March 19, 2020
A message from the Department Chair, Jeff Johnson
We are moving into a new phase of campus operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of this note is to distill information critical to the Department of Chemistry. I greatly appreciate all the support and feedback that I continue to receive from the Carolina Chemistry community. This message will not be the last check-in on any of these topics and my goal is to provide timely updates as events dictate.
• Diversity. Regardless of the virus-related rhetoric that we may hear outside the university, UNC Chapel Hill remains a global community of scholars that values the contributions of individuals with diverse backgrounds that hail from all parts of the globe. We thrive from that diversity and unambiguously embrace it and what it brings to our community.
• Patience and Support. The disruptions that have been mounting over the past week will not abate in the near term. Things that we are trying to do or accomplish will not go as planned and there will be delays. It will be critical for us to support each other and to exercise a heightened level of understanding and patience as we navigate the uncharted terrain of our emerging near-term reality. The departmental leadership and I are committed to maintaining the highest level of normalcy and continuity that circumstances permit.
The overarching goal for new guidelines and operational protocols is to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus through social distancing (“flattening the curve”) while continuing to achieve as much of the University and Departmental mission as possible. Every action we take should be viewed through these dual lenses.
• As per the note from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research (OVCR), research operations in the department will be suspended through March 31, but we should be prepared for the possibility that this term will last longer. PI’s and their research teams should immediately begin the ramp down process detailed here . As a point of clarification, ramp down does not mean a gradual decrease in normal lab activity. The only activities at this point should be to secure equipment until operations can resume.
• Last week, you designated laboratory operations that must continue in the event of a campus closure and completed a spreadsheet that has been shared with the Senior Associate Dean for Research and the OVCR.
• Petitions for exceptions to the research suspension will be considered for (1.) Activities that are directly related to COVID-19 or, (2.) Activities that: (a.) would be impossible to restart; (b.) could not be restarted without a significant investment of time; (c.) would require significant financial resources to be restarted, or (d.) represent extremely time-sensitive and critical graduate student experiments required to ensure graduation during this calendar year. Applications for exceptions may be found here and will be considered directly by the OVCR. If you apply for an exception to the OVCR, I ask that you cc the Associate Chair for Research, Ralph House . We appreciate that there still may be questions around the activities that qualify for exceptions, especially around 2d, and we will seek clarification from the OVCR. I have no additional information beyond what is in the announcement; however, my interpretation, based on meetings that I have been in, is that social distancing is a major determinant in determining current policy. I would predict granted exceptions to be rare.
• Gas and Ice Orders. For dry ice and gas cylinder deliveries, Airgas and Arc3 Gases are open for business. For orders that will require special access while the doors are locked (with a key), please include contact information in the comment section of your order about how you can be reached . The delivery person will call you to coordinate entry to buildings/rooms. You can find additional information about delivery schedule and details here.
• Grant Submissions.
Please submit applications as soon as possible. The Chemistry staff will be available but others on campus and externally may have reduced operations slowing submission. See new NIH guidelines for delayed submission related to COVID.
The graduate studies committee formulated new policy last week based on the possibility that the campus could close. We are implementing their policy recommendations, effective 5 p.m. Friday, March 20:
1) Candidacy exams are postponed for this semester and given a grace period for completion until the fall. This date is tentatively Sept. 30 and will be adjusted if needed. 2) Ph.D. defenses will be carried out via Zoom meeting.
Please consult specific communications that have come from Dean Barbour on graduate student-specific issues. If you have other concerns, we encourage you to contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Nicewicz.
Tools for Information
• Support. This should be replaced with links to all available resources and tools for remote teaching. If you need assistance , the UNC’s KeepTeaching site site offers individual consultations site for one-on-one attention and various trainings, which are continually being updated.
• End-of-Semester. As indicated in today’s communication from Dean Rhodes, instructors should expect that the timing of the end of semester will be unchanged. In addition to what was detailed in that note, the guiding principle to keep in mind in “making up” time from the extended spring break is that students need to meet learning outcomes outlined in the course goals/syllabus. Additional out-of-class work is one mechanism to “equalize” content. I ask that, if you have not done so already, contact your class to check in with them. There will be anxiety associated with this transition and it is important for students to feel that they remain part of a community whose educational goals are unchanged.
• Exams. Instructors should be preparing to give exams/assessments through Sakai or Gradescope. Please consult training modules in Sakai.
• Contingencies. As a precaution, think about a backup for your class and/or your current contingency plan should you become ill and unable to teach.
Morehead Labs Construction
If you are seeking silver linings, and I think we all are, the fact that Morehead laboratory will be empty has allowed us to advance the start of renovations. Construction to begin upgrading the air handling units in Morehead will begin first thing Monday morning (03/23) since we are not anticipating the building will be occupied before the Fall semester. The first item on the list is to cut two big holes in the exterior walls at roof level so the sound will be loud. No one should be in the building.
Access to Free Wi-Fi
Spectrum broadband will offer free wi-fi for new households that do not have internet but have students in K-12 and college level.
Chemistry Computing Tools Off-Campus
If you are taking a computer or accessories from your office to an off-campus location, please complete the following form and send to Laura Yurco to help us keep an inventory of items moving off-campus.
Business Staff Contact
Business Staff (HR, Accounting, Student Services, Building Management, and Admin Support)
Effective immediately all business staff will be available remotely during normal business hours. Please contact them via email. Contact information can be found here.
For technical IT hardware/software questions, contact Baskin Cooper email@example.com
All Chemistry buildings will be locked and require One-Card access. All faculty, staff, graduate students and postdocs should have the access needed on their One-Card. If you have problems contact Fred Young.
March 17, 2020
A message from the Department Chair, Jeff Johnson
Dear Chemistry Community,
I write to follow up on the e-mail from Chancellor Guskiewicz and, beyond the issues around classes that have been covered in other communications, discuss issues related to COVID-19 that are specific to the department.
1) To reiterate the Chancellor’s message, the campus and its offices and labs remain open. Best practices from the CDC should be followed. If you are sick, stay home except to get medical care.
2) I have asked the Graduate Studies committee to formulate a department-wide plan for time sensitive
graduate student requirements such as Ph.D. defenses and candidacy exams that are common to the entire department. Individual divisions should undertake planning for division specific requirements.
3) All in-person departmental and divisional seminars are canceled. Coordinators should work within their divisions to implement virtual seminars or related alternatives for the foreseeable future.
4) We understand that there are reasonable concerns about the TA training, particularly with regard to size of the group and its relation to the University’s policy announcement. In response, we will be holding smaller 1 h training sessions prior to the breakout sessions with the individual instructors/courses. Prof Eskew will be communicating on this point.
5) I have asked the Associate Chair for Research to work with high traffic laboratories (e.g. research cores) to implement best practices for sanitizing common equipment with which researchers will be coming in contact.
6) Meetings such as lab meetings and small staff meetings: leaders/participants should use their best judgement in deciding to hold or cancel their meetings. There is no prohibition of these activities under current policy.
1) The situation is evolving. While there are no indications that the campus will close, we are taking the following precautions and encourage you to do a self-assessment of your activities should we be unable to come to campus in the future.
2) The Associate Chair for Research is compiling specific research activities that require regular maintenance in the event of a campus closure (e.g. cryogens for instrumentation). Please email Ralph House with items that would fall under this category.
3) The Associate Chair for Business Administration and I will be examining possibilities for expanded application of the off-campus work policy should it become necessary. If you have concerns beyond what is covered here, do not hesitate to contact your supervisor or the departmental leadership team. Thank you for your assistance in this unique and challenging time.
***UNC-CH is closely monitoring COVID-19 and providing updates at unc.edu/coronavirus***
Please see each Core for their response to COVID-19