College-Specific COVID-19 Guidance

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

The following information is based on what is known 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 Information may become outdated quickly.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. Note that both UMaine and UMS have informational websites. 

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.

Chairs & Directors – below is our latest release of a guidance summary to be distributed to college faculty and staff. Thanks.

April 7, 2020

To:  Academic Unit Chairs & Directors

From:  Fred Servello

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, 2) minimize student, employee and community risk, 3) adhere to current directives on working remotely and staying at home, 4) UMS universities will continue to fulfill its teaching, research, and service missions to the extent able, and 5) adhere to the increasing list of other specific directives (e.g. maximum group sizes, travel restrictions, new hiring procedures)

Topic

Current Status

Instruction

College contact: George Criner

(Updated 4/6/20)

Contact George Criner for case-by-case solutions to instructional challenges. Resources for remote instruction are available online.

If you plan to have student employees support (e.g. classroom teaching, labs) you must call George Criner for a consultation in advance.

Instruction via Zoom

The latest Zoom security measures should be followed to ensure safety in lectures and, to a lesser extent, in meetings.

Pass/Fail grades and course withdrawal deadline

Information on the new pass/fail grading policy can be found online. The Pass/Fail request period is April 10 – May 1. Students should consult their advisor or Program Coordinator first to ensure a pass/fail grade will not impact their academic program, financial aid, or future goals. The last day to drop a course and receive a ‘W’ is now May 1.

Travel courses and study away programs

Contact George Criner for the latest information on travel courses and study away programs.  

Advising

College contact: George Criner

(Updated 4/7/20)

Student advising should be done remotely. Contact your unit chair or director for support on remote advisement.

The UMaine Counseling Center now offers telephone and Zoom appointments for ALL students.

Report any students not engaging in classes to nsfaacademics@maine.edu and we will reach out.

Clinical placements/field practice

College contact: George Criner

(Updated 4/7/20)

Some off-campus clinicals continue at essential locations. 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. 

Undergraduate employees

College contact: George Criner

(Updated 3/16/20)

Continue if student employees can fulfill their responsibilities remotely. If you plan to have student employees support (e.g. classroom teaching, labs, etc.) you must call George Criner for a consultation in advance.

Graduate students

College contact: 

Chris Gerbi

(Updated 4/6/20)

Course participation will continue via remote instruction. Teaching assistant activities should be remote except in the rare circumstances when course needs require on-campus resources.

Any field and on-campus research will be by approval only, following the guidelines in the Research section of this update.

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 or Mark Hutton

(Updated 4/7/20)

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

The Office of Research Administration, Office of Research Development, and Office of Research Compliance have their own guidance pages.

All non-essential research activity outside your home must be deferred until after May 17. Forthcoming guidance from the Vice President for Research will include a new, more restrictive definition of permissible activities on an approval (not reporting) basis. This anticipated guidance provides the general university-level framework. For questions specific to individual situations please contact Chris Gerbi or Mark Hutton.

Working Remotely

College contact:

Fred Servello

(Updated 4/6/20)

The current UMS directive is to work remotely to the maximum extent possible until May 17.

Access to on-campus resources necessary to complete your duties is possible. The section on Access to UMaine Facilities in this update offers additional information.

Research activities must be approved through the Office of Vice President for Research. An approval system is expected to be announced on April 7.

Contact your unit chair/director or supervisor on a case-by-case basis for any questions concerning access to campus resources as needed. The dean’s office staff can also assist with questions.

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.

Travel

College contact: Susan Gallant

(Updated 4/7/20)

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 with the Dean’s Office.

New guidelines for personal travel were posted online on April 6. Rely on the current University of Maine System advisories and restrictions and current UMaine guidance for this critical information. The travel management hotline 800-223-1308.

Personnel management

College contact: Susan Gallant

Employee/benefit issues (Updated 4/2/20)

UMS has published new pay guidelines and options in response to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This guidance is available online.

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.

Faculty and staff hiring (Updated 4/6/20)

In light of the current situation and the Chancellor’s recently announced hiring approval process, UMaine is reviewing all positions currently in the search process or approved for searches at the President and Chancellor level. Deans maintain the authority to continue searches in progress, but final hiring steps are on hold. Deans are still waiting on decisions regarding hiring approvals. As part of the new approval process all temporary hires will now go through Hiretouch.

Faculty personnel topics 

College contact:

Fred Servello

(Updated 3/22/20)

There have been changes in some deadlines for faculty evaluations for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. Ask chairs/directors for updates.

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

Access to UMaine facilities

College contact: Susan Gallant

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 George Criner to arrange for assistance. (Updated 3/24/20)

Reporting Building Activity (Updated 4/6/220)

If you plan to be on campus at any time during the COVID-19 pandemic, Facilities Management and life safety have requested that you complete the occupancy/access form. This request applies to all faculty, staff and student workers on all campuses. The occupancy form is live on the Facilities Management request portal.

Overnight parking (Updated 3/24/20)

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

Mail service (Updated 3/22/20)

See the FAQ on this topic on the UMaine COVID-19 website. Call the number there if there are further questions.

Offsite facilities (Updated 3/16/20)

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

Funding/financial

College contact: Susan Gallant

Purchasing

PCard/TCard limits are currently being reviewed. Further guidance on purchasing is expected this week.

Reimbursement (Updated 4/7/20)

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.

Additionally, UMS is coordinating the distribution and tracking of resources to support COVID-19 response. Guidance is available online

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. 

Campus events 

College contact: Kathleen Pelkey

(Updated 4/6/20)

Nearly all major campus events in April and May appear to have been or likely will be cancelled.  

Commencement

The latest update on commencement can be found at the Novel Coronavirus Community Update website. Additional information is also available on the Commencement website.