Academic update for College faculty

This message was sent on March 22.

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

What a roller coaster of a week. One colleague told me it felt like living a whole year in only seven days. I know what she means, and I bet you do, too.

These extraordinary times have required a lot from each of you, including the intense preparation needed to deliver courses remotely beginning this Monday, while practicing social distancing to protect your own well-being and that of your loved ones. I echo President Hatch’s remarks in his recent video to the faculty. The university is deeply in your debt as we launch the “Great Experiment” ⁠— delivering our special Wake Forest undergrad education remotely, for the foreseeable future. I greatly appreciate your energy, imagination, and commitment as we all make this tremendous transition together.

This letter is lengthy. Please read it closely and direct any questions to your department chair or program director (all were briefed on Friday). The letter outlines recent decisions and resources that will help you through the next few days and weeks, with the caveat that we are providing the best information and guidelines available to us at this time (in other words, future changes and adaptations may still await). Our goal is to balance the needs of all our students while sustaining our academic integrity. Know the entire staff in the Office of the Dean of the College has been working round the clock to support our faculty, staff, and students. We will continue to make problem-solving on your behalf our top priority.

The COVID-19 pandemic is more dangerous than initially imagined, and it will last longer than we had anticipated as little as a week ago. We must continue to take proactive steps to minimize the health risks to our community and ensure all colleagues can work from home. The ZSR Library and Reynolds Gym have closed. We expect to get word shortly that all college academic buildings will close too. We encourage all College faculty and staff to retrieve necessary belongings by the end of business day on Monday. These restrictions on access apply to Wake Downtown as well as Reynolda Campus buildings. Staff, graduate students, and faculty who have been designated as “essential personnel” will be contacted in a separate communication about the protocol for accessing buildings and laboratory areas.

The 454 students who successfully petitioned to stay on campus are being supported by Campus Life, Student Health, and Aramark. They are safe and well fed, have good health care, and are eager for remote learning to begin. Please know everyone across the university is completely committed to supporting their welfare over the semester, as I know you are, too. And thank you to the many of you who have reached out to your students on campus already.

IMPLEMENTATION OF SPRING 2020 PASS/FAIL OPTION
Last week, my office — in consultation with the Provost, the Deans from the other schools, the Office of the University Registrar, the Committee on Academic Affairs, and the College’s Department Chairs and Program Directors — began reviewing academic protocols in light of the extraordinary demands placed upon the college. We agreed that we needed to extend the deadline for undergraduate students to elect Pass/Fail for their courses through April 17, and relax existing rules about no Pass/Fail for introductory courses and first-year students. (Students receiving financial aid are instructed to inquire with the Office of Financial Aid about the impact of taking Pass/Fail courses).

The Office of the University Registrar will be in contact with students and faculty to provide instructions for how to make the selection of Pass/Fail grade mode (should they choose to change to this from letter-graded mode). In brief, following our regular practice, students must choose Pass/Fail by filling out a form for each class by 5 p.m. on April 17, 2020. Retroactive applications or petitions for future courses (based on this COVID-19 exigency) will not be granted. Students will not be allowed to reverse their decision after the deadline.

Courses taken in Pass/Fail mode in Spring 2020 may not be repeated for a letter grade, unless the course is a required major or minor course, taken Pass/Fail in Spring 2020, and failed. FYS courses taken Pass/Fail in Spring 2020 and failed may be repeated under a different FYS topic.

The extension of the Pass/Fail option will not apply to some programs, majors, or courses that have special accreditation, statutory, or contractual requirements (e.g. Engineering and Military Science). The Office of the University Registrar and the Office of Academic Advising will work closely with these departments/programs to ensure that affected students are advised of any special requirements or limitations.

Note that for students enrolled in business courses, the School of Business will send a separate announcement regarding a related Pass/Fail mode for those courses. We must stress the singular nature of this Pass/Fail option: It is a one-time exception linked directly to this specific emergency event (COVID-19) in this particular semester (Spring 2020).

SUPPORT FOR FACULTY
We recognize that your research, scholarship, and creative work have been affected adversely by the COVID-19 measures instituted by the university, state, and federal government. We are well aware that plans for travel and leaves have been disrupted through circumstances that none of us can control.

To ease the anxiety that comes with this major disruption, ODOC proposes granting all Assistant Professors in the College an automatic one-year extension to their tenure clock. We would like to model this COVID-19 tenure-clock extension policy on the medical/parental leave policy. That is, the one-year extension would be automatically granted to all junior faculty. We are consulting with the Provost; the Deans of the Business, Law, and Divinity Schools; and the Executive Committee of the Senate on this proposed direction.

In addition, all faculty with start-up funds will be granted a one-year, no-cost extension for the use of these funds. Please note that if there are any substantial changes in planned budget expenditures, you will need to seek approval from your Chair and ODOC.

We know that faculty who were recently awarded Faculty Development Funds, Archie Funds, or Summer Research Awards are being affected by conference cancellations and travel restrictions. If the activity for which you were awarded funding is canceled outright, please let Sr. Associate Dean Tony Marsh and Faculty Affairs Specialist Leigh Anne Robinson know as soon as possible. If funds allotted for activities cannot be used in the terms outlined in the award letter (i.e. a research trip), faculty must reapply for faculty development funds. Sr. Associate Dean Tony Marsh will send out a separate detailed letter to all award recipients explaining the new terms.

In regard to Junior and Reynolds Research Leaves awarded for 2020-2021, if you are unable to take the leave please let Sr. Associate Dean Tony Marsh and Academic Affairs Manager Anna Henley know as soon as possible. Convey whether you will be able to delay the leave by a semester or need to postpone it until 2021-2022. It is essential that we do not hire visiting faculty for your leave replacement coverage until the actual semester/academic year that you will be on leave. Please consult with your Chair and make these important decisions on leaves as soon as possible.

All faculty mentors for URECA Summer Fellowships (WFRF and WFA&H) should have received an email with a link to a survey to gauge each project’s ongoing viability under current and continually changing circumstances. If you have received this survey, please respond as quickly as you can so the URECA committee can make decisions about how to move forward with these fellowships. Students will not be contacted until after the committee has heard from faculty mentors.

Given the Wake Forest travel ban, which extends through June 30th (and possibly beyond), and considering the number of countries currently under Level 3 and Level 4 travel health advisories, it is unlikely that Richter Scholarships will be awarded this year. All Richter applicants are being asked to submit a short addendum to their applications providing changes and updates to their travel dates and destinations. It is possible that students who receive the Richter Scholarship Award this year may choose to defer their awards to the summer of 2021.

Student teaching evaluations are designed, distributed, and assessed at the departmental/program level, and many departments have sought advice from ODOC on how to approach evaluations under our current remote delivery circumstances. We recognize that some faculty have concerns about the use of teaching evaluations this semester, given the sudden and substantial changes taking place right now. ODOC holds that such evaluations remain necessary, as they are a key way of gaining information that will shape our efforts moving forward and provide our students with a sense of agency in response to their remote learning experiences. Gathering student feedback also allows us to reward excellence even as we continue to hold ourselves accountable for the quality education we can still provide under adverse circumstances.

Of course, these circumstances will necessarily influence the context in which this semester’s evaluations are understood. In the same way that evaluations for new courses are recognized for their tendency to be lower than the norm (as faculty are working out the details of designing and delivering a new course), we would expect departments and programs to treat evaluations from this semester as providing helpful feedback to faculty without penalizing faculty efforts to make adjustments and try new things. They also offer faculty an opportunity to reflect on this transition to remote delivery, changes that can shape practices when back in face-to-face classrooms (and that may have even shifted perspectives about online education more broadly). And, of course, they open up a space for students to reflect on their experiences: imagine the encouragement that will come from students’ recognition of the high quality education they will have continued to receive even in the midst of a crisis. In short, evaluations will allow for students and faculty to reflect on and learn from the necessary adaptations we are all making, so that we all come out of this experience having learned from it.

REGISTRATION AND ADVISING
If you are advising this year, we extend our special appreciation to you in light of the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves. The Office of Academic Advising recognizes the unique challenges you face in providing your usual high touch, high quality advising in this remote learning environment. OAA has posted a number of changes to spring advising and registration. The Office of the University Registrar will provide additional information on registration.

The advising period began on March 16, 2020, and will extend one week longer than usual (through April 3, 2020). We anticipate that the same resources you employ to effect remote delivery of course content will be suited to remote advising. OAA would like to direct your attention to the Keep Teaching website for information about resources to help you be in contact with your advisees.

General rounds of registration will take place April 6-12 (Round One) and April 13-19 (Round Two). Students will need to obtain their registration PIN from their advisor. OAA can assist with lost or inaccessible registration PINs. Major/Minor registration will follow regular departmental procedures, modified as necessary to accommodate student absence from campus. Please note that Summer Registration will begin April 6.

The course withdrawal deadline is March 30, 2020. OAA must receive email confirmation from the course instructor and adviser by 5 p.m. on this date. The deadline to add a second part-of-term class has been extended to Monday, March 23, at 11:59 p.m. Please consider transmitting this additional advising note: Students should be aware that WFU academic and conduct regulations apply to remotely delivered courses just as they do to standard courses.

Faculty and faculty advisers can find additional advising resources and OAA updates at advising.wfu.edu.

RESOURCES FOR YOUR STUDENTS
Thanks to the great dedication of faculty, staff, and student tutors and consultants, most Student Support Services have transitioned to providing access remotely. Please refer your students and advisees to this support as we navigate these new times.

If you have reached out to a student or advisee and not heard back from them, please contact the Office of Academic Advising as you would if we were still on campus and a student stopped communicating or coming to class; or, more generally, if you have concerns about their well-being.

If your student of concern is a student-athlete, additional support is provided by Jane Caldwell, Senior Associate Athletic Director and Assistant to the Dean of the College, Student-Athlete Academic Services. If you know your student of concern is a first-generation college student, additional support is provided by Nate French, Director of Magnolia Scholars.

Academic accommodations approved by the Learning Assistance Center & Disability Services continue to apply in our remote delivery environment. Students with these accommodations will be encouraged to verify again with you how the logistics of these accommodations may change via remote learning. For remote and online learning platforms, it is possible to provide accommodations for extended time if that is an approved accommodation the student has had documented in writing prior to this point in the semester. LAC-DS staff remain available to consult with students and their individual accommodation needs. LAC-DS staff will continue to offer academic coaching and peer tutoring remotely; they will not be proctoring tests.

The University Counseling Center will provide ongoing counseling via a HIPAA-compliant, web-based teletherapy platform (Webex or Zoom) for students who have been receiving services from the UCC this academic year and who are living in the state of North Carolina during the suspension of in-person classes. UCC staff are reaching out to students who already access our services to determine their location and their desire for continued care via teletherapy. The UCC will provide consultation and referral services to students located outside of North Carolina during the suspension of in-person classes whether or not they have previously been seen at the UCC. Students can call the UCC at 336-758-5273 to access this service Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT. As always, the UCC’s phone line will continue to act as a Crisis Line after normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. EDT and 24/7 on weekends) and can be accessed by students located anywhere in the world.

OTHER STUDENT RESOURCES
Keep Learning is a student-facing version of Wake Forest’s Keep Teaching website.

The (Virtual) Math & Stats Centerthe Writing Center, and the Chemistry Center will offer online and/or phone tutoring and consultations starting Monday, March 23. Additionally, the Computer Science Center is working to support remote tutoring. Please see each website for logistics.

SUMMER SESSION
Registration for Summer Session has been delayed. Students will be able to register for summer classes via WIN beginning April 6, 2020. Currently, it is our intention to proceed with Reynolda campus in-person summer classes and previously approved online summer classes as scheduled. There may be limited opportunities (with assistance from the Office of Online Education and professional instructional designers) for Summer Session faculty to develop fully online courses to be offered this summer (in lieu of or in addition to their planned face-to-face classes). Further changes to Summer Session, if necessitated by changing COVID-19 conditions or campus operations, will be communicated directly to faculty and students as soon as possible. Initial contracts for faculty planning to teach in Summer Session 2020 will be available shortly. In the meantime, if you have other questions or concerns about Summer Session 2020, please feel free to contact Academic Affairs Manager Anna Henley or Associate Dean Christa Colyer.

BUDGETARY AND FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS
The longer the university remains closed, the greater the financial loss the university will experience and the more significant the financial constraints going forward. The university is on solid financial ground, but it is likely that the university will experience a significant shortfall this fiscal year. Therefore, each dean is asking chairs, directors, and supervisors to limit all expenditures and purchase only essential items out of their budgets. Departments and programs should not spend out their budgets. Any remaining funds in department operating budgets will help us offset general university budget shortfalls. The College is joined by all other schools and offices in this commitment to financial constraint. This expectation is effective immediately. Travel restrictions are already in place until further notice. Unspent travel budgets must be reserved and not redirected.

IN CLOSING
I cannot overstate how grateful I am to each of you for keeping the academic success of our students on track despite all the challenges you are facing in this extraordinary moment. The more we can support each other through this crisis and think through how we can keep the College and University on track, the better off all of us — faculty, staff, and students together — will be.

Below, in the attached PDF, is a letter that will go out to all undergraduate students later today.

Stay healthy and well,
Michele

Categories: Dean of the College

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