October 28, 2020 - TO: umdearborn-all-faculty, umdearborn-leo-faculty
While I continue to be immensely impressed at the efforts you are all making to keep things on keel and moving forward for your students — and I hope yourselves — please believe we are very aware this is far from easy, and is truly wearing. We are continually trying to find ways to assist, knowing full well so much is falling on each and every one of you.
Clarity of information is one way we can help. The deans and I realize that among the challenging circumstances you face in teaching this semester, a particular issue relates to how to manage your classes when students are diagnosed with COVID and/or when a student might miss a class time, assignments, exams, or other work and ask for some manner of reprieve.
Let me be clear that the change in modality (from largely in-person to online teaching) does not fundamentally alter how you have traditionally managed your class. Faculty are empowered to set assignment deadlines and provide reasonable accommodations to students when they may miss those deadlines (e.g., sickness, emergent issues, etc.). Many, if not all, faculty have existing rules set forth in your syllabi that clearly state those requirements and expectations.
With that said, we must all acknowledge the uniqueness of this situation and that a mostly online teaching environment does pose special challenges, not least around issues of protecting sensitive student information related to COVID.
Many faculty have asked who is responsible for notifying them when one of their students is diagnosed with COVID. The Instructional Faculty Guidelines for Students or Faculty (Personal) COVID Cases policy lays out the process. In a nutshell, students should contact Student Affairs (via 313 593-5056 or DearbornCOVIDSupport@umich.edu) when they feel ill or if they test positive for COVID. Once the Student Affairs team confirms that a student has been diagnosed with COVID, one of the next steps is to contact the student’s instructor and the department chair if the class is meeting on campus. Remote classes are not governed by the same procedures, since on-campus transmission concerns are not in play. However, students will be encouraged to inform all their instructors, regardless of modality, as early as possible.
In all cases — COVID-related or not — where a student gets sick and cannot continue with their studies and course work, they have always been encouraged to reach out to their instructors to discuss the best course of action to ensure their academic success, such as adjusting assignment due dates, if feasible; seeking an incomplete grade (not to be used if a student has a significant amount of the course left to complete); or withdrawing from the course (last day to withdraw from courses, paying 100% tuition and fees, is Monday, December 14th).
The Dean of Students will reach out regularly in her weekly communication to students, messaging the wisdom of early communication to faculty about significant changes in their circumstances, either personal or familial. Faculty too could make clear to their own students that they are willing to listen and help; sharing the contact information (313 593-5056 or DearbornCOVIDSupport@umich.edu) would also be a supportive step. Early communication is key for developing, together, a plan for a smooth path forward for student progress, and eases the burden on faculty. It is much easier for faculty to help, if they are aware sooner rather than later. If notifications of changed circumstances come in very late and long after the fact, it is harder for faculty to know how — or if — to make accommodations.
There is a difficult balance to be struck here of course. To serve both students and faculty, we must maintain our high academic expectations yet show compassion to all involved. I know this is not easy.
Finally, we know that faculty are also seeking resources to support students who may be having mental health challenges. The CAPS team has a comprehensive set of resources on their website for your review, including a faculty toolkit for supporting student mental health.
With my best wishes, and continue to take care,
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs