Today's Update: Tuesday, March 24

March 24, 2020

Dear Student Life Team: 

As I reflect back over the day, I am once again struck by how significantly our work and personal lives have changed. So many of us who normally spend countless hours on campus have been working remotely, while others who are used to interacting with hundreds are working on a mostly empty campus. This includes so many of our staff members whose responsibilities require their presence in the residence halls and other facilities, dining locations and in student health, among other places. I wholeheartedly believe that we do our best work together.  And yet I want to remind everyone that we are, in fact, still together. Just in a different way.  

So much of who we are as a Student Life organization, and even as a university, is our unparalleled commitment to the student experience and student success. And as we approach this unprecedented time, we must rise again...just in a different way...to ensure Ohio State is best positioned to continue our important mission for many years and generations of Buckeyes to come.  

Ohio State is one of the most respected institutions in the country, and many are looking to us for vision and leadership in this time. Likewise, we must summon our inner “Brutus” and look inside to make the decisive, and sometimes difficult, decisions that will ensure Ohio State’s legacy. Today I write with more updates on how we are navigating this unchartered territory.    

As I mentioned yesterday, President Drake has declared a state of emergency for the university. There are several other steps that go along with this, and I wanted to share a few of those with you today so you can understand the background, details and considerations for the future. As a reminder, these are decisions being implemented university-wide, not just here in Student Life, so we truly are all in this together. 

As you review these updates, I encourage you to think about questions you have and share them with me, your director, supervisor or your unit’s AVP so we can help provide answers as we go along. I also want to remind you that the decisions being made here at Ohio State are the types of decisions that are being discussed at institutions across the country. This doesn’t minimize the impact, but it underscores that the core of what we are doing remains the success of our students, faculty and staff, which includes our responsibility to ensure a fiscally sound organization at this very critical time.  

Staffing 

Ohio State has implemented a temporary hiring pause. Other than essential services and defined exceptions such as key teaching and research positions for upcoming terms, the hiring pause applies to most faculty, staff and student positions. Details of the pause are posted on the Office of Human Resources website. Although there may be exceptions for essential positions and operations, please understand that the criteria for reviewing such requests will be quite robust. This does not mean that you must simply do more with less during this period; we will be looking to everyone to think about how to do things differently, which can be a challenge, but can also be a good time for positive change.  

I also want to remind everyone that, even though we use terms like “critical” and “essential,” the work that each and every one of you contributes to our organization is so important to our success.  

Fiscal operations 

In other steps to assess the operational and budgetary impacts of our coronavirus response, the university has implemented new controls on cash reserves and restrictions on procurement spending. Any spending or planned spending of current cash reserves now must be approved by either the provost (for all academic units) or the university's chief financial officer (for all support units), which is Dave Wiseley in Student Life. Each senior fiscal officer will also become the level 2 approver for procurement activity in their college or unit. With this new structure in place, I encourage all units to carefully review expenditures and make some prudent decisions about what you are requesting. Likewise, as Dave will be handling quite an increase in approval requests, please give ample time for review. 

Travel 

To expand on previous announcements, the university has suspended all university-sponsored international and non-essential domestic travel until further notice. All travel that has been scheduled through June 30, 2020, must be cancelled and no new travel may be booked until we receive further notice. For example, if you have a service trip already scheduled for the month of June, it needs to be cancelled. If you were planning to schedule a service trip for the month of July, you should not start the booking process until we receive additional guidance. 

Student support 

You may have heard that Ohio State will deliver orientation virtually this summer. This is a recent decision, and details are still being ironed out. I have charged Matt Couch to help lead the charge in making the most of this unique opportunity. As you may know, I have a great passion for advancing extraordinary experiences for our distance learners, so I sincerely believe that, though the circumstances aren’t the best, we can use this opportunity to make great strides in the virtual space, this summer and into the future. 

As you know, we have been working quite hard to effectively manage the move-out process, but we also have quite a few students still living in the off-campus area. This week we sent a message to both students reiterating Governor DeWine’s orders to limit social gatherings and to stay at home. We also reached out to local landlords asking for their help in reinforcing this message because they are important partners in helping off-campus residents understand the health and safety implications of this situation.  

We continue working toward decisions on locations, staffing and support for those students remaining on campus, along with dining services for them. For now, the current dining locations will remain open through this Sunday. The locations and hours are on their website. We can expect these locations and hours to change as we determine final housing locations for our remaining residents. 

Your important role 

It is obvious that this pandemic is not our situation alone, but rather a worldwide crisis. We do, however, have a significant role in promoting the health and safety of our community. I feel confident that we are stepping up to the challenge while remaining committed to our institutional mission and student-centered approach. There is a reason why we’re one of the strongest student affairs units in the country, and we’re seeing evidence of that in how each of us are responding to this situation.  

Having said that, just because you are rising to the occasion, I want to acknowledge that you are also dealing with the fears and worries that so many people are having about this virus. We are all struggling with how COVID-19 could impact us personally and professionally. Please know you are not alone. To reiterate: We are all in this together. 

The same expectations we’ve had for our students: patience, resilience, grace and innovation - we will need to continue to embody during these uncertain times. We’re all doing our best as we navigate this strange new world. And as always, you continue to prove you truly are Scarlet and Great. 

Melissa