| by Jeff Cason and Sujata Moorti

Faculty

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

We write at what we know is a moment of significant uncertainty to update you on a number of issues related to faculty governance, our academic policies, and teaching. We also want to acknowledge that our situation is incredibly fluid, and to let you know how much we appreciate the rapid transition to remote learning that you have executed and are executing. We know that we could not have made this transition without our staff colleagues in DLINQ and ITS, and we thank them for all the work they have done.

Key faculty governance committees continue to meet, though their work has changed. The EAC will evaluate faculty position proposals this spring, for example, but they are no longer working with a predetermined FTE count; rather, they will make recommendations that assume different hypothetical financial conditions, from good to very bad. Similarly, the considerations of the strategy committee will certainly take on a new tenor, given our changed circumstances.

We have also formed two new groups of faculty to help us make decisions in this rapidly changing environment. We are relying for the most part on faculty from our elected committees in these groups, as well as faculty administrators who will need to carry out our policies. As previously announced, one of them is the Academic Continuity Group (ACG), which was formed right after our move to remote learning in mid-March. It includes the two of us, Rick Bunt, Amy Collier, LeRoy Graham, Suzanne Gurland, Joyce Mao, Michelle McCauley, Jim Ralph, and Daniel Silva.

Knowing that we must now turn to planning for the fall 2020 semester and beyond, we have asked colleagues to serve on a second group, the Fall 2020 Academic Planning Group (APG), also mostly drawing colleagues from elected faculty committees from across the curriculum and with an eye toward including colleagues from a variety of elected committees. We are grateful that the following colleagues have agreed to serve on this group: Amy Collier, Anne Goodsell, LeRoy Graham, Suzanne Gurland, Damascus Kafumbe, Chris Klyza, Emily Proctor, Paula Schwartz, Shawna Shapiro, and Katy Smith Abbott. This group will be asked to provide recommendations by the end of the month to the ACG and the academic administration on how we approach the fall semester and the next academic year, as we continue to operate in uncertain times.

The work of the APG will also intersect with the work of the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC), since anything we decide about our academic program in upcoming months will have significant financial implications. Undoubtedly, you read David Provost’s message on Tuesday laying out our financial state. In his message, David listed who was on the BAC, and again, the faculty colleagues are drawn from our elected committees. We thank those faculty colleagues who are dedicating their time and energy to this work, in all three of these groups.

This paragraph will contain no acronyms. We want to emphasize that while we are relying on elected colleagues, our existing deliberative structures were not designed for extraordinary times like these. We want to hear the voices of our faculty as we face one of the most significant challenges to higher education in decades. We are also aware that we are going to have to make some hard decisions in upcoming weeks and months. Some of these decisions will obviously remain completely in the realm of faculty governance. Others, however, may need to be made by us, in the academic administration, on an emergency basis. We will always consult with the groups we have formed—again, made up by elected faculty representatives—but there will be moments when we will have to move quickly, in response to changing situations, and we will not be able to consult with all members of our elected committees. Our commitment to the faculty is that we will make such decisions in consultation with our colleagues who are on these newly formed groups.

We also know, from the Zoom faculty forum last Friday, that our faculty colleagues are very much engaged with remote teaching and are finding significant challenges in this new learning environment. And they are adapting. We also know that students are feeling a great deal of stress as they adapt to our remote teaching. We just want to emphasize, once again, that we strongly recommend that you cut back on the work you are assigning, and not expect students to do the same work they would have been required to do on campus. Learning this semester is different, and we need to acknowledge that and adapt.

We look forward to “seeing” many of you at tomorrow’s faculty meeting, where we will also be experimenting with a new way of connecting with one another. We are happy to engage with colleagues in a wide variety of ways as we navigate these new waters. Please be in touch with us with your questions or thoughts. Thank you for what you are doing for your students, and stay safe and healthy.

 

Best,

Jeff Cason
Provost

Sujata Moorti
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty