Return to campus guidance and protocol updates

Dear Colleagues,

Ohio State’s faculty and staff — including our graduate student employees — are at the core of our ability to deliver on Ohio State’s mission, and you will play a central role in the success of our reactivated campuses.

On behalf of all of our leaders, I appreciate your many contributions over the past year, whether you were working on campus, in the medical center, from home or in a hybrid situation. With wide availability of vaccines and continued safety protocols, it will be exciting to see many more of you in person as preparations continue for autumn semester, which begins August 24.

Today, I am pleased to share our philosophy and expectations and to address key questions that we have heard about this reactivation process — recognizing that some faculty, staff and graduate students have been working in person during the entire pandemic.

Given the size and complexity of Ohio State, there will not be a one-size-fits-all answer to address what work will look like during the reactivation process.  A common principle will guide our approach that “We will combine the power of our residential, in-person experiences with what we have learned about ourselves and our operations in the course of the pandemic to emerge as a transformed university. In short, reactivated Ohio State campuses will be even more impactful than they were before the pandemic.”

To address common questions:

  • Will employees be required to work in person? Many employees will be expected to work on our campuses to support our mission as a national research and education leader and academic health center. Using a common framework from the Office of Human Resources, leaders in your area will be making decisions about work responsibilities based on the mission and needs of your college or area as well as the roles of individual employees. 
  • Will telework or flexible schedules be allowed? This will be determined by individual colleges and areas based on the needs and mission of your area. There are certainly some circumstances where telework or flexible work schedules will be appropriate.
  • When will we learn the plan for our area? Leaders of each major Ohio State area — deans for college and regional campuses, vice presidents or senior vice presidents of university support units, and senior leaders in the Wexner Medical Center — are expected to finalize their plans by July 15. The HR website offers detailed planning tools for managers and leaders. We do not envision that each front-line manager would be responsible for creating a plan for their individual team.
  • How much time will I have to prepare to return? Where possible, managers will provide at least 30 days’ notice before asking faculty and staff to return to campus. Some individuals may return more quickly — if managers determine that workspaces and operations are in place to support them. Autumn classes begin August 24, so our plans for in-person work must reflect that timing.
  • What health measures are required to return? We continue to respond to changes in public health guidance. For fully vaccinated people, masks are no longer required on Ohio State’s campuses except for in Wexner Medical Center facilities and on public transportation – in accordance with public health guidelines. Fully vaccinated individuals are also no longer required to physically distance. Individuals who are not vaccinated are required to continue wearing masks indoors and physically distancing at all times. More broadly, employees must follow all expectations listed on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website, which will continue to be updated as protocols evolve with updated health guidance. At the Wexner Medical Center, there are additional safety measures and masking guidance in place. Vaccination is strongly encouraged for everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated. It is not required. Vaccines protect you and those around you, and a high vaccination rate will allow our campuses to more fully return to “normal” activities.

To continue refining our overall public health response, the university is asking employees to voluntarily share their vaccine information by completing this simple form. This information will be used for contact tracing, isolating/quarantining or other individual case decisions in the event of a COVID-19 exposure, as aggregate data to determine the percentage of vaccinated Ohio State students, faculty and staff, and to drive decisions on public health measures needed for the Ohio State community.

I acknowledge there are many perspectives on the reactivation of campuses. Individuals have specific questions about what their workplace will be like when they return. Please continue to use the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website for the latest information about the university’s approach.

Our guidance will continue to evolve based on science, data and expertise of public health leaders, and we want to be clear that our focus will not change. The safety of our campus community is always the university’s top priority and preparing to reactivate our campuses is based on evidence that supports our return.

Thank you for your commitment to our community. You will be hearing from leaders of your college or area as plans evolve.


Paul N. Patton
Senior Advisor to the President
Interim Senior Vice President, Talent, Culture and Human Resources