Gatepost Interview – Dale Hamel: Executive Vice President

How has COVID-19 impacted your work?

This crisis has impacted every aspect of people’s lives. Like most others, I have been working from home except for matters that require on-site management as well as for certain instances where original signatures are still being required on contracts. We have all become “Zoom masters” and I spend hours of my day in such meetings. Further, emails have exploded due to the inefficiency of not being able to meet in person and just the pure volume of issues that need to be addressed related to the crisis.

What is your role in keeping the University running?

My responsibilities include oversight of Fiscal Affairs, Facilities, Human Resources, Athletics, Campus Police, and ITS. Each of these departments has been responding to changes in operations and the need to continue to provide services to the campus community.

Do you have more work than you normally do?

We all have. It has been nonstop since the advent of the crisis. In addition, accomplishing the work is more difficult and is further complicated by the fact that the situation continues to evolve. Those changing conditions make managing difficult and complicate future planning.

Have you faced any major challenges in the past few weeks or months?

We have had to renegotiate a number of contracts and alter various projects’ implementation and these have proven challenging as we are working with vendors who are also under duress. Beyond these operational issues, there is significant concern regarding the fiscal impact of this situation on the University. The situation already has cost the institution millions of dollars as we have reimbursed students for housing, dining, and parking costs through the remainder of the spring semester. In addition, there have been significant expenses associated with supporting movement to remote instruction. We are also modeling various scenarios that we might be facing for the fall semester and how the timing of reopening campus and alternative potential delivery modes might impact enrollment while at the same time recognizing that budgets that had been developed will assuredly be impacted by decreases in state funding for the next fiscal year. This will continue to be a challenging environment for further budget development.

What advice do you have for students?

We all recognize that this is an unusual and trying time and it has been difficult on every individual and family. My daughter is a college senior, so I see the frustration and disappointment that this situation is causing in addition to the typical anxiety for those in this period of transition. My son, who graduated two years ago and was “living the dream” of being on his own with a good paycheck, was furloughed in response to the crisis and made the rational, but difficult, decision to move back home, and I see the restlessness this situation has caused. Despite the challenges, I also see resiliency and hope. At dinner, we share a “rose and thorn” of our day, and while early on in the crisis, the responses were very focused on matters that were causing disappointment and anxiety recently, the sentiments have been more about future plans. My daughter speaks about plans for after graduation, and my son recently received notice that he will be recalled to work in May. That ability to look to the future, while addressing the responsibilities and difficulties of the current situation, is needed, so I would have the following message for our students (with apologies to the British): “Stay hopeful and carry on.”  

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