July 7, 2020 – Communication to Faculty regarding class scheduling, instructional continuity, and updates to syllabi for Fall 2020

Purpose of Communication: Developed to address some faculty concerns regarding the instructional modes for Fall 2020, assistance in preparing for interruptions in Fall 2020, and guidance for communicating expectations to students.

Dear faculty,

I wanted to reach out at this time as I know there are still many unanswered questions and lingering concerns about the Fall semester.  We are working on getting as much information as possible out on the Future Ready website and hope this will be done by the end of the week.  I received a list of questions from the Faculty Senate and expect some forums to be scheduled soon to address issues.

Specific to some issues and concerns that have been raised, I wanted to let you know where we are right now.

1.    The updated schedule was shared for review and changes in teaching modality were accommodated through Human Resources.  We are continuing to work on completing other requested changes.  We are, collectively, working to support the choices made by the faculty and are, at the same time, balancing the needs of our students with our awareness differentials of voice, power, and privilege in order to ensure that every instructor—both full and part-time faculty at every rank, as well as staff who teach–feels fully able to make decisions for themselves without risk.   Your patience with this process and your willingness to work as a community to ensure that all of our members feel heard and included in decision-making is greatly appreciated. 

2.    The course schedule released recently was built on a classroom density of 50%.  Upon release of the Governor’s Higher Education re-opening guidelines we are continuing to make adjustments to the schedule including

a.    We are decreasing the density in classes to 6′ distance between all students.  This requires some classes to move from fully in person to split mode (1/2 in person and 1/2 online on each day) or online.  

b.    We are working to minimize the addition of sections to classes to accommodate this change in density.  

c.     Some class times may change but, again, we are working to minimize these changes.  

d.    Classroom locations will likely change.

e.    Enrollment caps may be increased in some online courses where multiple sections of a course are offered so that in person sections may be canceled or reduced due to classroom availability limitations.  

f.      Student advising must be proactive with faculty accessible and responsive as students adjust to schedule changes to insure degree progression. The Office of University Advising, in collaboration with faculty advisors, will continue to provide united structural support for student achievement.

2. Children and Family related concerns

a.    Human Resources and the Shipley Center are working with local providers to help build capacity for daycare for the community.  

b.    Human Resources is gathering information regarding options and community solutions which will be distributed over the coming few weeks but if you have any questions you can reach out to Amy McGaheran. 

c.     For faculty who have childcare concerns whether it be pick-up/drop-off, having to home school (if K-12 doesn’t open which appears unlikely but is possible), or other related familial care issues, chairs should work with faculty to accommodate a teaching schedule that allows needs to be addressed. This may mean a change in class time (chairs/deans/directors can switch class times between two courses with the same enrollment by requesting to the registrar; if a switch cannot be made but a change in time is needed the registrar will try to accommodate).  Other timing concerns should be worked on collaboratively with the chair/dean/director of the program and the registrar. 

d.    Creativity this Fall is essential and so faculty should explore options like team teaching (true team teaching and tag-team teaching) and other creative solutions to work/life balance with their Chair/Dean/Director.

3. Instructional Continuity and Syllabus Additions

a.    Instructional Continuity is the planning for interruptions and the development of strategies to ensure student progress whether the interruption is weather related or related to illness.  You can find guidance about instructional continuity at https://intranet.clarkson.edu/continuity/.

b.    Your class syllabus is a contract and has to follow the Student Regulations (bottom of page, https://www.clarkson.edu/student-administrative-services-sas/clarkson-regulations).  As you develop your continuity plan you need to include a statement in your syllabus about this plan and how it will be communicated to students.  This statement includes what will happen if you become ill or are out of the class for an extended period of time. 

c.     Your Fall 2020 syllabus should also include COVID-19 specific information.  You can find suggestions as well as additional guidance on universal design and syllabus structure in the linked PDF: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1BWu-gNhDj3oBcmmRebzvs63zrBC1o7mZ/view?usp=sharing

4.    I understand that there are still additional concerns regarding safe return to work in the Fall.  Once the required plan is completed (the one we have to submit to the Governor) and the Future Ready website has materials available for your review, there will be forums for faculty to ask additional questions of myself, other re-open task force leads as well as internal and external experts in the study of SARS-Cov-2 and engineering solutions to manage and reduce spread.  

Your patience as we get all of these parts aligned is greatly appreciated.  Please know, sincerely, you can reach out directly to me with any questions or concerns you may have.  I am not only here to listen but to help solve challenges and support your success this Fall and into the future.

-Robyn Hannigan

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