VP Message - Coronavirus Planning & Response

Dear DSA team,

We now know there is a COVID-19 presumptive positive result in Denton County and the administration is meeting constantly to keep tabs on this. Please know that as we head into another week of dealing with this unprecedented crisis, I know how hard it is to juggle the professional and personal strain this is putting on you all.

I appreciate each and every one of you. I am so proud of the way this team is pulling together!

Some updates:

Continuity of Staffing

  • We are open for business as usual and all faculty and staff are reporting to work. By now, you should have heard from your supervisor regarding preparations regarding those who may need to telecommute per the president’s message sent to all faculty and staff yesterday. I met with my direct reports earlier today regarding among other things how to make telecommuting decisions consistently and gave them the authority to determine what is right for their offices. You should receive direction and further instructions from your supervisor soon.

Specific information regarding expectations and resources related to telecommuting can be found on the university’s webpage dedicated to responding to requests during this time of uncertainty: UNT Work Anywhere.

  • As a reminder, the University is asking all employees and students returning from personal international travel or highly impacted areas domestically to please report their trip to International Risk Control at 940-369-6154 for further guidance.
  • Our graduate students are expected to work to get paid. Melissa McGuire has provided expectations and guidance to GA’s and their supervisors. Please contact her with any questions.

Responding to Student Needs

  • Instruction will resume March 23 and will be online or an alternative delivery method for the remainder of the semester. The University will be communicating about the delivery method for classes with all students by March 19.
  • For students in need of financial support due to this situation, please contact SMMC or DOS as usual. SOS will continue to respond to individual student issues and needs and direct services accordingly.
  • ODA remains the contact for any students who need accommodations. They are working through accessibility issues for virtual learning with Academic Affairs and are available to respond to questions as needed.
  • Counseling continues to be available for all students. There may be some limitations based upon the availability of graduate student interns. Counseling Center staff is undergoing training today so that online counseling sessions will be available to students.

Continuity of Student Workers

  • All student employees should be allowed to work, should they choose to do so, including this week. If a student chooses not to work, you cannot continue to pay them.
  • If, because of the nature of the position, you have positions that you do not need, we are working to identify other positions across campus where they can potentially be placed. Dan Naegeli and Arigayle Head are working on a centralized system to track these needs. Stay tuned for further guidance on this issue.
  • According to policy, students can work from home, but the work they are doing must lend itself to that. For example, if a student is creating marketing materials, and they can do that from home, it is fine. If a student works in your reception area, that cannot be done from home. 
  • We are awaiting some final guidance regarding college work-study. There is a provision that can allow for continued payment of these positions (according to their usual schedule) if the position is no longer viable (due to our business continuity plans). Please await further guidance on this matter and do not communicate it as an option until we are certain we can do it.

Continuity of Services

  • Residence Halls are open to all students who wish to return. This past week we completed a deep-clean of all residence halls and buildings. Residence Hall Community Directors also will be providing educational programs on how to stay healthy for students who return.
  • Dining services will be available to students and we will open as many dining halls as needed to serve the students who return while allowing for social distancing. In an abundance of caution, our Dining Halls are adjusting some service styles for the safety of our students and employees and will stop the use of salad bars and self-serve stations and instead offer pre-packaged salads and staff-assisted service.
  • The Recreation Center has implemented many social distancing guidelines such as posting signs, shutting down every other cardio machine to allow for space between users, posting a sign at the ID checkpoint so individuals will know where they can stand while waiting to get their ID scanned and setting up the card swipe to face outward so staff are no longer scanning IDs among many other measures.

Event/Meeting Guidelines

  • Per CDC recommendations, all events with 50 or more people will be cancelled for the next eight weeks. At this time, no decision has been made regarding graduation.
  • President Smatresk has asked that face-to-face meetings be moved to the Zoom format for the foreseeable future. Generally speaking, outside of events, there should not be more than four people in an office or conference room at any given time.
  • Other events that contribute to business continuity, like orientation, thus far will continue.
  • We will have signage at all business continuity events with information about social distancing.
  • The set-up of rooms for business continuity events will be altered to provide more space between seats, etc.

Continuity of Communications

  • We are curtailing routine communications such as In the Know to clear channels for the most urgent emails. 
  • We will send other updates electronically or through your direct report as we have them.
  • If you have specific questions, please funnel these through your direct report.  This will allow us to best coordinate communications. 
  • All media inquiries related to Coronavirus should be sent to Leigh Ann Gullett in UBSC Leigh.Gullett@unt.edu.
  • Please check https://healthalerts.unt.edu/ for all the latest updates from the University.
  • All questions can be directed to Amy Armstrong, 940.565.2464 or amy.armstrong@unt.edu


If you know of staff members who are going above and beyond during this time, please email student.affairs@unt.edu describing their effort. I will send them a note of appreciation and highlight some of these examples as we discuss how we have come together as a caring campus community to respond to this health crisis.  These will also be sent to the president for use on a campus level.

  • Thank you to Dining Services and Union for making last-minute adjustments to accommodate changes to Grad Preview last Saturday.
  • Thank you to Rec Center staff for making numerous adjustments to their operations to ensure social distancing and continued access to our students.
  • Thank you to Wendy Denman for giving staff an opportunity to just relax and get their minds off the world by watching Frozen II in the Lyceum this Wednesday at noon.

These are all great examples of the wonderful staff we have who truly care about our students and each other. Please keep sending examples like this to student.affairs@unt.edu. Hearing about things like this lifts my spirits and I hope yours as well.

Folks, these are challenging times for us all and I can’t thank you enough for all of the hard work and dedication you are putting in to support and care for our students.

Take care,

Elizabeth With Ed.D.

Vice President for Student Affairs