3/25/2020

As of March 23, 2020, Val Verde County (Del Rio Campus) issued a shelter in place order. This order requires all non-essential business personnel to remain at home to follow the “Stay Home, Work Safe” edict. Sul Ross State University will continue to comply with the order by taking the following actions for the Del Rio Campus:

  1. Since March 17, 2020, all university buildings were closed to the public with only a few employees working in university offices. Our buildings will remain closed to the public until further notice. Employees should provide services through remote delivery including: phone calls, emails, or video conferencing.
  2. Effective March 24, 2020, the university identified the following offices as essential to continue business operations. Employees in these areas are permitted to work on campus, if remote work is not feasible and must follow CDC guidelines for social distancing and safe work habits to prevent the spread of the virus. SWTJC assured us that their custodial services are taking precautions to maintain clean offices, but you should remain vigilant and protect yourself.
    1. Admissions
    2. Financial Aid
    3. Communications and Marketing
    4. Student Services
    5. Business Services – Employees in this area and employees who submit forms to this area may fall under this category. For example, employees who regularly process requisitions, travel, employment documentation for their department are considered essential to business operations.
    6. Academic Affairs including Advising and Faculty Instruction
    7. Information Technology Services
  3. Also, effective March 24, 2020, essential personnel are encouraged to work from home, some may receive university equipment (laptops) to continue job functions. If employees in these areas are hindered by technology issues like limited or no internet service at home, they should contact their supervisor to discuss alternative options.
  4. All other university functions not included in the essential business operations list will be put on hold until further notice. Employees in those areas will continue to receive emergency leave until further notice.
  5. Student Employees and Temporary Employees have received additional instructions through their official Sul Ross email. The University is committed to paying these employees until the last week of classes or as authorized by the department.

The situation continues to change rapidly and requires quick and deliberate actions to address the challenges. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Check the SRSU COVID-19 Response page frequently for updates: srinfo.sulross.edu/COVID-19/.

3/19/2020

Dear Sul Ross Community and Friends:

No one could have prepared for the situation that we currently face. The COVID-19 pandemic takes us out of our normal reality and places us directly into a surreal existence. I find myself pausing every day to reflect on the circumstances and pray that we will find solutions quickly. But with all that is happening, I am struck by the compassion and caring that we continue to see through the many service industry employees who continue to provide the public with food, medicine, and supplies.

I am especially grateful for the many faculty and staff members who have done extraordinary work over the past week to find solutions to continue our mission. This is unlike anything we wanted to experience, and I appreciate the way so many have stepped up to make sure that Sul Ross is not falling behind in our university operations. I would also like to especially thank our physical plant employees who have continually cleaned and sanitized our buildings to provide a safe environment for people to work.

Our people have been working hard amid the serious concerns and increased anxiety that many feel. It is my firm belief that in order to take care of others, we must also take care of ourselves. With that in mind, I am declaring that Friday, March 20 is Mental Health Day and SRSU employees need to take the day off to get some rest, spend time with families, and take time away from the campus. There will be a few exceptions to this because we must still provide essential services but be assured that I have been in contact with supervisors for them to provide an alternative day off. Many of our employees are still on emergency leave but I am well aware that there are numerous individuals who continued to work on campus or worked remotely this past week. As a mental health day, I am asking that all eligible employees take the day off and do not work on university business on Friday.  The work will still be there on Monday, but I am more concerned that you also need a break to rest tomorrow. The CDC recommends that as we continue to go through this crisis, we also need to manage our stress and anxiety.

The uncertainty surrounding this situation has thrown us all off our game, but I commend you all for continuing to do great work for Sul Ross. Our way of doing business will change for the foreseeable future and I thank you for your patience and adaptability as we all go through the overwhelming changes in our lives.

I promised to provide updates as they became available. Below are some additional actions that we have taken in light of the growing concerns.

  • Dr. Rob Kinucan, Executive Vice President and Provost and our deans have been meeting regularly as a group and with individual departments to move toward remote delivery of classes quickly.  Many faculty members have already contacted students to provide instructions about how their classes will continue for the remainder of the semester.  Dr. Kinucan will provide more details about the transition in a separate communication from his office.
  • The Sul Ross Childcare Center is closed until further notice. The center does not have the staff necessary to meet state requirements due to a strong reliance on student assistants.  The center cannot remain open under those conditions. Additionally, by keeping the center closed we are following federal guidelines and practicing social distancing while not allowing gatherings of 10 or more people.
  • We provided the following information to the Texas State University System in our discussion with system staff and other presidents. We still have many students who will remain on campus as this is their primary residence. We are not asking our students who show the greatest need for university housing to move to alternative locations, they are welcome to remain in university housing. We will keep the dining services open at the Morgan University Center and the C-Store at the Lobo Village Building open for on-campus residents only.
  • Students who plan to move out of university housing early must schedule appointments with Housing Staff by calling 432.837.8190 or email reslife@sulross.edu. We must maintain an orderly process for move out to follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC and maintain social distancing. Students who choose to move out early will receive a housing credit for use beginning in Fall 2020 that is a pro-rated amount of the cost of their rooms in the various halls. Different halls charge different amounts, so this is not a one-size fits all credit. Students moving out who are graduating this May, who are recipients of Hazlewood education benefits, or formerly in foster care will receive cash refunds.  The process/details for refunds is continuing to be refined and once details are finalized there will be further communication.
  • As of yesterday, Brewster County (Alpine Campus), Val Verde County (Del Rio Campus), and Maverick County (Eagle Pass Campus) issued a Declaration of Local State of Disaster which provides our local government with wide authority to take actions that will protect the county and city residents. Please follow any directives given by your local government officials with regard to health and safety guidelines specific to your areas.
  • As previously mentioned, the University will remain closed to the public until further notice. This includes students and visitors. Only authorized personnel will be allowed entrance to university buildings. University employees may continue to work on campus while practicing social distancing and following other CDC guidelines. Visitors and students needing assistance from our offices should call or email university employees for help rather than attempting to enter university buildings for face-to-face contact.
  • University employees are encouraged to work from home, if possible. A telecommuting agreement will need to be completed for this consideration and in order to be considered for available equipment to check out. Human Resources is working on making the form electronic for quicker responses and will have that up and running soon. We understand that some positions will not permit working remotely and will require some employees to be on campus to conduct business.  We ask that all employees on campus keep office doors locked, practice social distancing, and follow CDC guidelines. All other employees whose jobs do not lend themselves to remote work will continue to receive emergency leave until further notice. Our primary objective is to continue university operations in a limited capacity so that we do not fall behind our reporting requirements or necessary business during this situation.
  • Students who are employed by the university will fall under the same guidance as full-time employees. Supervisors must determine if student employees are needed to conduct essential university business functions. In those cases, students will be permitted to either work on campus under the same restrictions as stated above or may be permitted to work remotely if possible. All other student employees will be treated with the same guidelines as regular employees and be given emergency leave until further notice.
  • We have received a fair number of questions about Sul Ross’ response to COVID-19.  We compiled questions into a Frequently Asked Questions section on our COVID-19 webpage.  You may have other questions or input that you would like to share and we welcome your feedback.  Please submit your questions on the SRSU COVID-19 FAQ page >> Ask a Question. The SRSU COVID-19 Response webpage has updates, resources, and information that will assist you during this unusual situation.
  • We will continue to allow certain categories of employees to remain on Emergency Leave to refrain from having to use employees’ accrued annual leave or sick leave.  Again, some employees have continued to work both on campus and remotely this week. Your supervisors should be in contact with you to assess your ability to work on campus or remotely, all others will remain on Emergency Leave until further notice.  We are actively attempting to limit the number of employees on campus to follow CDC guidelines and encourage people to stay at home.
  • As you know, Sul Ross State University cancelled May Commencement Exercises. We understand that many students and families are heartbroken, as we feel, about this action but felt we could not delay the decision as it is only 8 weeks away. Students who complete the requirements to graduate in May will be mailed diplomas and transcripts will be available. The Commencement Ceremony is important to the symbolism and ritual to provide celebratory closure to academic careers but your progress remains viable and should be a priority for our students. We encourage you to consider participating in our December Ceremony but we are so proud of your progress as it stands. We are actively brainstorming ways that we can celebrate your achievement through virtual means in May, stay tuned.

The exponential growth of this virus requires each of us to do our part. We cannot panic in this crisis and we must think of each other so that we can all work together. Please do not hoard products, stay home as much as possible regardless of whether you are ill, avoid gatherings (small or large), help others when you can, and please take breaks from watching the news for your mental health. The CDC guidelines remain the same and ask that we all:

  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then dispose of it properly
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Disinfect items you touch frequently including your phones, tablets, & computers
  • Stay home if you are sick and reach out to your medical provider if needed
  • Practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings

The following quote with a few Lobo tweaks is never more appropriate than now:

“For the strength of the pack is the Lobo, and the strength of the Lobo is the pack” adapted from Rudyard Kipling.

Be strong and lean on each other during this time of uncertainty, together we will come out of this. Thank you for your continued patience and understanding as we make progress.  The information continues to change rapidly, please go to our SRSU COVID-19 Response webpage for updates.

My best to you,

Bill


 

3/16/2020

Dear Sul Ross Community:

The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic presents the university with numerous challenges and opportunities to find creative solutions to continue our higher education mission.  Over the next days, weeks, and months, we can expect to learn many lessons personally and for the organization.  My promise to you is to keep you informed of the actions that we will need to implement along the way to help assure everyone’s health and safety.

There is no doubt that this situation is alarming and can cause fear and anxiety across all walks of life.  I hope that we can alleviate portions of that stress by taking some very purposeful, necessary actions.  In response to these events, we will enact policies or take quick action to assure we follow CDC guidelines and work toward social distancing to minimize the rapid spread of the virus.

I expect that many of you have questions and I will provide you with some answers.  As you can imagine, the nature of the situation changes rapidly so we are doing our best to ensure that we develop solutions that focus on the health and safety of our community while still fulfilling our mission.

Here are a few decisions that we made today, but please note that the circumstances will still require additional evaluation and may include new or updated actions in the upcoming days:

  • Effective immediately, if you travelled through one of the thirteen (13) airports where international medical screening was conducted in the past seven (7) days, we ask that you self-quarantine for fourteen (14) days per CDC guidelines.  These airports include: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York; Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois; San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California; Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington; Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii; Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California; Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia; Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia; Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey; Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas; Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan; Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts; and Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida.  If you recently travelled, please self-report to the Student Health Center at 432.837.8102 or jhughes@sulross.edu.
  • Effective March 16, 2020 at 5:00 pm, all Sul Ross State University offices and buildings will be closed to the public until further notice.  University operations will continue and will require some employees to work on campus and others will work remotely, as appropriate.  Supervisors will be in touch as more plans are made to determine which positions are applicable for both categories.  We understand that some positions do not fit in either category and have authorized emergency leave.  Our biggest concern is to ensure that all employees are paid and do not need to use their personal leave during this crisis. We also want to ensure that the university supports employees with children who may need to stay home per ISD guidelines.
  • The University is on an extended Spring Break, classes will resume on March 23.  The Federal Government issued guidelines that include social distancing and restricted large gatherings of 10 people or more.  In line with those guidelines, the university will move to remote delivery of classes on March 23 and will NOT resume face-to-face classes for the remainder of the semester. Individual faculty members will contact students with information about course delivery for the remainder of the semester by Thursday, March 19.  Our faculty are working on alternative methods of delivery to provide the best options in these unusual circumstances.  Be assured, that we are working hard to do what is best for our students’ continued academic success.
  • Effective today, all university events are cancelled until further notice based on Federal Government guidance to cancel gatherings of 10 people or more.  This includes, but is not limited to any gatherings for student organizations, department functions, theatre or musical productions, sporting events, externally-sponsored events, etc. Events such as the Alumni Gala, Trappings of Texas, Honors Convocation, Sully Showcase, Scholars Luncheon, Alumni Ring Ceremony, and many others are included in this cancellation.
  • The above cancellation of university events includes May 2020 Commencement exercises in Alpine and Eagle Pass as scheduled for May 8, 2020 and May 9, 2020.  This action was not decided lightly, and there are many students and families who will be broken-hearted.  For that, I am truly sorry, but I hope that you understand that the rapid nature of this situation required significant and decisive action. Those students who were scheduled to graduate in May are invited and encouraged to participate in December graduation ceremonies, pending any new developments with COVID-19.
  • Students whose primary residence is university housing may remain on campus or return to campus after the extended break.  We recognize that many students live on campus and do not have plans to move away. We will continue to do our best to accommodate students in this situation.  To better understand how we can best serve the needs of our residential students, please complete the survey at the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/8JXH6GT. Your input will assist us as we continue to determine next steps for Sul Ross.  Students who use university housing and decide not to return are asked to schedule appointments with Residential Living staff for check out.  Staffing is limited for this process and we want to avoid large groups as a prevention measure.  Res Life will start taking appointment next Monday by calling 432.837.8190.
  • Effective this week, ARAMARK transitioned to full service dining operations – no self-serving of food is allowed.  ARAMARK will provide To-Go boxes for on-campus meals.  Meals will be limited to on-campus residents with meal passes. Students and visitors will not be permitted to gather in the dining hall.  While we understand that this is awkward and increases isolation, we want to take every precaution to avoid large gatherings or opportunities for people to spread the infection.
  • Academic Advising will remain open to students through remote methods, but we ask that students schedule these sessions with faculty or on-campus advisors and discuss your academic path via email, phone, or video-conferencing.  The platform that we use to provide advising will certainly change, but we are committed to ensuring that our advising remains at a high quality.
  • The seriousness of the situation surrounding COVID-19 requires the university to provide quick, relevant, and at times urgent information for students and university employees.  The current usage of the Sul Ross mass email system that includes the following list serves FS-ALL, FS-ALP, FS-RGC, STU-ALL, STU-ALP, STU-RGC often can be seen by recipients as undesired email or Spam due to the quantity of messages that individuals receive on a daily basis.  Given the current situation, the university is enacting a strict mass email policy.  Effective today, the list serve mentioned above will only be used for messages by university offices to send communications necessary for normal business operations.  These mass email messages will generally include:
    • Announcements or information from university executive officers.
    • Information that directly relates to the continuance of University business.
    • Alerts regarding campus community health and safety issues.
    • Information that relates to changes in University policy or time sensitive procedures.
  • Effective today, all athletic programs are suspended for the duration of the spring semester.  This includes competitions and practices for both spring and fall sports. Given the decision to move to remote delivery of classes, we found it necessary to cancel athletic programs to discourage students from returning to campus while we experience this pandemic crisis. I cannot adequately express my disappointment for this decision as it certainly affects a large number of our students and especially seniors, but we believe it is the right action to take with the information we currently have.  On a positive note, the NCAA recently made the decision to grant an extra year of eligibility for spring sport athletes including seniors who choose to continue their academic career and work on graduate degrees.  More decisions from the NCAA and the American Southwest Conference will come as actions are evaluated and lessons learned.

These decisions and many others will likely cause more questions and concerns.  Like you, we find ourselves frustrated over issues out of our control and for not having answers immediately available.  We share the concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and recognize that many people find themselves scared or anxious.  If you or someone you know needs support, please reach out to the Counseling Services available at each campus.

We must all do our part to flatten the curve so that we provide time for our medical professionals to ensure resources are available.  Our Sul Ross community is filled with grit, perseverance, and strength, please provide support to your fellow Lobos through this difficult time.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to make decisions about Sul Ross. As you can imagine, the information changes quickly, please regularly check our website (www.sulross.edu) for updates.  I wish you and your family well during these difficult times.  Please stay safe and cautious.

My best to you, Bill

And members of the SRSU Executive Cabinet: Rob Kinucan Lisa Harris Chris Clifford Leo Dominguez Patricia Nicosia David Gibson Jeanne Qvarnstrom Yvonne Realivasquez


 

3/14/2020 Update

Due to recent decisions from K-12 schools to close next week, President Kibler is authorizing emergency paid leave for various categories of employees.  Department heads including Directors, Department Chairs, and above are asked to report to work on Monday to begin strategizing plans for remote course delivery and business operations.  Given the extraordinary situation, all others including student workers, will receive emergency paid leave for the week. Dining services and residence halls will remain open for students living on campus. If department heads are unable to report to work, please contact your supervisor to discuss alternative means of communication.  Next week we will engage in significant planning for university functions and will need input from each department.  Please remain available to department heads who may need to contact employees to gather information regarding work functions.  Stay updated with additional information by going to www.sulross.edu and also check your Sul Ross email frequently for more communication from each division. We are all in this together and we want to ensure that input from each area is considered as make decisions in this unprecedented situation.


 

3/12/2020 Letter from Dr. Kibler

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and the entire Sul Ross State University community,

You are all aware of the local, statewide, national and international implications of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, supporters, friends and visitors will always be our top priority and will drive each decision we make.  Thus, I am announcing proactive measures designed to help limit the risk and the impact on our four campuses.  Following the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are implementing a number of actions to help protect our community:

  • SPRING BREAK EXTENDED FOR STUDENTS:
    Sul Ross State University is extending Spring Break for students until March 22.  No classes, including lectures, seminars, discussions or presentations, will be held March 16 through March 22.
  • CLASSES:

    Beginning March 23 through April 12, organized lecture, seminar and laboratory courses will be conducted remotely.  Course delivery methods will be appropriate for the individual course requirements and may be provided on-line, through ZOOM conferencing, conference calls, e-mail or in chat rooms.  Exceptions for individual instruction will be communicated by the instructor.  Faculty members are encouraged to be flexible in meeting student needs.  Faculty will notify students by March 19 with information on how each individual course will be taught.

    Remote course delivery may extend beyond April 12, if deemed necessary for community safety. Otherwise, on April 13, remote course delivery will end, and face-to-face instruction will resume, unless the instructor provides other direction.  Advanced notification will be provided by the University.  The final exam schedule will follow the published calendar, unless otherwise notified.

    The Executive Vice President and Provost and the Deans will provide additional guidance to faculty members next week on how to plan and proceed for these changes in instructional methodology.

  • STUDENTS ON CAMPUS:
    Students are encouraged to stay at home, but university on-campus housing and dining services on the Alpine campus will be open for students deciding to return.  Residential student services will be available and protocols regarding sanitization and hygiene are being followed.  Students who do choose to return to campus after the extended Spring Break will be strongly encouraged to practice social distancing and prevention practices recommended by the CDC.  Students who work on campus should consult with their supervisors for guidance on work schedules.
  • CAMPUS OPERATIONS:
    Sul Ross State University campuses and all offices will open on Monday, March 16 as scheduled.  Faculty and staff who are on leave during Spring Break will return to work March 16 to continue preparing for remote instruction and the continuity of courses and business operations of the university.
  • FACULTY AND STAFF: 
    Per policy, faculty and staff may work from home to the extent that they are able to perform their functions remotely and only with permission from supervisors.
  • UNIVERSITY SPONSORED EVENTS: 
    All university sponsored events that involve a gathering of 50 or more people and involve people traveling to our campus from beyond our local community are cancelled through April 19.  Specifically, the 2020 Alumni Gala and the Museum of the Big Bend Trappings of Texas events are cancelled.  Large gathering events beyond the April 19 date will be evaluated and determinations will be made and announced in advance.  All events scheduled to be held on campus next week are cancelled.
  • TRAVEL:
    All university-funded international and domestic travel is cancelled until further notice.  Per policy, any personal travel internationally to countries with a CDC Travel Warning Level 2 or 3 will be required to self-isolate for 14 days before returning to campus.  The university strongly encourages everyone to evaluate personal travel and avoid areas in the United States with active community COVID-19 transmission.  Those traveling to an affected area in the U.S. are required to contact Student Health Services (432.837.8102) to receive guidance before returning to campus and may be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. More information will be provided next week.
  • ATHLETICS:
    In consultation with American Southwest Conference Staff and university Athletic Directors, all ASC athletic events are suspended for the weekend of March 13-15. They will reconvene on Monday to consider additional factors and take necessary steps for the remainder of the semester.
  • BEST PRACTICES: 

    You can help prevent the spread pf COVID-19 as follows:

    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
    • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings.
  • STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES: 
    Updates from Sul Ross may be found on the homepage at www.sulross.edu - look for the banner on the top of the page.  Sul Ross will frequently post updates on the SRSU website and in university-issued e-mail and via socials.  Please checks these resources frequently for updates.

We understand that implementing these changes with such limited notice will present challenges to us all.  However, if we can all work together and communicate we will work through it.  I sincerely appreciate your patience and cooperation.

Sincerely,

Bill Kibler President