March 17, 2020
Dear faculty colleagues,
Thank you for everything that you are doing. I know that this is a stressful time for everyone as we navigate the implications of the public health crisis and what it means for us, and our families, friends, communities and our work lives.
The president’s message earlier today means that there is a lot of work for us to do to ensure instructional continuity for our students. It is also meant to address other questions we received about how the current situation has impacted your professional lives.
As we transition to a new reality of remote teaching, meeting and research work life, we want to try to answer your questions, address your concerns, and respond to your suggestions. Please feel free to contact us by email.
Beginning March 30, we need for undergraduate and graduate courses to transition to Zoom, Canvas, or some other mode of remote instruction. We know that courses take many different forms and that this necessitates considerable work to make this transition. We also know that you have many questions about this transition. We hope the following FAQs will help. There is also guidance about how to teach with technology here.
More important than technology, however, is the support and care you provide to our students.
Communication with Students
We expect for every faculty member to communicate their plans with your students no later than 12 noon on Friday, March 27, with information about how each class will proceed beginning Monday, March 30th.
For accreditation purposes, it is critical that each faculty member fill out the Course Plan for Instructional Continuity form for each class. The link will ask for your plans for continuing instruction during this move to remote learning. For guidance, please see this document.
UT has purchased a new campus-wide license for Zoom that has been integrated with EIDs, Canvas, and existing Zoom licenses. You can create your Zoom account at: https://zoom.its.utexas.edu/.
LAITS has additional information on this website: https://facultyinnovate.utexas.edu/instructional-continuity that can help you get started using Zoom. And many of your Colleges and Schools are already offering excellent training and additional resources.
Impact on faculty evaluations
We know that faculty are concerned about how the COVID-19 disruption in teaching and research activities might impact your future evaluations. These concerns extend to include promotion and tenure, annual and mid-probationary review, comprehensive periodic review, teaching/learning ratings, etc. Please know that we are aware of your concerns and we are working on mitigation plans that will explicitly recognize the anticipated impact. We will continue to work on guidelines and procedures for handling this disruption.
Impact on teaching evaluations
The drastic change in course delivery from face-to-face to online is expected to impact students’ learning and may, therefore, alter course and instructor evaluation results. All faculty are strongly encouraged to document the challenges you encounter and how you worked to find solutions. We also strongly encourage you to engage the help of peers many of whom are skilled in online and remote instruction. The FIC and LAITS offer a number of resources as do many of the College and Schools’ teaching and learning centers that will assist you as you prepare to move to distance instruction.
Impact on tenure-track faculty members’ scholarship
We also understand that a tenure-track faculty member’s scholarly and creative productivity might be slowed by the impact of COVID-19. If this is true for you, consider applying for a probationary period extension (“extend the clock”). We also encourage department chairs, division heads and deans to discuss this option with their tenure-track faculty. Faculty members should request this extension as soon as it becomes apparent that their productivity has been negatively impacted. However, faculty will also be able to make the request for an extension retrospectively. Currently, Regents’ Rule 31007 limits the maximum number of probationary period extensions to two academic years (also see UT Austin’s HOP 2-2020). We have requested an exception for COVID-19 extensions and encourage any faculty member who meets the maximum to reach out to us to discuss.
Bright Horizons back-up child- and elder-care
In light of recent school district closings, it is critical for our faculty parents to read this: as a faculty member, you have access to the Bright Horizons Back-Up Care if your regular care is unavailable. The university has also opted-in to the Crisis-care program. This program is for faculty when situations significantly impact the availability of their network providers.
Please follow these instructions to ensure you have access to the care you need for your family. Faculty members should notify Faculty Affairs if they experience difficulties connecting with Bright Horizons. It is also important to note, however, that this is a particularly challenging area of the current crisis. The first priority will need to be given to health care providers.
Sick & Self-isolating Faculty
If you are ill due to COVID-19 (or any other illness), unable to work or need to work part-time due to illness, then you should use sick leave for the hours that are missed. Department chairs, if you think a faculty member might need to apply for Family Medical Leave, please notify HR, which will send relevant information to the faculty member. Information summarizing sick leave and related policies for faculty members can be found here.
These are unprecedented times. The top priority must always be the health and safety of our community. Please take good care of yourselves and your loved ones. I know that we will be there to help support one another as we transition into this new reality of being a community connected remotely. We are all figuring this out as we go along. We will have some stumbles. There will be some mistakes. But I know that we will figure out a way to continue instruction for our students, support one another, and, hopefully, flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19.
We will continue to update you with information as best we can. And again, do reach out to me and my team using the faculty affairs email with any suggestions, questions and concerns.
MAURIE MCINNIS | Executive Vice President and Provost
The University of Texas at Austin | provost.utexas.edu