Provost Sayrs provides update for Fall 2020
The following message was shared with faculty on June 8, 2020.
As President Nellis explained in last Friday’s message, faculty, staff, and students continue to work together through eight work groups and a coordinating council to develop a comprehensive set of recommendations for our campuses for fall semester 2020. The work groups’ recommendations will be submitted for consideration on June 15 and then will be consolidated into a comprehensive plan for approval by President Nellis. In the meantime, I want to share the progress that has been made in academic areas as we begin preparing for a phased return to our campuses from remote work and instruction.
Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity
The research and creative activity working group has developed a process to support resumption of the research and creative activity halted in the spring, including the following:
- Field research - When Governor DeWine began to issue restrictions in March due to the pandemic, Ohio University issued travel restrictions, effectively suspending field research. Now that states have begun to lift restrictions, we are beginning to resume field research. Researchers who want to engage in field research must first submit a Research/Creative Activity Operation Plan to be approved, in turn, by their department chair/school director, relevant Associate Dean in their college, and the Vice President for Research & Creative Activity.
- On-campus research and creative activity - On March 16, Ohio University moved to remote work for as many people as possible, with a minimal number of exceptions for essential on-campus research in compliance with state requirements. As restrictions are lifted, we have begun to resume on-campus research and creative activity. Faculty who want to engage in research or creative activity in University facilities must first submit a Research/Creative Activity Operation Plan for approval by their department chair/school director, relevant Associate Dean in their college/campus, and the Vice President for Research & Creative Activity.
Clinicals, Practica, and Internships
The Clinicals, Practica, and Internships group is developing specific guidelines and practices for safe participation in these face-to-face learning experiences. While this group works toward submitting its recommendations by June 15, we recognize that these activities are required urgently and may not be completed remotely for some degrees. Exemption requests for clinicals and practica in health and medical fields have been approved by college deans and then the Provost’s office on a case-by-case basis. Students who have chosen to participate in on-site internships have been advised to follow CDC and local health department guidelines.
- Alden Library plans to begin its first phase of reopening in mid-June. In this phase, library staff will:
- Reinstitute borrowing of Athens campus library materials
- Receive and process new print content
- Selectively scan content from general and special collections
Prepare physical spaces and computing resources for public access during later phases of reopening, including reconfiguring space to meet social distancing requirements
As part of phase 1, borrowers will be able to request locally-owned materials (including Annex and Music materials), which will be retrieved by staff, prechecked out to users, and placed for no-contact pickup at or near the second floor entrance during designated hours. Returned materials will be quarantined per national guidelines before recirculating or reshelving. The Libraries will continue to enable instructors’ use of digital alternatives through purchasing, scanning, and electronic reserves.
As we await recommendations from the working groups, we have not yet determined which courses may need to be delivered in new modalities or in different classroom spaces in order to achieve appropriate social distancing. To help prepare for fall semester under various scenarios, resources continue to be available to help consider teaching in multiple modalities. University Libraries, the Office of Instructional Innovation, and the Office of Information Technology are offering weekly virtual workshops and lunch and learn sessions throughout the summer. Pre-recorded workshops, the upcoming schedule of live workshops, consultation information, and other tools for online and remote teaching are available on the Keep Teaching website.
Through discussions with colleagues and feedback from Faculty Senate, including the sense-of-the-Senate resolution passed on May 4, I know that one of the primary concerns about the fall is how to ensure that high-risk students, staff, and faculty (and those who live with others who are at high risk), as well as the members of the communities that we live in, are protected, especially because the virus responsible for COVID-19 can be spread by those who are asymptomatic. We must prioritize fulfilling our academic mission in tandem with protecting the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and our communities: our mission and public safety are inextricably linked. We anticipate specific recommendations in mid-June from the working groups. Over the summer we will continue to refine and strengthen these recommendations in response to new research, state and federal guidance, and your feedback. I ask you to continue to share your ideas and concerns through Faculty Senate and through the link on the fall planning website.
Finally, preparing to return in the fall is not just about preparing to return to on-campus engagement with students. We return to our campuses affected not only by the pandemic and concomitant economic crisis, but also by the tragic stream of brutality we have witnessed over the past weeks and years, including the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as the long-standing, underlying, and persistent racism that perpetuates this violence. We have also witnessed citizens participate in peaceful protest to resist the overt, covert, and systemic racism that has persisted in our country since its inception. As more communities officially recognize racism as a public health crisis, we must recognize that the University’s commitment to social justice is not just the responsibility of those whose job titles include the word “diversity.” It is incumbent on each one of us to stand in solidarity with our students, colleagues, and community members of color, especially African American community members, and with our international students and colleagues. In seeking change, we must go beyond words and address historical and current contexts of the ongoing struggle for racial equality and justice in our classrooms and our course content, in our research and in our disciplines, and on our campuses and in our broader communities.
As you prepare for the fall, I urge you to make use of the Keep Including website, a collaboration between Faculty Senate Chair Robin Muhammad and the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, which includes resources for supporting marginalized students, for fostering access, accessibility, and a sense of belonging, and for incorporating trauma-informed teaching. We must reclaim the purpose of public higher education to help eradicate systemic racism and effect lasting change.
Executive Vice President and Provost