Carnegie Mellon University

COVID-19 Updates

Information and resources for the CMU community

Scotty with mask and vaccination bandaid
March 19, 2020

Next Phase: Transition to Remote Research Operations and Other Campus Changes

Dear Members of the CMU Community:

Last week we announced the decision to move all educational instruction to remote delivery, with online classes beginning yesterday, and we have continued to advance efforts across the university to promote social distancing and protect our community. I wish to thank all faculty, students and staff for your perseverance, creativity and hard work during this transition.

This has been a time of tremendous transition and has been difficult for all of us, but I am confident we can continue to work together to take the necessary precautions while also safeguarding the strength of our mission and the bonds of our communities around the world.

Today, to continue to be proactive in this fast-moving situation, we are beginning the next phase of our efforts to slow the potential for community spread of COVID-19. This includes modifications to research operations and certain services to minimize the number of people on campus and adhere to social-distancing guidelines.

While campus is not closed, we want everyone who can work remotely — faculty, students and staff — to do so. This is the motivation behind all of the steps we are announcing today.

Unless otherwise noted, the following principles apply to all Carnegie Mellon locations. Further details specific to individual campuses or locations will be sent in the coming days.

Remote Research Operations

As soon as is practicable and no later than Wednesday, March 25 at 5 p.m. local time, we are moving all research activities to remote operations. Where that is not possible, on-campus research activities will be placed on hold and replaced with related off-campus work through at least the end of April.

Through our ongoing contingency planning process, we have been working with CMU leadership to understand the activities that must be maintained to ensure health and safety and to minimize as best as possible the disruption to ongoing research programs. As such, only very specific functions including sustaining living organisms and perishable specimens and maintaining the facilities and equipment necessary to allow remote operation, will be permitted. A communication to the research community providing more details on the specific activities that will be permitted will follow later today and will be posted on the OVPR website.

Executing this will take creativity, flexibility and transparency on the part of our deans, department heads, graduate students and research staff, as well as the counsel and guidance of Vice President for Research Michael McQuade and Provost Jim Garrett. We have been preparing for this possibility for some time and believe that the coming days will give researchers the needed time to execute this move to remote operation.

Student Workers

I know there are some students who may feel they need to weigh the financial cost of studying remotely due to their on-campus job. Student safety is our primary concern and your campus employment should< not factor into your decision to stay on campus. We will support all student workers in finding alternative remote assignments or, if that is not possible, we will help to arrange other financial support for students as needed. More information will be provided by Provost Garrett and Dean Gina Casalegno in a follow-up communication.

Staff Remote Work

We are committed to working creatively with all supervisors and employees (other than employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement), including hourly workers, to support them in performing remote work this semester. For those employees (other than employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement) whose current positions do not allow for remote work, it is our intention to find work that can be done remotely through the end of this academic year, after which time we hope to resume our normal operations. In the event remote work is not possible, we will work with those employees on a case by case basis to try and address their situation, so they are able to earn their compensation. Human Resources will follow up with more information for all employees, including those covered by a collective bargaining agreement, in a forthcoming message.

Closing of University Libraries

All University Libraries will close Friday at 6 p.m. local time. While each location will be physically closed, librarians will continue their work to support the CMU community with remote teaching and research.

Dining and Other Campus Services in Pittsburgh

In alignment with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s directive to limit restaurants to take-out service, all open CMU dining facilities on the Pittsburgh campus have already transitioned to take-out only. Further changes will be announced in a forthcoming message from Provost Garrett and Dean Casalegno. All residential students who remain living on campus will have dining services available to them, albeit in a reduced capacity.

While we will continue to maintain limited housing, dining and other critical functions – such as University Health and Counseling Services – to meet the needs of the students who cannot finish their semester remotely, several other Pittsburgh campus services are also being modified to adhere to new guidance aimed at enhancing social distancing. More detailed information is forthcoming from Provost Garrett and Dean Casalegno.

Facilities and University Police

Especially during this time, we are committed to maintaining safety and security on campus with a fully staffed University Police Department. In addition, as remote instruction gets underway and with many community members working from home, exterior doors to CMU buildings are transitioning to card-key access, where possible. You will need to swipe your CMU ID to enter the building. To enter buildings not capable of card-key access, you will need to seek the assistance of University Police and show them your CMU ID. Officers will be increasing their presence to assist with access and other matters.

I want to reemphasize two important reminders. First, it is imperative to adhere to social-distancing guidelines — keep six feet (two meters) of distance between you and others at all times. Second, please continue to visit CMU’s coronavirus website for the most updated information.

I have typically ended messages to campus during difficult times by encouraging you to take care of one another. Today, I wish to leave you with a different message, inspired by the words of United States Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, who recently advised citizens to be “acting as if we have the virus.” Each and every one of us should be modifying our personal behavior with the assumption that keeping our distance from others is the most powerful way we can protect our loved ones and our communities.

This is a global call to action, and I urge you to do your part. Stay at home. Stay safe. And be well.


Farnam Jahanian
Henry L. Hillman Chair