More Faculty and Professional Staff COVID-19 Questions Answered
Please visit the ‘Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus’ website for the latest public health advisories.
On March 10 and March 11, Drexel University held the last two meetings in its three-part series of virtual Q&A community conversations in which the University leaders guiding Drexel’s COVID-19 response answered questions submitted by faculty and professional staff.
During both of those recent hourlong sessions, members of the University’s Return Oversight Committee provided ongoing and updated information related to best practices based on the pandemic’s current trajectory. Topics that were discussed include vaccine access for employees; updates of a phased return to campus, Summer Fridays and continuing flexible work arrangements; safety requirements for Dragons on campus; on-campus operations related to parking and dining; and occupational safety related to shared and individual spaces on campus.
Excerpts from the March 10 and March 11 community conversations, which featured an overlap of questions in some cases, have been consolidated and lightly edited in the transcript below.
The first virtual Q&A community conversation, held Feb. 25, was recapped by DrexelNow with a lightly edited transcript you can read here. For additional information, please refer to the Faculty and Staff Q&As page on the ‘Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus’ website, and email firstname.lastname@example.org with additional questions and concerns.
On recently updated phased returns to campus:
Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Megan Weyler: We’ve been completing return phases on a term-by-term basis; in this most recent process, we have extended the phases for spring, which is phase five; summer, which is phase six; and fall, which is phase seven. All faculty and staff will receive a letter within the next week alerting you to which phase your division requires you to return. For those who are not needed on campus for spring and summer, you will receive a letter at this time letting you know that you’re expected for fall term.
On the possibility of continuing remote work:
Megan Weyler: This past year has shown us many benefits as well as challenges for working remotely. As part of Drexel’s effort to assess what the future of work looks like, the president’s cabinet has approved a pilot program to evaluate the expansion of our flexible work opportunities. Many of our colleges and divisions have volunteered to participate. We are currently finalizing the selection and will be communicating more information shortly. The pilot is intended to help us work through some of the challenges that we’ve already identified in this past year, as well as assess some that may come to light as we increase the population of campus.
On whether the University’s planning to reinstate merit increases and contributions to employees’ retirement plans:
Megan Weyler: I don’t have anything definitive, but I can assure you that both merit and the 403(b) contributions are a priority during this budget cycle. It is a priority to reinstate some or all of the contributions in July. The fiscal year 2022 budget process is currently underway, so we’ll have an opportunity to communicate more about that in the next few weeks.
On addressing concerns for returning to work:
Megan Weyler: First, we should acknowledge that it’s natural to have concerns after the year we’ve experienced. Within the next week, all faculty and professional staff will receive an individual letter alerting them to their expected return to campus. Once you receive that letter, if you have a concern that is due to a medical condition of your own, you should reach out to our accommodation specialist to discuss. If this does not involve a medical condition, your first point of contact would be your immediate supervisor or department head to determine if there’s flexibility regarding your return. If you want assistance with having that conversation, you can always reach out to your HR business partner to assist you in that as well.
On determining how often employees actually need to be in the office now:
Megan Weyler: Division heads are responsible for ensuring they have the staffing on campus needed to suit their organization. As we move towards expanding the flexible work arrangements policy and process, we will start to redefine the process for the future. Again, we are going to rely on the pilot group to give us some feedback in doing so.
On the possibility of Phase 6 or Phase 7 individuals being moved to campus at an earlier date if COVID-19 numbers are dramatically reduced due to vaccination or other means:
Megan Weyler: I think this past year has taught us to never say never, and that’s true for this as well. While any pivot is possible, I think it’s highly unlikely as our division heads are already prepared for spring and the anticipation of what’s expected for summer.
Executive Vice President and Nina Henderson Provost Paul E. Jensen: The only thing I would say is we may see some academic units adding some more face-to-face classes in the summer, which could trigger some adjustments, but they would probably be relatively small. It’s important to note that we are planning for that higher percentage of students on campus in the summer and that might cause some change.
On whether the University increased vacation days for 2021:
Megan Weyler: For fiscal year 2021, we did increase the number of vacation accrual days. Normally, our professional staff can accrue up to 35 days. When we did the rollover, for FY20 into FY21, we increased that to accrue up to 40 days. I know professional staff normally look at this in the number of hours, so that would have been from 280 hours to 320.
During that time, we also allowed the utilization of future sick leave balances. In addition, we allowed for the roll-over of any personal time that you did not use last year into FY21. We are providing the same temporary policy changes for FY22. So come June 30, you will be able to roll over up to 40 days of vacation and any personal time that you did not utilize.
On any plan to increase vacation days to compensate for loss of merit or retirement matching:
Megan Weyler: That’s not a discussion that we have had. What we’re seeing more throughout the University is many professional staff have very large banks of vacation because it’s been so difficult to be able to take real time off. We can look into this to see if there’s a need.
On whether individuals will be able to take off any additional time or get an additional vacation day to deal with possible side effects of vaccine:
Megan Weyler: Our Sick Leave policy covers doctor’s appointments. You can use this time for your vaccination as well as thereafter if you experience side effects. We haven’t looked at adding a separate bank, but utilization of sick time is currently covered in the policy.
Vice Provost for Community Health Care Innovation and Director of the Return Oversight Committee Marla Gold, MD: While we’re on that, in case anyone’s going "side effects?!" The most common is a really sore arm, if you’re going to have it, which means the vaccine is working. That’s your infection fighting system going to the site where the vaccine was put in.
I’m not giving you medical advice; I’m relating the data here. Some people have had fever on the first night, if they’re having a two-shot vaccine. Some people have felt a little under the weather. There have been some people who have had a couple of days of nausea. And while that is not the usual, it can happen. So just so everyone is aware, the vast majority of folks have a sore arm, get better, and that’s it.
On other institutions or not-for-profits that may have a 35-hour workweek, as opposed to Drexel’s 40-hour work week, and whether the recently announced Spring Fridays are “a gimmick:”
Megan Weyler: Spring Fridays truly were meant to provide a block of time for faculty and staff to focus on self-care after everything that we’ve been through this past year. It’s definitely not meant to be a gimmick in any way.
While acknowledging some institutions of higher education do have a 35-hour work week versus 40, you have to take a look at what that University is offering from a holistic perspective. Are they doing winter break? Do they have five to seven days off during that period? What does their vacation package look like? We have a very generous time off policy and practice as well as our holidays. When you’re doing a comparison like that regarding day-to-day hours, you really have to take all of that into account.
On the possibility of an allowance for supplies and services used while working remotely:
Megan Weyler: The University is not paying for home expenses, but I would advise that you talk to your tax accountant as you’re completing taxes because there may be the possibility of using some of those types of bills as part of your deductions.
COVID-19 Vaccinations, Testing and Protocols
[Editor’s note: In the Feb. 25 community conversation, several topics related to testing were answered that were similarly answered in the March 10 and March 11 community conversations. Please refer to the DrexelNow recap of the Feb. 25 event for those answers related to ongoing complimentary testing, COVID-19 variants, providing masks, wearing masks on campus and providing testing to community members and service workers not directly employed by Drexel.]
On the most recent information related to vaccine distribution in Philadelphia and when Drexel is hoping to vaccinate its faculty, professional staff and students:
Marla Gold: Philadelphia gets its vaccines directly from the Centers for Disease Control, compared with the rest of the state, New Jersey and Delaware, where some folks joining us today may reside. The city is currently in Phase 1B, which includes people age 65 and up and a host of medical conditions.
Phase 1C is where institutions of higher education fall. All employees, regardless of where you live, are eligible in Philly under Phase 1C to be vaccinated when Phase 1C happens. If you are able to obtain vaccine under the phased distribution where you live, you should pursue it. We’ve given information to the city saying we are prepared to vaccinate our employees, faculty and staff, who want vaccine and we can do it quickly. We expect an update from the city about when Phase 1C will happen and if we will be able to vaccinate our own employees.
When that happens, we have asked to be the vaccine distribution site and have the ability to offer all employees who want a vaccine to be vaccinated. We hope that the percent of employees who accept vaccination is high, but that decision is a personal one to the employee. Our responsibility will be to make information available.
The bottom line is that we feel that we’ll be in a very wonderful position of being able to offer vaccine to all employees who have yet to be vaccinated, hopefully by May — and that’s a moving target time. We’ve not been given the exact time by the health department.
Vice President of the Drexel Solutions Institute Anna Koulas: When we say employees, we’re including TAs, RAs, essentially everyone that’s part of our core community with faculty and professional staff. Just to clarify.
On what phase students are in:
Marla Gold: Full-time students are not Phase 1C — they are Phase 2. This includes students who live in dorms. We hope to have vaccine to offer our students no later than fall, perhaps over the summer. But the same will happen to them wherever they live over the summer. That is, vaccine should be available for people who are young, healthy young adults over the summer, if not a little bit before.
On whether family members are being included in the Phase 1C vaccine group for when Drexel vaccinates its employees:
Marla Gold: I wish we could do that, but no, we cannot. This has to do with our employees and guidance from the City of Philadelphia for institutions of higher education in Phase 1C.
On disclosing vaccination status to the University:
Marla Gold: There’s no vaccine passport. There’s no requirement of vaccine to come to work. There will be no shared knowledge about who was vaccinated and who is not by the University.
We will be adding an area on the Health Checker app asking about vaccine status. We’re putting in a way to know about vaccine status to help know how many vaccines we might need to tell the health department. We won’t force you to tell us, but we’re asking in order to give you the best health guidance should you need it. For example, if you’re vaccinated and in contact tracing it shows that you were exposed to someone with infection, you may not have to quarantine if we have that information. This isn’t about knowing who is vaccinated in the office, and this isn’t about us keeping an eye on a vaccinated versus unvaccinated population. We are dedicated to continuing our protocols to make this the safest we can be as a community at Drexel.
On testing options for employees on campus:
Marla Gold: As part of our system, there is non-mandatory open testing for employees. Employees have the option of being tested every other week.
Whether testing will be required for individuals that have been vaccinated:
Marla Gold: We don’t have our full protocols yet about that testing. Most likely it will not be, but we are waiting for more direction from the health department and the Centers for Disease Control before we have a full view on that.
On whether Drexel’s testing sites are safe:
Marla Gold: Our testing site is absolutely safe. There will be days and times where it appears or where you experience people who may feel close together, but they are not close together in terms of exposure. And there are always places in our lives, where all of us can be out and it’s possible that someone who has a mask on has a symptomatic infection. Having said that, we’ve gone over our protocols and procedures multiple times. There have been no cases of infection acquired at the test site. That is, there’s no apparent risk of transmission of disease within the test site. I’m not concerned about it, but I do want to share with you that we have looked at it multiple times and I understand your concern.
On requiring vaccine for individuals visiting campus:
Anna Koulas: We will not be requiring individuals to be vaccinated to come to campus, and that would include visitors or camps in which students may be involved.
On the current status of infections on campus:
Marla Gold: I refer people to the COVID-19 dashboard where you can see some cumulative data and then weekly data. In the world of public health, often we focus on 7-day positivity rates. We want that rate to ideally, according to the World Health Organization, be below five percent. Happily, right now it’s below five percent for the entire city of Philadelphia, all in. At our campus, as you saw from a recent message about data, we’ve been averaging this term well under 2%, about 1.3%. Please don’t compare us to other institutions because we test most students who are in our mandatory program once a week, whereas some other places go twice a week.
In almost all the vast majority of groupings of infection among people — who have mainly been students but that’s because students are the main ones who are here and they are in congregate living situations or with roommates — most of these infections happen indoors in small gatherings, not big parties. We have been asking our young students to do very difficult things at a time when they crave to be together. For the most part, they’ve been able to do this.
This is a positive environment, not a punitive one. We give them information about cause and what to do. But I want to stress this: there is no evidence to date at our institution, nor others like Temple and Penn, of any spread from student to instructor, from student to student in a classroom setting or in a library or in a gym or in any campus non-residential indoor space.
I don’t want you to think that we’re not listening to you. I do want you to know that there’s a system for your health and safety and we’re watching and, thankfully, we’ve had no serious infections here among our population and particularly among our students.
On requiring face masks on campus, such as in buildings and also outdoors:
Marla Gold: Face coverings or masks are required in all Drexel buildings; in fact, they’re required in all buildings in the City of Philadelphia and public spaces. We expect them to be worn in buildings and people have been doing very well with that.
We’ve been having meetings to talk about our policy about masks outside. While we want people to be masked all times, we have to go where we know infection is. If people can achieve distance, then we are not going to run after everyone that we see who doesn’t have a mask on that’s outside. We have numerous people who come through the campus, on Market Street or on Chestnut Street, and I have to say that the vast majority of people wear masks and they maintain distance. Sometimes you’ll see somebody who has a mask off; they’ll know to put it on when they get closer.
We’ve spoken to our students. We message students all the time and we’ll continue to do that. I’m proud that there will be a prevention campaign run by students for students that’s in development now, now that there’ll be a lot more activity on campus and the weather is warmer.
We have “health ambassadors” stationed on different beats throughout the campus and they are there to help with these behaviors that we expect to see.
If you see something, however, that is upsetting to you and you feel on our campus that that is unsafe, there is a way through a compliance link to report something that you’ve seen. We then follow up as fast as we can on our end.
On the process for students who test positive and the procedure to notify the faculty and or any other individuals:
Marla Gold: If a student is in a face-to-face class, contact tracing is being done in the background. If it’s determined that in the class there may have been true exposures, that is when people [contacts] would be alerted. We do not routinely alert a class or an instructor when there is a student with COVID who may have to be pulled out of that class and going into isolation if we deem that there have been no exposures. There’s a group of us from Student Life and Student Health who meet each day and we look at the day’s data from the night before and we go over where those students are, their mental health needs, etc.
I do want you to hear me. For the faculty and staff with these concerns, we take this very seriously. So, what if there happened to be two students in a class or we can’t figure out exactly where the point of infection may have occurred? In those rare cases, we will do what’s called “proximate quarantine.” On occasion this term, maybe two or three times, we have had to quarantine a class out of an abundance of caution, not because that is a flat-out recommendation. We may let the health department know we’re doing it and we may do it because we just can’t put the entire exposure story all together in a satisfactory way.
In the few times that we’ve done this, follow up testing has not revealed any in-class transmission of infection. We have no evidence of transmission in a class, not between two students in a class and not from students to anyone who’s an instructor or administrator in that class.
Please, everyone, all employees: You’re not coming back to a place where it’s “us” and “them.” The students are not vectors of disease, and I know that no one means that. We care about them. We care about everyone. We’re looking forward to a world where we have herd immunity, and this is an infection that doesn’t make people very sick, no one goes to the hospital and certainly no one dies. And until then, we’re being as careful as we can with a combination of vaccine, distance, handwashing and wearing your mask. Those are the most important things in a context of really solid HVAC systems.
On the implementation team group:
Anna Koulas: Marla shared a little bit about the group that meets on a daily basis. Beyond that, there is the implementation team group, which is made up of approximately 150 employees — both faculty and administrators — meeting monthly. During these discussions, they were given a “do’s and don’ts” document. If anybody has not received a copy of those, please feel free to reach out to us. We can make sure that you get a copy of them so that you can have them readily available.
Going back to the student case Marla answered, we just really want to stress the fact that we should not be sharing student information via email or in any other way. If anybody knows of an incident or if anybody has any concern that they would want to share, they can either contact Student Health directly or they can contact ROC. We just want to reiterate that because I know that there have been a couple of incidents in the past where sometimes we want to contact trace on our own and take a little bit of an extra step to kind of help mitigate what we think is risk. But what we’re actually doing is we’re complicating the system more than necessary. At this point, since we’ve had students for so long, we really do want to enforce some of the policies that we have in place to help streamline what is occurring on campus.
Assistant Vice President of Environmental Health & Radiation Safety Jon Chase: I do want to point towards the implementation teams that have been assembled, and that’s a cross-sectional representation of all University stakeholders. All administrative units and colleges have individuals that have been on these implementation teams. There has been, at times, a disconnect getting the information pushed down through the various groups. So, if you’re part of a college or a business unit, I would talk to your department head, ask who the team’s liaison is and gather information that may already be available and what may have already been passed out.
On-campus Facilities and Activities
On what work has already been done to ventilation spaces:
Jon Chase: This time last year, plus or minus a couple of weeks, we (as a University) started ramping down. The campus did vacate many areas and some of the HVAC systems were put into conservation mode for energy conservation. Sometime around the middle of the summer, our facilities staff began assessing the state of these systems. Dan Severino [Assistant Vice President of Facilities Operations and Maintenance] and his crew have been great. He runs an army of several hundred people that go through all of our facilities and looking at all of our mechanical systems that service our different buildings. It’s about plus or minus 75 buildings, including some of our lease properties.
They did preventative maintenance. They cleaned coils. They returned the settings of those units back to pre-pandemic controls, and then expanded the runtimes of all of those pieces of equipment so that they’re running an additional four hours a day, two hours before typical occupancy and two hours post-typical occupancy, at full occupancy mode, to increase dilution ventilation throughout the spaces. In addition, they’ve replaced over 12,000 filters. They’ve upgraded those filters to a higher merv — that’s the filter efficiency rating — where the systems can handle it.
In addition to that, I have worked with a third-party engineering firm, Dimitri J. Ververelli, Inc., and our in-house engineer, Nick Haas [Executive Director of Technical Services and University Engineer] who’s a professional engineer licensed in PA; Martin Bell [Director of Environmental Compliance] from my office, who is a certified industrial hygienist; to assess the effectiveness of our various HVAC systems. We’ve looked at the performance of all of the mechanical systems in each of our classroom areas and many of our commonly used areas to identify performance metrics, both in terms of how much outdoor air is brought in per square foot and per person, as well as how many air changes there are. In other words, how many times all of the volume of that space is sucked out and replenished with new or return air.
In doing that, we found that some of our systems don’t meet the enhanced requirements that are recommended by either ASHRE’s 62.1 standards, which was the “how to occupy during a pandemic standard” that was put forth last summer, as well as CDC and Department of Health recommendations of four to six air changes per hour. We’ve procured about 170 standalone air purifying units and have deployed them in various areas to give us the air change equivalents needed that when matched up with HVAC systems get us to where we need to be in those areas.
I would like to give a shout out and thank you to Chuck Haas [PhD, LD Betz Professor of Environmental Engineering and Environmental Engineering Program head] and Mike Waring [PhD, Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department Head and Professor]
in the College of Engineering. They were both extremely helpful with assisting me in the development of our approach, looking at the way we interpret data and making sure that the decisions and model that we’re using are appropriate.
On how an individual can learn more about the ventilation system in their particular space:
Jon Chase: If people have questions about what was done, I encourage them to reach out to me at email@example.com. I’m happy to walk people through the process on a one-by-one basis.
It’s important to note that the bulk of our assessments were based on spaces provided to us by the Office of the Registrar. However, there are spaces that are fully controlled by business units and/or colleges and schools that may not have been looked at in the same fashion. As you’re coming back and planning to reoccupy, please let us know. We want to help answer questions and address concerns.
If you have an individual office or an office of a designated person and it’s not a shared occupancy space, we don’t have to worry about the HVAC system servicing that area. We are not worried about you getting yourself sick. But if you have large shared space, shared occupancy spaces, such as a bunch of cubicles and/or large conference room areas, please get to us because we want to make sure that there’s proper controls in place to keep everybody as safe as possible.
Listen, it’s a big campus. There’s seven million square feet. We have a mix of buildings that were built in different time periods and some of our buildings have had prior issues of water infiltration or they’ve had mechanical issues that have resulted in poor indoor air quality. We will continue to address those non-COVID-related issues as we always have. And while those issues may raise their own concerns they don’t necessarily correspond to a COVID concern. This can increase anxiety among staff. We want to work with you if you have concerns. Just let us know.
On whether the University uses air misting sprays for sanitizing spaces:
Jon Chase: We (Environmental Health and Radiation Safety and Dan Severino) made sure that all of our products are CDC approved for the coronavirus. There was a published document that came through and was, I think, repeated by the Philadelphia Department of Health on products that were suitable for use for disinfecting and cleaning up during the pandemic. The products used are on these lists. Facilities and custodial services are going through and routinely wiping high touch areas — doorknobs, railings, elevator buttons, etc. — throughout the course of the day. And then they’re doing the regular cleaning as well in bathrooms and classrooms, one or two times a day. Custodial has put in over 600 hand sanitizer units. They’ve installed sanitizing stations, which are essentially buckets of sanitizing wipes, in over 300 locations around campus. There have been over 300 Plexiglas shields installed in forward-facing areas.
When needed, they also have the use of electrostatic sprayers, which use a combination of a fine aerosolized mist of disinfectant along with a low power UV light. It is a nice way to be able to have good coverage on a wide swath of surfaces in a relatively quick and expeditious manner. Where we would use electrostatic sprayers would be in a shared occupancy setting where maybe somebody was sick and we’ve emptied the space out for a period of 24 hours and then disinfected it before reoccupying the space. They are also used in spaces that might be a greater contact risk, surface risk because of the way that they’re used, the functional use of that space, etc. So there are a handful of units: Academic Properties has a couple of units; my office has a couple of units; facilities and custodial services have about half a dozen units and they are available and used on an as-needed basis, not used routinely throughout the course of the day.
On noise caused by ventilation systems:
Jon Chase: So this is a problem in the URBN Center and we are looking at it. We met with a vendor yesterday that has a possible alternative product that may run a little quieter.
The velocity of air moving through the units is really what attributes to the sound. We have two strategies. One is to replace the units with better engineered, quieter units if they’re available and can be practically deployed in time for classes. If not, what we’re going to do is double up on the units that are there and then turn down the velocity of the fans so that we’re scrubbing the same amount of air but we’re doing it in a less violent manner, which will reduce the decibels generated. We believe that that is going to work. If there’s any concern: email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About whether ventilation and hygiene issues in Drexel offices that are in rented spaces, in buildings that are not owned by us, have been reviewed:
Jon Chase: We worked with all of our lease landlord partners and their in-house engineers to get data on their systems and on the spaces that we occupy. We worked very closely with them to make sure that the signage and the custodial services and the way the bathrooms are treated, elevators are treated, etc., is consistent with what we’re doing for our own spaces. We have a high level of confidence in what they’ve done so far. The mechanical spaces, based on the information that we’ve received from them, also look like they’re doing great. I’m talking about spaces like the University Science Center, Three Parkway and the New College Building.
On planning for the spring and summer:
Paul Jensen: Just for reference, in the winter term, we have about 12% of our undergraduate classes face-to-face or hybrid, and about 24% of our graduate classes are face-to-face or hybrid. In the spring, we only increased about a percent in each, which I think we should have done more than that. In the summer, we’re looking to significantly increase that. I’ve spoken to the deans about a minimum threshold for undergraduate of about 25% and to maintain our graduate level at 25% or increase it.
In addition, we had about 1,000 students move into the dorms in January. I think as students see us planning more courses and activities face to face, it wouldn’t surprise us at all to see more students moving into the dorms. I think we’re going to have more students than usual in the dorms this summer and, all in all, a more active environment than we’re normally accustomed to in the summer.
On ramping up enrollment for spring classes:
Paul Jensen: With any class, whether it’s face-to-face or remote, if we don’t have enrollment then faculty should be working with their deans to make arrangements not to run a class where we don’t have enrollment. That’s really independent of mode of delivery.
I think as we offer more classes face to face, we’re going to see more students coming back and wanting more face-to-face classes. We’ll see those enrollments grow. Part of what we’re seeing is just a chicken and egg problem: we don’t have the class if students don’t come and students don’t come if we don’t have the classes.
On using and accommodating large, in-person classrooms with social distancing measures:
Paul Jensen: As you know, we are very much in the process of planning spring, summer and fall, and anticipating significant ramp up between now and fall. One of the things that we’re doing is exploring alternative spaces. Some of those could be very large spaces that would give us capacity that we don’t necessarily have in some of our existing dedicated academic spaces.
We’re working with Jon’s group to understand, for example, whether the air circulation is sufficient in some of the spaces. We’re working with Marla to understand the restrictions from the city and so on. We are going through space by space and doing this by working with the registrar to define the catalog of spaces available for teaching for spring or summer and fall so that the deans and the department heads and the faculty know what’s going to be available.
Jon Chase: To follow up on that, when we were looking at planning for the fall of 2020, we had a self-imposed cap on most classes of 25 persons in a room, as well as restrictions on occupancy due to distancing or ventilation. Currently there’s a little bit more relaxed guidance from the Philadelphia Department of Health. We have to maintain six-foot distancing between occupants, but we’re allowed to be at 25 percent of the original capacity and/or 25 people.
What we’ve done so far is work with Paul’s team and the registrar’s office to identify all of the rooms that have over 100 seats in a room or auditorium. That’s a good starting point to identify spaces that can hold larger numbers of students. And we’re looking at some alternative spaces as well, trying to get creative on what else might be around that we can use for large gathering spaces.
On scheduling classes outdoors:
Marla Gold: If you can be outside and be distanced and masked and find a safe place to do that and have a class, that’s a wonderful thing. We just need to have a general idea of who’s in your class in case we have to do any contact tracing or there any issues.
On providing microphones to faculty for classroom use to help with voice projection while wearing a mask:
Paul Jensen: I know that some colleges have this equipment within the college itself, so I would start with your dean’s office and ask the technology team there if those can be provided. If your college does not have those microphones available, we’ve been working with Drexel MultiMedia/Tech Services and Rob Rasberry [Assistant Director Multimedia/Tech Services] and his group, who have microphones that could be provided.
On international students and international travel:
Marla Gold: We have some international students on campus now and international students are allowed to be on campus. We are not allowing employees to do international travel on Drexel’s time. Currently, researchers, for example, are not allowed to add international travel in yet. I’m fond of saying that you can’t cross the finish line until you finish the race.
Paul Jensen: Just to echo: we have international students on campus. I think the big concern we have is depending on where they’re from, it’s a question of whether they can get visas, etc., to get here. Some students are able to do it, and for some it’s still a challenge. We definitely hope that those measures will change as we look ahead to the fall.
On-campus Parking, Dining and Other Operations
On eating and drinking safely on campus:
Associate Vice President of Business Services Don Liberati: We kept the Northside Dining Terrace open from spring of last year through now. But with winter, we opened additional options on the University City Campus. We’re also operating the Café at Queen Lane.
Now, our entire dining program is open and operating. However, the dining program may look a little different. We have focused heavily on grab and go and to-go options. We do have limited indoor dining options in the two main dining halls at the Urban Eatery and Hans, at about 25%. It’s all de-densified and students are sitting apart, but it does allow them to be inside. For more information on hours and locations, please visit https://drexel.campusdish.com/
To provide additional seating, we added tents to the University City Campus. For the winter term we had three tents: one at Lot D, outside of the Rec Center and outside of Northside Dining Terrace. The tent locations were primarily due to being able to heat the tents. As we look towards spring, we’ll continue to have tents on campus but we’re re-looking at the locations.
With the winter term, a majority of our retail on campus is now open again, all following safety guideline and all following the city guidelines related to occupancy. We worked with some of the retailers to offer specials for Drexel faculty and staff. The retailers worked really hard to make it through this last year and we hope you will support them when you are on campus.
And the last thing is we have also identified designated eating areas on all three campuses where people can go to eat and drink. We work with Facilities and Environmental Health and Safety to designate those areas. For more information, please see the FAQs on the Drexel COVID website.
On using SEPTA and public transportation to commute to work:
Anna Koulas: Many of you may have seen a DrexelNow story about the research that Drexel is conducting with SEPTA. We know that many of you have questions that are related to public transportation. We will be coordinating what will probably be a town hall event where SEPTA can come in and actually talk to you as riders. We hope to have that scheduled for the month of April. We are aware SEPTA is taking extreme caution and measures to ensure the safety of their riders. Many individuals that are currently on campus have been using SEPTA, so you might want to talk to somebody that has gone back to using public transportation.
On options for updating one’s parking permit and parking availability and discounts:
Don Liberati: The parking permit process for spring just opened this week. Anyone who has previously had a permit should have received a communication. If you didn’t or you have an interest in parking that you can email email@example.com or check the parking website.
We typically do offer daily parking at our parking garage at 34th and Market for $17 a day. For the spring, we’re offering discounted parking in there for those professional staff and faculty who will only be on campus maybe a few days a week. We’re selling blocks of ten passes and it equates to $11 a day and those passes don’t expire. They’re available at Queen Lane as well. The surface lots on University City Campus will be used for all the monthly parkers. Unfortunately, we don’t have any relationships with parking garages down in Center City.
On whether free parking will be offered on the day of vaccination clinic at Drexel:
Anna Koulas: We will be communicating out everything that we will be offering, as well as the steps that need to be taken to ensure that the maximum number of individuals can come and partake in whatever process and things that we have set up. But realistically speaking, probably not. We would encourage individuals to take either public transportation or find means to come to campus in order to receive the vaccine.
On updating bus schedules:
Jon Chase: Facilities is monitoring the occupancy on the shuttles on a regular basis. When there have been events with higher traffic loads, they’ve doubled up on the shuttles. They’re going to continue to ramp up the capacity based on what the need is. So is there a chance that in the first day or two that they may realize that they need to add buses? I’m sure there’s always a possibility for a hiccup. But they are planning ahead and they are adjusting their program accordingly.
On scheduling on-campus events and activities:
Marla Gold: Activities should be submitted through our events link. We do need to know if you’re doing a significant event at this time. I’m happy to say that increasingly events are allowed. Please note the city updated its guidance for us and events and capacity just last Thursday morning. We’re moving as fast as we can to safely take the new guidance and implement.
Anna Koulas: There’s been a lot of questions that have come in with the same thought around camps and summer camps, if they will be allowed, if and when we will be able to give approval for them. Obviously, the recommendation would be to follow that event submission. We do ask that you first get approval from your own college or unit as to whether or not this is a required event that should be taking place. And then further review of the mission of the summer camps is slated right now to take place in April. We would ask that people please be patient as we’re working through the guidance from the city itself.