employees coming in for one-quarter of June in other ways, such as working in-person one full week that month. While we do not believe many employees will be “fully remote” going forward, unit heads and supervisors will have discretion to be flexible with remote work options including location and schedules. And, to help ease this transition back to the office, we are offering free first-come, first-served parking for the months of June and July underneath the CU Denver Building and Business Building.
For nearly all faculty, this will look like a normal summer, as most are on 9-month contracts. While faculty are not expected in the office this summer, they are of course welcome in adherence with campus safety protocols.
The Lynx Together Task Force, charged by Chancellor Michelle Marks to plan all aspects of a safe fall return, has been developing methods for how staff will return this summer. We will follow all current Denver public health guidelines, including those for building capacities, face coverings, and social distancing. Further, CU Denver and the Auraria Campus may implement their own public health guidelines, if needed. While as a campus we have created guiding principles for the summer return, we also know that each department and its office space is unique. As such, we will provide discretion to deans, department heads, and other unit leaders to create return plans that prioritize safety and continuity of business operations. Human Resources will also offer a Skillsoft training for supervisors, called “Managing a Hybrid Team,” starting next week. This will be a year of learning and change, and plans may be adjusted for employees through the academic year as we learn what the campus needs are to support students and our mission.
Vaccinations are a key part of our plan to return safely. We strongly encourage all students, faculty, and staff—and their families—to get vaccinated as soon as possible. In partnership with the Health Center for Auraria, we offer COVID vaccinations on campus and you can schedule those appointments here. While we are not requiring vaccinations at this time, we may in the future, pending information from the state, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Food and Drug Administration.
We know you have many questions, and we have resources for you to get answers.
Managing Associate University Counsel & Co-Chair, Lynx Together Task Force
Dean, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences & Co-Chair, Lynx Together Task Force