UPC’s plan for ending the lockdown approved

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Image of North Campus, before of the alarm state

The UPC's Governing Council on 14 May has approved the plan for ending the lockdown and progressively reinstating face-to-face activities on UPC campuses. The four-stage plan will be adapted to the evolution of the pandemic and health authorities’ advice. From 19 June, all UPC campuses are in the stage of Resuming Normality. In this stage, the measures and instructions for Stage 3 are in force at the moment and work is being done to define action plans for this new scenario.

May 19, 2020

The plan for ending the lockdown and progressively reinstating face-to-face activities of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC), which has been developed within the context of the health and social crisis caused by COVID-19, presents the criteria and guidelines for the four stages for reinstating face-to-face activities at the University and is subject to any changes that the evolution of the pandemic requires. 

It has been defined through dialogue and negotiations with the University’s health and safety committee, workers’ representatives and academic and functional units. It is based on continuing to provide the public service entrusted to the University in a way that is compatible with the health and safety of people in a framework of collective responsibility. 

The plan provides for a decentralised end of lockdown in which schools prioritise the process and refers to telework as the preferred mode of work as long as the health emergency persists. The plan also focuses on work-life balance upon returning to face-to-face work and the care of people at risk from COVID-19.

The UPC website hosts the COVID-19 portal, which presents all the information about the plan and other content related to the pandemic that may be of interest to students and staff, such as answers to frequently asked questions, services and help for studying and working remotely, and research and social projects launched by the University to fight COVID-19

xavier_masso-web.jpgXavier Massó, general manager:


“The UPC’s plan for reinstating activities will evolve according to the evolution of the pandemic”
The UPC’s roadmap for ending the lockdown at the University was approved by the Governing Council on 14 May. The plan for ending the lockdown (in Catalan) and progressively reinstating face-to-face activities has been developed within the context of the health and social crisis caused by COVID-19. The plan is subject to many uncertainties and the need to make adaptations based on health authorities’ advice. For Xavier Massó, the UPC’s general manager, it is based on “continuing to provide the public service entrusted to us to its full extent, but in a way that is compatible with the health of people in a framework of collective responsibility”.

 

What are the keys to this plan?

First, to continue providing a quality public service, but compulsorily prioritising the health of people. It is also essential to negotiate with workers’ representatives and to actively listen to the community. The plan is a living document that will evolve according to the evolution of the pandemic globally and locally, with all the unpredictability that this implies. In this scenario, we have to keep working, but we clearly needed some planning, a roadmap to prevent improvising. The plan also includes a decentralised ending of the lockdown at the UPC: from stage 2 schools are expected to make decisions on the actions to be taken because we are a heterogeneous university and every school and academic unit has different needs.

How has this plan been drawn up?

The starting point was a first technical document that was produced by the Occupational Health and Safety Service, which paved the way for the actual plan. The text has evolved with on-site actions and with organisational and working conditions criteria aimed at promoting the protection of people and safe work. The safety of people is at the core of the plan. We have met the health and safety committee, the workers’ representatives and the heads of academic and functional units several times. We had to develop a four-stage plan for ending the lockdown on which we will continue working to include all the points of view and all the cases derived from the heterogeneity of the University. We had to take responsibility for reinstating face-to-face activities at the UPC with everyone’s collaboration and commitment.

 

Telework is one of the key elements...

Yes. As long as this situation persists, telework will remain the preferred mode of work at the UPC. Every effort has been made to provide the tools for everyone to be able to telework in record time. In the plan, working on site is necessarily restricted to essential situations. Self-protection is a priority and the University has therefore invested heavily in self-protective equipment, such as masks, gloves and hand sanitiser. At the same time, we reinforce information and awareness actions to inform people accurately about what to do and what can be done at any given time.

 

At a time as difficult as this, what is the approach to the work-life balance of staff upon returning to face-to-face activities?

The plan includes important work-life balance measures because we know that people are having a hard time balancing work and care of children or disabled elderly people. It was absolutely necessary. Thus, when we reach stages 1, 2 and 3, staff who have children under 12, disabled people or disabled elderly people in their care will be able to continue teleworking. They will have to report the situation to their boss so that face-to-face work can be organised properly.

 

Are people at risk considered in the plan?

At the beginning of the health emergency, the Ministry of Health drew up a list that specified the groups at risk during the epidemic. At the UPC, after negotiating the plan with the workers’ representatives, we made decisions to also include breastfeeding mothers, patients who are actively receiving cancer treatment and recent cancer survivors. The plan provides for these people to continue teleworking or to be recommended specific self-protective measures in the event that they wish to work on site.

 

Masks: yes or no?

Face masks are highly recommended and compulsory when a minimum interpersonal distance is not possible. This will be the case of students who have to attend seminars, laboratories, classrooms or library facilities up to stage 3. If a student does not have one and has to come to the University exceptionally for an exam or a practical during stages 2 and 3, we will provide them with one, with all that that implies, because the situation of the market of protective equipment is very complicated. In any case, this academic year is expected to end at a distance.

 

What about UPC staff?

In the case of staff, we plan to provide masks at all stages of the plan as long as the situation persists. In any case, we will always keep staff updated on what to do in each situation. Everyone is committed to protecting the UPC by always maintaining the interpersonal distance of two meters and following strict standards of hygiene.

 

How much will this pandemic cost the UPC?

It is still difficult to know, because, although we are making estimates, we do not know for sure what the real impact will be, for instance, on master’s degree enrolments, which will presumably be the most affected, and research and transfer projects. We have provided the Governing Council with a first approach to these figures, to which will be added further aspects, such as the cost of personal protective equipment, intensive cleaning to ensure the disinfection of facilities and other costs that we are still evaluating. In any case, we will prioritise the needs and investments required by this situation, which has made us more virtual and has created new needs regarding non-face-to-face teaching. We are thus planning the investments that we will be able to make this year based on the multi-year university investment plan.

 

How will the UPC overcome this crisis?

The UPC is well prepared and the people of which it is composed are fully committed to overcoming the current crisis and even to finding new opportunities despite the complex situation we are living personally and socially. I think that the UPC has carried out an exemplary adaptation process because all the groups have worked in the same direction by prioritising the University’s goal and mission.