From enhanced sanitation measures to preparing to teach courses remotely, Carolina employees have spent the past several days adapting University operations in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though spring break was extended a week, large gatherings have been canceled and many operational functions are altered, Carolina’s campus continues to support vital research across campus and provide shelter for students who cannot return home.
Cleaning for health first
Each day, Carolina’s Housekeeping Services deploys 400 people through three shifts to clean more than 13.7 million square feet of research and academic buildings, residence halls, libraries and offices. Each housekeeper regularly cleans the equivalent of six and a half basketball courts, according to Herb Richmond, director of Housekeeping Services. Housekeepers use best-in-class cleaning processes on every inch to keep pathogens from spreading.
“Our staff already works hard and thoroughly cleans where faculty, staff and students spend their time,” Richmond said. “We’ve been planning with campus partners and relying on the expertise of UNC Environment, Health and Safety for recommendations on protecting ourselves and the cleaning products we’re using. Our normal cleaning is always to prepare for something like this, so we first clean for health then appearance.”
Housekeeping Services uses the OS1® System, an industry-standard comprehensive system for custodial organizations. Every housekeeper has received extensive training in OS1, which provides standardized tools and procedures to ensure a clean and healthy work environment.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends routine cleaning for frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, work stations and counter tops. Housekeepers employ cleaners recommended by UNC Environment, Health and Safety, such as hospital-grade germicidal detergents, on all high-touch surface areas. The products have been used previously on campus and are EPA-registered.
As a part of pandemic planning, Housekeeping Services has completed or is in the process of completing the following steps to combat COVID-19 within University facilities:
- Identifying all potential transmission routes.
- Conducting a survey of all direct and indirect high-touch surface areas in buildings.
- Providing custodial staff with additional training and instruction on proper disinfection protocols.
- Providing custodial staff with “Protect Yourself” training so they understand transmission routes and how to best protect themselves when cleaning.
- Stockpiling cleaning and disinfection supplies.
Information technology’s top priority
Information technology staff who already support the daily needs of faculty, staff and students are working to make sure the University’s work can continue, even as campus takes steps to create social distance in the workplace.
“Our top priority is our faculty continuing to instruct, students continuing to learn and that our staff are equipped, as much as possible, to work from new locations,” said Kate Hash, assistant vice chancellor for customer experience and engagement in Information Technology Services (ITS).
ITS created a website for the campus community with guidance and tools to support working remotely. Hash said that ITS will update the site as information and resources become available.
“Everyone’s situation will be different, and we’re committed to helping them out,” Hash said. “Our 919-962-HELP support team is available to help people through any challenges.”
About 400 people work in ITS and another 400 information technology support staff who do not report to ITS support units across campus.
“We’re used to working with each other even though there are no reporting lines, and the level of collaboration in the past 10 days is the highest we’ve seen,” Hash said.
Besides the broader efforts, IT support staff have also provided more of what Hash calls “white-glove” service to individuals. “We try to meet people where they’re at,” Hash said. “Even people who are tech-savvy may not have used Zoom before and need to know how.”
ITS also prepared to do its part to keep campus operational in ways both usual and new by testing remote working situations.
Some areas demanded more immediate solutions. For example, 962-HELP staff, who normally work in the House Undergraduate Library, are now handling HELP requests from remote locations.
Making remote instruction possible
Last week, Chancellor Guskiewicz and Provost Blouin announced that instruction would be offered remotely beginning on March 23. Campus response to remote learning has been supportive and focused, according to Todd Nicolet, vice provost for digital and lifelong learning.
“Faculty and staff have been focused on creating the most positive student experience they can despite this disruption,” said Nicolet.
The University is also focused on equipping employees with the tools they need to provide that experience. Faculty and staff can find resources on the Keep Teaching website created by ITS, including workshop videos and consultations from the center and 30 instructional design experts across campus.
“We have stakeholders from across campus working on identifying issues, needs and solutions as we help transition to remote instruction for the vast majority of our courses and address the situations where a course may not have any way to be offered remotely in such a short time frame ,” he said.
The University has tools that are usually provided to those who are preparing to teach online courses, and faculty and staff are now learning to apply those tools on a mass scale. Almost 200 courses were planned as online classes for the spring semester, and now thousands of on-campus courses are transitioning to remote learning. Partners across campus, such as the Center for Faculty Excellence, Center Digital and Lifelong Learning, ITS Teaching and Learning department, and Office of Arts and Science Information Services are developing resources and offering training and consultations to faculty.
“Our top focus is ensuring appropriate academic equivalencies and making sure students reach their learning outcomes, which is why we’re working closely with instructors and leveraging instructional management across campus,” said Nicolet.
Center helps faculty keep teaching
The Center for Faculty Excellence provides faculty with resources, workshops and learning opportunities every day, and the center is continuing to do so under extraordinary circumstances.
Erin Malloy, director of the Center for Faculty Excellence, says the center’s staff are coordinating faculty workshops, contributing to resource development and facilitating online workshops on remote learning strategies as part of the University’s Keep Teaching initiative, led by Nicolet.
“The CFE is about building community and supporting faculty. We see that the social distancing needed right now makes this even more important given the feelings of isolation this can bring,” said Malloy. “The Keep Teaching initiative has set the groundwork for the CFE to be creative in moving workshops, learning communities and consultations to remote formats.”
Continuing Faculty Governance
The Faculty Council is working to provide faculty perspectives and decisions on key decisions on academic matters for the University, even as faculty discussions must take place remotely.
Faculty Council is adapting its meetings and consultations with administrative leaders to follow the university’s guidelines on social distancing, said Lloyd Kramer, chair of the Faculty Council and professor of history.
“The Faculty Council wants to continue responding to the concerns of faculty, and Faculty Council wants to remain a point of contact and dialogue between administrators who are developing policies and the faculty who have to implement them,” he said.
The March 20 Faculty Council meeting will be live streamed as usual, but the more than 90 Faculty Council members will not attend the meeting in person. They will instead join the meeting remotely and submit comments and questions online.
Elections for Faculty Governance committees and for the Chair of Faculty Council will go forward as scheduled in early April because the elections take place entirely through online voting. The candidates for Faculty Chair will make presentations only at the March 20 Faculty Council teleconference rather than speak at a traditional, in-person “meet and greet” public forum. The candidates for Faculty Chair will make presentations only at the March 20 Faculty Council teleconference rather than speak at a traditional, in-person “meet and greet” public forum.
“The way in which we do our work will continue to evolve with the situation, but the key point of Faculty Council is to maintain communications, offer pathways for faculty conversations, and help faculty deal with difficult situations,” said Kramer. “We are taking on new challenges now, but we are prepared to do so.”