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Preparing for Fall 2021

Friday April 09, 2021 9:24 am

April 7, 2021

Hello Faculty,

Over the last several weeks, we have been communicating with the campus community about fall return-to-campus plans. This is part of our effort to communicate effectively, and thoroughly, as we prepare to come back and support our students’ learning and our faculty’s teaching primarily in-person this fall. In addition to these messages, we are also hosting monthly forums for staff and for faculty. You may want to view past forums (January 26, 2021 and March 3, 2021) and mark your calendar for our next faculty forum on Tuesday, April 13 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m., which can be accessed via Zoom.

The time of remote work and virtual instruction is nearing its end. According to recent federal and state guidance, all individuals 16+ will have access to the vaccine by May. We have every reason to believe that our current plan—created by all of you at the department level—to offer roughly 65% of our courses in person and another 10% hybrid (partially in person) will be in place for this fall. As a result, all of us need to prepare to return to campus life and re-establish the presence of faculty as anchors of our learning-based community.

This week in my message to management and staff, I let them know that on July 1 they will return to campus, and that Academic Affairs will not be approving telecommuting requests at this time. This is because we cannot know what our faculty and students need until we are back for the fall. Of course, there will be allowable, reasonable accommodations made for those who have a medically documented need and require formal approval not to return in person at this time. But for the vast majority of staff, July 1 will be their transition back to in-person work.

The message for you as faculty is somewhat different. Because of the need to gradually reassume campus life in our division, faculty will still be required to request day permits should they want to come to campus up through the end of July. By early August, however, we plan to allow faculty to return to campus. This will provide you with the time you need to finally see or settle into your office prior to the beginning of our fall teaching semester.

The other thing faculty should keep in mind is that whether you are teaching in-person or virtually, this fall you will need to be able to come to campus. There is significant value to in-person, on-site engagement with faculty as part of the student and community learning experience. There are opportunities for spontaneous, hallway problem solving with colleagues, for attending events to exchange ideas, for interacting with students who stop by, and for taking part in service work. This is one of the reasons the policy on office hours requires faculty to be present not just for students, but also to interact with colleagues.

Some of you who have come to reside outside of the region may experience challenges with the return to campus and need time to plan. Additionally, faculty with medical concerns regarding their return to in-person work should contact Griselda Marquez at in Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion. Griselda will be able to work with faculty regarding any eligible leaves and/or the documentation required for any accommodations that may be available to them.

This is why I want to let you know now, well in advance of the start of fall semester, that there is an expectation that you will be present on campus (even if you teach virtually). Now that the students are returning to campus, our collective physical presence is essential to their success and to the success of our campus as a real physical space of dynamic ideas. It is also essential to our ability, as Titans, to come back—to make that transition culturally and physically, home.

Thank you for the tremendous job you have done instructing your students effectively during this time we have had to be away.

Best wishes,

Carolyn Thomas, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs