Provost Sayrs provides end of semester updates

Published: December 9, 2021 Author: Staff reports

The following message was shared with faculty on Dec. 8, 2021.

Dear colleagues,

As we continue finals week and prepare for fall commencement, I wanted to share a collection of end-of-semester updates and reminders, including the following:

  • COVID updates for spring semester
  • Academic planning updates (faculty awards, One OHIO task forces and scheduling group, Program Innovation Accelerator, and summer core group updates)
  • Reminder: VSRP enrollment (January 2022) 

1) COVID updates for spring semester 2022 

COVID Absence policy remains in effect during finals week and spring semester
As previously announced, as long as it is necessary to continue quarantine, isolation, and remain-in-room policies, the COVID-19 attendance policy will remain in effect, including during finals week and, at this point, during the 2022 spring semester.  As a reminder, the COVID-19 attendance policy treats COVID-related illness (including vaccine-related side effects), quarantine, isolation, or remain-in-room orders as a university legitimate absence. I know that it can be challenging to manage these absences, so I appreciate your help with this critical component of keeping our campuses and communities as safe as possible.  

Reminder of availability of boosters
As Dr. Gillian Ice reminded us in her November 23 Public Health update, anyone ages 18 and up who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is now eligible for a booster shot. If you got an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), you may get a booster dose six months after you are fully vaccinated. If you got a one-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson), you may get a booster dose two months after you are fully vaccinated.  

I recently received my booster shot. The state is experiencing increased cases from the delta variant and information continues to emerge about the omicron variant. If you are eligible and able to and have not already received a booster I encourage you to do so. Anyone eligible for a booster dose can schedule one anywhere in Ohio via the State of Ohio vaccination website. Additionally, boosters are available on the Athens campus on December 9, 10, and 17, and in January. For more information, please visit the Ohio University’s Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19 website. All Athens campus clinics will have Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines available.

Distance and masking
As Dr. Ice shared earlier this semester, high vaccination rates and a trend of lower positivity rates support a return to more typical capacities in classrooms, labs, and conference spaces for spring. Classrooms will be reset to pre-COVID capacities in most situations while maintaining six feet of physical distancing space for instructors.  

Required use of face masks will continue. COVID Operations and senior leadership will continue to monitor the need for this and other preventive measures as well as CDC guidelines throughout spring semester. 

2) Academic planning updates

Faculty awards
After a brief hiatus, we have reinstated the exemplary faculty awards, including the Presidential Teacher Award, University Professor Award, Provost's Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the MAC Outstanding Faculty Award for Student Success. Award finalists and winners will be announced in 2022. More information about the awards can be found on the Exemplary Faculty Awards webpage. 

One OHIO task forces and scheduling group
During the fall semester, the Office of the Provost and Faculty Senate established two joint task forces focused on One OHIO faculty processes, policies, and recommendations.  

  • The One OHIO Promotion and Tenure task force is focused on developing recommendations for implementing practices and processes for promotion and tenure procedures across all campuses.
  • The One OHIO Faculty Integration task force is focused on creating recommendations for implementing practices and processes related to the Faculty Senate's Professional Relations Committee and the Educational Policy and Student Affairs Committee. 

RHE/Athens Scheduling group: In 2019, the One OHIO Instructional Efficiency work stream developed recommendations for a collaborative scheduling process across the Athens and regional campuses. These recommendations were approved in fall 2019 and included a phase 1 process that would run through summer 2022, as well as identified some possible future scheduling issues to be addressed in phase 2. The RHE/Athens Scheduling group, comprising faculty and administrators from multiple Athens colleges, RHE campuses, and eCampus, began meeting in November to assess phase 1, consider phase 2 issues, and identify any new issues beginning with the academic year 2022–2023. The group will have early recommendations to improve communication in January and offer broader scheduling recommendations later in the spring term.

More information about the task forces and the scheduling group can be found on the One OHIO Faculty Considerations webpage.  Faculty are encouraged to contact members of the task forces or scheduling groups with questions, comments, and ideas.

Program Innovation Accelerator
The Academic Planning and Strategy Group identified multiple barriers to developing new innovative, interdisciplinary programs, which led to the launch of the Program Innovation Accelerator (PIA) last summer. Since July, the PIA has received 27 proposals for degrees, certificates, and centers. Several proposals are ready to move forward in the curricular approval processes, with the support of market research reports, project management, and instructional design consultations. Market research, enrollment projections, and financial analyses continue for the other proposals. We anticipate new programs to emerge through the PIA beginning in 2022.

The current status of proposals is below: 

  • 14 proposals in market, financial, and enrollment analysis phase 
  • 9 proposals provided market research report and offered OII project management and instructional design consultations 
  • 3 interdisciplinary proposals are under discussion across multiple colleges/departments/schools 
  • 1 proposal referred to Vice President for Research and Creative Activity

Summer core groups
The final reports of the two summer core groups are available at https://www.ohio.edu/provost/academic-planning-strategy. We are working on implementing several of the recommendations from these groups. For example, based on the recommendations from the Horizontal Clusters Pilot Summer Group, the new interdisciplinary Environmental Studies and Sustainability degree is being supported as a “horizontal” pilot to help identify sustainable models for interdisciplinary programs, including developing governance structures across departments/colleges, addressing workload considerations for interdisciplinary degrees, and integrating student advising and support. The report on this pilot will be available at the end of the spring semester. Based on the recommendations of the Summer Data Core Group, we are exploring how to include qualitative as well as quantitative data and continuing to expand and refine the data tools developed through the academic planning and strategy process, and we will continue to involve chairs and directors as well as deans as we continue this work.  

3) Reminder: VSRP enrollment (January 2022)

As announced in October, Ohio University will offer a voluntary separation or retirement program (VSRP) for selected Athens campus faculty. University Human Resources notified eligible faculty on Monday, November 1, 2021, via email. Eligible individuals may indicate their interest to participate in the VSRP on or after January 15, 2022. To receive the cash incentives associated with the plan, eligible faculty must declare their intention to participate on or before March 7, 2022, and return all necessary forms and paperwork as required by that date.  

Participants in the program must separate service or retire on one of the four official exit dates of May 15, 2022, June 30, 2022, August 15, 2022, or December 31, 2022.   

Questions can be directed to Human Resources – Benefits Staff at benefits@ohio.edu. While each individual's situation is different, anyone considering participating in this voluntary opportunity is advised to get all the information possible before making a decision. Additional information and FAQs about the VSRP can be found online at https://www.ohio.edu/hr/benefits/vsrp-2022.

For many of us—students, faculty, and staff—this has been a challenging semester. Genuine joy at being back on our campuses and in person more frequently is tempered by the ongoing stress and uncertainty of this phase of the pandemic. We continue to celebrate the development and availability of vaccines and new treatments for COVID, as well as our communities’ care for each other as demonstrated by our high vaccination rates, even as we continue to grieve for the loss of life and health across the country and the world. And through this all, we have continued to foster deep student learning, meaningful research, and service to our communities — maybe not in the same ways we have in the past, but in ways that continue to make a tangible positive difference. Thank you for your ongoing care for our students and for one another. I wish you a peaceful, healthy, and restorative winter break.  

Sincerely,  

Elizabeth Sayrs
Executive Vice President and Provost