Initial process for scaling up campus research

May 26, 2020

Dear Members of the Brandeis Community,

Following up on President Liebowitz’s letter to the community last week, we are writing to provide you details of the first steps we are taking at Brandeis University to gradually ramp up our campus operations in line with the Governor’s Re-Opening Massachusetts.  

As we open up more of our campus in the coming weeks, this will be a careful and gradual process consistent with our commitment to campus health and safety.  We will all need to learn new ways of operating and be prepared to stop or reverse course depending on COVID-19 transmission rates, indications that members of our community are disregarding physical distancing and other new campus policies, or state guidance.  We promise frequent communication on how the ramp up process is going and next steps.

What follows is a summary with more detailed links to what will be happening in the next three weeks.  These policies reflect the recommendations from the COVID-19 Task Force.  Please understand that these guidelines and policies are subject to revision as we learn more about operating a more open campus with COVID-19.

Beginning this week we will start what we are calling Phase 1a: ramp up of laboratory research.  This refers to on-campus laboratory research work that cannot be conducted remotely, does not involve face-to-face human subjects, and requires specific laboratory facilities.  During Phase 1a we will allow on campus a fraction (about a third) of the usual number of principal investigators, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and associates, and other technical staff who work in a lab. Any researcher who can continue to work remotely will be required to do so.  In the coming weeks we will expand the opening of other research and studio lab spaces with new guidelines, and develop protocols for paid undergraduates to work on campus.  These guidelines and protocols will build off the experience of this initial ramp-up.

The Principal Investigator (PI) of each laboratory is required to submit to their department chair and the Vice Provost for Research a scaling-up protocol that describes the safety measures they will put into place prior to scaling-up.  This protocol will summarize the activities that will be conducted in the lab during Phase 1a, and will describe in detail how each lab will implement the safety procedures and guidelines, along with any specific or particular guidelines that are necessary based upon the activities or space of each lab (such as procedures that require removal of masks).

Research may have to be scaled back down again with little notice, so PIs should be careful about what research projects they resume in Phase 1a. More details can be found in Campus Scaling Up Guide for Faculty and Staff: Stage One and Guidelines for Scaling Up Research:  Phase 1a.

No PI is permitted to return to their research lab or ask staff to return without approval by their department chair and the Vice Provost for Research of the protocols for their individual lab or shared facility.  This is in addition to other requirements detailed below that must be completed prior to returning to work.  Research lab employees will be notified of the appropriate time to return to campus by their PI or supervisor. Until then, if you are currently working remotely and have not been asked to return to campus, you should continue to work remotely.

Participation in on-campus research is voluntary at this time.  All returning personnel must affirm that they understand and agree to this by filling out an electronic daily health assessment (this is done before coming to campus) that includes an attestation that they are returning to work voluntarily.  In addition, all personnel must complete a mandatory COVID-19 training program before they can come to work. This training augments training that all PIs will deliver on safe procedures including not only distancing, protection and cleaning and disinfecting, but also sign-up and logging requirements.  If there are any questions about this process please contact the Vice Provost for Research, Ed Hackett at ehackett@brandeis.edu.

We know that many of you who are not part of current essential campus operations or a research lab have asked if you can briefly return to campus to access information or documents, even if you are still working remotely.  This is possible if you first notify your department chair, Dean, manager or supervisor of your need to return to campus briefly, and then notify Josh Manfredo or Ed Callahan. We strongly encourage you to make these returns as short as possible – think minutes not hours. Even if you are on campus a short time, you will need to wear a face covering and practice social distancing at all times and in all places. This is an important way to help minimize the transmission of COVID-19 onto the campus.

The work of the COVID-19 Task Force continues to examine possible changes in the academic calendar, ways to support the faculty to be prepared to teach in multiple modes, and how to reopen residential buildings for our undergraduates, albeit with a less dense population.  We will continue to update the campus on the work of the Task Force but encourage you to reach out to the respective chairs of the working groups or any of us with your ideas, questions and concerns.

Just as it appears that a combination therapy will be needed to help treatment for those experiencing acute symptoms of COVID-19, so too will a combination strategy be needed to keep our community safer as we open up more of our campus operations and activities.  As we expand our campus operations, we will need to double down on hygiene, physical distancing, screening, and masks, and transform how we live and work together.  As we enter this next phase for our campus we ask that you adopt a culture of social solidarity.  In other words – if you are not feeling well, don’t power through and come to work.  If we see someone who is not following the new standards and protocols, let’s agree to remind each other when we see a standard slipping.  At the same time let’s agree to accept reminders graciously, as it’s likely each of us will need to give and receive reminders at various times.  We are all learning how to live and be safe in this new world of COVID-19 so that we all can still enjoy working, learning, and creating together.

 

Sincerely,

Lisa Lynch, Provost

Robin Switzer, Vice President Human Resources

Stewart Uretsky, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration