Dear University of Vermont Faculty,
As we embark on a semester like none that came before it, I want to thank our hard-working faculty and staff for your efforts to make this academic year a safe and successful one for our students. The planning and preparation for this fall semester has been monumental and I am grateful to each one of you for your commitment to finding creative teaching solutions.
Even with our carefully laid plans, we should all expect challenges, particularly in these first few weeks. Our individual and collective responses to these challenges must be carefully considered to ensure the steady stewardship of the university.
It is important, therefore, that I make clear to all faculty that you may not unilaterally make modality changes to your courses, and neither may GTAs. Course modalities were published in mid-July after faculty were given the opportunity to express their preference regarding instructional modalities. Courses, including modalities were assigned accordingly. Therefore, faculty are expected to teach in the modalities that were announced to students when they registered for their courses. Students revised their schedules and made the choice to return to campus based in part on the course modality information available to them in the Schedule of Courses at the time of registration.
Students are counting on us to follow through with the modalities that were announced when they registered for their courses. Absent special circumstances, faculty are expected to teach in their assigned modalities; modality changes can only be made with the prior approval of the Provost’s Office. As a reminder, mixed modality courses are expected to have some regular in-person instruction. Deans’ Offices and the Provost’s Office have already heard from a number of students and families how disruptive changes in modality are for students, many of whom carefully chose their courses with the goal of maximizing their in-person experiences.
The assignment of classrooms, teaching assignments, and modality rest with the administration, as in any other semester. In-person and mixed modality courses have been allocated classroom and other on-campus spaces, technology has been assessed and installed, and support personnel have been identified to help facilitate teaching and learning. A rigorous pre-arrival and on-campus testing program, six-foot distancing in classroom seating, requirements for facial coverings and protocols for classroom cleaning have been put in place to help protect the health and safety of faculty and students.
If you have changed your modality without receiving permission from the Provost, please restore your scheduled modality immediately. Discipline will be considered should changes in modality occur without the approval of the Provost’s Office.
There may be circumstances under which temporary changes in modality will be necessary, such as state mandated quarantine following known exposure to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. In these instances, faculty must notify their Chair immediately and enact the contingency plans that should be in place for continuity of instruction.
I know that many of you have invested your past expertise, and developed additional areas of knowledge and skill, to create a new type of teaching and learning experience for this fall. I have a deep appreciation for your efforts and your willingness to problem-solve in order to make your assigned course modality a success. I know that there will be bumps in the road these first few weeks, and I am encouraging students to be patient and helpful as we all explore this uncharted territory. Working together with tenacity, patience, civility, and respect, I am confident we will be able to complete a successful semester.
Please accept my deep appreciation for everyone’s efforts.
Patricia A. Prelock
Provost and Senior Vice President