Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, urged students, faculty and staff to “stay the course” with telework and social distancing in a virtual town hall on Thursday, April 30.
“For now, stay the course,” Keel said. “For those who can telework, please continue to do this. For those who cannot telework, leave is available to support those employees.”
Keel said non-closure emergency leave will be extended to June for university employees who, due to the nature of their work, cannot telework from home.
“This ensures continued employment and pay for employees who cannot telework,” he said.
Essential operations will continue with appropriate protective measures and social distancing, Keel said, and university leaders should consider allowing some employees, such as those working on essential research, to return when protective measures and social distancing requirements are in effect.
“These [measures] are designed to support the governor’s order,” Keel said. “Now is not the time to rush our faculty and staff to campus.”
Keel touched on uncertainties related to the fiscal 2021 budget and said people should remain patient as state leaders work to determine what the future looks like.
“These are questions we just don’t have answers to at this point. We have heard the general assembly will go back into session in June. When they do go back into session, they will pass a budget and we will know what that budget looks like when it passes.”
On questions of budget cuts and furloughs, Keel said answers are still unknown.
“At this point in time, [furloughs] are talk and rumors. The simple answer is that we just don’t know. We will get those answers to you as soon as we know more, but we should be prepared.”
The university, however, does plan to reopen and have students on campus in fall, Keel said.
“This is a dynamic and fluid situation, so please be patient. While the plan is to be open in the fall, we have to be very flexible. The plans that we prepare for today are going to change.”
Keel said a committee has been appointed to address contingencies related to reopening in fall and to help university leaders understand what that could look like.
“We will plan for if we have to put some or all of classes online for fall and for social distancing to remain in effect.”