IT virtual Town Hall July 17 recap

July 23, 2020

John opened the Town Hall by remarking on how IT has been preparing for the upcoming semester, as outlined in the Fall 2020 announcement from President Salovey and Provost Strobel, including:

  • Ensuring that Faculty can teach from anywhere, by ordering and preparing the necessary equipment (laptops, cameras, microphones, etc.).
  • Making technology improvements to around 40 classrooms, to support Yale’s hybrid (on-campus/remote) learning environment.
  • Reducing the University’s dependency on shared equipment (keyboards, touchpads, etc.) and introducing touchless print release for multifunctional devices, to reduce transmission of the virus.
  • Building out a massive reporting system, to assure compliance around training and daily health checks

John complimented his staff by saying that “you all are doing a remarkable job of ‘riding with it,’ documenting choices we are making along the way, and pivoting when you have to—I appreciate that. It’s really a different landscape for us right now.”

John confirmed that IT’s FY21 goals will be shared in the coming weeks. 

The following questions, and John Barden’s answers, were taken from the July 17 virtual IT Town Hall meeting. This includes questions submitted via the Ask John survey.

Will IT staff be allowed to collect their desk chairs or to receive a reimbursement to purchase a new one?

There is a Work from Home Committee, chaired by the HR organization, that will be making recommendations about things like this. They have not yet made final decisions.

Is there new guidance on whether staff can continue to work remotely for the rest of the year? This comes from a parent who needs to make decisions about child care and dependent care.

Formal decisions have not been made. More nationally and locally, we are starting to see organizations offer their employees (who can) the option do their work remotely. It seems likely that this might be an option available at Yale through the end of the year. I see no compelling reason to push 100% of the staff to be on campus soon. We have 15% of staff on campus now. That could go up by about 10% as research support needs increase, but I don’t expect anywhere near 100% of us to be in the office in the coming months.

Who will be training faculty on the use and setup of new equipment, and will DSPs be provided with the associated documentation to support them?

Sandra Germenis would be better equipped to answer that as a follow up. My understanding is that the equipment purchases have been made as part of a collaboration between the DSP, Endpoint Engineering teams, and the Poorvu Center, to respond to gaps that Faculty have indicated. My expectation is that it will be a combination of those teams and they will need some resources to do that effectively. We’ve got approximately another two weeks before equipment arrives and we hope to solve for any questions before that time.

Someone has a question from President Salovey’s recent message, which indicated that Faculty are being encouraged to teach on-site. Should Faculty be calling the Help Desk for audio-visual support or will there be additional support?

I don’t interpret that message the same way. We’ve setup Faculty to be able to teach from anywhere. There is still a lot of work to be done by the Registrar in determining which courses will be taught on campus versus remotely, recognizing that almost every section of every course will have a mixture. There is an expectation that we will collapse down to using fewer classrooms that are better outfitted to support the hybrid learning model. We need to determine exactly how that is going to work. I don’t expect that this will completely get solved for another couple of weeks. Then we will have to assess any support gaps and redistribute help or additional resources.

Some individuals are seeing contractors or staff members on campus who are not wearing their personal protective equipment. Are there any consequences or policies that will hold them accountable for wearing it?

We don’t have a way of telling if someone wears a face mask 100% of the time or not. Yale has a community compact of expectations for those on campus. It is likely that this compact will apply for everyone, so that each of us understands our obligations when we are on campus. We are starting to put some controls in place for measurable things, such as tracking compliance with the testing requirement. These public health measures have been put in place to protect all of us. There is a whistleblower process in place, as well (see the COVID-19 Workplace Guidance page for information and a hotline number). You should use that tool to assure that appropriate actions are taken to gain compliance or ask the person to leave the premises. 

Will parking charges resume?

The best available information is on the Parking website.

If a person’s living situation does not make it safe for them to return to campus, but their manager asks the person to return, will they be forced to do so?

I’m not aware of that kind of circumstance. We have asked every manager and supervisor to be as accommodating as possible. There have been very few cases where a person needed to return and could not return. If you are finding yourself in that situation or feel uncomfortable with what is being requested of you, please work with HR and your supervisor to resolve it. We will support you.

In your opening statement, you asked staff that need help to raise their hands. Also, if they feel that their time and skills could be better used in a different area of ITS, how do you suggest they raise their hands to volunteer?

Let’s see where the needs are. These needs are emerging in many different pockets, not just in terms of IT-specific work. It may occur that things like testing and contact tracing are likely to need additional resources as we spin those processes up in the Fall. Let your supervisor know if you have interest in doing something like that. We’d have to assess the impact of your other work and whether or not that makes sense.

Related to COVID-19 and return to campus technology initiatives, will a functional owner be declared, or will a team be created to support these solutions?

There is an Operations Implementation Task Force, containing each of the functional owners for each of these areas like contact testing or tracing. They are being paired up with operations leaders. That vehicle of assigning ownership has essentially started. 

Also, these are new processes that don’t have clear service alignment within our organization. That is something we still need to sort out. We are, at the moment, borrowing from other areas of the team to prioritize new work. We are working with the colleagues who are impacted by those choices and negotiating how to best reflect that in project goals or ongoing operational activities. We still have some work to do over the coming months. If this situation becomes a year-long or two-year long problem, we have a lot more work to do to see how these new processes get reflected in our service catalog and staffed for the long haul. I don’t think we have enough information yet to start to make those kinds of decisions.

Would Yale pay for an employee to get a COVID antibody test?

Per Yale Health guidance, ‘Until more data is available, routine antibody testing is not recommended.’

John closed the Town Hall by thanking the team and expressing that, with the large amount of information coming in, the leadership team will continue to try to clarify as decisions are finalized along the way.

Remember, you can submit time-sensitive “Ask John” questions through the bi-weekly virtual IT Town Hall meetings. Other questions submitted through Ask John will be held for future editions or asked at an upcoming meeting. Note: Questions previously answered in earlier Virtual IT Town Halls will not be republished unless new information is available.

The next IT Virtual Town Hall will be from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on July 31, 2020.

Consider visiting the FAQ section of Yale’s COVID-19 Workplace Guidance website for additional information on returning to campus.