March 12, 2020
Dear faculty colleagues,
As President Fenves mentioned in his recent email to campus, we are extending the spring break for students by one week and will resume classes March 30.
When we resume classes, the university will be instituting new social distancing measures. My hope is this extra week gives the campus time to prepare for how we can best continue our instructional and research activities through alternative delivery methods where possible. Please note that while we will resume the term on March 30, we are not planning to extend the semester, so faculty should adjust accordingly.
Guidelines about social distancing and mitigation strategies for classes, meetings and gatherings will be shared with the campus soon.
I understand that these adjustments are not easy, and I do not underestimate the challenge this creates for faculty and staff members, postdocs, and graduate and undergraduate students. In order to ensure continuity in our instruction and research activities, we will need to be flexible and understanding. Thank you for continuing to support and care for one another as we navigate this evolving public health challenge.
When students return on March 30, all educational activities are expected to continue. However, the social distancing measures will require many faculty members to shift most in-person classes to alternative modalities (e.g., teleconferencing, Zoom, and other distance learning technology). You will soon receive more guidance from your dean about this. We understand that many in-person activities do not translate well, or at all, to an online or alternate format (e.g., labs, performing arts, physical education, etc.). The deans will help faculty members develop plans to address those classes within the social distancing framework.
For some of you, this may be the first time you have had to consider how to best deliver your class online or in an alternate format. The university has developed an extensive set of resources to help you learn more about the options available and the steps you need to take.
Once you have developed a plan to continue instruction based on the guidance from your dean, you will need to clearly communicate with your students so they understand what to expect.
While the campus is not closed, Principal Investigators (PIs) can consider whether or not it is appropriate to close their labs. If your lab remains open, faculty members are not permitted to penalize students who choose to stay home.
Labs should implement appropriate health and safety protocols, like washing hands regularly, no physical contact between students and common use equipment (keyboards, etc.) must be disinfected regularly. Graduate students and post-docs should work with their faculty supervisors to develop appropriate planning regarding their work.
Detailed guidance for PIs will be provided soon from the Office of the Vice President of Research.
Syllabus and Attendance Policies
Faculty members are empowered and encouraged to edit and adjust the terms of your syllabi, as long as it is done with equity in mind. Any changes to syllabi should benefit all students equally.
I am also asking instructors to relax their attendance policies, as appropriate. Again, the priority right now is the health and safety of our communities. First, we want to encourage any student with potential infection to stay away from class; and second, we have some students who have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk.
Faculty members may also require accommodation. They may need accommodation due to their own underlying health concerns, or they may be living with someone who either is in self-isolation or who might be in a vulnerable health condition.
If you have COVID-19 concerns that require accommodation but are still able to teach in an online format, I encourage you to do so. Faculty members who choose to move their course(s) online for these reasons are not required to disclose why they are doing so. This is important in order to respect the sensitivity and personal reasons underlying these decisions.
Again, you can expect more detailed information from your dean soon. We are developing detailed FAQs that will address issues related to academic activities and will share those with you soon. If you have suggestions or questions that you think would be helpful, please do so here.