Dear Faculty Colleagues -
I have been extremely happy to see our campus pull together to confront this unusual (indeed unprecedented) situation.
We will continue to prioritize the continuation of our educational mission while vigorously protecting the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff. With the safety of our campus community in mind, we have made adjustments to university operations that will allow us to meet our commitments and abide by the general public health principle of limiting the interaction of people within larger groups to diminish disease transmission and protect everyone in our communities, particularly the most vulnerable.
To that end, the decision was made today that, effective immediately, all events that compromise the health and safety of the campus and/or are not essential to the continuity of operations will be postponed until further notice, regardless of the number of attendees.
Commencement has been canceled.
Another message will provide you with additional details regarding these actions.
Let me now turn to topics that lie on the more strictly academic side of the house. I realize that there remain questions and issues, and we will continue to hear your concerns and get back to you with answers. Please bear with us! Some additional information, clarifications, and recommendations appear below.
We must all take heed for the more vulnerable of our students. We strongly encourage faculty to reach out to their classes, via Canvas, to assess the degree to which there are students who do not have a laptop (ChromeBooks, etc.) and/or who do not have good internet access at home or at some other safe location. To effectively support these students, we need to know who needs help; we will be in touch about how this information should be shared soon. The Library (see below!) will provide students with internet-enabled space to work, and ITS has developed an online guide with resources that will assist students with working and studying remotely. I would also remind everyone about the support available through Disability Services and CAPS. The Food Pantry — hurrah and thank you — will remain open.
A message to international students with helpful FAQs has been sent by the Offices of International Affairs, Global Education and Graduate Programs. This information will also be posted on the University’s website.
Faculty and Staff
We have to take care of each other as well. Please remember that everyone is tense and juggling many concerns. Keep breathing deep. Also, given school closures — coupled with remote delivery of instruction and support services — people at home will be dealing with family care issues. Please be patient, understanding, and kind in your interactions with colleagues.
The Mardigian Library will be an anchor for us, serving for now as the primary location on campus for students who do not have good internet access at home. The on-the-ball Library team got a jump start and many library functions (LibChats, “Ask a Question”, managing e-resources, and so on) are already entirely accessible through remote access. The Mardigian Library will remain open. Please keep an eye on their website for hours of operation. The Library is making additional accommodations for students, faculty, and staff through actions such as extended ChromeBook check-outs, widening the scope of course reserves, and forgiving fines. Access to the Library will be available only to the UM-Dearborn community for the time being, and we will work to ensure appropriate social distance between computer users. As much as possible, we must try to prioritize library use for those students who really require it (that is, let us discourage students from seeing it as ‘social space’).
Advising, Tutoring, Supplemental Instruction, and Learning Centers
The campus will maintain a limited physical presence in the START office in the University Center. Nearly all of our advising, tutoring, and supplemental instruction services will move to a virtual modality and be delivered remotely. In addition, all of our learning centers (Math, Science, Writing, and Language) will provide remote services. We will ensure all student support professionals have laptops. Students should be encouraged by faculty to continue to use these resources, and to reach out to each office to schedule appointments and consultation. College advising protocols will be determined by the dean.
The majority of classrooms will be closed and locked for security purposes (after they are cleaned and sanitized). Certain classrooms and other spaces with lecture capture capacity will be kept available. Do please consider taking steps to record and upload course materials to be shared for asynchronous viewing. Additional information will be forthcoming very soon regarding campus resources to assist in these efforts.
Internships and Co-ops
At this point, we recommend that the decision about whether — and how — a student may continue an internship or co-op opportunity should be left to the internship coordinator, employer or sponsor, and to the student in question. If students have questions or concerns about continuing with an internship or co-op, we will ask sponsors to be understanding and flexible in their assessments of the experience. Students should contact internship coordinators in their home college if they have questions or concerns about continuing.
Research and Research Labs
Yi Lu Murphey will be sending a more general message about research on campus very soon. At this time, there has been no change in access to our research laboratories. For now the decision about whether — and how — a student may continue to engage in lab research activity should be left to the Principal Investigator, and of course to the student in question. If students have questions or concerns about continuing, we ask faculty to be understanding and flexible in their response to that decision and in their modes of student assessment.
Continuity of Instruction
It might be tempting, with the best will in the world, to slow or even halt one’s teaching and engagement to the point that a student cannot complete your class. This is understandable since we want the best for them, but there is also the very real danger of sliding too easily into offering incompletes (or Y grades) that slow progress to completion and graduation — already too great a hurdle for our students. Think instead about how you can convey the same materials and thought experiments in alternative and creative ways. Remember: your course can end up looking and acting quite different than usual, but still be terrific. Obviously, incompletes will be necessary in certain cases - just please think carefully about how to avoid them.
I would add that the expectation is that we continue to teach, assist, and assess our students until the end of term. Determining a final grade at this point is not an acceptable practice. We will also be adhering to the university’s policy on final exams.
Finals and Commencement
The decision has been made that all final exams will take place remotely in alternative formats. The Office of the Provost, working with resources such as the HUB for Teaching and Learning, will work to get thoughts and best practices out to faculty soon, so we may communicate effectively and quickly with our students. Please alleviate student concerns on this issue; we have some time to get our acts together. Stand by!
Spring 2020 Commencement will be canceled with alternate modes of celebration being explored. Additional information will be shared when available. Given how many other postponed events were celebratory in nature, we will be seeking alternative ways to honor and recognize our students, staff and faculty.
A Word about Vocabulary
As we communicate with our students and the wider world, we should be thoughtful about the terms we employ. For example, our campus is not ‘closing’, nor are we ‘suspending business’. We remain open and operational! But we are changing the way we operate in order to maintain both continuity of instruction and care for our students. Finally, it is also a good idea to refer to ‘remote delivery’, rather than ‘online teaching’ - it is a broader and more comprehensive phrase.
I apologize profoundly for this very lengthy message, but we have a lot of ground to cover and we need to be on the same page as far as possible. I am sure I still have missed things! Please feel free to bring additional concerns to the attention of your department chair and dean, and ask them to let me know.
Again, thanks to all for your cooperative attitude, remarkable dedication, ongoing flexibility and perceptible good humor. Twitchy though we still may remain, we will get through this together.
With best wishes, and take good care,
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs