STAFF: The unsung heroes as our campuses ready to reopen

The people completing the tasks mentioned below might not have the exact titles I’m listing here (or the assignments might be handled by other departments), but you know who they are: The unsung heroes getting our college campuses ready for reopening.

Chances are no matter their title, they’re considered staff on our campuses. And that means none of them enjoys the job safety those of us who teach do. If your campus has seen job cuts over the past four or five months, almost certainly staff has suffered the overwhelming majority of these professional losses.

When you see these folks over the next few weeks, give them a socially distanced hug or high five and let them know you appreciate their hard work. We faculty are able to show up and do our jobs because these folks got the campus ready for us and our students.

The registrar is figuring out how many students can sit inside a classroom while safe social distancing is ensured. The registrar and his or her team must juggle classroom assignments based on a variety of factors, including increased or decreased enrollment in any one course. I hope my faculty colleagues around the country who find themselves in unfamiliar classrooms this fall reject the temptation to call the registrar to demand being placed in the room they want.

The facilities manager is purchasing the plexiglass shields or other dividers that will allow faculty and students to have some protection from each other. The inevitable pressures about remaining within budgetary constraints and trying to purchase high-demand items undoubtedly keeps this person up at night. This manager’s team is rejiggering classrooms so that the requisite number of chairs are in place; in other cases, this team is placing “Don’t Sit Here”-type stickers on seats in larger classrooms.

The residence life office is overseeing the transition of multiple on-campus housing facilities. Some of these buildings are being reduced in capacity, while others are being identified as the campus’ quarantine location. There’s literally and figuratively heavy-lifting taking place all over the campus so that these accommodations are ready.

The student life team is placing the many, many signs around campus that remind all of us where we can stand and sit, where to grab a meal, what a distance of six feet resembles and more. None of these signs, placards or stickers can be positioned by someone working from home. And it’s summer, which means heat and humidity follow these folks wherever they go.

The director of the tutoring center knows that private conversations, with tutor and student sitting close to each other, can’t happen this fall. So he or she has to ensure privacy and confidentiality with standard small offices and social distancing.

The counseling center director is figuring out how many staff can appear inside those offices at any one time. There’s a legitimate concern throughout the country that students’ mental health will be challenged this fall. Counter that with the need for safe social distancing and you see why this critical office might not be able to engage with all students at all times.

The list goes on…

Yes, I know what many of you are thinking: All of these efforts and others like them are akin to shenanigans because your president or chancellor has affirmed the academic year will begin with open buildings and not with full remote delivery of instruction. However legitimate these concerns might be, the reality is the proverbial ship has sailed. If the decision has been made to host as many face-to-face classes as possible, then it’s time to accept it even if you don’t like it.

Whenever you get to campus in the next couple weeks, don’t forget the immense roles staff play each and every day to guarantee our faculty offices, student dorms, classrooms and much more are safe.

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