Covid-19 update: Professor Anne Trefethen

It is a month ago that I wrote a piece for this blog in which I reflected on our remote working and my hope of seeing a gradual return to on-site working. A great deal has happened in that month; the first buildings have opened, allowing colleagues to return to activities that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do. Through these pilot openings colleagues in estates services, research services, the safety office, HR and the departments themselves have developed detailed guidance. Reopening buildings and preparing for socially-distanced working is complicated; this detailed guidance will be invaluable in supporting us all in returning to onsite working safely. Details of processes and timings will be provided later this week. It will take a number of weeks to complete the next wave of openings, all of which will inform the plans for Michaelmas term. For some, the wait to return to the workplace is challenging, and there is a need to be patient as we do all we can to ensure we protect the safety and wellbeing of our staff and students. I know for others the idea of returning to onsite working is a concern but I hope you will take reassurance from the care and attention that is being taken.

Being June we would normally be celebrating diversity with LGBTQ+ communities around the world. As with many things the Pride parades and flag flying may need to take a different form. The tragic death of George Floyd has shown that discrimination is still sadly very evident in society. As an institution we are committed to the values of equality, diversity and inclusion and we continue to work to increase the ethnic diversity of staff and students at the University, but there is no question that we still have work to do to create a truly inclusive community. As part of our ongoing implementation of the Race Equality Charter, later this week Personnel Committee will be considering ways in which we can strengthen our procedures to increase diversity in academic recruitment. But changing behaviours is achieved only in part through policies and procedures and we must take individual responsibility to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace. I hope you will join me in making a personal commitment to contribute to building a supportive culture and removing discrimination from our community.

Pensions may not have been at the top of your list of concerns but last week we held a USS webinar where colleagues were able to get answers to a broad range of questions. The recording of the 30-minute webinar and answers to the further questions raised there can now be found online. The USS Pensions Working Group continue to meet monthly to engage with the continuing deliberations and developments of the scheme. The valuation of the scheme is going ahead despite Covid-19 and we expect there will be a consultation in July on it. We will keep colleagues informed through the website and Blueprint Bulletin.

Finally I thought I’d remind you of the work of GLAM colleagues. I hope you have been enjoying their digital resources; you can view exhibitions online, take a virtual tour or explore digital collections online. Have fun with the collections-based activities like the Museum of Natural History’s More than a Doodle initiative or online jigsaw puzzles at the Ashmolean. You can piece together your own Zodiac signs at the History of Science Museum or learn to build a terrarium with Botanic Garden & Arboretum. Find out more about GLAM's digital resources for visitors here

Stay well.