Thank you for your patience as we work to keep you informed on the latest information available from the state of Texas and The Texas A&M University System. This week Governor Abbot issued Executive Order GA-14, which tightens efforts to reduce further exposure of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. Today we want to update you on the impact of this executive order, as well as a few additional operational items for your awareness.
Executive Order GA-14
Executive Order GA-14 allows only essential services in the state until April 30, 2020, and requires many businesses to close or severely limit operations. Unlike the various local orders that have been issued by cities and counties across the state over the past 7-10 days, The Texas A&M University System and its member institutions and agencies are legally obligated to comply with the Governor’s order.
A few key points from GA-14:
- All individuals may leave their residences to (a) access essential services, (b) engage in daily essential activities (grocery shopping), (c) provide essential services, and (d) engage in outdoor activities, so long as necessary precautions are taken.
- The Governor’s order specifies that “all government entities…should be allowed to continue providing essential services” and also includes colleges and universities on the list of essential services that may continue to operate “for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing other essential functions.”
Given staffing guidance that has already been implemented (operating with only essential personnel in the workplace, observing social distancing in the workplace, ensuring that enhanced custodial and hygiene practices are used, providing online instruction only, and most employees working from home), this executive order does not impact our current operating measures (with the exception of AgriLife Research).
AgriLife Research views research as an essential operation, however, the GA-14 order and the evolving pandemic situation requires additional scrutiny and adjustment of our mission essential activities so that we do not contribute to the spread of the virus.
We are asking all AgriLife PIs who intend to continue essential research to inform their immediate supervisors (e.g. Department Heads, Center Directors) and seek approval to conduct that research through this online form. Unit leaders have the delegated authority to approve or suspend all proposed research activity. All research activities that are not approved as being essential, and that cannot be carried out remotely, must be suspended. The AgriLife Research Director will provide oversight and review all research individual units approve as essential. Additional information and guidance can be found on the AgriLife Research website.
Impacts to Federal Funding Agencies / Grant Opportunities
This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) posted a frequently asked questions document regarding impacts of the COVID-19 emergency on NIFA. This FAQ document includes updates to deadlines for USDA NIFA applications, awards, and administrative relief for recipients of ongoing projects impacted by COVID-19 due to loss of operations. When in doubt or if you have a program specific question not covered by NIFA’s FAQ, please contact the National Program Leader listed as contact for your program. For questions about awards, please contact NIFA firstname.lastname@example.org to consult with a grant specialist.
Updates related to COVID-19 impacts from other Federal Funding Agencies can be found in the following link provided by the Council on Government Relations: https://www.cogr.edu/institutional-and-agency-responses-covid-19-and-additional-resources
Additionally, current federal agency COVID-19 funding opportunities can be found at:https://cers.tamu.edu/funding-opportunity-news/.
Because of the disruption in work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas A&M University is providing tenure-track faculty, upon request, a one-year extension of the “tenure clock” whose mandatory tenure review is during the 2020-21 academic year. An extension must be requested by May 31, 2020, and follow the process described on the DOF website.
AgriLife Research is extending the same courtesy to Assistant and Associate Professors whose mandatory promotion review was to occur the next fiscal year. The agency will grant, upon request, a one-year extension. Such extension must be made by completing a form that will soon be available on the Administrative Services website. This form should be routed for approvals by close of business on May 31, 2020.
All other Assistant and Associate Professors will remain with their scheduled promotion clock. For those who are due for a mid-term review (3rd year review) as Assistant Professors, we have pushed the review by the college and AgriLife P&T committee to mid-summer. Departments must submit midterm dossiers to the college for initial review by June 19.
In closing, I know these are challenging times. Many of you are working remotely, balancing the demands of work life and home life while coronavirus remains a concern. Please know that we understand and appreciate your extraordinary efforts. We cannot succeed without the outstanding contributions put forth by each of you so please continue on with the assurance that you have our complete support. Further, if you have thoughts and ideas about how we can better assist you during this time, please send them directly to my attention at email@example.com.
Working together we will overcome this trying period in our history and emerge stronger and better prepared to meet the many challenges facing our state, nation and world.
For the latest information, please visit https://agrilife.org/coronavirus/.
Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor, Texas A&M AgriLife
Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Director, Texas A&M AgriLife Research