Jan. 3, 2022
Dear teaching colleagues,
I am writing to provide you with guidance for your courses for this upcoming spring 2022 semester. Classes start on Jan. 10. As you know, the Chancellor has reaffirmed UNC’s commitment to in-person instruction, while recognizing the need for flexibility as we reconvene as a residential community. The Dean’s Office has assembled some information and resources that I hope will be helpful for you. Additional guidance for staff will be forthcoming from the Office of Human Resources and campus leadership.
Especially for our undergraduate students, in-person instruction is important for Spring 2022. We have found that meeting early in the semester is a critical aspect of building community. After four semesters of COVID-related disruptions, in-person classes provide the richest chance for students to learn from one another and to build relations with faculty. Yet the increased transmission rate of omicron means the College will support a responsive flexibility so that instructors may teach remotely. To manage these two goals, I am asking instructors in the College of Arts & Sciences to do the following:
- Prepare your students for temporary modality changes. As the instructor, you will have the most information about whether it is best if your class is delivered in person or remotely once classes begin. If you believe the level of absences or your own health or caregiving circumstances jeopardize your ability to succeed with in-person classes, you may decide to temporarily switch to remote instruction. These decisions should be determined in collaboration with your chair. We recognize that in some cases faculty with daycare or school-age (K-8) children may need to teach remotely if the daycare facility or school closes. We are monitoring area public school policies with an eye to how they may affect our operations. To prepare students for potential modality changes, I ask that you add a new section to your syllabus:
Spring 2022 Course Delivery: As long as it is possible to do so safely, we will be meeting in person this semester. I understand the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may require changes to this plan and will be monitoring the situation closely. If I need to change the format of the course temporarily due to outbreaks of illness, I will announce this via email and the course Sakai site.
- Prepare your students for their own likely absences. From what we know about the omicron variant, we expect transmission among students to occur, especially during the next two months. CDC guidance indicates that for many, the symptoms will range from non-existent/mild to moderate, and the isolation period will be about a week. Students who miss class will want to make up what they missed in class sessions and course assessments. They may get notes from other students or they can review a recorded lecture or listen to a livestream if one is available. However, recording or streaming your in-person class is not required; the Dean’s Office understands that teaching in a hybrid format may not work for every class and supports instructors who provide alternative (non-streaming) paths for students to keep up with class. Other ideas are here.
- Prepare for your own absence as an instructor. I realize that we all are at risk of becoming ill this semester, as breakthrough cases among vaccinated individuals are occurring. We all need to plan for likely absences among faculty and instructional and support staff, including those required to stay home for caregiving. If you cannot teach your class, let your department chair know as soon as possible. Some recommended strategies: (a) Ask a colleague to step in for you, (b) invite a guest lecturer to contribute on a topic relevant to your course’s student learning outcomes, (c) schedule a supplemental lecture of discussion session to be delivered online, (d) show a previous recording of the lecture, (e) provide a reasonable set of instructional activities for your students to complete. To facilitate a colleague stepping into teach for you, please do your best to keep your grading records up-to-date and in a format that could be easily made available to your students and co-instructor.
- Keep track of your instructional changes. We are accountable for the changes we support through this new flexibility. I ask you to please take notes about any weekly adjustments you make this semester to your in-person course plans and share them with your chair, DGS and DUS as the semester progresses. Due to our relationship with our accrediting body, we are required to describe deviations from planned instruction to approved courses in any semester. The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment will ask you to describe any changes made during the semester. In addition, the Dean’s Office, along with the Provost and the Chancellor, will need to be able to answer queries about how the semester is going and why we have adopted the teaching modalities that are being used.
- Follow common sense when it comes to COVID-related absences. The University’s Approved Absence Office is intended for the most challenging student cases (https://uaao.unc.edu) in addition to protected absences such as for religious observances. The UAA Office does not capture all potentially valid cases when a student might be absent from your course (e.g., migraines, flu). Not every absence needs to go to the UAA Office to be “certified.” Faculty will need to work with their students directly in many COVID-related cases when they need to be absent. While illness due to COVID is considered a University-approved absence, requiring all students to secure that approval at the UAA would unduly burden the office and the students. Assume that a student with a positive COVID test is an excused absence and that there may be an absence of a week or more.
Many of the decisions you make this semester with your teaching, as with semesters in the recent past, require your professional judgment and do not warrant a formal request through EOC and/or Human Resources. We trust our faculty to make decisions about temporary changes to instruction during this omicron phase, while also upholding their commitment to excellence in teaching. We greatly appreciate your work to provide a rich and meaningful course experience to our students during these times.
All my best wishes to you for a successful start of the semester.
Terry Ellen Rhodes, Dean
College of Arts & Sciences