WKU administration responds to COVID-19 questions in Staff Senate meeting

Leo Bertucci

The WKU Staff Senate came together for a Wednesday meeting on Zoom with several university administrators to answer previously answered questions about WKU’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the questions that were answered were provided to the staff senators via email and text messaging.

Staff senators and WKU administrators attempted to clarify whether or not university employees can receive a COVID-19 test if they are not feeling symptoms of the virus. Staff Regent David Brinkley gave WKU’s response after contacting David Oliver, the Environmental Health and Safety director.

“My understanding from what he said on the phone to me was that if you are asymptomatic but feel (like) you need a test, you can get one,” Brinkley said. “Graves Gilbert (Clinic) will determine what type of test (you will need).”

Bob Skipper, director of media relations, said that he was told by Graves Gilbert Clinic CEO Chris Thorn that GGC will not refuse to give a COVID-19 test to those who want one.

During the Staff Senate meeting, John-Mark Francis, WKU’s marketing director, announced that there would be an addition to WKU’s statement on COVID-19 testing on the Healthy on the Hill website.

“Individuals who wish to receive a (polymerase chain reaction) test, regardless of whether the above criteria are met, should contact their health provider,” the added statement reads. “Graves Gilbert Clinic will administer tests to individuals requesting a PCR test.”

During the meeting, Brinkley read a question he had received about why the Board of Regents is voting to accept promotions for employees while WKU goes through a promotion freeze. Brinkley said the promotions being brought forth before the Board of Regents are post action approvals that stem from the previous fiscal year.

“So sometimes there will be salary increases or promotions that appear like they’re taking place in the current fiscal year, in the restricted climate, when in reality those are approvals that the board (is) doing after the fact that for some reason weren’t in front of us in advance,” Brinkley said.

Rebekah Russell, the budget and finance manager, said that the current promotion and hiring freeze will be reevaluated sometime during the middle of the current fiscal year.

Susan Howarth, the executive vice president of Strategy, Operations, and Finance, answered the final question of the meeting, which was about what a WKU employee should do if they needed to stay home to care for a child who is participating in non-traditional learning.

“We just have to be as flexible and as nimble as we can be,” Howarth said. “We also have to take care of each other. I think that’s just really important that as a supervisor, if you have an employee that’s scared, you have to be sensitive to that.”

Haworth said that WKU staff members will soon be able to fill out a staff accommodation form if they have a need that requires them to work remotely more often than usual.

In other business, Staff Senate Chair Mike Loftis announced that WKU has received 160 requests for personal protective equipment from multiple university departments. WKU has also delivered a total of 2,822 reusable face masks to university employees.

Chief Facilities Officer Bryan Russell said that his team is responding to PPE requests from multiple departments.

“We are distributing every day and just since last week we’ve gotten 28 requests more requests,” Russell said. “We’re pivoting and being nimble.”