On March 14, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences implemented the University’s new guidance that made masks optional in most indoor spaces (see here for that announcement). While it was no surprise that taking off the mask would be a relief, what has been most surprising is the sense of joy that has come from seeing each other’s faces in person again. This relatively small act has made an outsized contribution to campus life, restoring a little bit of the energy and connection we have all missed. With that in mind, we are writing today about what feels like a page-turning moment in how we think about our work and our connection to our campus-based community.
For the last two years, we have learned a lot about our ability to flex. How we work has changed radically and we’ve discovered that excellence can be delivered in many ways, and from many places. We have gained new tools to help us balance work and home life; to be there for our colleagues and for our kids. But we’ve also seen that some things can’t be so easily recreated on Zoom. Our mission of knowledge creation is one that happens in community. A strong and vibrant community and culture are critical contributors to our long-term success in the pursuit of that mission. Powerful things happen when we come together.
As we look to the future of how we carry out our work, we must re-dedicate ourselves to building back our culture of connection and shared purpose, on-campus and face-to-face. Now is a time to celebrate our ability to come together in person in new ways, and we are delighted that so many have taken advantage of the Community Renewal Funds. It’s exciting to see plans taking shape for retreats, lecture series, and celebrations, across our departments.
Now is also a time when teams must come together to reset expectations about how we will carry out our work. On December 16, the University announced that Coronavirus Workplace Policies will end on April 1. These policies include Emergency Excused Absence, the flexible use of sick time, and Dependent Well Care. FAS Human Resources shared more information with staff yesterday about the impacts of these changes. As we shift to our regular processes, we have an opportunity to look at our work differently, to do things in a new and more intentional way. Over the balance of the spring semester, FAS Human Resources will be providing faculty and staff managers with resources to support conversations with their staff, as well as opportunities for coaching for re-engaging in the workplace.
If there has been a constant over the past year, it is that our community has had to confront relentless change and always be ready to respond to events just over the horizon. The emergence of a new Omicron variant is a reminder that we are not out of the woods yet. But we are no longer in emergency mode, triaging our work just to get through for the short term. It is time to build that flexibility and creativity into our long-term way of operating. Learning to do this well will not happen overnight and we embrace the need for iteration and experimentation. Our North Star has been and remains our academic mission, the core of who we are. We look forward to using the spring semester to prepare for a fall that truly brings together all our hard-won insights from the pandemic with our commitment to this unique community, in pursuit of our teaching and research mission.
Claudine and Scott
Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Dean for Administration and Finance