Tuminez explains campus updates in presidential forum

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Utah Valley University’s recent vaccine mandate stems from the school’s responsibility to protect students, and is an important safety measure to allow campus life to continue in person, said President Astrid Tuminez in the first “Talk with Tuminez” forum of the semester. 

“The first thing I want to say is this pandemic has created … a fluid situation,” Tuminez said. “To be fluid in many ways and adjust in many ways is not always easy … The responsibility to keep campus safe is up to all of us.”

“COVID-19 vaccines are our greatest means of ensuring in-person classes and activities continue without disruption,” states UVU’s most recent Campus Update from campus leadership. “Beginning September 13, a vaccination status questionnaire will be available when you log in to your myUVU student portal. It is a brief form to declare your vaccination status or file for an exemption, in accordance with state law, based on religious, medical, or personal reasons. Please complete the form immediately. It will be available during three login attempts. If it is not completed after the third login to myUVU, you will be temporarily locked out of the portal until the vaccination record is completed.” See this article by The Review for more details on the recent vaccine mandate.

Tuminez was accompanied by several guests throughout the event including; Wayne Vaught, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, Kyle Reyes, vice president of student affairs, Marilyn Meyer, vice president of people and culture and Val Peterson, vice president of administration and strategic relations. Each of these guests assisted Tuminez in addressing questions and concerns from the UVU community that were submitted in advance, including the closure of the Testing Center, pay scale changes and remote work options.

In response to concerns over upcoming tenure applications, in light of the difficulties presented by the pandemic, Vaught encouraged faculty who are concerned to “apply for an extension.” He also addressed the recent closure of the Testing Center by saying “[It] was very expensive. Its utilization wasn’t where it really needed to be to justify those costs.” There were several reasons to motivate the decision, he said, one of them being that curriculum is delivered within designated course hours. The final decision was made clear as he confirmed, “We are not creating a new central testing center.”

Reyes fielded several questions concerning resources available to students, including job fairs and the Wee Care Center. Inquiries about plans for job fairs relevant to disciplines other than business and hospitality were presented to Reyes. He directed those interested to the Career Development Center’s website, noting that specialty fairs are forthcoming. The next event will be the STEM Career & Internship Fair, happening Wednesday, Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the Grande Ballroom. 

When asked whether or not UVU has considered extending the Wee Care Center, Reyes said, “When the Wee Care Center itself was funded and legislatively approved … it was private money.” However, he mentioned Care About Childcare at UVU, a federally subsidized program that connects parents and guardians with the appropriate child caregivers. In response to his comments the program director of Care About Childcare, Joyce Hastings, commented “The subsidy mentioned comes from [the] Department of Workforce Services (DWS). We do not provide the subsidy but connect you with those that can help you.” 

More information about resources available to UVU students with children can be found here

Questions concerning recent pay grade changes and remote work were answered by Meyer. According to Human Resources’ FAQ sheet, “Beginning July 1, 2021, through the application of cost-of-living adjustment (2.3%) and additional funding, employees will earn no less than $12.75 per hour. This change necessitated an adjustment to UVU’s non-exempt and hourly staff pay scales.“ After mentioning this change, Meyer noted that pay grades 7-10 were eliminated and their positions moved into higher-paying grades “because we don’t want to pay people below this amount.”

In response to concerns about remote work possibilities, Meyer informed employees that “the decision for any employee to work from home resides with the supervisor,” adding that UVU has also made decisions about the possibility of remote work “based on business needs and performance.” Addressing employees in extenuating circumstances, Tuminez noted that escalating is an option. Those who have been met with refusal from the supervisor to work remotely can take it to the next supervisor up the chain of command. 

Peterson addressed questions pertaining to construction, new restaurants and watering practices on campus. For monthly updates on construction, one can check Pardon Our Dust, or follow @UVU_Facilities on Twitter for immediate or new developments. When asked how new restaurants are selected, Peterson said, “we utilize faculty / staff surveys and student surveys to determine which restaurants we want to approach.” He went on to say, “As you look at the new options we have … we think we’ll cover all the food genres across campus, and we’re excited about those but we won’t see those until January.” More information about current and upcoming food options on campus can be found here

After an inquiry as to “why UVU is watering concrete and dead grass in the midst of a historic drought,” Peterson responded, “We are following the governor’s executive order and we’re only watering campus two times per week. Campus is divided into four zones, and we water two zones each day … If you do see us watering concrete, that’s something we’re trying to eliminate right now. We’d love you to call facilities at (801) 863-8130 and let them know where you’re seeing watering on concrete.” UVU is also adding more rock in addition to green spaces to increase xeriscaping on campus. 

Additional guests included Dean Saeed Moaveni from the College of Engineering and Technology, Dr. Hilary Hungerford, Faculty Senate president, and several UVU students: Karen Magana-Aguado (UVUSA president), Cheyenne Peckham (SkillsUSA champion), Jackson Wilde (a student leader in engineering and artificial intelligence) and Amanda Schneck (a freshman who graduated from UVU’s MTECH program).

In her closing remarks, Tuminez related Hillel the Elder’s ethic of reciprocity — or the “Golden Rule” — to the UVU community’s current position and ongoing mission. 

“As we begin an academic year … as we build our community, as we focus on exceptional care, exceptional accountability, [we get] exceptional results,” Tuminez said. “As we fail sometimes and succeed more often…we may agree and disagree, but great institutions are built because we can subscribe to a principle like this: that we treat one another well and with care, the rest is commentary. We will achieve great things.” 

A recording of the event can be accessed here. The next Talk with Tuminez is expected to occur in November.