IT Virtual Town Hall August 28 recap

September 3, 2020

John opened the Town Hall by sharing that the Yale College move-in welcomed about 3,500 undergraduates back to campus, joining professional and graduate school students who have already started or are about to start. He also mentioned that students appeared to be following the committments outlined in the Yale Community Compact

He mentioned that operating procedures have been updated to minimize risk and exposure, and feels that Yale is well well positioned to sustain its planned activities for the year. However, he encouraged team members to remain cautious. In fact, a new policy regarding events and group gatherings outlines guidance on how to safely congregate on and off-campus.

Your work has purpose and you are all doing an absolutely incredible job by helping our faculty, staff, and students do their best. -John Barden

John gave a shout-out for the recent Climate, Culture, and Inclusion (CCI) Health and Wellness check, facilitated by Samantha Brailsford. He reflected that, “For many of us, these are incredibly challenging times, with an unending level of uncertainty and ambiguity that dominates almost every facet of our lives right now. I wish I could tell you how or when this gets better, but just like you, I’m riding through this rough season too. Among other sources of strength, I’m finding comfort in the Yale community and our shared values. Everyone around me is giving everything they can to make this world a better place. That call-to-mission acts a bit like a compass for me right now. I see evidence that many of you feel that same pull and understand the incredibly important role you’re playing right now for Yale in this moment. Your work has real purpose, not only in enabling Yale, but enabling the research working to control the virus, enabling the education of an electorate who understands scientific method and how to scrutinize data, and enabling our clinical care teams to help people for some of their darkest days. I’m finding it helpful to hold that mission tight. In a sea of confusion and change, that mission seems one of the few things that’s unchanging. I find that motivating. I simply wanted to take a moment to remind you that your work has purpose and you are all doing an absolutely incredible job by helping our faculty, staff, and students do their best. Thank you.”

The following questions, and John Barden’s answers, were taken from the August 28 virtual IT Town Hall meeting. This includes questions submitted via the Ask John survey.

When will the results of the employee survey be shared?

Back in February/March, we met as a senior leadership team, followed by the expanded leadership group going through the results of the survey to chart a path forward. We engaged the CCI team for a more detailed review of that data, giving voice to some of the action committee work for this year. I look forward to sharing an update in the September 3 issue of IT Update.

What is the status of the stipend for people who may need equipment in order to successfully work from home?

The HR team has been working on that, but it’s not final. I expect we will have some information about this in the next week or so. 

Can you clarify whether testing is available for those of us working from home and whether there is capacity for us, if we want to get asympotmatic tests? The information online is unclear.

The current approach is that if you are on the ‘authorized to work on campus’ list, that’s where the asymtomatic testing is focused right now. Depending on your specific job duties, this testing may be a requirement or voluntarily. If you are not on the authorized to work on campus list, it depends on your affiliation with Yale Health. Refer to the COVID-19 site for information on testing.

Are there any new updates on parking?

Guidance posted online indicates parking fees will continue to be waived until the end of the calendar year, although access to certain lots will be limited to those who have approval for reserved parking. Please refer to the Parking webpage for the latest information.

What are we doing to hold visiting workers and contractors accountable for wearing masks? If there were some accountability around this, I would feel safer working on campus.

People who have responsibility for supervising those contractors or any external parties coming to campus have the same obligation as they do for any employee. Expectations for physical distancing and mask wearing are the same for a contractor as they are for a staff member—the only difference is who is providing the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and, in that case, it’s their employer—not us. you should have every expectation that the guidance is identical—if you are on campus, the behaviors and expectations are the same across the board, regardless of how your affiliation with the University is structured. If you see otherwise, you do need to be calling this out. For more information, view:

Is there a more defined return to campus date for those working remotely? January 4 was mentioned, but the context is unclear.

January 4 has been communicated as the earliest date—please keep that in mind. I don’t expect a general recall of personnel anytime soon. Instead, we will continue to minimize our own campus presence, to make it as safe as we can for those who must be on campus. Reduction in density is a key factor in how we are thinking about our response to this. We remain committed to doing as we have been doing, minimizing the number of people that have to be on campus, and continuing to have all of you work remotely where possible, until there is a better answer.
Are you anticipating unrest on campus, or are you aware of whether the University is planning for this possibility? If so, when will we be made aware of the steps being taken?

I am not aware of any specific plans, but there are reviews of our emergency protocols actively underway, because there’s a recognition that our response to certain events has to change slightly, based on the fact that we have this ongoing pandemic. 

It was mentioned, in a recent CCI meeting, that mental health is a key concern now. How can people take time off without feeling like they are failing to meet their expectations, particularly given the pace of work right now?

This is a really hard question, but it’s an incredibly important one for all of us to wrestle through. The pandemic is likely to continue for an extended period of time, and people need to take breaks. Your productivity and mental/emotional state will continue to decline without time off. I encourage the supervisory team to have those conversations with their groups and support their staff accordingly.
In addition, the pace of work has been unbelievable these last couple of months, and I don’t know that it will slow down dramatically in the near future. We have just implemented a number of new programs that didn’t exist three months ago to support testing, contact tracing, and isolation processes. With these programs come new measures, metrics, and controls that have to get managed at a high level of quality. We should expect continued requests for changes as we observe how these are working in practice. This work is going to continue for quite some time. In that context, we need to be sure that we are building in enough relief for people to recharge. Please take that seriously and think of this as a marathon, not a sprint.
Is there any information on flu shot clinics and how that will be handled?
Information hasn’t been published online yet, and I have no additional information, although there is some national banter on how we manage the upcoming flu season. I expect a lot more encouragement than usual, not based on anything local, but rather - based on national strong encouragement for the flu shot this year to try to manage that through our whole population.
No new information is available at this time, but Yale Health members can check online as updates are posted.
Are there any plans to increase funding for some of the support teams like the Help Desk, as the need for support increases?
We have made staffing adjustments to support new programs, equipment, and processes in areas that had no support in the past. We are also trying to cover extended classroom hours and extended Help Desk hours. Everyone wants us to be as financially prudent as we can be, but we are doing what we have to do to make those things work.
I don’t sense that funding for those things that are critical right now is a major constraint. It is a constraint we have to be sensitive to, but it isn’t the primary one. It’s more a question of how we can be most effective and assure that we are providing the best support we can for faculty, staff, and students who are trying to do their best work in a very uncertain situation.
If you feel like you are getting strain that can be relieved in that regard, please make sure that your senior leadership team member is aware of it so we can talk about it more concretely. We are authorizing the use of additional resources in areas to try to make sure that does not become a huge stressor for you and your peers.
This week’s Ask John submissions included compliments for the helpdesk, and the work that they’ve been doing to support the community. 
I keeping stressing, at these meetings, how positive people feel about the support you are providing them—it has been overwhelming. People really do appreciate the work you are doing and recognize how important it is to what we are doing right now. Thank you.

He closed the meeting by stating that we’ve reached a really important milestone this week, reopening with all academic programs back “in flight.” He reiterated that he, along with the entire senior leadership team of the University, is incredibly proud and grateful for the work you are doing.

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 Thursday, September 10, 2020.