Welcome to the beginning of the fall semester. The start of classes is just days away — FDOC is Monday, Aug. 15. If you are a faculty member new to UNC, I will be seeing you before then at New Faculty Orientation this Friday.
I am writing to provide guidance for instruction for those who will be teaching in the classroom this semester. I hope that you read the July 29 message that went out from Chancellor Guskiewicz, Provost Clemens and Dr. Barzin, lead physician and director of the Carolina Together program, outlining the University’s COVID-19 operations for the fall.
The pandemic is not yet behind us, but we now have greater-than-ever access to vaccines, boosters and rapid testing. We also have improved treatments as we better understand this virus. The campus is closely monitoring the spread of coronavirus and emerging variants and will adapt as necessary if changes to our operations are warranted.
As we know from prior experience, our students are eager for in-classroom experiences. They expect classes to be conducted in the mode of instruction that was listed when they registered. We also recognize the need for instructors to continue to have responsive flexibility to address unique classroom conditions in real time.
To manage these equally important needs, I am asking instructors in the College of Arts and Sciences to:
- Prepare for possible temporary changes to the instruction modality. There may be instances in which you need to temporarily move a class to remote learning. You know your individual classroom situation best. Such decisions should be determined in collaboration with your department or curriculum chair. I suggest you add language in your syllabus noting that any temporary modality changes would be announced via email and the course website.
- Let your students know what options they have if they miss class due to illness. Please remember that University Approved Absences (UAAs) are NOT required for you to allow students the ability to make up missed work. To make up what they missed, students may get lecture notes from other students. They may also review a recorded lecture or listen to a livestream if these options are available as part of the course you are teaching. However, recording or streaming your in-person class is not required; the Dean’s Office understands that teaching in a HyFlex format may not work for every class and supports instructors who provide alternative methods for students to keep up with classes and assignments. Some ideas are here. The Keep Teaching website has a wealth of resources and strategies.
The University asks that all students report COVID-19 positive results from off-campus testing or at-home tests to Campus Health. (Faculty and staff can report their positive results through the COVID-19 Wellness Check.) Any student who tests positive for COVID-19 at Campus Health or who reports a positive test to Campus Health will be instructed to isolate.
The University Approved Absence Office has streamlined its process for students who test positive. Any student who tests positive at Campus Health or who reports a positive test to Campus Health will automatically receive UAAs for the required isolation period. Tests conducted at Campus Health will automatically generate a UAA form that students can forward to you.
- Prepare for your own absence. 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 or discussion session to be delivered online, (d) show a previous recording of the lecture, (e) provide instructional activities for your students to complete. To facilitate a colleague stepping in to teach for you, please keep your grading records up to date.
- Make note of any instructional changes. We are accountable for the changes made through this teaching flexibility. Please keep a record of any adjustments you make this semester to your in-person course plans and share them with your chair. We are required to describe deviations from planned instruction to our accrediting body.
You have all already done so much to keep the university operating as best as possible these past two years. I want you to know that your needs and stress levels are very much on our minds in the Dean’s Office. My senior associate deans and I are here to support you and your ability to teach in conditions that continue to remain unpredictable. The University has incorporated well-being days for students on Sept. 6 and Sept. 26. I am encouraging faculty and staff to keep these days meetings-free, if possible, to provide a break. And don’t forget that the Heels Care Network is a mental health resource hub for you and your colleagues as well as your students.
My best wishes to you for a successful start of the semester.
James W.C. White
Craver Family Dean
College of Arts and Sciences