IT Virtual Town Hall September 10 recap

September 17, 2020

John opened the Town Hall by reflecting on the positive start to this academic year. He shared that Yale COVID-19 Statistics and other important information is available on Yale’s COVID-19 website.

He also shared that graduate and professional school students are now strongly encouraged to participate in voluntary weekly testing. Additionally, he reported that procedures on contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation are proving to be effective, with nearly all Yale community members following their community commitments

John shared that IT is in the process of clarifying its procedures for access to student spaces, in collaboration with other departments, and is expecting guidelines to be published soon. In the meantime, questions or concerns should be directed to senior leadership team members for interim solutions. 

In response to questions about work from home policies and associated expenses, John mentioned that Human Resources recently published a Remote Employee Reimbursement Policy (Interim). He summarized that it largely restates existing expense policies and clarifies that it’s the University’s responsibility to equip you with technology appropriate to your role. 

John understands that the team is likely experiencing stress from multiple angles right now and encouraged them to “hold tight to the things that bring you some peace. I want to say how much I appreciate being here with all of you and the work that we get to do everyday—so, thank you.”

The following questions, and John Barden’s answers, were taken from the September 10 virtual IT Town Hall meeting. This includes questions submitted via the Ask John survey.

Has the phased retirement program had the impact that was desired?

Hopefully, for those of you who view retirement as the right opportunity for you at this point, you recognize the sincerity of the offer. To date, we’ve had about 20 people within IT who have raised their hands. 

I actually didn’t have a specific idea of what to expect, but each of those cases makes sense and reflects a person’s individual decision at this point in time for what they want to do. I think it’s wonderful and wish them all the luck in the world. Each of those phased retirements will work through a transition plan.

Will Yale be withholding payroll taxes [in relation to the President’s payroll tax suspension or CARES act]?

Blanche Temple: Regarding the tax holiday at this particular time, no action will be taken by the University, so payroll tax will continue to be withheld. View more information on Yale’s decision on the short-term employee payroll tax deferral.

Can people pick up/use chairs from their work office?

I’d really prefer not to see that happen. It is not worth risking possible physical injury while moving equipment. The interim policy is clear about expectations, which is if you are working from home, the university is to provide you with technology equipment and consumable supplies appropriate to your role, but the individual is responsible for connectivity, office space, and furniture unless there is a medically approved accommodation required.

For those with children, how do we address our work schedules without new solutions on how to support them?

These are tough questions. Work with your supervisor, and if that’s not getting you to a satisfactory answer, raise it up through your Senior Leadership Team member or through HR by reaching out to Blanche Temple. We will try to help you work it out. School restarting is pretty challenging to a lot of you—and to me. I do understand the concerns. These are not great answers and the capacity across the nation for many forms of childcare right now is very limited. We will try to be as flexible as we can realistically be while still allowing you to do your work.

Related: View Yale’s COVID-19 Childcare Resources page, which includes information on childcare support options, babysitting and tutoring, parenting resources, educating children at home resources, and more.

When will departments who have seen an increase in work due to COVID-19 be able to hire new staff, or existing contractors, to combat these new high-priority workloads?

We have been reasonably fortunate in this regard, in that most of the University understands where the priorities are right now. We have been shifting work like crazy to try to meet these short term needs. Planned work has been held off a bit to allow us to focus on COVID-19 projects. That’s not sustainable forever.

We have started planning around what this support model is like for these things that we’ve built, but expect to have better clarity on these needs over the next several months. We don’t know how long we will be in this state.

We have not suspended hiring. Most of the university recognizes that we have ongoing support and operational needs that need to be filled and there is too much dependency on IT not to do so. So, we continue to do some selective hiring and engage with contractors where there is a clear need and justification to do so.

If people are seeing significant gaps, please raise this concern because we are trying to manage through those things with as much clarity as we can  and provide you with the resources we need to be successful.

Are there requirements for graduate students to get tested weekly?

To my understanding, graduate students present differing risks. For example, part-time MBA students come in for two days every two-weeks, medical students are in clinical rotations, and Teaching fellows may never set foot on campus—and everything in between. Because of this, it’s not easy to group them all together, so the deans are working to establish the best approach for their populations.

We are trying to provide resources to those divisions so that they can make the best, informed choice for their student populations.

Will there been any formalization to remote work arrangements once more people return to campus?

The policy that has just been published regarding remote working arrangements is considered interim, not permanent, and for the purpose of dealing with this current situation. There may be revisions for the long-term.

Another consideration is whether we will shift to more full time remote work arrangements. I think we probably will; however, I don’t think we are going to have any large group, such as the IT organization, work remotely on a permanent basis. Our experience during this pandemic with remote work gives me a lot of confidence in remote work arrangements. My hope is that we will be much more open to it than we have been in the past. 

Is Return to Campus reporting helping the community to monitor and manage campus resources and safety?

That was the intent—not only to help us think about it, but to support the public health committee and operations leadership team in making informed decisions.

You are seeing a lot of that material being made available community-wide so that others can be aware of how the committee is assessing that relative risk. It is also true that we have students, faculty, and staff trying to assess their risk each day, as well as parents interested in understanding how Yale is dealing with this crisis. They are looking for evidence that we are managing it well. For all those reasons, we chose to make that data public and publish it regularly.

John closed the meeting by thanking the team for the incredible work they are doing and with a reminder to stay safe and healthy.

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 Friday, September 25, 2020. After this date, Virtual Town Halls will be held on a monthly basis.