Corona Days - Message from the TAU President 28.3.2020
At the time of writing, the coronavirus crisis, in Israel and in the world, is in full swing, with most of us staying in our homes, whether voluntary or involuntary, meeting few friends and family, and Zoom (and the like) is the ultimate substitute for immediate social connections. We all hope the crisis will be over soon, and we can return to our familiar routine. In the meantime, I would like to update you on various activities going on at TAU, even during these troubled days.
I am happy to report to you that in the vast majority of cases, online teaching is working well. We are trying to improve "as we go along", think of appropriate solutions for exams, and even get ready for the next school year. The biggest challenge we now face is finding ways for students to gain entrance to the University without psychometric tests, as they cannot be held in their usual format.
Research at TAU is continuing, although not at the same pace we are used to. The laboratories on campus are functioning in one form or another, but with significantly reduced manpower. We are very proud of the COVID-19 research that is taking place in some of the laboratories. Just yesterday, we completed the establishment of a specialized coronavirus research lab, where the safety level of the work is particularly high, where we can conduct studies not able to be performed in other labs. Equally important, this lab will be able to perform up to 1000 COVID-19 tests a day. Once this lab is approved by the Ministry of Health, we can further increase our contribution to the national effort of the war against this pandemic.
For the past two weeks, our students, mainly from the Faculties of Medicine and Life Sciences, have been volunteering to perform COVID-19 tests, in collaboration with the various hospitals. We are extremely proud of our students! We are also particularly proud of the hundreds of health professionals who are faculty members at TAU, who do not spare themselves and are taking risks daily for the benefit of us all. The University's participation in the fight against the coronavirus is not only in the medical field. As part of the TAU Collective Impact venture, a platform has been established to create discussion groups among faculty members on various issues surrounding the coronavirus crisis, with the intention of issuing position papers in a short time to assist decision makers in the country. Many faculty members have responded to the challenge, and we hope that we will soon see the fruits for our labor.
A key part of the University community is the administrative, technical and research staff, and its well-being is our top priority. As you know, while our academic staff continue to teach by distance learning, and their salary has hardly been affected by the transition to an emergency work format, this has not been the case for the administrative, technical and research staff. Many of the members of this staff, as well as the contractor employees, must be in compliance with the country’s directives on "forced" vacation or leave-of-absence, with all of the economic implications. Many of the academic staff have showed a significant solidarity with the rest of our staff at TAU. Therefore, the University's management and the senior academic staff, in coordination with the administrative staff, have begun the process of setting up a vacation fund and additional assistance for staff for whom the economic impact is particularly significant. We hope that we can report the results to you more concretely about the full arrangement reached in the coming days. This partnership between the academic and the administrative staff is a very important principle in my view, and in the eyes of the University management.
Moreover, our students are extremely important to us. The tremendous effort we have all made, both the academic and administrative staff, so that we do not "lose" the semester, is very important, but not enough. Many of our students have become unemployed during this period, and will have difficulty paying their monthly bills. Accordingly, we have set up, with the assistance of University donors, a special fund to support students based on their financial difficulties. The office of the Dean of Students is currently working on formulating criteria for distributing support, and even if we cannot help everyone who needs it, we will do our best to assist those whose financial situation is particularly difficult.
Our hearts are with our students and our staff who have contracted the coronavirus. We are monitoring their situation continuously and to the best of our knowledge, their condition is good. I wish them all a speedy recovery, and I hope that the number of patients among us, as well as elsewhere in Israel and around the world, will be as low as possible.
I thank each and every one of you for your important contribution to Tel Aviv University's performance during this time, and wish you and your loved ones excellent health.