Methodology & Risk (6/23)
USF will utilize a variety of resources from several internal and external sources to return to on-campus operations. The university will leverage partnerships with federal, state and local health departments, emergency management agencies, and additional stakeholders, like the State University System Board of Governors, to inform our plans.
There are several forms of analysis that USF will consider as it resumes operations. Actions taken will first and foremost be driven by epidemiologic data, including but not limited to data indicating a decline in the rate of transmission of COVID-19 and decreases in the number of cases relative to increases in the numbers being tested. Any increase in numbers of new cases could trigger a tightening of restrictions and return to conditions of a previous phase. In addition, ongoing consultation with various constituents informed decision making for various elements of the plan. Focus groups with students, conversations with faculty and student leaders, and multiple town halls and surveys sent to faculty and staff provided important perspectives on comfort regarding returning to campus, remote working and learning, and adoption of personal mitigation strategies on campus. USF will pay particular attention to data from students, faculty and staff with access and functional needs, as well as risk populations, as these factors will influence mitigation methods and other reconstitution strategies.
Furthermore, actions will be based on governmental orders, such as Executive Orders from Governor Ron DeSantis, the CDC lifting or relaxing social distancing guidelines, the CDC lifting all domestic travel advisories, and the State Department lifting Level 4: Do Not Travel Global Health Advisory.
USF President, Dr. Steven Currall, implemented the COVID-19 Task Force to help lead the university in response and recovery efforts. This Task Force is chaired by the dean of USF’s College of Public Health and includes broad membership from across the university. The Task Force tracks USF-related COVID-19 cases, shares recommendations with the president and the Executive Policy Group (EPG), consults with campus constituents as part of the planning process, and reviews plans created by the RSFs.
Per the USF Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), the EPG maintains responsibility for university-wide strategic decision-making during emergencies and disasters, and determines the university’s strategic course of action. This group is chaired by the USF President and membership is comprised of the Provost, Senior Vice Presidents, Vice Presidents, Regional Chancellors and General Counsel. As part of the University of South Florida’s Recovery Plan for phasing in on-campus operations for COVID-19, nine (9) RSFs have been formed to serve as workgroups for the coordination of recovery planning and operations. The following RSFs will be utilized during COVID-19 recovery planning and operations:
- Finance and Economic Development
- Wellness and Community Resilience
- Community Planning
- Facilities and Infrastructure
- Instruction and Student Support
- Public Information and Community Outreach
- Information Technology
USF’s emergency operations are based on coordinated planning efforts and the USF CEMP and each campus’s Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), as well as the USF Infectious Disease Plan and existing emergency plans from departments across the university.
As this situation continues to unfold, the university’s planning teams have been managing and mitigating risk along multiple dimensions through the response and now into the recovery phases of action. Those charged with developing each element of the RSF model were asked to consider these risk dimensions as well as levels of risk associated with various recommended actions. We considered the following risk categories, as informed by the Report of the NACD Blue Ribbon Commission on Risk Governance: Balancing Risk and Reward:
- Health and Human Resources Risks affect the health of faculty, staff, and students, as well as recruitment and retention of faculty and staff
- Compliance and Legal Risks such as those involving federal and state law
- Operational Risks include those associated with academic programs, research, instruction, faculty development, admissions, financial aid, IT, fundraising, and athletics
- Financial Risks reflect those associated with revenues, expenditures, and financial viability
- Reputational Risks are those that threaten the university’s brand or public standing
The university’s highest priority is limiting the health and safety risk to the campus population. However, the lowest risk action in this regard – to remain in remote work and instructional mode through the fall - creates significant risk in the other dimensions, including employee retention and student melt.
Further, these categories are non–linear and interrelated and therefore our approach to risk mitigation must consider a careful and thoughtful balance among all dimensions of risk within all strategies selected.