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Guidance for the Start of the 2020-21 Academic Year

Updated August 17 2020

Dear Faculty Colleagues, 

As we approach the start of the new academic year and reopening of classes on August 31, I want to again acknowledge the hard work you have undertaken this summer to be ready to teach our students, whether on-ground, online, or in a blended (“hybrid”) version of the two.  Thanks to the dozens of faculty-support workshops in addition to countless one-on-one sessions conducted by OIT/Ed Tech under the leadership of Steve Narmontas and the Center for Teaching and Learning spearheaded by Dr. Jonathan Beagle, our capacity to deliver courses remotely – and well – has been significantly enhanced since the end of the spring term.  As these workshops are continuing at least through the end of the month, I urge you to take advantage of the remaining opportunities; for schedule information, please check the Summer 2020 Workshops link.

Of course, the impetus to help faculty further develop/enhance their online pedagogy is the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our traditional course-delivery model.  Even though on-ground teaching is our institution’s mainstay, the fall course schedule necessarily consists of a combination of the three modalities.  For on-ground courses, it is encouraged that guest speakers appear via Zoom as opposed to in person.  Similarly, faculty office hours and student conferences should be conducted remotely unless the physical meeting space can accommodate social distancing and all parties are agreeable to the conditions.  Everyone is reminded not to enter colleagues’ offices/work space without prior arrangement and to stay outside of the office/room threshold unless social distancing can be maintained.

University policy is that everyone – students, faculty, and staff – must wear face coverings on campus at all times, with limited exceptions such as when eating/drinking while maintaining social distance, for people who inhabit isolated work space, and for students when in their own dorm rooms.  Faculty should reinforce this message and in the classroom must strictly enforce this policy.  Incidents of student noncompliance should be reported to the Dean of Students.  Of course, everyone should be reminded not to attend any physical classroom if they have COVID-19 or present with symptoms, in which case they should seek immediate medical attention.

Cleaning and disinfectant products will be available in every classroom to enable faculty and students to clean/disinfect contact surfaces prior to the start of each class session.  As educators and concerned citizens, we should remind our students of the four Ds – Dress (face covering), Distancing (at least six feet), Density (avoid crowds), and Duration (minimize length of exposure) – and that everyone must be hyper vigilant about abiding by these public health norms in addition to practicing good personal hygiene. 

Many of you have requested guidance on language related to the COVID-19 pandemic for inclusion in syllabi, which is provided in the attached document, “Guidance Regarding Pandemic-Related Content for Syllabi.”

It goes without saying that especially in this COVID-19 environment, we must all try to be as flexible, accommodating, available, and responsive to our students as possible.  As you finalize preparations for your fall courses, I want to express my profound gratitude for all that you have done this summer to be ready to teach, mentor, and inspire our students in the finest tradition of Western New England University, now more than a century in the making!

Kind regards,

Curt Hamakawa
Interim Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs