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Staff meeting on handling of the coronavirus May 2020

On this page you will find questions and answers from the staff meeing that was held on Zoom for all employees on 15 May 2020.

All pages tagged with coronavirus

Norsk versjon - Allmøte om korona-håndteringen mai 2020

Click here to see a recording of the staff meeting in Panopto (subtitles in English will be available after 3 June)

Online teaching

1. What does it mean when we hear that “lectures” will be held digitally in the autumn semester? Does this only apply to lectures, or to all forms of teaching?

The academic communities are now evaluating which types of teaching should take place with physical presence on campus and which can take place digitally. The evaluation is based on the type of teaching activity, the student group (with high priority for teaching of first-year students), the number of students who will take part in the classes, etc. There are some teaching activities such as laboratory work and group work that it would be most practical to hold on campus, while in many cases it is easier to replace pure lectures with online solutions. 

2. When NTNU said that there would be online lectures in autumn, it created some concern and uncertainty among our own students and prospective students. We have examples of students who say they will give preference to other institutions that have not announced online teaching rather than choosing NTNU. Was the competitive situation considered when this decision was made?  

The competitive situation related to student recruitment is very important to NTNU, but infection control considerations and the health of staff and students always come first.

In responding to an emergency, we must make ongoing assessments based on the information that we have at the time. All along, the Rector’s starting point has been that arrangements will be made for physical learning activities on campus, and the new infection control rules provide greater opportunity for teaching with physical presence.

Quality of education

3. As a student – and a student assistant – I am worried about a decline in the quality of teaching at NTNU. In my opinion the quality of teaching is generally very low at NTNU, but now that so much is becoming digital, it is at risk of falling even lower. This is frightening. So my question is fairly straightforward: Who is responsible for the quality of teaching in the autumn of 2020, and how will NTNU ensure that teaching quality does not fall so low that students take a gap year because of online teaching?  

There are several parties who together share responsibility for teaching quality at NTNU. The responsibility is distributed across different levels, functions and roles, where the teaching staff play an especially important role. As a university, we are required by law to have a system for quality assurance and development of our study programmes. The Board is responsible for ensuring that we have such a system and that the system is evaluated at least every five years. NTNU’s system for quality of education describes the goals of the work and defines roles, responsibilities, tasks, and follow-up processes.

At NTNU, quality of education is one of our top priorities, whatever the form of teaching. Management at every level takes this extremely seriously. We are doing everything we can to ensure the best quality possible in a situation with changed conditions and where all forms of learning, teaching and assessment were made digital “overnight” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

We now know that teaching in the autumn semester will consist of both online teaching and physical presence on campus. We have learnt a great deal in the phase we have been through and we bring valuable experience with us in the continuing efforts to ensure the quality of our study programmes. We are also planning to draw students into the work to an even greater extent through more ongoing dialogue and by opening the way for more transparent processes. We will clarify this in greater detail in the period ahead.

Exams

4. What will happen for exams in the autumn semester? Will there be a general opportunity to adjust the form of assessment to fit in better with online teaching? 

In principle, exams will be held as planned according to the course description for the 20/21 academic year. However, how the exam period will be in the time ahead will depend on the applicable infection control guidelines from the government and central decisions at NTNU on use of the campus in the autumn of 2020.  At the moment we know very little about what restrictions will apply in December 2020. Based on the current situation, we consider that some activity on campus will be possible in the autumn of 2020, with infection control measures. If it turns out during the autumn that it is not possible to hold exams with physical attendance, exams will have to be held in other ways.

Open campus

5. To prevent dropout, how is NTNU planning to meet the needs of new students for socializing, to get to know each other and work in a community in a digital autumn?

The new rules for infection control allow for a combination of physical presence on campus and digital learning methods in the autumn. We are paying special attention to first-year students and their needs. The academic communities, student organizations, linjeforeninger (academic and social student associations) and administration must have close contact and work together to ensure that first-years start their student days at NTNU in a way that is safe and satisfying with sound protection against infection. We will bring the experience we have now gained about what works digitally and what does not when we plan the autumn semester.

6. Will students travel to the student cities? With little teaching on campus, a large proportion of students will not want to rent accommodation in Trondheim, but live at home to save money. 

Yes, we want students to come to Trondheim, Gjøvik and Ålesund in the autumn and to live here. With the new infection control rules, we can provide on-campus teaching for students. We are working to find practical solutions with the areas we have available, so that as many students as possible can enter the campus as soon as possible. 

7. When will it be possible to start using reading rooms again, and how will their use be organized?

Reading rooms for bachelor’s degree students in Trondheim opened on 18 May. In Gjøvik and Ålesund they opened on 19 May. To use the reading rooms, students must book a place using the timetable system (TP). The library has also opened areas that can be used for student workspaces. More information about this is available at ntnu.no/ub. For the library, it will not be possible to reserve a reading room place using TP, but staff will be available here. Reading room places for master’s degree students are managed by the faculties.

The reading rooms have been distributed in and between buildings to avoid excessive traffic in common areas. The infection control rules limit the capacity – there must be a distance of at least one metre between reading room places that can be used.

8. What advantages and disadvantages do you see in dividing large student groups into smaller groups and teaching during the evening so that we can provide teaching in several parallel groups? What advantages and disadvantages do you see in opening large auditoriums for teaching for smaller groups (sitting one metre apart, etc.)? These are simple measures that could mean a great deal for the quality of study programmes. Are these measures that NTNU is considering? 

In connection with planning the autumn timetable, we are now in the process of assessing available areas and their capacity in the light of the current infection control rules. We will also look at the flow of people through our buildings and the load on common areas, and we are exploring the potential for extending the core time for teaching activities. We will prepare the way for as many on-campus teaching activities as possible during the autumn. Division into groups and rotation are possibilities that the faculties are now considering as they identify the needs and opportunities for teaching plans in the autumn. 

9. How will NTNU enable student volunteer activities in the autumn of 2020?

NTNU is concerned about students’ well-being and recognizes the close connection between voluntary work and well-being. Physical teaching will be given priority on campus, but NTNU also wants to help to make room for student volunteering in the autumn, as far as possible. We need to get back to the specific possibilities.

Planning for autumn

10. How will the faculties and the units be involved in planning teaching for the autumn?

A dialogue is now in progress between the timetable planners and the academic communities on how we can find solutions for teaching that has been registered with the capacity that will be available in the autumn. We will make arrangements for normal activities as far as possible.

The faculties have been asked to provide an all-round assessment of their needs and priorities by 29 May.

11. Can we plan different timetables for different scenarios in autumn? We have seen that there may be rapid changes from the authorities in terms of the infection control measures that apply. Have you considered allowing teaching staff to plan for several scenarios and to roll out the relevant scenario when we see what the situation turns out to be in the autumn? 

Timetables for the autumn must be designed in accordance with the policies in effect for the foreseeable future. Planning of timetables is a large and complex job at NTNU, and the infection control measures in the autumn make it even more complex. To ensure predictability for students and the teaching staff, as well as appropriate use of resources, the possibility of preparing many scenarios has not been planned.

International students

12. What are the central guidelines for hosting exchange students from abroad?

Student exchange in the autumn of 2020 has been cancelled. For more information, see: https://www.ntnu.no/korona/studentutveksling

13. No mobility is planned for the 20-21 academic year. Restrictions apply not only on inward travel to Norway, but also on outward travel from other countries. This also applies to PhD candidates who had planned to visit NTNU. On this basis, can the requirement for mandatory residency for at least one year at NTNU be waived? 

The wording of the PhD Regulations provides for exemptions from the residency requirement in special cases. The coronavirus situation is such a special case. An agreement must be made with the supervisor and the programme council so that the PhD candidate has the assurance that all requirements for the programme have been fulfilled even if they do not stay at NTNU for as long as the residency requirement specifies.

In terms of the research and adaptation of the associated work, each faculty must carry out its own assessments and ensure compliance with the infection control guidelines in effect.

Research

14. Can one travel on a research sabbatical in the autumn of 2020? If so, where?  

See new information regarding research sabbaticals abroad for these groups:

  • Employees whose visits abroad have been cut short and who have returned home because of the coronavirus situation 
  • Employees who have been granted sabbatical leave and had planned to start their visit abroad during 2020 (starting/departing in August 2020 in most cases)
  • Employees who are applying for sabbatical leave in the current round of applications with 2 May as the deadline

15. Can one travel to international academic conferences abroad in the late summer and autumn? Will the same regulations apply as for “work-related travel abroad”? 

Participation in conferences abroad follows the same guidelines as for work-related travel abroad in general. We comply with the guidelines from the authorities. The authorities are still discouraging all international travel unless it is strictly necessary. If there are changes in the authorities’ recommendations, then we will also change the NTNU guidelines, but this is what applies until further notice. More detailed travel regulations for employees will probably be announced in the beginning of June.    

16. Why can’t NTNU grant an automatic extension to all PhD candidates?

NTNU wants PhD candidates to be able to complete their degree even if we are in the middle of a pandemic. This means that, as far as we can, we must make arrangements for candidates to complete their education within the scheduled time. In the cases where it is possible, a change in the implementation of the project will be relevant instead of an extension. We know that the last two months have been difficult for many of our PhD candidates, and many of them will need a postponement to make it possible for them to complete their thesis. There are big differences in the ways that individual PhD students have been affected by the coronavirus. Some students have had delays in their work as a direct consequence of the situation, but this does not apply to everyone. Many candidates have been able to continue their PhD work and have kept up the progress of their studies that had been expected during the period. For this reason, evaluation of who will be granted extensions must be on an individual basis.

Each PhD student, in consultation with their supervisor, must reach agreement on whether there is a basis for applying for a postponement. Postponement can be granted to those who have had a genuine delay due to the coronavirus situation. The individual department and faculty will consider applications for postponement. At the same time, we are making an effort to achieve a consistent practice at NTNU. This has been decided in consultation with DION, NTNU’s association representing the interests of PhD candidates, postdocs and other temporary academic staff. 

17. Many of us at NTNU have been employed as researchers on external funding. PhD candidates have the opportunity to apply for an extension/postponed submission of their thesis as a result of the coronavirus situation. What will happen to all the rest of us (postdocs or researchers)? Will we also get an opportunity like this?    

We fully understand that this has been a difficult time for many postdocs and researchers and that a number of employees have been delayed in their projects. NTNU has limited resources and cannot grant extensions to everyone who has been affected by this situation. 

We are in dialogue with the Research Council of Norway. They are willing to adjust expectations for deliverables in connection with research projects. It is also important to have a good dialogue with your managers in the department or research group to which you belong. 

18. Can one now have an audience physically present during a public defence? 

Yes, we are now allowed to have an audience that is physically present during a public defence. This is on condition that NTNU’s general rules for infection control and attendance on campus are followed. We expect that public defences will be held as a hybrid of online and physical presence in the period ahead. Opponents from abroad will be present online for the foreseeable future. For a long time to come, infection control considerations will be the guiding factor for the way in which we will be able to organize open public defences. 

Working from home

19. Not all employees are able to set up a workplace at home that is ergonomically sound, and they risk injury from strain and overuse. Who is responsible for avoiding this, and what kind of support does NTNU provide for setting up home offices? 

When you work from home according to NTNU’s instructions, the employer must make arrangements to ensure that the individual employee has enough resources to carry out the work in about the same way as in their ordinary work situation. NTNU helps by transporting necessary equipment between campus and home for those who need this. 

Each employee must ensure that they make arrangements to ensure that the design of their workplace at home does not cause unnecessary physical strain. You can find information on Innsida explaining how to set up a workplace that is as ergonomic as possible for your home office. 

20. How will NTNU make sure that employees in high-risk groups are not exposed to infection from other employees or students when the campuses are now reopened gradually?  

The safety and health of employees and students are NTNU’s highest priority. As has been communicated on Innsida, a risk assessment must be carried out in all units before reopening starts. In this assessment, managers must also consider the consequences if any employees or students are in risk groups, or live with someone in a risk group.

Guidelines have been developed for attendance and visits to campus, and for infection control and steps to reduce transmission 

21. Can anyone who wants to work from home still choose to do that after the campus has reopened?  

You do not need to be present on campus unless this is necessary for your work duties. However, anyone who wants and can manage to work from home must arrange this with their line manager. Also see the Guidelines for attendance and visits on campus for the current guidelines about working from home and using a workplace on campus. 

Infection control

22. Is NTNU planning to offer staff and students testing of immunity and of whether they are Covid-19 positive?  And will NTNU recommend that students and staff wear masks when they are indoors?  

Testing must only be done by the public health service. See the information about testing on the websites for the Trondheim, Gjøvik and Ålesund municipalities. Using face masks is not recommended in Norway, unless they are mandatory as personal protective equipment. 

23. Why does NTNU have stricter rules for staying on campus than the official recommendations? 

We have not been stricter than the policies regarding presence on campus that we have received from the authorities. NTNU has never been in full lockdown. Essential functions, including those in some of the laboratories, have been in operation all along. From 27 April, some students and staff in recruitment positions who are in the final stages of their studies and their projects were permitted to go on to campus. The latest guidelines for NTNU, which were approved by the central emergency response management (SBL) on 18 May, are based on the Government’s signals on 7 May about gradual reopening and a letter we received from the Ministry of Education and Research on 12 May. At the same time, we must be aware that it is the municipalities that are responsible for local infection control. This means that if Trondheim, Gjøvik or Ålesund decide on their own, more stringent regulations for their residents, then NTNU must comply with these rules.  

Associate Professor Arve Hjelseth wrote in a comment on an article in Universitetsavisa (in Norwegian) about the staff meeting that NTNU had been stricter than the authorities, because he had to stay in quarantine after returning from a visit to northern Italy, even though that part of Italy was not affected by national quarantine regulations at that time. It is true that for a period NTNU was a little stricter than what the authorities had advised (that is, the list provided by the  Norwegian Institute of Public Health specifying areas with widespread ongoing transmission), mainly because the situation developed so quickly and it was difficult to differentiate between the Italian regions. However, we have not been stricter than the guidelines we received in letters from the Ministry of Education and Research in April and May. 

24. Will the way that employees travel to campus be included in the risk assessment that managers must do before reopening? 

Yes, the manager must assess whether all employees can travel to the workplace in a way that keeps them safe from infection. We encourage employees to cycle, walk or drive to work if they can. If they must take public transport, we recommend that they do this outside the peak periods. At the same time, a condition for this is that managers allow flexible working hours for employees who need to travel by bus, train or boat. 

25. Why not hold lectures with 49 students before 15 June and up to 199 students after this, as long as the advice from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health is followed? 

The requirement for group sizes does not apply to the higher education sector, according to a letter we received from Ministry of Education and Research on 12 May. However, there must still be compliance with general infection control measures, including keeping a minimum distance of 1 metre between people. The total load must also be assessed. This means that all activities on campus at NTNU must be assessed in relation to the total load on the premises, cleaning, etc. 

26. We had been planning to organize a Nordic conference (200 participants) on Øya Campus (the Knowledge Centre) at the end of October. An online conference is not an option. Must we cancel it or plan to hold it? 

It is difficult to give a clear answer here. The decision must be made locally, at the faculty or department. In any case, you should carry out a risk assessment, if you have not done this already. The greatest risk is probably that the participants will not be allowed to come to Norway, or that they must stay in quarantine both when they arrive and after they leave. Our own Ministry of Foreign Affairs still advises against all international travel that is not strictly necessary. This travel advice applies until 20 August. The Government has stated that it will reassess the situation in July, but the question is whether you can wait that long before you start sending invitations.

Another point that you need to consider in the risk assessment is whether the premises in the Knowledge Centre make it possible to host 200 people with the current infection control rules. We can probably use only two thirds of the capacity of our large auditoriums in order to comply with infection control rules. There is reason to believe that this will still apply in October. The same assessment must be done for transport to and from the conference. 

27. I have a lab in my course where groups of 3-4 students operate robots. It will be difficult to keep a distance of 1 metre between students in this situation. Can this be carried out?  

In principle, no, but if you need to perform tasks like this, the specific risk must be assessed. Use of  personal protective equipment must be considered, taking into account factors such as the duration of the tasks that require a distance of less than 1 metre between students. 

28. At the Department of Geoscience and Petroleum, we have extensive use of fieldwork (off campus; with varying numbers). At this time, can you say anything about whether we can carry out fieldwork in the autumn of 2020 and if so, which criteria might apply (such as numbers)?  

The short answer is yes. NTNU has specific guidelines for fieldwork. Local risk assessment must be done. The guidelines state that the number of people who take part in fieldwork must be reduced to an absolute minimum. At the same time, solitary work must be avoided (balance between infection risk and safety). The unit must establish procedures for keeping in contact with the people doing fieldwork. So there is no specific limit on the number of participants, but everyone must be able to comply with the general infection control measures, including a minimum distance of 1 metre between participants. 

29. What happens if there is an outbreak of infection on campus and many employees or students get sick? Would we have to close the campus again? 

In a situation like this, NTNU would have to reassess the situation. We have defined a number of measures that must be taken if Covid-19 is confirmed in a student or employee, which are described in the guidelines for infection control and steps to reduce transmission that were approved by the emergency response management on 18 May. If we are affected by a major outbreak, we might in the worst case have to go back to measures like those imposed on 12 March, but this would then have to happen in consultation with the health authorities. 

30. What size of groups can we have in connection with simulation exercises and skills training in the autumn? 

This depends on the possibility to keep a distance of at least 1 metre between everyone who is present as well as the total load on campus. This means that all activities on campus must take account of the burden on the organization, the resources and the physical premises, and the risks must be assessed. 

31. Does the decision on cancellation of physical closing ceremonies in May/June still apply? In the infection control measures that were implemented in March and April, it was decided that all physical closing ceremonies in May and June should be cancelled. In the light of the easing of restrictions that has taken place recently, does this still apply? 

The restrictions were eased somewhat here in a decision made by the central emergency response management on 18 May. Events and gatherings regarded as necessary for carrying out NTNU’s core activities, or the administrative or technical support functions that are absolutely necessary to make it possible to carry out our core activities, can be held as long as infection control is ensured in accordance with the guidelines in effect.  Social events are still cancelled. 

32. Some reading room places will now open from next week. Does this mean that we can also host 100 summer students physically on campus from the beginning of June, as long as infection control measures are in place? 

You can hold physical lectures on campus, provided that the infection control rules are followed. If you are planning to have 100 people in one room, you need to have a very large room available, to comply with the 1-metre rule. It would probably be best to divide up the summer students into smaller groups. 

Security and cleaning

33. How do we ensure adequate cleaning of NTNU’s premises when the campus reopens?     

When we are back in more or less full operation, we will clean once or twice a day, depending on the traffic in the area. In addition, we will go on cleaning rounds and wipe high-touch surfaces (door handles, washbasin fittings, elevator buttons, card readers, etc.). In areas of high use, we will do two, at most three such rounds per day.  We have divided our cleaning staff into work teams who will keep to their own area, with their own eating area, changing facilities and toilets. We will carry on organizing the work in this way for the foreseeable future. For more information about cleaning on campus, see Innsida: Cleaning procedures during the corona pandemic

34. How can we make sure that as few people as possible use the same entrance door and that there are always Antibac bottles available? 

Campus Services Division wants to guide the traffic in towards the hand-washing stations. This means that we have closed some entrances in the large buildings. We place Antibac at the entrances. We have good stocks of bottles and we have ordered more, so that we hope to keep up with the demand. 

35. Will a common system be established to keep track of who is present and/or uses the same passageway/toilet, etc.? 

To safeguard personal privacy, the Campus Services Division cannot establish a system that can monitor how many people who uses the same toilet, or other areas.

36. I would like to know whether there are any plans to replace or make changes to the ventilation system now when the campus reopens? How can we be sure that droplet transmission is not taking place via the ventilation system? 

The ventilation industry and health authorities recommend ventilating buildings as usual. This is based on experience from other pandemic-like situations caused by viruses. NTNU generally has ventilation systems with a good standard and good ventilation rates. In addition, we have a high standard of air filtration both in and out of buildings.  

No transmission has been detected via ventilation systems of the type that we have at NTNU. However, it has been proved that good ventilation generally results in better health and lower sickness absence in a normal situation. It is therefore most likely that continuing the ventilation also reduces the risk of being infected by the coronavirus.

37. When campus reopens, we will be able to receive and send packages from different suppliers. How can we ensure protection from infection at the same time?    

The best answer is that we must all follow the infection control rules, as we must do in other respects as well. If a package or a letter has been lying in a mailbox for seven days or more, there is no risk of infection in any case because the virus does not survive that long on these types of surfaces.  

38. There are some researchers who use a wearable gadget for their experiments in their research process.  In my case, I need to use one Virtual Reality headset for more than 20 people. I want to know when we can expect to receive some instructions about the ways that keep the participants in the study safe from the infection?  

Our general recommendation is to limit sharing of equipment as far as possible. In your case it sounds difficult to avoid sharing equipment. We have discussed this case with NTNU’s occupational nurse. 

One of the most effective risk reducing measures is to make sure that you don’t include participants that have symptoms such as a cough or sore throat, fever or suspect that they might be infected with Covid-19, or are quarantined. Please see advice to people who have an acute respiratory tract infection. Participants should be informed in advance that they can’t participate if they have symptoms like this. 

A VR headset is touched by hands and when you wear one, they are close to mucous membranes in the nose and eyes. You should ensure that hands are cleaned before handling the VR headset and the VR headset should be cleaned thoroughly before it is used by a new participant. It is beneficial if you can increase the time between using the VR headset by different participants. 

Shared equipment should be cleaned and disinfected like this:

  • Use disposable cloths (paper, microfibre) with water and ordinary cleaning agents that dissolve fat and grease.
  • Disinfectant (70 % ethanol) must be used on surfaces that cannot withstand water and cleaning agents. Before using disinfectants, wipe away visible dirt using a cloth or paper towel.
  • Avoid using sprays, because this will cause aerosol formation and swirling of dust/particles.
  • Remember hand washing after cleaning.

Communication

39. How can one access the documentation and the assessments on which the central emergency response management bases its decisions? 

The most important decisions from the central emergency response management [Sentral beredskapsledelse, SBL] are published as messages on Innsida. They have also been communicated via several newsletters (emails) from the Rector and in social media. In addition, all information to staff and students is gathered in the “corona portal”; www.ntnu.edu/corona.

However, minutes from SBL meetings are exempt from public access under Section 14 and Section 24, first subsection, in the Freedom of Information Act. Access to information in the sets of plans, incident response plans and other documentation related to crisis management at NTNU, which often need to be discussed at SBL meetings, could provide external parties with information that might make it easier to commit criminal acts.

40. Has anyone thought of a common channel/alert service for outbreaks? And common rules/procedures here? 

Work is under way to define a procedure for handling a local outbreak of infection. How alerts are sent will depend on the scale and severity of the outbreak. If only a few people are affected, phone and email messages may be adequate. If there is a major outbreak with a risk of infection in an entire unit or large parts of the campus, the alert will be sent via Innsida and on the “corona portal” - www.ntnu.edu/corona. Innsida is our primary channel for internal communication both to employees and to students.

Guidelines have also been developed for cleaning procedures after coronavirus infection has been confirmed  in people who have visited our premises. The guidelines have been drawn up jointly by the Faculty of Natural Sciences (NV), the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (MH), the HSE section, the Campus Services Division and employee representatives.

41. Is it possible to make a plan for when any changes in Covid-19 policy will be announced? At the moment we do not know if there might be new guidelines this week, next week, in a month’s time, or later. If we knew that the Covid-19 guidelines would be updated for example on 1 June, 1 July and 1 August, it would be easier to plan (for those of us who are going to start large courses with a variety of teaching methods in mid-August). It is time-consuming and expensive to plan for both alternatives, and with the summer ahead of us we need clear time frames for decisions. 

We fully understand that employees need predictability in planning for the autumn semester, and we are trying to create the conditions for this and to provide as much predictability as possible. At the same time, we must follow the guidelines from the authorities. The rules might be eased or tightened at short notice. That is why it is not possible for NTNU to make a fixed plan. 

42. In the time ahead, how will you make sure that students are better informed? 

Future students can find information on the web pages for study programmes. Academic communication with current students should take place in Blackboard and general messages (about coronavirus issues, among other things) and information about administration of study programmes should be available on Innsida. Information about the coronavirus pandemic is also compiled at www.ntnu.no/corona and www.ntnu.edu/corona. On Innsida, you will find a wiki that describes in greater detail how to reach students

It is important that units, study programmes, etc. are consistent in their use of channels and do not start using other channels. Clarity will provide a sense of security for students.

In addition to the study programme pages, the website “New Student” on Innsida gets 7-8000 visits every single day around the time when studies start. Refer to this website if students have questions about formalities at the start (the page will be adapted to the coronavirus situation during June).

43. How can we ensure the best possible communication in several languages in times of crisis? Information in English from NTNU has been too little and too late during the coronavirus crisis. 

Messages from the central emergency response management have been published in both Norwegian and English, but it has happened that we have published urgent messages in Norwegian first and in English a little later because it has taken some time to translate the text. The Communication Division try to follow the NTNU’s guidelines on language policy (only available in Norwegian) which state that “NTNU must publish all significant information, internally and externally, in both Norwegian and English.”

We are aware that NTNU has many international employees, PhDs and students who would like information in English. At the same time, Norwegian is still the working language at the university and according to the language policy, the academic communities should emphasize enabling students and staff to master both Norwegian and English.

Miscellaneous

44. Students and staff may experience psychological stress during the crisis. What kind of plan does NTNU have for helping them?

We are very aware that the situation is demanding both for staff and for students. We encourage employees who are struggling to cope to contact the occupational health service if they need help. Students can contact the Student Health Services (SiT). Also see the information at www.ntnu.edu/corona

45. Could NTNU establish a joint "Covid Secretariat” where the teaching staff, administrative employees and managers could get answers to specific issues and that could make decisions in cases where the guidelines do not provide clear answers? This would prevent the inconsistency that may arise when practical issues need to be resolved by the departments. 

An interesting proposal, but a secretariat cannot function as a decision-making authority, for example for risk assessments of events and other activities. The management and delegation regulations clearly state that this is a line responsibility, delegated from the Central Emergency Response Director down to the local and on-site emergency preparedness levels in connection with emergency response incidents, and from the Rector down to the individual unit in the line for day-to-day operations. For example, organizing a day excursion is an activity that is part of day-to-day operations, not emergency response management. Thus it is the leader of the excursion who is responsible for the risk assessment.

We also do not consider it feasible to draw up guidelines that cover all eventualities. So it is inevitable that many assessments must be made by the person who is going to carry out the activity and who has information about all the details.

46. I wonder whether anyone has thought about the campus process at Gløshaugen in the light of pandemics? Is it smart to densify – gather more people in one place, share offices, eliminate parking spaces – concentrate more students and staff in a smaller area? Haven’t the last two months shown that it is possible to work together without everyone needing to sit in the same place? 

Even if the period of working from home and online teaching has largely gone well, we believe that for most of us it has shown that meeting face-to-face has value in itself. The experience suggests that many people miss meeting students, colleagues, work partners and the people of our city on our campuses. 

Risk and vulnerability analyses are carried out in all construction projects. This takes place regularly during the planning and regulatory phase (which the project for a unified campus is currently in) and before the start of construction (2024 at the earliest). In such analyses, one must also look at whether the areas are designed to handle future pandemics.  Management of the coronavirus situation has also taught us that it is possible to run a university with a mix of online and physical presence.

47. What will NTNU do to acknowledge and compensate for the harm that has been inflicted on students, PhD candidates and employees by the lockdown?

There is no doubt that the lockdown of the campuses and the introduction of online teaching and working from home have created a demanding situation for many people. Students and staff who were abroad had to cancel their trip and return home. Research projects have been cancelled and business partners are weighing up whether they can afford to carry on buying research from us. Calculated in kroner, it is estimated that the crisis may cost NTNU about NOK 100 million this year, but it is still too early to present a final calculation.

At the same time, this is after all a situation that has had an impact on the whole of Norwegian society and much of the rest of the world.None of us who are living now have experienced a similar pandemic. So it is difficult to envision that we in NTNU will escape all of the adverse effects. We must also expect to shoulder our share of the negative effects.

It was not easy to close NTNU, and it is almost as demanding to reopen the campuses gradually.This op-ed article in Adresseavisen by Siri Forsmo, Torstein Baade Rø and Björn Gustafsson (in Norwegian) provides a good description of the dilemmas we are facing in our response to the crisis.

Employees at NTNU have not been furloughed and must in that sense be regarded as better off than many people in the private sector. A number of measures of also been launched to make the situation easier, including actions based on risk analyses to identify problems and minimize the extent of harm. Substantial resources have been used to facilitate online teaching, PhD candidates can apply for extension/postponed submission of their thesis, and flexible working-hour arrangements have been put in place to enable staff to work from home. Have we done enough and been generous enough? We will probably get answers to this in a future evaluation of what has happened in this extraordinary year of 2020.

 


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