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Faculty Town Hall Q+A

During the past several weeks, many of you attended a series of virtual town hall meetings focused on the current COVID-19 situation and the implications for the upcoming fall semester. President Khator and I would like to thank you for taking the time to participate in these town hall meetings and for providing your valuable perspectives on the many challenges we will face together in the coming months.

I welcome additional questions as well as your thoughts and ideas on how we can continue to support you at provost@uh.edu. As I have communicated to you throughout these unprecedented times, I greatly appreciate your continued dedication to our students, to our academic and research enterprise, and to supporting and helping our communities.

Please choose a topic below.

HyFlex Classes

It appears that HyFlex classes have 2 separate sections: face-to-face and online. Are students locked into the section they enroll in, or can they switch between face-to-face and online delivery throughout the semester? 
Students enrolled in face-to-face sections of Hyflex courses can access the online version of the class at any point without changing the section in which they are registered. Given the reduced classroom capacity due to social distancing requirements, students cannot change their enrollment from online to face-to-face after the last day to enroll in fall courses.

What is the status of new courses from faculty that were submitted this week? If they weren't included in the optimization of class organization spoken about, will they be completely online or could they still be HyFlex? 
New courses have been included in the optimization. Please contact your college’s class scheduler if a face-to face course that was submitted has not been assigned to a classroom or if a new course does not appear in the schedule.

With HyFlex, are the students attending F2F (face-to-face) going to have a system to register every week? Are you going to have the same students attending F2F every week? Will there be any rotation? 
 Students have the opportunity to enroll in face-to-face sections of a Hyflex course until the last day to enroll in fall classes. HyFlex coursesenable them to attend in person throughout the semester. There will be no week-to-week registration. Students enrolled in face-to-face sections of Hyflex courses can access the online version of the class at any point without changing the section in which they are registered.

Will HyFlex students need to register to attend in person week to week? How will this happen logistically? . Students have the opportunity to enroll in face-to-face sections of a Hyflex course until the last day to enroll in fall classes. HyFlex courses enable them to attend in person throughout the semester. There will be no week-to-week registration. Students enrolled in face-to-face sections of Hyflex courses can access the online version of the class at any point without changing the section in which they are registered.

Face Coverings

Will faculty be allowed to enforce face coverings during in-person instruction?
Yes, faculty can enforce the face covering requirement during in-person instruction. The enforcement process is outlined on the UH COVID website under the Face Covering Policy tab and in the related FAQ’s.

As a faculty member, can I implement a face covering policy for everyone? 
The University has adopted a face covering policy that includes all individuals on campus. Details can be found on the UH COVID website under the Face Covering Policy tab.

If face coverings are not mandatory at the state or local level, how can UH enforce face coverings as a public institution? 
The University has chosen to adopt a mandatory institutional level policy that is in the interest of protecting the health and safety of all those on campus.

Would there be exemptions for face coverings for students? 
Only those individuals who have an accommodation from the appropriate University Office are exempt. The process for requesting such accommodations can be found here.

We could put a face covering requirement in the syllabus — students read and follow those. 
Standard language for faculty to include in their syllabi is forthcoming from the Office of the Provost.

Will the University distribute face coverings on campus? 
The University will not distribute face coverings. Each individual on campus will be responsible for providing their own.

Faculty Support

In addition to instructional support, how are pre-tenured faculty being supported in terms of their tenure timeline and other support for their work?  
Information on faculty-related policy changes, such as extensions to the probationary period for both tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty members because of disruptions related to the COVID pandemic, can be accessed through the COVID Resource page located on the Office of the Provost’s homepage (https://uh.edu/provost/policies-resources/covid19/). Additional resources to support faculty, including information on work-life balance, mental health resources and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be accessed through the Faculty Engagement and Development (FED) website (https://uh.edu/provost/faculty/current/fed/). Information concerning research support can be found on the Division of Research website (https://uh.edu/research/).   

Graduate Students

If UH returns to remote delivery classes, will graduate research/thesis/dissertation classes remain listed as face-to-face? Most graduate students perform in-person, even if classroom teaching moves online.
Currently, most thesis/dissertation/research classes for fall are listed as face-to-face to reflect in-person interactions which typically occur between the instructor and students.

When and what library services will be available? Right now I am unable to prepare for my graduate seminar as I cannot get books that I need to consult from the library or via interlibrary loan. Some universities are starting the fall semester later. Is this a possibility? 
The details on library services currently available can be found at: https://libraries.uh.edu/covid-19. Staff are working onsite at the MD Anderson library and branches and are retrieving print materials for mailing to users. To request an item for mailing, please use the “Contact Us” form on the following COVID website: https://libraries.uh.edu/covid-19 and select “COVID-19: Physical items or building access” from the drop-down list under Where would you like your message sent? Requests are processed Monday-Friday between 8 a.m.-5 p.m., , with most items being sent out the same day. If you have a large list of materials to be delivered, let us know in the form, and we will contact you to obtain the full list of items you need. A contactless pickup point within the MD Anderson library is planned for late summer. Interlibrary Loan (ILL) of print materials remains unavailable due to the limited number of libraries in operation; ILL is, however, requesting and delivering materials held electronically by other libraries. For other queries, please call the MD Anderson library Service Desk at 713-743-9710 or start a chat athttps://libraries.uh.edu/contact/. The start of the semester has not been delayed and is scheduled to start on August 24, 2020. 

Can books be delivered to faculty who need them for research and teaching? 
Staff are working onsite at the MD Anderson library and branches and are retrieving print materials for mailing to users. To request an item for mailing, please use the “Contact Us” form at the following COVID webpage: https://libraries.uh.edu/covid-19and select “COVID-19: Physical items or building access” from the drop-down list under Where would you like your message sent? Requests are processed Monday-Friday between 8 a.m.-5p.m., , with most items being sent out the same day. If you have a large list of materials to be delivered, let us know in the form, and we will contact you to obtain the full list of items you need. A contactless pickup point within the MD Anderson library is planned for late summer. Interlibrary Loan (ILL) of print materials remains unavailable due to the limited number of libraries in operation; ILL is, however, requesting and delivering materials held electronically by other libraries. For other queries, please call the MD Anderson library Service Desk at 713-743-9710 or start a chat at: https://libraries.uh.edu/contact/.

Are research-based graduate students (PhD) affected by this F-1 ruling? 
All F-1 student visa holders (undergraduates and graduate students) are subject to Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP)/Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requirements. The recent July 6 guidance from ICE regarding F-1 students was rescinded on July 14. 

Grading

Will we continue to allow the spring grade options? 
Provost has approved the undergraduate alternative grading policy for fall 2020.

Fall Enrollment

How is fall enrollment going so far?
Fall enrollment is looking promising.

Are we requiring students that take synchronous classes to have video cameras?
Yes, students will need to get webcams. To take an online course, a microphone and webcam are required. A link with details (https://uh.edu/online/tech/requirements/) to this requirement is found in the class notes when a student registers for an online course. 

COVID-19 Testing / Contact Tracing / Liability

Will students, faculty, and staff be tested for COVID? Some universities are offering free COVID-19 testing for faculty, staff, and students with quick (5 hour) turnaround. Is this — or something like it — being considered by UH?
COVID-19 testing will be offered for students at the UH student health center. While we are hoping to obtain the necessary instrument to perform the tests on site with 1-hour turnaround time, it will likely take a few months to obtain the machine. In the meantime, the test samples will be collected at the student health center but outsourced to a reference lab for analysis with a 24-hour turnaround time. Faculty and staff will be advised to seek testing from their usual primary healthcare provider. For those who do not have one, testing will be available through the Lone Star Circle of Care at UH clinic on the first floor of Health 2. This testing will be covered through the employee health insurance. 

How is UH going to manage contact tracing?
The UH College of Medicine developed an online course on contact tracing (to identify potential UH students, faculty or staff who may have been exposed) with over 2,000 UH students, faculty, and staff registering; 200 of those were from the UH police department. Currently, contact tracing is being conducted by members of the UH police department. However, if the volume of infected individuals increases, other UH staff who have completed the course will likely be asked to help with contact tracing. 

If faculty run labs, which often require face to face, how will they be protected if a student contracts the virus?
The best way for faculty to protect themselves from becoming infected by others in their lab is to ensure that everyone working there will wear face coverings, maintain 6 feet of social distancing, and practice good hand and respiratory hygiene. 

What’s my liability for teaching a HyFlex class if a student contracts COVID — am I covered by UH liability insurance?
Faculty members have no additional liability associated with teaching a HyFlex class other than those associated with their normal duties and responsibilities as a faculty member.

If an instructor of a HyFlex/face-to-face class tests positive for COVID-19 and remains asymptomatic, will they continue teaching remotely? Or will a different instructor take over the face-to-face activities?
If asymptomatic, there is no medical reason why the faculty member cannot teach remotely. Under these circumstances, the instruction mode of the face-to-face section of the HyFlex class would temporarily change to a synchronous online mode until the faculty member was cleared to return to face-to-face classes.

Is there a way to prevent stealing of hand sanitizers on campus, possibly by having a sanction for non-compliance? 
Faculty members should take the same precautions to protect hand sanitizer supplies as they would any other university-provided valuable items. 

Would it be possible to require flu shots so that there is no confusion between COVID-19 and regular flu symptoms?
Since flu shots are never 100% effective in preventing flu infections, it cannot be assumed that an individual who had received a flu shot and presented with symptoms suggestive of influenza or COVID did not have the flu but had COVID. The only way to differentiate between the two is to do the appropriate tests for influenza and COVID. It is recommended to receive an influenza immunization every year.

Please do not make medical shots a requirement. The rate of efficacy is too low and the risk to others is too high. Remember people with disabilities. 
The only immunization required currently is for bacterial meningitis. However, immunizations are quite (though never 100%) effective in preventing infectious diseases, and the risks to recipients is very small (although not zero), and the risks to their contacts is even smaller.

How is the university planning to provide mental health counseling considering all the stress students and faculty have undergone – COVID-19, immigration, protests, lack of social contact, F-1?
Students experiencing anxiety or stress-related symptoms can seek evaluation and treatment through Counseling And Psychological Services (CAPS). Those with severe symptoms requiring medication can be referred to a psychiatrist at the UH Student Health Center. Employees experiencing such symptoms can contact the UH Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for short term counseling; employees may also consult with their primary healthcare provider for treatment or referral to a behavioral health provider covered under their health insurance

Will the testing results be good enough to be effective?
The current tests utilized to diagnose COVID-19 are accurate (but not perfect) and are interpreted in the context of the tested individual’s symptoms. A positive test leads to patient isolation, even in asymptomatic individuals. A negative test in an individual who has symptoms suggestive of COVID may be a false negative; such individuals are presumed to have COVID despite the negative test, and are placed in isolation, and may be re-tested in a few days to confirm the suspicion of COVID infection.

Be careful with the word “require.” Legal issues abound...
The University has chosen to adopt a mandatory institutional level policy requiring the use of face coverings on campus which is in the interest of protecting the health and safety of all those on campus.

Social Distancing Enforcement

How will we fix the issue of students waiting outside doors for faculty to come unlock a door for class — this is a huge "chokepoint" and social distance fail. 
Since face-to-face HyFlex classes will have fewer students attending because of COVID classroom capacity limits (approximately 35% of the normal number that can be accommodated), the maximum number of students that may be waiting to enter a specific classroom will be much smaller than typically experienced. In addition, the total number of face-to-face HyFlex classes being offered this fall is also significantly reduced (currently approximately one third of all organized classes this fall are being offered as face-to-face HyFlex classes). As such, the combination of a reduced number of smaller-sized face-to-face classes this fall will reduce the overall numbers of students in a classroom building at any one time.   

Faculty Resources / Childcare

Is there planning underway to provide support for faculty with kids and/or family care responsibilities that will extend into the Fall and possibly beyond?
Child care is provided by the Children’s Learning Centers. UH Human Resources also offers a benefit that provides participants with family solutions and additional family support in the form of back-up child care and/or elder care.

I'd like to reiterate the crucial need of library resources by faculty to advance our teaching and research. The libraries have done great so far, and I hope they will continue to think up creative ways to continue to provide access. Libraries are UH's primary "research labs."
The UH Libraries take supporting teaching and research very seriously.  Even though library facilities are closed, library services are functioning.  See the UH Libraries webpage. At the top of that page it states “While our buildings remain closed, we continue to offer services virtually,” followed by a link labeled “Current Services,” to find details on what the Libraries are currently able to provide. It is updated continuously as conditions change. You can also send library staff a message from the “Current Services” page to suggest other ways we can safely provide more robust access.

Building and Sanitation

The College of Architecture building for the last 10 years has been very poorly cleaned and maintained. Has there been a deep cleaning of our buildings to ensure that moving forward cleanliness and sanitary conditions can be achieved?
The College of Architecture, like all University buildings, is funded to be maintained at an APPA level III standard for custodial services. If you have specific complaints about deficiencies, we are happy to address them and encourage you to report those to FIX-IT. In terms of plans for the fall, all standard service levels will remain the same as previously provided along with the implementation of an Enhanced Cleaning Team that will be cleaning high touch points such as doors, restroom fixtures, partitions, hand rails, and other similar areas throughout the work day. In addition, each classroom will be provided with a sanitizing station, including wipes for individuals to clean their work surfaces, and each evening all classrooms will be electrostatically fogged with a chemical disinfectant.

Ventilation is really poor in many research labs. If the virus is indeed airborne, how will this risk be mitigated?
Facilities is evaluating all buildings across campus to determine the feasibility of implementing ASHREA COVID-19 recommendations, all of which are designed to mitigate the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19. Some of these recommendations include increased volume of outside air and higher efficiency filters.  If you have a lab where you do not feel the HVAC is functioning properly, please provide a service request to FIX-IT with the location and the problem, and we can address your specific concern.

Suggestion: Keep doors open as much as possible to avoid handling doorknob.
In some cases, such as offices, classrooms, and other rooms where there is no need to maintain an air flow/negative pressures, keeping doors open may help.  Labs have specific HVAC requirements that would be compromised by leaving doors open, therefore this is not a recommended solution for labs. 

Is there a way to limit dorm and fraternity/sorority occupation to reduce infection risk?
Student Housing and Residential Life is allowing for single rooms in Cougar Village 1 and 2 which are the freshmen facilities (typically not allowed in these buildings). Additionally, in Moody Towers, additional singles have been allocated. In Bayou Oaks Town Houses, the fraternities and sororities have been allowed a reduced capacity as well as the option for singles (typically not allowed). All other housing buildings have single bedroom occupancy. 

Many labs have been open since May. There has been no deep cleaning in cases where positive cases were not prevalent. Does this mean deep cleaning is only provided in cases there is a positive report?
When researchers returned to campus in Phase II, the cleaning and disinfection of the labs was the responsibility of the researchers. For many reasons, one of which being the types of chemicals or other activities within the lab, it was judged to be safer for those familiar with the operations of the lab to handle this portion of the cleaning and was part of the return to campus checklist. The deep cleaning service only occurs when a positive case of COVID-19 is identified. In addition to our normal building cleaning, UH will have an Enhanced Cleaning Team, that will be cleaning high touch points such as doors, restroom fixtures, partitions, hand rails, and other similar areas throughout the work day across most campus buildings, and there will be nightly electrostatic fogging of all classrooms with an EPA approved disinfectant/cleaner.

Funding

Could you describe a fund balance sweep?
The President has announced a new policy related to equity sweeps at the University of Houston. In her update to faculty and staff on May 19, 2020, she stated: “Going forward all units—academic and administrative—will return 25% of the unspent centrally allocated funds (fund balances) to the central reserve fund. Additionally, at the end of this fiscal year there will be an additional 25% return of the unspent centrally allocated reserves from administrative units. The annual sweep from academic units will be used for academic initiatives and from administrative units for university-wide initiatives.” The CFO’s office will provide the Provost with a report of how much is to be swept from Academic Affairs division. The total equity sweep for Academic Affairs division will be $12.4M or 25%, whichever is greater. 

Is the 7.5% cut for two years or one year? Can you explain how 7.5% cut is correlated with 5% cut from the state?
The required cut from the State of Texas is 5% for FY20 and FY21. Given that FY20 will conclude on 8-31-2020 and funds have been expended, the cut must be taken in FY21 at a higher rate. Primary reasons for the cut include the fact that more State reductions may be mandated in the future. There is a potential for revenue shortfall given potentially lower enrollment rates, and there is the possibility of COVID-19 creating more fiscal strains later in the fall.

Will the budget transparency initiative ever address the disparity between colleges?
Consistent with the budget transparency exercise we undertook last year, and with the recommendation that there should be a correlation between colleges’ productivity and their budgets, the CFO’s office will provide the Provost with an analysis of colleges’ instructional revenue from FY19 to FY20. The Provost will use this data to allocate any new funding that is provided by the President for FY21 to colleges. A transparent connection between instructional productivity and budget will help our future growth.

Other

Would parking costs be refunded since faculty staff students didn’t use it since March? 
Community members are able to cancel their parking permit to receive a pro-rated refund from the date of cancellation of the permit. Faculty and staff members with a reserved or gated lot permit, who cancel their permit, will need to reapply for the gated or reserved permit for the next year. Community members who do come to campus are required to have a valid parking permit or pay for visitor parking. Parking is an auxiliary enterprise, and keeping your parking permit is a small way to protect some staff jobs in auxiliaries, as further mass refunds would likely result in additional staff reductions. Anything that we do not generate in revenue today would have to be generated in future increases for parking permits.