College-Specific COVID-19 Guidance

This page offers COVID-19-related guidance specific to UMaine’s College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture.

The following information is based on what is known or believed at the time of distribution. Information may become outdated quickly. If in any doubt, confirm before taking action. Information in official UMaine or University of Maine System communications supersedes this information.

For UMaine COVID-19 inquiries, call 207.581.2681 or email umaine.alerts@maine.edu. For college-specific inquiries, contact the dean’s office by calling 207.581.3202 or email Kathleen Pelkey.

March 24, 2020

To:  Academic Unit Chairs & Directors

From:  Fred Servello, Dean

Subject:  NSFA COVID-19 Guidance Update

This guidance update (memo) will be sent periodically and likely frequently in the next few weeks to inform you of current guidance from the Office of the Dean. The most up-to-date version of the college’s COVID-19 guidance update will also be available online.

Our plan is to keep the format (i.e. table below) constant for ease of periodic review. Each guidance update will be comprehensive so you have all current guidance as of the date of the memo.

Please forward this memo to your unit’s faculty and staff.  Faculty should communicate relevant information to graduate students. 

 Principles

  • Be adaptable and generous
  • Focus on student learning outcomes more than topical coverage, where appropriate
  • Prioritize seniors (timely graduation) and first-year students (retention)
  • Look out for students with disabilities, first-generation students, and students with unstable housing or food insecurity
  • Take care of employees who are elderly, have health issues, or are otherwise vulnerable
  • Minimize student, employee, and community risk

In general, our guidance is underpinned by several expectations and considerations from the University of Maine System: 1) face-to-face instruction for students has ended (suggests minimizing all face-to-face interaction with students when possible), 2) minimize student, employee and community risk, 3) adhere to current directives on working remotely, 4) UMS universities will continue to fulfill its teaching, research, and service missions to the extent capable – UMaine is not closed, and 5) adhere to the increasing list of other specific directives (e.g. maximum group sizes, travel restrictions, new hiring procedures).

Topic

Current Status

Working Remotely

College contact:
Fred Servello

(Updated 3/22/20)

The college has provided guidance on expectations for working remotely in a memo to chairs and directors.

Assume this guidance will extend beyond the directive to work remotely up to April 6th until we know differently.

Instruction

College contact: George Criner

(Updated 3/22/20)

Contact George Criner for case-by-case solutions to instructional challenges.  If you are considering having student employees support classroom teaching, labs, etc., you must call for a consultation.

University resources 

Grading

There are on-going discussions on Pass/Fail grades, incompletes, and course withdrawal. Stay tuned for discussions.

Advising

College contact: George Criner

(Updated 3/22/20)

All student advising should be done remotely when possible and that any other decisions on the advising process strive to minimizing student and employee risk.  If uncertain, seek guidance from your unit chair or director.

UMaine Counseling Center announced (Email: 3-20-2020, 11:36 a.m.) that all counseling will be by telehealth only.  Students needing counseling will be provided a telephone number to call.

Graduate students

College contact: Chris Gerbi

(Updated 3/22/20)

Course participation will be remote given current UMS directives.

Graduate assistants should follow college guidance on working remotely and research activity. Faculty advisors should approve all graduate student on-campus activities. You will find more detailed guidance for graduate students in this linked memo and in the topic area, Research and Laboratories.

If advisors and graduate students do not agree on whether certain on-campus research is permissible, contact the unit leader. No student should be placed in an uncomfortable situation.

Research and Laboratories

College contact: Chris Gerbi

(Updated 3/22/20)

General (Updated 3/22/20)

Guidance from the UMaine Research and Graduate Studies can be found at this link.

All on-campus research (and field research) must be reported through this online form. The Office of the Vice President of Research  will collect the forms and distribute them to deans. The dean staff will contact the researcher only if there are concerns.

The Office of Research Compliance has excellent guidance on topics related to research involving animals and human subjects and on general research operations.

The college’s guidance on research activity is intended to provide greater depth and is provided in this linked memo. This guidance is consistent with UMaine and Vice President for Research

Sanitation

Follow guidance on the CDC website for cleaning and disinfecting.

Operations/personnel access (Updated 3/18/20)

Consider work patterns and protocols to limit the number of people in a lab. The current limit on group size is 10.

Undergraduate employees

College contact: George Criner

(Updated 3/16/20)

Spring 

Continue, assuming their work is still needed and they can fulfill their responsibilities remotely.

Summer 

At the time of this writing, supervisors can plan on hiring workers for the summer

Clinical placements/field practice

College contact: George Criner

(Updated 3/22/20)

Off-campus work by students can proceed as normal provided the setting adheres to CDC and University guidance for disease prevention. Chairs/directors or faculty with responsibility for clinical placements or formal field practicums should keep the dean’s office aware of any significant change in situations. 

Travel

College contact: Susan Gallant

(Updated 3/23/20)

The University of Maine System now prohibits all university sponsored international and domestic travel beyond the state of Maine. Approval for “essential” travel  within Maine may be possible; consult Dean’s Office. 

Rely on the current University of Maine System advisories and restrictions and current UMaine guidance for this critical information. Travel management hotline 800-223-1308.

Workplace considerations

College contact: Susan Gallant

Employee/benefit issues (Updated 3/19/20)

Chancellor memo commits to full pay through April 4/4/20 regardless of ability to work remotely. 

See UMaine and University of Maine System guidance.

Temporary employees (Updated 3/16/20)

May end early on a case-by-case basis. Consult first with the dean’s office, then Human Resources.

Email and phones (Updated 3/24/20)

“Out-of-office” messages may be confusing to students and unnecessarily fill email boxes with return mail.  Consider your audience and the current situation in decisions on how to handle email.

Offices and chairs/directors should consider whether to create temporary remote telephone directories to maintain adequate unit communication.

Access to campus facilities (Updated 3/24/20)

Most campus buildings are locked, but not closed.  Employees with keys or swipe card access can enter buildings as needed.  Unit chairs/directors have been asked to develop systems to monitor general activity levels in buildings to be prepared to respond to UMaine requests for updates on on-campus activities. Faculty can gain access to teaching classrooms by contacting Facilities Management.  Or please contact George Criner to arrange for assistance.

If a need to park overnight arises associated with research activity, contact Parking Services to arrange a pass. They will need the make/model/license plate number of the vehicle, name of employee or student, and a contact phone number.

Mail service – See the FAQ on this topic on the UMaine COVID-19 website. Call the number there if there are further questions. (Updated 3/22/20)

Funding/financial

College contact: Susan Gallant

Reimbursement (Updated 3/16/20)

  • The dean’s staff is in the process of gathering input on immediate needs of units.

  • The college has developed a tracking system to capture funding requests for expenditures and revenue losses related to the COVID-19 crisis. Requests could range from software and laptop purchases to loss of revenue needed to cover operational expenses. These losses may later be included in a UMS system wide insurance/FEMA claim. Therefore, it is critical that we are comprehensive and capture needs at a detailed level. Receipts and backup documentation to support funding requests will be required. All requests should be funneled through your unit leader. Note, UMS expects to provide additional guidance on this by noon On Wednesday, March 25.

Faculty personnel topics 

College contact:
Fred Servello

(Updated 3/22/20)

The following subjects are in active discussion within the upper administration and in some cases with AFUM:

  • Stopping the tenure clock
  • Sabbatical approvals for AY2020-21
  • Changes in faculty evaluation deadlines for current semester

Faculty and staff hiring 

College contact: Susan Gallant

(Updated 3/23/20)

In light of the current situation and the chancellor’s recently announced hiring approval process, UMaine will be reviewing all positions currently in the search process or approved for searches. Initial signals are that hiring will be slowed and reduced. Deans still have the authority to continue searches in progress, but final hiring steps are on hold. Discussions in academic affairs are moving quickly, and initial information is expected soon.

Visitors/contractors

College contact: 
Mark Hutton

(Updated 3/16/20)

Campus visits should have strong justification. At present, no blanket approval process outside the travel guidelines exists. Consult Facilities Management project managers for advice on contractors.

Offsite facilities 

Darling Marine Center and the Witter Center are restricting visitor access.

Campus events 

College contact: Kathleen Pelkey

(Updated 3/22/20)

Nearly all major campus events in April appear to be cancelled or headed that way.  No talk at the deans level about events in May 

The following events of note are cancelled 

  • CUGR Symposium

  • College Celebration of Excellence (Plan B forming)

  • 2nd College Diversity Forum in late April (may be Zoom)

Commencement

The UMS has set a deadline of April 15 for a decision on commencement. A UMaine planning group has been meeting to make a recommendation and propose an alternative should our regular May commencement change. 

Communication strategy

College contact: 
Erin Miller

This guidance focuses on college-level activities. University guidance supersedes all guidance here.