For more than two-and-a-half months, most staff at The University of New Mexico have been working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic that started sweeping the nation earlier this year. Since March 17, UNM has limited its operations and sent staff home to work in alignment with state and federal guidance in an effort to protect the pack.
UNM is developing a comprehensive plan to Bring Back the Pack in fall 2020. Beginning June 1 until mid-summer, UNM will enter an initial phase designed to "Bring Back the Pack," outlined in a nine-page memo sent to all university faculty, staff and students recently. During this early summer phase, a limited group of individuals will be permitted to return to campus to start up critical functions and to support Fall planning. Services will continue to be available remotely, buildings will largely remain locked, and campus access will remain limited. The other phases mentioned in the plan include a mid-summer phase, a hybrid fall phase and the future.
“We are beginning very gradually and thoughtfully, as the safety and well-being of our community must be balanced with our mission to provide excellence in scholarship, research, patient care and service to New Mexico,” said President Garnett S. Stokes. “Beyond the summer, if New Mexico public health orders allow, UNM will offer what many institutions across the nation are calling a “hybrid” Fall semester.”
In the initial phase, each major area of University operations: Academic Affairs, Finance and Administration, the President’s Office, the specialized areas of the Health Sciences Center, and on each of the branch campuses, leadership will communicate directly with their units to organize and prioritize the areas that can start to move to an increased on-campus presence. Managers and supervisors should not begin asking employees to return to campus until they receive official notice from their leadership.
Each of UNM’s academic programs has unique and special needs, so while many summer educational programs will be delivered by remote instruction, others such as health science clinical education will move to in-person activity as early as this summer. The goal of a hybrid fall semester is to deliver the critical elements of an in-person education in a controlled way that minimizes transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
“We hope to conduct classes, services, and research activities, partly in-person on our campuses and partly through remote delivery,” said Stokes. “We’ll do so in a way that is equitable, strategic, and always mindful of the health and well-being of the Lobo pack, across campuses and communities.”
The memo highlights key workplace protocols including expectations, face coverings and social distancing, COVID-19 students and employees, and reporting requirements, business processes, parking enforcement, telecommuting protocols and additional resources to protect the pack.
UNM’s campuses, including its branch campuses in Gallup, Taos, Valencia and Los Alamos, will be creating the tools and practices for protecting Lobos and helping them thrive under new and challenging conditions. UNM’s branch campuses, each located in different regions as identified by the state for COVID-19 monitoring, may begin resuming operations based on differing time-tables and could pursue somewhat different strategies.
"Our provision of service in many forms, including teaching, discovery, patient care and professional services, is core to our success as a state," said Stokes. "UNM must continue to ensure equitable access for all of our communities to the services and opportunities we provide, and we must protect the most vulnerable among us, not just vulnerable from a threat to health. Despite the current health crisis, caused by COVID-19, UNM must continue its work at the highest level of excellence."