IT Virtual Town Hall November 20, 2020

December 10, 2020

At the start of the meeting, John noted that the on-campus phase of fall semester was nearly over, thereby reducing the demand for on-campus support services. He asked staff to “take a deep breath and give yourselves a big round of applause for successfully achieving what we set out to do: restoring the academic opportunity for the majority of our students, returning research to full productivity, and resuming all of our clinical operations. That is remarkable.” He shared that he is extraordinarily proud of IT for its partnership with other operational departments, and its commitment to IT’s organizational priorities during this process—particularly Service Quality. 

John acknowledged that there are stressors impacting the team, including incidents related to social justice. He expressed that “we need to continue to make meaningful progress on that at Yale and be vocal advocates for progress continuing nationwide and worldwide.”

If you need help, please call me, call a friend, call Human Resources, or call Yale Signature Benefits - but don’t suffer alone. - John Barden

Concerned that there are team members struggling with isolation and feelings of sadness, he asked that everyone be a bit more attuned than ever before. He asks that people keep their eyes open, take time to check in with each other, and give people the benefit of the doubt. He urged the team to reach out “if you need help, please call me, call a friend, call Human Resources, or call Yale Signature Benefits—but don’t suffer alone.”

John also encouraged optimism, given that two vaccines are on the horizon. With distribution projected for early spring, he suggested that we may experience “some semblance of normalcy later this summer.”

He reminded staff that Jack Callahan added an additional day to the Thanksgiving recess. He feels that this is a good time to reset on other fronts, including revisiting who’s on campus and why. The Leadership Team is actively refreshing the list now with two primary goals:

  • Reducing the number of staff on campus, where possible.
  • Optimizing, with the help of Environmental Health and Safety, IT’s protocols and personal protective equipment guidelines, based on experiences over these last few months.

Based on preliminary discussions, it is likely that IT will redefine some jobs as high-contact faculty and staff, a term that was used in the beginning of the fall for a very small list of people. “We are likely to expand that definition, “he shared. This will result in increasing scrutiny and safeguards, as well as mandatory testing for job classifications shifted in that direction.

At present, the intention for Spring semester remains planned as a repeat of what was done in the fall. Looking ahead to Spring, the sophomores will return in place of the freshman, the majority of the Graduate Schools start back up in January, and residential college students return in early February.

Between now and then, IT will be making a number of pretty modest changes to technical controls supporting its public health goals, focusing primarily on two things:

  • Making it easier for schools and units to monitor the full set of compliance expectations for their populations.
  • Giving the public health team a bit more flexibility for defining targeted populations for increased monitoring and support during any potential outbreaks that may occur.

Shifting focus, John acknowledged that there has been some increasing concern about elevated expectations due to the strategy work underway, such as minimum security standards training documentation, requirements for project management, or expectations building around financial management and service ownership.

John shared that he believes that IT is taking the necessary steps. “These programs that sit under our balanced scorecard goals and workplace survey initiatives are incredibly important to the progress that the community is seeing in all of your work and also important to our future.” John acknowledged these changes are asking more of you in this moment and shared that he is grateful for your trust.

John concluded by encouraging everyone to celebrate Thanksgiving strictly with immediate/household family members. He reminded the team that two vectors are driving most of the infections, according to public health experts at Yale:

  • Small social gatherings with friends and family
  • Eating together

He encouraged everyone to consider doing something different this year, to protect themselves and their loved ones. 

The following questions, and John Barden’s answers, were taken from the November 20 virtual IT Town Hall meeting. This includes questions submitted via the Ask John survey.

Someone noticed six new hires on the intro slides and wanted to know if this was for the entire year. Also, how does that compare to the number of people who have retired or left Yale? Can you provide any information regarding how many people have been hired and how many positions are left open at Yale this year?

That figure was for October and November, so this does not reflect the entire year. Most of the university is in a hiring freeze. We have successfully advocated, given the dependency on technology right now, that this is probably not the time for us to make substantive reductions in staffing. We have maintained our numbers, in terms of our into our total employment, and continue to hire quite a few positions. While I expect that will continue, I don’t expect we are going to dramatically grow the team over the course of the next six months.

We are mostly looking at phased retirements and planning how to reset the details about the position as well as the need for replacement. I expect our headcount will remain relatively similar through the next six months.

An individual purchased some equipment and wants to know if it is approved per the Remote Employee Reimbursement Policy (Interim) and/or how they should approach reimbursement.

Details should be in the policy, but if you have specific questions, or things that don’t feel like they’re adequately addressed there, please ask your supervisor and we will work through it. I would much rather see more reimbursement requests come through then to have people who do not need to be in the office come into the office.

As the state and country seem to be heading towards a larger lockdown, has a plan been put in place for those IT workers who are on site? How will Yale and IT graph, measure, respond, and share the plans and information to those who are on site daily? 

We are actively looking at those who are authorized to be on campus right now, including those presently on the list as well as those who are “badging in,” including targeted lists for individuals like DSPs, to understand frequency. 

I want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to do this as safely as we can. I have asked Sandra and that team to rethink if there is anything different that we could be doing. Additionally, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) volunteers will be coming back and spending a little more time with us on making sure that we are taking advantage of the information we have learned over the last 10 weeks of this semester regarding viral transmission. EHS will help us review the protocols we are using for the kinds of engagements where proximity is required. We also want to ensure that we are using the right forms of personal protective equipment (PPE) and that we are doing everything we reasonably can to protect the team that has to continue to be on site. First and foremost is to review that list and assure that we cannot pull back in any way. I suspect we will, in fact, try to pull back a bit where we can. 

Some people are interested in sending handwritten holiday cards to home addresses of members of their team; they are wondering if there is a way to get address information?

Julienne: I encourage you to use Ycards, which is the electronic greeting program used by Yale. 

Blanche Temple: I wish we could, but due to privacy issues, we cannot provide that that information. The suggestion to use Ycards is a good one. 

John: Another option, is if someone voluntarily shares their home address with you, you’re welcome to use it, although it might not have the same element of surprise that you’re hoping for. 

Why did Yale decide to only give two extra days of PTO when other Ivy’s got at least a week?

There are a few schools, not very many, who chose to do something bigger. I can’t speak to the rationale, or decision-making process that led us to where we are. Every institution is a little different about how they work through these things and I hope that you appreciate the generosity of what Jack Callahan, Scott Strobel, and Peter Salovey felt like we could do in the context of our operations.

Someone mentioned that they’re really missing those interactions in the lunchroom and in the building. Can IT host a zoom gathering occasionally? 

We are planning a holiday get together from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. on December 17. You might want to put a mark on your calendar - an announcement is going to follow this meeting today. Obviously, we don’t get to do what we would love to be able to do, but we are trying to do something that will likely have some music and some entertainment tied to it. 

John closed by offering his thanks and the community’s thanks for everything that IT staff have done to support them.

The next IT Virtual Town Hall will be from 11:00 - 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, December 15, 2020.

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