Dear USF faculty, staff and students,
As we look ahead to the start of the spring semester in January, we are optimistic about the COVID-19 trends we’re seeing, with a continued decline of cases and hospitalizations in our communities. We strongly encourage COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, and we urge you to stay home if you do not feel well. Vaccines are free and readily available on our campuses and at sites throughout Tampa Bay.
A consistent theme in the regular updates our university leadership team receives from health experts is that our society is in position to transition into a new normal with how we approach COVID-19. Although the virus remains present and may never fully disappear, in many ways it can be managed by taking precautions similar to other infectious diseases, like the flu. At the same time, we will remain vigilant in monitoring any COVID-19 developments, including new variants such as Omicron.
Today we are providing updated guidance that will take effect beginning January 3, 2022. Many of our procedures for the spring are similar to how we’ve been operating throughout the fall semester. USF’s coronavirus website covers our protocols in more detail, including important changes to how positive cases will be reported and managed.
Please be aware that our guidance is subject to change as we continue to track the latest COVID-19 information, updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Florida Department of Health, and other relevant federal or state orders.
I would also like to reiterate our commitment to being agile and innovative when it comes to new ways of working and collaborating. We recognize the fundamental need for in-person classes and student-, faculty- or staff-facing services, and to be clear, these services must be made available in-person during normal business hours for any student, faculty or staff member who needs them. Meanwhile, we also recognize that many of our employees have thrived with the flexibility provided by remote work, especially in positions that are not directly student-, faculty- or staff-facing. We have clearly seen that the global marketplace for talent is evolving toward hybrid work, creating more competition for top performers who can help us reach our aspirations.
With this in mind, I continue to encourage USF supervisors and unit leaders to work with USF Human Resources to design work structures that enable performance and accountability for employees while allowing for flexibility, as desired and appropriate. Led by USF Chief Human Resources Officer Angie Sklenka, our HR team has made available a robust suite of toolkits, policies and training materials to help managers work with employees to develop work structures that are beneficial for both parties. Many of you have worked with HR to model your hybrid work plans. Leaders who have not engaged in hybrid workplan best practices or who need assistance maintaining them, should contact HR to ensure equity and consistency in the nature of work and models used.
As with any new endeavor, we will continue to evolve, reflect and learn along the way. With your continued engagement, commitment and trust, we can build a future USF that is stronger, more supportive and more agile than ever.
We look forward to welcoming you back after winter break and the many exciting things we’ll achieve during the upcoming spring semester.
Rhea F. Law