Pandemic Response and Re-Entry: An interview with Joe Archie, Director of Campus Operations, Loyola Law School

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Recently, we had the opportunity to have a conversation with Joseph Archie, Director of Campus Operations at Loyola Law School in California about how the Coronavirus Pandemic has impacted the University’s operational procedures.

In this interview you’ll learn about the steps Joe and his team took to face the pandemic head on and how they’re planning for the future so that they can keep their University’s students and staff members as safe as possible.

Philip Marzullo: I think just having the conversation going and having something to talk about is good. We’re all learning as we go. I guess first we’d like you to introduce yourself. Who are you? What are you doing here? What do you do for a living?

Joseph Archie: Well, no one paid me for this, so it is a good question about what I’m doing here. Actually, as you know, Phil, I have had a semi long career in the facility management arena. This is the second go around in different facilities, this time I decided to step into higher education. I have a university environment with law students and that’s got its own unique challenges from the previous set. I don’t know what else to share.

Philip Marzullo: Yeah. That’s good. So you’re now in the higher ed sector. You came from the commercial world, so you have this now unique perspective on both subsets of people and buildings and that thing. Like you say, I’m sure they all have their own unique challenges, especially education nowadays seems getting even more complex as we maneuver through this COVID thing.

Joseph Archie: Absolutely. I think if you want to think about it, the built environment, regardless of where you’re managing, whether that would be a commercial space, a retail mall, higher ed, the diversity is people that are involved. And our environment today is impacting people, subsequently driving the changes for the built environment.

Philip Marzullo: So you’re in the Los Angeles area. Go back a couple months. How did it all go down, the COVID situation at your facility? What happened and what were the actions that were put into place right after that?

Joseph Archie: Well, I think like anybody along the early days of this COVID virus explosion, I think people were generally following the news. Unless you had someone that you knew that was ill. It was still a bit removed for people. You saw the nightly news carrying all the horrific stories and it was not good news. But I’ll just say from my personal arena, as well as the law school, we didn’t have any cases. So it was still very remote, at that point. We had some faculty and staff that were present at the university during the H1N1 Virus. And so there had been part of the EOC, a pandemic planning. I don’t want to say a manual. I don’t want to say it was perfected, but at least they had gone through that exercise once. And some of those people were a little more jittery in the beginning and started to raise the alarm. It piqued my curiosity, “What are they being so panicked about? Why are you sitting in my office suggesting that I buy 10,000 masks today.” It caught our attention. Let’s just put it that way.

Philip Marzullo: You get your attention caught. School’s still in session. Things are… Life is normal. Stuff is happening on the news. And then at what point are you like, “Crap, we got to…” I’m guessing everybody gets together in saying “We got to shut this thing down.”

Joseph Archie: Yeah. We put a Dean’s Council together here, which included most of the EOC members anyways, it’s the leadership of the law school. And we’re talking about as it’s… We’re actually sadly watching the reaction and the issues that were happening on the East Coast and North of us from Los Angeles and Washington, the State of Washington. And I think there was an early recognition that we’re going to have to do something to leave the physical environment. And obviously online instruction becomes your fallback. So it’s, how do we make that happen? It’s been done. It’s not brand new, but nobody’s done it widely and large scale.

Joseph Archie: And so we make a decision or a decision is made that we will take the next couple of days off into the next week, Monday, Tuesday, and all the faculty will be run through Zoom meeting training. How do you do it? How do you make it work? How do you do all those types of things? Because there are some unique requirements of the law school. Classes have to be recorded. They have to be made available to students who couldn’t make it to the class that day or were remote or whatever, lots of little idiosyncrasies around that. So that training takes place. And then basically in two days, the faculty are now online and our students resume classes with that little hiccup. So that’s pretty impressive from my perspective.

Philip Marzullo: Yeah, very impressive. It seems like the education, I’ve got a couple of small kids and I live in Chicago, so they prepare for winter and they’re able to adjust to do online classes. And I think from an education standpoint people were certainly way more prepared than from the business side to say, “Crap, we’re not going to the office to anymore. Now what are we supposed to do?” So I think in that regards it was probably benefit from education just because you have the infrastructure set in place already.

Joseph Archie: Absolutely.

Philip Marzullo: How many people are at your facility there?

Joseph Archie: We have roughly a thousand students and another 250 or so faculty and staff that would be on campus in a given time.

Philip Marzullo: That’s a lot of people. So we shut it down. We get all the students on. They’re going to just do it remotely now. No major change for them, I guess. And then now what? And I remember we had a one conversation. I think you’re like, “Well, I’m going to bring wine and just bunk up in the office.” We can cut, we can totally cut this part, but you’re like, “I’m going to bring wine and bunk up. And I’m in this for the long haul thing.”

Joseph Archie: I used to bring just a lunch box. Now I bring a lunch box and a wine bag because at any given time I could be stuck here and not. We joke about that, but in all seriousness, it became with my wife, I put the sleeping bag in the trunk of the car and packed a go bag. And I don’t really worry about the razor, but toothbrush was really handy just in case because if somebody here on staff, whatever that I was exposed to got sick, I certainly wasn’t going home. We’ve got facilities here for a shower and for those things. Make it work.

Mario Busto: How did they go about communicating to staff members if somebody was exposed to the virus? Was there some protocol in place for letting everybody know for that scenario where if you’d have to bunker up and protect your family and quarantine yourself?

Joseph Archie: Well, I will say that we were super fortunate that on that Friday, March, I’m going to say 13th, maybe. That week before Wednesday, Thursday, we had made the decision or working through that decision that people were going to go remote. And so by that Friday, nobody hadn’t gotten ill or was reporting illness. And so we made that Friday announcement that starting the next week, it was going to be essential personnel on campus only, which basically locked out everyone except myself and the three security officers during the day. So people were instantly at home. So I think we caught it before we had to communicate something like that.

Philip Marzullo: So then do you go about… Do you go on a disinfecting whole thing after that, is the idea to just let no, we’re not coming… We don’t know when we’re coming back. So we’re all good. Or do you clean the heck out of everything? Or what do you guys do at that point?

Joseph Archie: Well, I would tell you that at that point, LA County Health didn’t have a formalized guidelines on how cleaning should necessarily take place. So I defaulted to the CDC guidelines, well, CDC recommendations. Because they’re the recommendation [inaudible 00:09:48]. And the early recommendation, I think, was 72 hours or something. Let it sit for 72 hours if there was a suspected case before you went in and cleaned. And so with everybody out of campus, it was why touch anything? Let’s let it sit. So we did for 72 hours and then we cleaned the heck out of the buildings. We just went through. And it was clearly that we were going to be out… The initial communication, we’d be out two weeks and that’s what we communicated externally, it on the backside, we kind of knew it was going to go at least two more weeks beyond that.

Joseph Archie: So I was looking at a four week window. So when I worked with the janitorial service, I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the company, this A&A Maintenance, outstanding operation.

Mario Busto: Thank you.

Joseph Archie: We really sat down and went through what’s the traditional scope of work. What’s the modified scope of work. And that included look at the refrigerators that are in workspaces, in lounges, in student union areas. And let’s empty that stuff out because two weeks, four weeks, I don’t need a zoo growing anywhere.

Philip Marzullo: Right.

Joseph Archie: So we did, that team cleaned through everything. It was detail cleaning, it was scrubbing. We took the opportunity to polish floors and scrub carpets and ensure that top to bottom, we had really managed through the environment.

Philip Marzullo: I guess, out of curiosity, did you guys do just traditional wiping or did you put into place any electrical, electrostatic, spraying or anything like that? I don’t know what your stance is on that.

Joseph Archie: Yeah, the initial was the high touch manual process that I think is really the engine behind making sure things are clean. By the time that was completed, it was, I’ll say, we were in probably the second week of people being removed from campus. The spraying technology had emerged to the degree that it was available to us. And it seemed like that was a good follow up to get back in there. And let’s spray all these environments down and knowing that we would go, whatever it was going to be two weeks, four weeks, six weeks. And now I think we’re in week 14, we knew that post spray, we’re going to be wiping it down again. Just from a dust perspective.

Mario Busto: So it started with a traditional high touch point, cleaning with a modified scope of work and then you did the spraying after the fact?

Joseph Archie: Yes. I was going to say just based upon when that technology became more readily available along with the chemical itself, not that it was brand new technology, but it just hadn’t been in commercial use in this type of higher ed environment.

Philip Marzullo: Yeah. All of a sudden it was in high demand and nobody could get anything.

Joseph Archie: Yeah.

Philip Marzullo: Do you guys have a plan to get back or is it just status quo or what’s the deal for you guys?

Joseph Archie: Interestingly, I’ll just say I was not panicked when we made the first exit, having those discussions, how to develop that plan, how you move people off campus, how do we continue to produce the educational materials that students, faculty needed and convert that instead of a pickup zone, we were mailing things out and we had curb service as well. We are now in the midst of working on a reopening plan. We’ve been talking through it for weeks, but it’s really starting to come to fruition with the county opening up level three, which allows higher ed schools to come back into play.

Joseph Archie: I would tell you, I am concerned about that process. We are checking and double checking and preparing ourselves for every scenario that we can imagine from someone becoming ill on campus, to how we get people in and out of buildings and elevators and parking spots and all those things. I think that what we’re really looking at, I would call a phased, partial, step-by-step opening, soft opening with move some staff back in here that are essential, that cannot work from home. And then we’re looking at… Our summer program we’ve made the determination that was online. The fall program is where we’re looking at providing the first year law students with the on campus experience. The faculty, the deans all feel that that is an essential part of what Loyola offers and to the extent we can make it safe, we bring them in here and we provide an environment that will cement them as to why they chose Loyola.

Joseph Archie: Will we do things differently? Yes. We’re looking at creating cohorts where they sit in the classroom and the instructors move around between classrooms to teach things rather than the instructor with their favorite classroom teaches and students move in and out and around, it just keeps the population of movement smaller. It enables our contact tracing requirements to be a little more streamlined and easier to manage. So I think that those are all the things that any business that was contemplating a reopening should be looking at is are there ways to do it in today’s environment that are different than…

Mario Busto: I know it’s not finalized yet, but you guys are still planning a reopening strategy. Can you walk us through any other main concerns with reopenings, whether that be… I’m thinking just immediately, what does scheduling classes look like? Do they eliminate a certain time of the day so that the buildings can be disinfected? Is there anything going on where you’re modifying the cleaning approach with the students coming in and out of the campus?

Joseph Archie: That is probably the hardest part of where we’re at. Classes had traditionally had a 10 minute break between classes. And when you’re looking at a hundred seat, fixed seating room, I would need an army of service providers to get through that room. So what we’re really looking at a plan that says, if we hold students in the environment, we don’t really have people moving around that we can find those breaks to clean three times a day, where we get in between classes and clean through the the hard surface desk, those types of things, exterior door knobs, elevator buttons, all those things will be cleaned on a regular basis. That’ll be a roving team that just handles that throughout the day.

Joseph Archie: So that type of cleaning environment is I think what we’re going to see, at least in the interim, we haven’t found a better way to do that. There was tons of ideas out there. “We’ll create a cleaning station at the back of the room and students can clean…” It’s like “Time out.” Safety protocols, you gentlemen are experts in that, you understand what that takes. And if I’m a law student paying the money that they’re paying to go to school, I don’t think I want to be the guy cleaning the desk so that I can sit down.

Philip Marzullo: Yeah, I mean, as we’re opening up here in Chicago and I’ve gone to a couple of restaurants and you have got to wear your mask. They even took my temperature when I go in. And I think visually what they’re doing helps comfort you. You say, especially these first year students, they want to get the experience, but we’re all really cautious of what’s what’s happening right now. So I think I’d like your opinion, what your take is and what your plan is to communicate what the cleanliness looks like, what the procedures are just a way to put these students and faculty at ease and let them know that, “Hey, we’re doing the best we can here. We’re following this protocol or whatever.” What’s your take on that? On the [crosstalk 00:19:21].

Joseph Archie: Yeah. Early on, we were communicating to the staff as they were out for the first two weeks and that there was the… They had the idea that they might come back second two weeks, we had already begun the process of describing what I’ll call enhanced cleaning. That we were doing a higher level, more detailed cleaning then they had maybe seen before or experienced. What I am most happy about or an item that I’m most happy about is that Joe didn’t need to go out and define that to the degree that I could turn around and communicate every level of what enhanced cleaning was. A&A Maintenance came around with a new program, the wellness and that, it took the whole level of me having to communicate and off board.

Joseph Archie: You guys took care of that. You made it a smooth, easily communicated component of the work that needs to be done here. The six foot tall towers, the desk placards, all the things that you’ve added there have been shared with the leadership team here, they’re delighted around it. It certainly echoes what, what we were trying to achieve. And yet we had an industry expert that came back and provided that to us. And so that is a value add that almost unmeasurable.

Philip Marzullo: Yeah. I don’t know that the communication just seems so important nowadays. To give people that comfort. So you have this tentative plan for reopening and it’s nice to know that you already had protocol in place with the H1N1 thing. How do you think that frames up what a potential resurgence plan looks like? Is that something that you guys are developing or I don’t know, are we preparing for that or? Is it something that we’ll get to in the moment or?

Joseph Archie: And I alluded to that earlier. I think that’s the part that I don’t want to say scares the hell out of me, but it is the part that really concerns me. This is a very open campus. There is no… They’re not wearing ID badges and those types of things. We clearly know that we’re going to have to do some type of screening, whether that’s temperature screening as they come through into campus. The plan has no visitors, no events, so we’re tapping down all those other things where we would have community wide opportunities for transmission.

Joseph Archie: I think that we will constantly be reevaluating our operation. We don’t have a nursing or a medical facility on campus. We have a local hospital, urgent care type facilities within just a few blocks. But the fact of the matter is if someone gets ill, they’re going to have to have a place to be housed and until we can get the right treatment. And so we’ve designated a room around that. So we’ve had to look at those things differently. Obviously janitorial staff will be engaged in a higher level of cleaning being present. I personally think that that is a… Their presence… If I can flash back historically, cleaning staff came in at night after the office was closed.

Joseph Archie: Nobody saw them and you could have all the complaints in the morning. They didn’t empty my trash can, or they didn’t do this or they didn’t do that. And I think the positive side of these types of events is it pulls that staff into the reality, into the common day time space so that it can be seen, they’re professional. My God, they need to be appreciated. And I think that’s finally delivers on that. It makes them a valuable asset that any organization should have been promoting all along. So I think that’s a very positive step. And to that end, I think that we’ll be, to your question, Phil, we’ll constantly be reevaluating, what are we doing? How are we doing it? The small partial operation will make it easier. And I think it will expand out from there. And those will bring other dynamics as you get from 300 students to 600 students to 1000 students, there’ll be some surprises ahead.

Philip Marzullo: Certainly. Sorry, go ahead, Mario.

Mario Busto: I was going to ask just because we have now, we’re starting to see a resurgence. I know in Florida where I’m from, we just broke some records on the cases coming through and that thing. And I just wanted to hear from you, what’s your perspective on, even when we squash the curve how long do you see these kinds of operations needing to be the way they are where disinfecting is such a heavy part of a facility approach. Do you see a change in the landscape from your experience in managing that facility?

Joseph Archie: I do. I would tell you my immediate reaction and what I’ve communicated with people is we will live in this era of higher cleaning, more people present mode. I believe for at least the next three years, that until there’s actually the shot, the solution, the protection we are going to be in that environment. And sadly we’re going to conquer this one, there’ll be another one down the road. So I think that my experience in a prior employment was that the janitorial bid or the janitorial services were an opportunity, okay, you got to do it, but let’s see where we can scrape the money out. Let’s see where we can dwindle it down to the bare minimum and reduce this cost.

Joseph Archie: I think if you think about green buildings and their operation and the value that that brought to the economy, the social justice portion of a clean building is got to be essential in the future. This can’t be, “God, we have to clean the restrooms, but let’s try and figure out how to do it as cheap as possible. Can you just hose it down? Don’t worry about chemicals.” This is a big change for our society. And I think businesses are going to own stepping up and recognizing the value of whether it’s the in house provider, the outsource provider, providing a quality job around the work that they do in making the environment clean.

Philip Marzullo: Yeah. That’s a great. I think there’s going to be a lot of scope of works and bids updated in the next 12 months, for sure. You look at some of these things and they’re so outdated and certainly very few of them include any level of disinfecting in other areas outside of the bathroom. So yeah, I think it’s going to change and for the better. Armando Rodriguez, the owner of the company, he says “We’ve been in the basement for 40 years now it’s time for us to come up and be part of the environment.” And I think that’s true. So I think that’s… I appreciate the time Joe. I think we covered a lot. It’d be nice maybe to follow up with you after you get things rolling and see what you’ve done. You’ve been my favorite guest so far on the show.

Joseph Archie: Only one.

Philip Marzullo: Well, it doesn’t matter. Still number one.

Joseph Archie: Yeah. Mario, I’ll be checking back in with you to see if that’s something he says to everyone.

Mario Busto: Yeah, I’ll let you know.

Joseph Archie: I suspect it is. Yeah.

Mario Busto: Yeah. That would be great to follow up with you perhaps when you guys reopen, see how things are going, maybe a month after. Just check in and see what life is like in the reopening phase and all the obstacles that come with that. But we’re glad to hear that things were… Sounds like to me, a pretty seamless as can be transition for you guys over there at Loyola. And hopefully you can reopen for fall and the whole world can get back to normal.

Joseph Archie: Yeah. I think we were very fortunate, but we didn’t have individuals in our immediate community that were ill that made our transition from being on campus, to working remotely easier. I’m hoping that that also will make it easier for people to come back and feel comfortable. I can only imagine being in a work environment where people had been ill and people have gone away and now they come back and now they’re worried, “My God, does Phil have it still? Could Phil be spreading that to me?” That type of thing. We’re going to try and take every right step and fine tune as we go. I think that there’s a tremendous opportunity for companies like yours to move from the basement, as you quoted, to presence in the C suite. I think people need to be thinking about that.

Joseph Archie: And when business owners, boards get together and talk about how they run their business and obviously they want to be economical. They want to make a profit. They want to be green. They want to do all those right things, treating people right, cleaning spaces properly. It should be at the forefront of their considerations. So I look forward to talking to you both again, down the road. Glad to share what’s happened here at Loyola.

Philip Marzullo: Thanks Mr. Archie.

Mario Busto: Thanks so much Joe.

Joseph Archie: You got it. Have a great day.

Philip Marzullo: Okay.

Mario Busto: You too.

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