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Faculty, staff get answers during latest COVID‑19 town hall

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Newly available employee testing, leave options and plans for the Spring 2021 semester were among the topics discussed during Wednesday’s COVID-19 town hall.

Topics relevant to WSU faculty and staff were the focus of the latest in a series of town halls hosted by WSU leaders. The event was broadcast live on Youtube and is available online for those who missed it.

The debut of COVID-19 employee testing on Sept. 29 was highlighted early on during the town hall. WSU Pullman employees can receive asymptomatic COVID-19 testing from the Washington National Guard at no cost. WSU Pullman employees are encouraged by the university to get tested. More information can be found on the Human Resource Services website.

On the topic of the upcoming spring semester, Provost and Executive Vice President Elizabeth Chilton said each campus has an exception process that currently allows classes like engineering labs as well as some internships and work-study options to take place in-person.

“For the spring right now, we’re going to do the same exception process where most of our large lecture classes will continue to be offered remotely,” she said, noting that exceptions will be made for classes that require an in-person component.

WSU Pullman will release its course schedule, which will indicate class delivery, by mid-October.

Amid the current climate of financial uncertainty, WSU continues to monitor its budget situation and has made no decisions on the use of furloughs. WSU is also not currently offering early retirement incentives. WSU Athletics announced earlier this month it would be requiring non-contract staff to take four weeks of furloughs as part of its efforts to deal with reduced revenues due to COVID-19.

Ample resources for faculty and staff dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 are available, WSU leaders said during the town hall. The Employee Assistance Program features counselors equipped to talk about stress and anxiety, among other resources.

Human Resource Services offers an array of information related to leave options for employees, whether they are caring for sick people in their homes or dealing with illness themselves. On HRS’s Disability Services website, employees can learn about their options for paid leave under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The act, which runs through Dec. 31, includes two employee paid leave programs, among other provisions. Additional information on the expanded shared leave program can also be found on Disability Services website.

WSU is asking everyone from supervisors to tenure review committees and department chairs to be compassionate and flexible when working with employees and faculty, town hall speakers emphasized. When possible, employees are finding ways to work from home as well as adjust their working hours as necessary. A one-year extension for faculty seeking tenure remains in place and additional options for newly arrived faculty are being considered.

Additionally, Cougs Connect continues into the Fall semester, with sessions on productivity as well as wellness taking place Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m.

Employees with specific concerns about working arraignments and available leave options are invited to contact the HRS Service Team at 509-335-4521 or

Chilton was joined by Senior Vice Provost Laura Griner Hill, Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer Theresa Elliot-Cheslek, Assistant Vice President of Human Resource Services Lisa Gehring, as well as Kendra Wilkins-Fontenot and Ann Monroe, who serve as directors within Human Resource Services.

The next COVID-19 town hall is taking place at 11 a.m. Oct. 21. The focus will be on the work WSU researchers are doing related to COVID-19.

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