Current Information about the Coronavirus - Rector's Appeal
In lieu of the current developments regarding the SARS-CoV-2 virus ("Coronavirus"), we would like to inform you accordingly.
UPDATE October 14
Over the past few days, we have received an increasing number of employee inquiries regarding conduct in the event of potential exposure to the coronavirus, particularly if a minor-aged child in the household tests positive for the coronavirus - or there is strong reason to suspect potential exposure to the coronavirus but the test results are not yet back. These employees are in a particularly difficult predicament and as an employer, the JKU would naturally like to address the issue. In this regard, the following directives apply, effective immediately:
1. If an employee has been issued a quarantine order (as a contact person), this employee can and may work only from home during the designated quarantine period.
2. If the employee’s minor-aged child has tested positive but the parents have not (yet) been issued a quarantine order, the employee involved should work from home. Once a quarantine order has been issued, see Pt. 1.
3.If the employee’s child has not yet been tested but there is reason to suspect a coronavirus infection as the child displays symptoms and/or has had close contact with an individual who is infected, the employee is asked to call the 1450 hotline. If no action is deemed necessary, the employee will not be required to work from home. If, however, a test has been ordered for a child, the employee involved should work from home until the test result is available. If the test result is positive, see Pt. 2. If the test result is negative, the employee will not be required to work from home.
4. If a child is to be quarantined without having been tested, the employee involved should also be able to work from home for the period that the child is quarantined.
5. Naturally legal and/or the right to a leave of absence as outlined in the collective agreement remain unaffected in the above-mentioned points (i.e.: employee illness).
Consultation in accord with a direct supervisor(s) is required for each of the above-listed scenarios as well as contacting the JKU Department of Human Resource Management by sending an e-mail to: email@example.com. If a quarantine order has been issued, please e-mail a copy to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that these directives provide information and guidance for parents who work at the JKU and that this information will continue to assure and support safety on campus..
UPDATE July 7
JKU Rector’s Appeal to University Employees and Fellow Countrymen
The Johannes Kepler University fully supports the measures and mandates announced today by the Upper Austrian government. At the same time, JKU Rector Meinhard Lukas would like to appeal to all JKU employees and fellow citizens to once again exercise personal responsibility for themselves, their families, and fellow citizens.
JKU Rector Lukas emphasized: "As scientists and academics, we understand the current seriousness of the situation in Upper Austria. The reproduction rate is currently at 2; a reasonable level is below 1. The rate of infection in our state is rising rapidly every day. If we wish to continue living reasonably free of restrictions, many of us will have to consistently change our current behavior. We all have recent images in our minds of people shaking hands, hugging and sitting close together at restaurants, in public areas, or at home. We need to be honest with ourselves. This is not the way an enlightened society responsibly responds during a pandemic. The potential consequences for a thriving location of education, business, and above all, socially disadvantaged people, are fatal. Closing down the economy would have unforeseeable, far-reaching social and economic consequences. I would like to mention just one example of potential consequences for us. If the situation continues to worsen, over 1800 applicants for the medical program admissions test in August will be unable to take the test."
The JKU aims to fully support the Upper Austrian government’s measures as announced today. JKU Rector Lukas added: "Let’s all buckle down together. Maintain social distancing of one meter from others who do not live in the same household, wear a face mask in enclosed public spaces, and observe hygienic practices. If quarantine is mandated, it is to be observed without any ifs, ands, or buts. Those who knowingly violate these mandates endanger the lives and health of their fellow human beings. This could also result in a criminal conviction. However, we should not adhere to the mandates simply because of the threat of criminal prosecution but rather because of our own sense of responsibility."
UPDATE July 1
The number of new infections in Linz is rising rapidly. At no other time has the number of new infections increased so quickly. In response, today the state government has announced it will close schools in five districts as well as recommend avoiding large events/gatherings and/or canceling them altogether. These measures are in effect up to - and including - July 10.
The JKU cannot, of course, disregard the state government’s assessment of the situation. On-site examinations with well over 100 people were scheduled to take place in the university cafeteria building over the next few days. Despite the well-planned, high level of hygiene and safety practices, we must once again respond quickly to protect our employees and students as well as contribute to reducing the increasing rate of infections.
We will most likely have to be prepared to consistently respond quickly in order to be able to relax the measures again all the more quickly. This means once again potentially switching over from working on campus to once again working from home and vice versa. In regards to these kinds of situations, it is difficult for the Rectorate to provide detailed instructions. Instead, it is much more about action and parameters, inviting individuals to act both responsibly and cautiously. This can be particularly challenging for department heads.
1. Enabling and Recommendations to Work from Home until July 10
In lieu of the current situation, resuming campus operations by July 6, 2020 - as announced in the Rector’s 13th communiqué - will be suspended until July 10, 2020. Instead, beginning tomorrow (July 2, 2020), we will recommend and enable many areas of the JKU to work from home and we recommend working from home until Friday, July 10, 2020. System-relevant activities are excluded from the regulation to work from home. The decision regarding system relevance is the responsibility of the respective department head in coordination with university management.
If employees can be guaranteed sufficient space alone in an office area or in another premise, these employees may voluntarily choose to work on campus. In this regard, it is important to create a schedule and organize shifts to ensure that different groups in the department can work in their workspace separately on certain days and away from others.
Wearing a mask continues to be strongly recommended, particularly in publicly accessible sections of the buildings. In addition, accessibility to all JKU buildings are subject to hours as on weekends, meaning that between Friday, July 3, and up to (and including) July 10, access to building premises (offices, laboratories, workshops, etc.) is restricted to employees who have an authorized access card and/or a key.
2. Laboratory Activities
The regulation to work from home also applies to all laboratories and workshops at the JKU. Operations are to be conducted and adhere to hours as on weekends. Laboratories and workshops should only be used for truly necessary, system-relevant activities. In addition, previous regulations for working at home apply as before. The heads of the respective departments are responsible for assessing individual cases.
3. Teaching and Examinations
The current situation requires that the JKU Linz temporarily suspend on-site teaching and examination activities. This applies to dates for laboratory classes as well as on-site examinations in particular. These unfortunately cannot take place until after July 10. This affects a total of ten on-site examination dates. Course instructors and examiners are requested to contact the Vice-Rectorate of Academic Affairs to either postpone or, if possible, change the examination dates in order to minimize the impact on students. Online education and examinations are to continue without any changes.
We ask you to understand the reasons for swiftly implementing these measures so that we not only protect you, but your families and our fellow citizens as well. Be well and please stay safe!
UPDATE June 10
Although, according to official statistics (as of June 10, 2020 - 12:00 pm), only 422 people in Austria - 27 of them in Upper Austria - are infected with the Sars-CoV-2 virus, recent events have shown just how seriously we must continue adhering to rules of conduct in order to reduce the high risk of infection.
1. Coronavirus Cases at the JKU
Earlier today, we were informed that two employees in the chemistry department tested positive for Sars-CoV-2. Their offices are located in the TN tower. All employees at the involved institutes, as well as other individuals in close proximity, were asked to remain at home over the next 14 days. So far, no symptoms have been observed. After a very assertive discussion with the council for the city of Linz, I have arranged for the institute employees who came into contact with the infected individuals to be tested at short notice.
A member of the janitorial staff has also tested positive. This particular individual is responsible for cleaning the first and second floors at the Science Park 3 building. Fortunately, the risk of infection can be ruled out in this case as this individual has been on holiday. We have contacted and informed the management of the involved institutes accordingly, and we have spoken with the health authorities and Prim. Doz. Lamprecht, head of the Department for Pulmonary Medicine at the Kepler University Hospital. To ensure a direct flow of information, we have spoken with all of the janitorial staff. In lieu of these cases, we once again ask you to observe the rules of conduct and protective measures, particularly social distancing. Even though the mandate requiring face masks to be worn will be lifted to a large extent beginning June 15, 2020, and in-house regulations pertaining to enacted measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus will be lifted, we would like to strongly urge employees to continue to wear protective face masks when in general areas of the university.
Despite relaxing a large portion of the regulations, in regards to teaching and giving examinations during the Summer Semester, as well as for organizational reasons, it is still necessary to continue to conduct the Summer Semester online. Exceptions can include oral examinations as part of subject area and final examinations and courses. These can take place on-site starting July 6 and with the consent of examiners and candidates and all rules of conduct and hygiene regulations (distance, disinfection etc.) must be strictly observed and enforced.
As things currently stand, written “re-try” examinations and/or written examinations for summer courses can be held on-site and locally, meaning outside the University Center, if the examiners wish, and, of course, strictly observing the rules of conduct and hygiene regulations. However, this can only apply to “re-try” exams, meaning it is not possible to postpone an examination normally scheduled at the end of the semester to this time period due to, among other things, the lack of capacity in the lecture halls.
In regards to the upcoming Winter Semester, in addition to a Plan A that includes largely normal on-site operations while observing special hygiene regulations and, after an evaluation process, adopting successful online educational elements, a Plan B containing stricter restrictions is under development. We will inform you about this in more detail as soon as possible.
Your health and your family’s health is important to us and over the past few weeks - and to the greatest extent possible - we have switched JKU operations to allow employees to work from home. In relation to this, the number of employees consuming vacation time has decreased significantly compared to previous years. We would therefore like to once again ask you to use up existing vacation time.
4. Proceed with caution when beginning on-site operations
If possible, smaller offices (< 15 m²) should only be used by one person and, if necessary, additional workstations are to be set up in other rooms (seminar rooms, available meeting rooms, etc.). Continuous ventilation is very important. All department heads are being asked to develop utilization concepts in coordination with university management. Be cautious when using the elevators - especially at the TN Tower – because they are small and it is difficult to air them out, meaning it is possible that coronavirus droplets can remain in the elevator air, posing a risk of infection. If possible, please avoid using the elevators.
As important as it is to continue being cautious when it comes to the Sars-CoV-2 virus in order to protect not only yourself but co-workers as well, it is also necessary to use the month of June to accelerate on-site operations (research and administration) on campus (please see my last communiqué). During June, working from home should gradually become the exception rather than the norm, especially since, as announced, full on-site presence will be required on campus again beginning July 6. This is also important for the university’s external image in the community. Others in Austria were severely affected by the pandemic (short-term work program, unemployment, insolvency, and a widening social gap) and given the current state, we must not give the public the impression that university employees enjoy special privileges, especially now as the pandemic situation is improving.
This kind of false impression would be particularly regrettable because JKU employees were exemplary during this period, going above and beyond in response to the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. This was recently confirmed by the highest authorities at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) during the accompanying budget discussion.
I would like to take this opportunity to pass this compliment on to each and every one of you. On behalf of the Rectorate, thank you for your hard work.
I wish you all the best and stay healthy!
UPDATE May 29
Up to now (as of May 29, 2020 - 1:00 PM), 16,574 people in Austria have tested positive for the Sars-CoV-2 virus. In the meanwhile, 15,347 have recovered. At the moment, 640 people In Austria are infected with Covid-19. Over the past ten days, the number of new cases per day has fluctuated between 20 and 50 people. This positive development is partly due to the consistent lockdown in which we at the JKU also made an important contribution. The risk of infection is currently low. However, at the same time, individual clusters in Germany - as well as in Lower Austria and Vienna - show us that the risk of infection is not yet over. At the moment, authorities do not rule out a second wave during the coming fall.
Therefore, in the interest of our university as well as the interest of our JKU community, we wish to take advantage of the current, very positive developments to return to more regular operations, but also while continuing to observe the necessary hygienic standards.
1. Lab Activities
The rules of conduct and regulations to gradually re-open the campus for research and administrative operations were outlined in a message dated April 22, 2020, and require a few adjustments in lieu of the latest ministries’ specifications and the current Covid-19 numbers. All of the regulations listed in the communiqué of April 22, 2020, remain in effect, however the restriction of 20 m² per person for laboratory activities will be reduced to 10 m² per person. A face shield can also be worn instead of the aforementioned face mask (mouth and nose protection). Loosening these measures will facilitate limited lab operations for instructional purposes beginning June 1, 2020.
2. Office Activities and Working from Home
Arrangements to enable working from home as outlined in the Rector's 12th communiqué as well as in the detailed letter from April 22, 2020, remain in effect until July 5, 2020. Working from home remains an option under the following conditions:
- The employees’ duties and responsibilities in question must be suitable for working from home.
- Current, required operating procedures may not be impaired when approved to work from home.
- A prerequisite to work from home is that the equipment the employee has at his/her disposal must enable him/her to perform his/her job duties outside of the JKU. Any additional technical infrastructure or equipment cannot be issued.
- The employee must be available by telephone during office hours and, at the same time, ensure that he/she can be present at the office within 2 hours.
JKU aims to gradually bring all employees back to the campus over the course of June. Accordingly, operations in June will require larger presence than over the past two months.
On July 5, arrangements to work from home in order to prevent the spread of the virus will end. Beginning July 6, 2020, JKU employees are to be back on campus as long as the situation regarding the infection remains mostly stable.
A top priority at the JKU is, of course, keeping all employees safe during the period in June in which we “re-boot” research and administrative operations and when on-site operations begin on July 6. In this regard, all institute and department heads are requested to create suitable concepts to ensure everyone in the department can work together safely. In this context, requirements as outlined in the "Regulations to Relax COVID Restrictions" - even if not directly applicable to universities - should serve as a guideline (i.e. to maintain a minimum distance of one meter unless the risk of infection can be minimized using the proper protective measures). If additional corresponding protective measures are required in order to minimize the risk of infection, the Department of Facilities Management will be happy to assist you: service-GuT@jku.at.
3. Exemptions for Particularly Vulnerable Individuals
For the time being, regulations for the COVID-19 risk group continue to apply without restriction until the end of June.
4. Employees with Childcare Responsibilities
Now that the schools have re-opened, the situation for employees who have childcare responsibilities will have eased some. Employees can continue working from home until July 5 only under exceptional circumstances and after consulting with university management.
5. Business Travel in Austria and Abroad
In principle, company travel on behalf of the university and within Austria will be permitted beginning June 1, 2020. In regards to international travel, it is advisable to apply for approval only shortly before the trip is scheduled to start as at the moment, it is nearly impossible to predict the concrete situation in the respective country at the time the trip is scheduled to begin. Before booking the trip, clarify in advance whether or not there is still an active travel warning for that particular destination. In this case, the trip should not be booked due to the lack of travel insurance coverage. The university is also unable to cover cancellation fees. The insurance company will also not reimburse the fees to the university. Therefore, at this time we currently advise against making long-term reservations.
6. Classroom Teaching and Examinations
Classroom teaching and examinations are to continue online for the rest of the Summer Semester. Exceptions include non-substitutable education, such as laboratory tutorials, as well as a very restricted examination schedule in order to maintain a high degree of hygiene at the Uni-Center, external offices in Vienna and Bregenz, and, since recently, PC rooms (including newly adapted rooms). This is essential so everyone involved can plan accordingly, especially students in terms of their departure dates. As summer begins, a task force involving a number of universities will develop new guidelines.
As there will be a higher number of planned summer courses, there may be options to hold follow-up examinations or regular examinations on-site to a higher degree in September, if course instructors wish. However, this only applies to follow-up exams during the regular semester, meaning postponing an examination generally scheduled for the end of the semester is not an option due to capacity reasons.
Subsequently, evaluations for online courses held during Summer Semester will be important, among other things, by surveying course instructors, student feedback, analyzing examination data, etc. in order to obtain openly accessible findings for the future and learn from everyone’s experiences over the past semester.
§ 10 COVID-19 Regulations to Relax Measures prohibit events of over 100 people in attendance until June 30, 2020. Beginning July 1, 2020, events with assigned and marked seating are permitted for up to 250 people in an enclosed room and up to 500 people outdoors. As of August 1, 2020, events with assigned and marked seating are permitted for up to 500 people in enclosed rooms and up to 750 people outdoors. Individuals needed in order to hold the event are not included in these maximum attendance numbers.
In regards to events at the university - similar to company business trips - longer-term planning and reservations should be avoided, as potential developments pertaining to the Coronavirus pandemic are unforeseeable.
Personally, I am very much looking forward to seeing our campus in person again – and not online - and experiencing the way our university is flourishing as a place to live and work. Although I have been to the campus every now and again over the past days and weeks for individual appointments or on a walk with my family, I miss the university and our special campus flair. And as I know from many conversations and messages, it is not just me.
See you on campus soon!
UPDATE April 9
It appears that the initial rapid spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is, for the time being, contained. At present, there are more infected people recovering than people becoming infected. According to estimates by experts, the number of people becoming infected is less than one percent. The number of people immune to the virus (at least for a certain period of time) is therefore correspondingly low. However, the current situation is just as dangerous as it was approximately four weeks ago at the beginning of the pandemic. The virus is highly infectious and can spread again quickly.
What has changed is the way we are dealing with the risk of infection. We have learned quite a lot about the virus, have become more aware, and have adjusted our conduct accordingly. Now that we know more, the nation’s systems are beginning to carefully and cautiously return to normal. This also applies to the universities. Science Minister Heinz Faßmann is reiterating a type of "controlled opening". All of us at the Johannes Kepler University have responded with particular attention to the exponential risk of infection. We must not - and do not want to - change our conduct. Your health and the health of those around us continues to remain a priority.
1. Teaching until Summer
Thanks to our faculty’s enormous commitment and dedication, and to the flexibility our students have shown, courses in many areas are currently being held online, enabling students to continue their studies. Recent announcements by the federal government include the following additional requirements to continue teaching and giving examinations:
There will be no in-person classes on campus until June 30. We therefore urgently request that all faculty members continue to offer online courses and conclude them accordingly, i.e. teach the course syllabus and grade students online. Faculty members will receive information about written, digital course examinations in a separate communiqué. For courses containing physical elements that cannot be substituted, such as laboratory tutorials, dates and options as to how these courses can be completed within the semester or during the summer will be announced as soon as possible.
2. Subject Area, Diploma Degree, and Final Examinations
The examination process has now begun with online oral examinations and final examinations. All announced dates for oral subject area and final examinations will remain in place and will be concluded online. A date can only be temporarily cancelled in cases in which an examiner is not available and/or until other or additional capacities can be created. In regard to upcoming examination dates, later dates are currently being arranged and will then be announced, corresponding registrations remain valid, and, as usual, cancellation is possible within the deadline.
Oral subject area and Diploma degree examinations are to continue in the form of video conferencing until the end of the semester in compliance with the criteria outlined by the Vice-Rectorate for Academic Affairs. If there are special, mitigating circumstances that require special consideration - and only based on approval by the Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs - can examinations be held in person in a specially designated room (in which the examiner and candidate are personally present).
Written subject area and Diploma degree examinations will be held on campus starting at the beginning of May. The University Cafeteria building will be adapted accordingly. The examinations will be conducted under strictly imposed hygienic standards which entail a high degree of logistics (controlled entrance and exit area, intensified ventilation, extensive disinfection between examinations, face masks, sufficient supervising staff, etc.) Written subject area or Diploma degree examinations scheduled for April will be postponed until May. The details will be discussed next week during internal meetings that will include the subject area spokespersons, the senate chairperson and deans, the student union, and the academic Works Council. The Vice-Rector of Academic Affairs will then provide additional information.
3. Working on Campus
Regulations to work from home will stay in effect until the end of April. The buildings will remain closed until then, similar as to on a Sunday. If you must come to campus to attend to urgent matters, please inform us by sending an e-mail to email@example.com before you come to campus.
Starting at the beginning of May, the campus will gradually re-open for research and administrative purposes. At the same time, however, and under the following conditions, we want to make working from home possible for the time being until the end of the semester:
• The employees’ duties and responsibilities in question must be suitable for working from home.
• Current, required operating procedures may not be impaired when approved to work from home.
• A prerequisite to work from home is that the equipment the employee has at his/her disposal must enable him/her to perform his/her job duties outside of the JKU. Any additional technical infrastructure or equipment cannot be issued.
• The employee must be available by telephone during office hours and, at the same time, ensure that he/she can be present at the office within 2 hours.
Those wishing to work on campus or those who must work on campus in lieu of required operations need special protection. Until further notice, you may only enter publicly accessible areas of the campus (staircases, corridors, examination rooms, rooms that provide services to students, etc.) wearing a face mask. Also, as there is a high risk of infection in elevators, we ask that – in as much as is possible or reasonable - to please take the stairs. A separate usage concept is currently being devised for this purpose. Cleaning and ventilation concepts will be adjusted accordingly to current hygienic requirements.
If more than one person was working in an office, laboratory, etc., the head of the organizational unit must develop special utilization concepts in coordination with the Rectorate and with operations management. In coordination with Operations Management, seminar rooms and meeting rooms can be temporarily used as offices. The concrete implementation will be coordinated next week with the subject area spokespersons and the respective works councils. We will then provide additional information.
4. Exemptions for Particularly Vulnerable Individuals
Under certain conditions, those in the high-risk COVID-19 group are entitled to time off work with continued remuneration. The risk group is defined by a group of experts appointed by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labor, Family and Youth. This definition has not yet been drafted. At the moment, medical confirmation issued by physicians is invalid. We ask that you please do not yet contact your attending physician until the official definition has been issued. You should receive information from the BVA.
If those concerned submit the corresponding COVID-19 risk confirmation, he/she is entitled to be exempt from the workplace with continued remuneration, unless he/she can perform his/her job duties and responsibilities from home (home office) or the conditions to perform his/her job in the workplace can be arranged by implementing appropriate measures in such a way that the risk of a COVID-19 infection is ruled out to the greatest possible certainty; measures to travel to the workplace must also be included. As soon as the details are available, we will send out more precise information.
5. Employees who have Family Care Responsibilities
Although schools are still not open, the government has not extended the childcare exemptions for children up to the age of 14. In many cases, the three-week period that had been granted will be used up by now. Until further notice, employees affected by these conditions will be given the following options:
• Initially, please use up any compensation time and/or any available vacation time from the previous year.
• Under this condition, working from home is an option, taking into account that children up to the age of 14 must be cared for at home since the schools are currently closed. Therefore, the special childcare situation will be taken into account when it comes to work responsibilities.
• This option ends at the beginning of the summer holidays, and even before that if school opens.
• Employees who wish to make use of this option are requested to send an informal request to the Department of Human Resource Management in coordination with the head of their organizational unit.
6. Library Services
Beginning Tuesday, April 14, 2020, students will once again be able to check out books at the library. Books at the main campus library, the Juridicum law library, and subject area libraries can be ordered online using LISSS and, after being notified by e-mail, can be picked up Monday to Friday from 9.00 am - 1.00 pm at the 24/7 Study Zone at the main campus library. If you have any questions, please send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to thank you for your commitment as well as your flexibility during this challenging time. Hang in there and stay healthy.
UPDATE March 26
6,398 people in Austria have become infected with COVID 19 and the current death toll is at 49 (last update today at 3:00 pm). Unfortunately, there is a direct connection between the number of infections, the number of intensive care patients, and the number of deaths. In addition, our healthcare system is becoming increasingly strained and, as we have seen in Italy and Spain, at some point this will influence mortality rates on a massive scale. In other words: those who prevent infections save lives! This is why, over the past weeks, we have been appealing to you to maintain (physical) social distancing and reduce social contacts to a minimum. This is also the JKU’s ultimate goal in regards to university operations.
1. Registered Infections
Three other university employees have unfortunately been affected by the virus: an employee at the International Office, an employee at the Department of Business Informatics, and a student employee at the Faculty of Medicine. Naturally we immediately informed everyone in each person’s circle of contact and took the necessary measures. Our reconstructed timeline of contact to others shows that in all three cases, the risk of infection on campus was extremely low. In total, we have received 7 reports of infection at the JKU. We wish all of those affected a speedy recovery!
2. Access to the Workplace
Unless explicitly otherwise regulated for individual cases, we urgently appeal to all employees to continue working from home until further notice. This is for your own protection, the protection of your families, and to protect the general public. Only if absolutely necessary, you can go to your workplace on campus to conduct any crucial tasks for as short a time period as possible. However, in an effort to ensure a number of people are not accumulating in individual areas, we ask that before you come to campus to address any urgent matters, please send an e-mail to: email@example.com to let us know when you will be on campus.
3. Leave for Childcare Responsibilities
Based on the current legal situation, leave to care for children up to the age of 14 due to closed schools, kindergartens, and crèches can be granted for up to three weeks. At the JKU we have, of course, made full use of this option. In many cases, the three-week period mentioned above will be used up by the beginning of the Easter break (April 4) as schools have been closed since March 16. Regardless, it is generally not an option to take advantage of this type of childcare leave during the Easter break week, especially as childcare would have been necessary even without the precautionary COVID-19 measures.
The federal government has announced that schools could remain closed until even after the Easter break. We are assuming that the federal government will issue supplementary regulations about leave for childcare. Should this not be the case, we will work on an internal JKU solution.
4. Holiday Leave
As we have emphasized, your health and your family’s health is of particular importance to us. This is the reason that – to the greatest extent possible - we have changed operations at the JKU to enable you to work from home. In some areas at the JKU, our consistent approach to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus can – almost unavoidably - lead to a reduced workload. In these cases in particular, but also to all other employees, we would like to appeal to you to think about using up any compensatory time and/or using available holiday time (despite the current stay-home order) as a sense of solidarity and overall responsibility. If leave is accumulated at a publicly financed institution that is currently granting its employees permission to work from home, it would send a bad signal to many who are now facing dismissals or the short-time work scheme.
5. Digital Examinations
In coordination with the faculties, the Vice-Rectorate for Academic Affairs has developed a digital concept to hold oral and final subject area examinations using Zoom. This option also guarantees public accessibility, which is required by law. Based on this, the corresponding oral examinations can be resumed shortly. In regards to oral and final subject area examinations suspended due to precautionary Coronavirus measures, a new date will be arranged in the near future. If the examiner and candidate agree, the minimum 14-day registration period for final oral examinations may be waived in which case, the period may be reduced to 3 working days. The Vice-Rectorate for Academic Affairs will soon send additional information.
All written subject area and final examinations are suspended and corresponding dates are cancelled. Grading for individual courses - as grades can be determined separately by the respective course instructor – remain unaffected. In this regard, we would like to take this opportunity to thank our faculty members and instructors for their high level of willingness to provide our students with online learning opportunities using many innovative concepts and solutions. At the same time, we would like to thank our students for their flexibility and understanding during this unprecedented situation.
We also urge all faculty members and instructors to adjust their course planning to maintain current measures for some time. In the students’ fundamental interest, we must search out and offer ways to ensure and review learning goals. Cancelling or postponing sections of a course can only be considered in exceptional cases as this, in addition to continuing uncertainty, brings a risk of a work overload toward the end of the semester.
6. Social Services by Students
There is a plan to waive tuition fees for students hindered from studying for more than two months during Summer Semester 2020 due to providing emergency services, performing postponed military service, or engaging in additional alternative civil service. We will provide information in the Newsletter as soon as the corresponding regulation has been passed.
In order to and in some way compensate our students’ impressive voluntary contributions, such answering the nationwide Coronavirus hotline 1450 during the current situation, we have created an opportunity for these students to earn up to 5 ECTS credits toward fulfilling autonomous coursework requirements. The prerequisites include voluntary work with a corresponding organization that can also confirm the number of worked hours. The existing regulations for voluntary work (fire and rescue services) remain, of course, upright and valid.
7. Continuing Committee Work
We ask all employees currently active in committees or commissions to, despite the current restrictions, continue their work to the greatest extent possible via circular resolutions or with the aid of "Zoom" video-conferencing software. This is the only way to ensure taking and continuing the necessary decision-making processes and faculty appointment procedures. We would also like to take this opportunity to expressly thank Senate members, above all Chairman Prof. Mössenböck and the Senate Office, for their outstanding cooperation.
8. JKU Expertise to Fight the Coronavirus
As part of the last communiqué, we called for JKU contributions to use scientific and academic expertise to help overcome the Coronavirus crisis. We were impressed by the response. In the field of biophysics and general medicine, work is currently underway to make PCR infrastructure available to test for the Coronavirus. In medical mathematics, research is being conducted on prognosis models to be able to assess consequences any additional precautionary measures would have as well as when the time comes to ease measures. In material sciences, 3D printers are being used to test necessary medical technology products. The chemistry department has immediately agreed to produce disinfectants. Artificial Intelligence in the field of computer science is being used to test 1 billion molecules for any effectiveness against the Coronavirus. Thank you very much for the support in the fight against the Coronavirus.
Hang in there and stay healthy!
UPDATE March 19
This is now our 10th communiqué regarding the Coronavirus crisis. Once again, we would like to please have your attention.
1. Thank You!
It is more than high time to once again say thank you to each and every one of you. It is simply wonderful to see the way you are meeting the enormous challenges not only in education, learning, and in research, but also administratively. The JKU is most certainly a role model for the way campus operations were closed down and then made available again, being managed from home. Additionally you have your special duties and responsibilities as well as being worried about your family and your circle of friends. The way you have mastered it all is truly impressive. With this attitude and commitment, we will be able to manage this crisis longer.
At this moment, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to everyone maintaining necessary university operations and the required infrastructure directly on campus. This is an extraordinary achievement under these circumstances. I would also like to commend our medical students who volunteer by answering the nationwide Coronavirus hotline 1450. And I would also like to mention one person by name: Prim. Doz. Dr. Bernd Lamprecht, Vice-Dean of our Faculty of Medicine and Head of Pulmonary Medicine at Kepler University Hospital. His support for the JKU crisis team during the past 14 days has been indispensable. As a leading expert in Upper Austria, he has also been invaluable helping us address the cases regarding those affected at the JKU. Many thanks!
2. Internal Communication / Video Conferencing Software Zoom
At the moment, there is a lot of talk about "social distancing". We would like to encourage you to understand "social distancing" in terms of "physical distancing". As important as physical distancing is, social contact without meeting physically is just as important. In order support this as best we can, university management is making the campus license for “Zoom”, video conferencing software, available to all JKU students and employees. Information about activating your Zoom account and how it technically works will be sent separately in an upcoming newsletter.
Take advantage of this and other technical tools to exchange information regularly within your team, organize project meetings, meet virtually for morning updates or joint coffee breaks, conduct courses, and for students, create study and discussion groups.
In order to strengthen communication from the university’s side as well, you will soon receive special employee and student newsletters with more frequency. We will keep you fully informed.
3. Childcare Leave
Employees who have childcare responsibilities for children up to age 14 due to the closure of crèches, kindergartens, and schools will be granted extended leave quickly and without unnecessary bureaucracy as before. Please contact the Department of Human Resource Management with the involvement of a supervisor) by sending a brief electronic message.
4. Another Case of the Coronavirus at the JKU
A student in the MMJus program tested positive for the Coronavirus. This student is studying exclusively in Vienna and had no contact with anyone at the JKU during the relevant period.
5. Consequences for Serious Student Misconduct
Our students play a key role in containing the spread of the Coronavirus. For their own protection - and the protection of others - they generally adhere to the valid and applicable guidelines. However, a few still fail to recognize the seriousness of this situation. For example, only yesterday there was a student party in which over 15 students got together and socialized in a small space.
This kind of behavior endangers university employees and third parties. Accordingly university management will not hesitate to apply section 68(1)(8) of the Austrian Universities Act to this and any other similar cases. According to this statute, the Rectorate may dis-enroll students from the university if they perpetually or seriously endanger others. Aside from this and in regards to exchange students, JKU university management will also notify the student’s home university.
6. Call to Help Manage the Coronavirus Crisis
I would like to ask you to please think of how - or in what areas - you could be actively involved in helping to manage the crisis: Are there scientific efforts and accomplishments you can contribute to the fight against the Coronavirus? Could your department help to produce disinfectants? Do you have operational 3D printers or PCR equipment that could be made available quickly? Are there any legal experts who could help support the Austrian authorities during this difficult situation? If you see options and possibilities, please send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Thank you for your efforts and dedication and please stay healthy!
UPDATE March 17
The JKU has learned that a Russian student enrolled in an international degree program has tested positive for the Coronavirus upon his return to Russia.
The international Master's degree program "TROIKA" is comprised of 26 students and is organized by the JKU together with partner universities in Nizhny Novgorod (Russia) and Bergamo (Italy). As part of the program, students have consecutive stays in each of the three countries. The students have been in Austria since January 9, 2020.
The academic directors of the JKU program repeatedly and expressly asked students not to travel. In the meantime, we have learned that an Italian student traveled to Bergamo for a short visit between February 18 and 20, 2020, and upon his return to Linz, he volunteered to place himself in a 14-day quarantine. During this time, he showed no symptoms. Rumors regarding other students in the program taking short trips to Italy have not yet been confirmed. However, students in the program admitted today that on Saturday, they held a party in a small room at a student dormitory in Linz. An additional student in this group is currently complaining of a high fever.
University management immediately informed the Austrian health authorities and science ministry of the situation. At the same time, the students involved, the student dormitory and the respective instructors have been notified of the Russian student’s infection in order to take the necessary precautions.
Once again, this case is cause to urge you to maintain social-distancing and avoid social contact. We all not only bear responsibility for our health, but also especially the health and safety of the elderly and those who are chronically ill.
UPDATE March 15
The number of those infected with the Coronavirus in Upper Austria is increasing rapidly.
In the meantime the JKU has had two reported cases:
- In one case (at the Department of Occupational Safety and Security) we responded over a week ago to the first suspected case (no symptoms; only contact with someone who was infected) and have asked all employees in that department to remain at home for 14 days. The other employees at the department have not shown any symptoms yet and have therefore not been tested.
- In another case, a student in the MMJus degree program (distance learning law degree program) has been affected. According to the information available, he had no contact with anyone at the university, while being contagious.
We ask that any employees or students who suspect they have the Coronavirus, or those who have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus, to inform us immediately by calling: 0732 2468-1450 so that we can quickly take all necessary precautions to protect colleagues.
Today, the Austrian Federal Government has implemented stricter measures that include staying home this coming week and working from home, if possible. There is a ban on groups of people assembling. People should leave home only to:
- work, particularly in professions that cannot be postponed or exercised from home.
- run urgent errands, such as grocery shopping.
- help others who need assistance and help.
Accordingly, all JKU employees are being asked to work exclusively from home until further notice. JKU employees who have to work on campus in order to maintain the necessary, minimum level of campus operations have already been informed by the respective managers and supervisors of their respective departments. All other employees are required to perform their job duties from home.
In this regard, we would like to once again reiterate that employees must be available by telephone during work hours and, at the same time, also ensure that he/she can be present at his/her location of employment within a 2 hour period. Therefore, we ask that all employees to electronically send their telephone numbers to his/her immediate supervisor so that the employee can be reached during office hours.
Aside from providing employees the opportunity to work from home, employees who have childcare responsibilities will be granted childcare leave for children up to the age of 14. This will be done quickly and without unnecessary bureaucracy. If you are facing this situation, please contact the Department of Human Resource Management (with the involvement of a supervisor) by sending a brief electronic message.
We ask that you please strictly adhere to the recommendations as issued by the Austrian Federal Government and maintain social distancing as much as possible.
Thank you for your help and your sense of responsibility!
UPDATE March 12 / II.
In lieu of the exponential spread of the Coronavirus in Austria, we deem it necessary to restrict university operations even further at the JKU and implement additional precautionary measures:
Individual communication services for students (at the Admissions Office, Department of Examinations and Recognition Services, the International Office, Student Information & Advising Services, etc.) will be suspended until further notice. However, we will ensure that documents (such as applications for admission, applications for credit transfer, etc.) can be submitted in alternate ways. We will post information on the homepage about shortly: https://typo3.jku.at/studium/studieninteressierte/service-info-beratung/.
Beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, buildings on JKU campus will be closed until further notice, as is normal for a Sunday, for example. Access to the premises (offices, laboratories, workshops, etc.) will be restricted to authorized employees who have an access card and a key. JKU employees are asked to check and make sure access cards are working this week.
Employees responsible for laboratories, workshops and the like are requested to shut the systems down to operate at minimum capacity and, if necessary, provide reduced services. If you have any questions, please contact the Vice-Rector for Research.
In regards to working from home, please see the Rector’s 6th communiqué. In lieu of this unique situation, the following applies:
- All department heads must issue a directive for all employees to work from home, providing he/she fulfills the criteria as outlined by the Rector in his 6th communiqué.
- The Rectorate will hold short-term coordination meetings with the respective deans and in the area of general administration so that a number of employees are able to work from home.
Aside from the option to work from home, employees who have childcare responsibilities will be granted leave to care for children up to the age of 14 due to the closure of crèches, kindergartens and schools. This will be done quickly and without unnecessary bureaucracy. If you are facing this situation, please contact the Department of Human Resource Management (with the involvement of a supervisor) by sending a brief electronic message.
If you have any questions, please call the internal JKU Hotline (0732 2468)-1450.
Given the seriousness of the situation, we once again urge you to minimize social contacts both professionally and personally. In this unusual situation, enormous efforts are required from all of us in order to curb the rapid rise of the rate of infection (see diagram below). Aside from this, the next few days and weeks will be an enormous challenge for society as a whole. From the bottom of my heart, I ask you as representatives of the JKU, to set a special example in terms of your sense of social responsibility and solidarity.
I wish you and your families all the best under these unique circumstances.
UPDATE: March 12 / I.
We would like to inform you about the following measures:
In regards to examinations, the following applies beginning April 3, 2020:
- The Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs will determine the way grading for individual courses will be carried out by the respective course instructor. The legal basis (amendment of statutes) will be available shortly.
- Written and oral subject-specific and final examinations will be suspended until April 3, 2020. Compliance with the required hygienic conditions for written examinations and oral examinations (which, by law, must be publicly accessible) cannot be guaranteed for the time being.
- According to the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, the current measures planned will apply until April 3, 2020, after which examinations will be carried out again during regular operations (providing no new measures have been adopted). Depending on the situation and if necessary, alternative forms of examinations can be developed while ensuring the required hygienic conditions for students and employees. In any case, we are working toward providing a sufficient number of examination opportunities for Summer Semester 2020.
The commencement ceremonies scheduled for April 1 and April 2 have been cancelled.
Today we informed all department heads that employees can be allowed to work from home until further notice and under the following conditions:
- The job tasks must be suitable to be completed at home.
- If approved to work from home, department operations must be ensured and not hindered or impaired in any way.
- The employee must have the proper work equipment at his/her disposal in order to be able to work from home and enable work to be completed outside of the JKU. Additional technical infrastructure or other work equipment cannot be issued.
- During working hours, the employee must be available by phone and also ensure that he/she can be present at his/her location of employment within a 2 hour period.
The following applies for work-related business travel up to April 3, 2020:
- Work-related company travel will not be authorized. Authorization for trips that have already been approved shall be withdrawn.
- Work-related travel in Austria will only be permitted if necessary in order to maintain operations. In this case, it is recommended to use your own vehicle and you will be reimbursed under the official allowance for mileage.
- Any approval issued for work-related travel will be withdrawn if the trip does not serve to maintain operations.
We strongly advise JKU employees to not travel abroad outside of working hours or travel abroad on holiday. Any travel to high-risk areas can also have consequences in terms of your employment. We also recommend that while in Austria, you should avoid social contact as much as you can. This recommendation also applies to students.
We have also repeatedly requested limiting social contact at the workplace as much as possible. We also advise that if possible, avoid meetings involving a group of several or more people.
We are also concerned with hygiene at the workplace. Operations Management has instructed all cleaning companies working on the campus to deep clean wherever possible and clean and disinfect neuralgic spots (door handles, in particular). In addition, the cleaning companies have assured us that they have informed their employees about the correct hygiene behavior (in various languages).
We strongly urge you to use the hand disinfectant dispensers that have been set up around campus when at the JKU. They are not intended for home use.
If you have any questions, please call the internal JKU hotline: (0732 2468)-1450.
Thank you for your understanding, vigilance, and unwavering support!
To protect JKU employees and students and increase precautionary measures to help in reducing any further spread of the SARS CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection in the best way possible, the Johannes Kepler University Linz has made the following decisions:
Starting March 11, 2020, the Johannes Kepler University is suspending in-person classes and examinations for all degree programs. Wherever possible, we will offer online options via e-learning at home. If there are courses in which online options are not available, university courses and operations will be suspended until further notice. In addition, we ask students stay away from JKU facilities (laboratories, libraries, study zones, the Dept. of Examinations and Recognition Services, the Admissions Office, the university cafeteria, etc.) until further notice. The library reading rooms will be closed until further notice. We ask that you contact these departments by phone or by sending an e-mail.
The Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs will send detailed information to all faculty members and instructors in a separate e-mail. Faculty members and instructors will send students information about the procedure regarding individual courses and examinations.
In regards to the scope of legalities, we will make every attempt to act with the greatest gesture of goodwill possible in order to avoid negative effects regarding studies or the timeframe for the duration of your studies. In regards to courses being held at other institutions for JKU students (i.e. at the Medical University of Graz), please observe the regulations as stated by the institution.
Beginning March 11, 2020, the courses offered by the University Sports Institute (USI) will be suspended until further notice.
Other university operations are currently not affected by this measure. It is imperative that the university maintain daily operations and keep our services running. JKU employees can only work from home under this premise. The decision is to be rendered by the respective department head after being informed by the Rectorate. Until then, university operations will continue without any restrictions.
We ask you to be vigilant and request that you restrict social contact (such as in common areas, at the library, at the university cafeteria, etc.) and meetings as much as you can. If possible, please communicate using the phone or via video conferencing. The JKU is also suspending on-campus conferences, symposia and other public events until further notice.
We would also like to inform you that in regards to your personal and home life, there is also a high-risk of transmission and we strongly advise you to avoid personal events, celebrations, and festivities.
If you have any questions, please call the internal JKU Coronavirus Hotline (0732 2468)-1450 and your request will be forwarded to the responsible department.
UPDATE March 9, 2020
University operations at the JKU are currently running as normal. All classes will take place as scheduled.
If, however, you feel unwell and experience acute symptoms such as a sudden cough, fever, shortness of breath, AND 14 days prior to these symptoms you
- had close contact with someone who has or potentially has the COVID-19 virus
- or you stayed in a region or area in which sustained transmission of SARS-CoV-2 must be assumed,
then we ask that in order to avoid infecting others you do NOT come to the JKU campus.
Under these circumstances, contact the Health Counseling Service by calling 1450 (24/7 hotline) and inform university management by sending an e-mail to: email@example.com so that the necessary precautions can be taken.
We ask any faculty, staff and students who have returned to Austria from countries for which the Foreign Ministry has issued current travel warnings within the last 14 days to be extra vigilant.
If, under the aforementioned reasons, you will miss classes due to illness – particularly those requiring mandatory attendance - the university will extend a gesture of goodwill.
General questions about the Coronavirus (symptoms, procedures, frequency of occurrence, and prevention) can be answered on the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety website (AGES): https://www.ages.at/themen/krankheitserreger/coronavirus/#
Currently, any business travel on behalf of the university to areas considered at risk will not be authorized. We ask you to adhere the travel warnings issued by the Austrian Foreign Ministry: https://www.bmeia.gv.at/reise-aufenthalt/reisewarnungen/
I ask for your understanding in the event any fellow classmates or co-workers wish to avoid physical contact, such as when shaking hands in greeting.