Dear Faculty: COVID cases are increasing across the country. As you may know, we had six positive tests on Monday of this week . The university’s response plan was implemented swiftly and we have moved students to quarantine and isolation as appropriate. Our systems are working: we identified the cases and we responded quickly. Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, and Thursday’s test results included no positives. What we need now is for all of us - faculty, staff, and students to re-commit to our COVID health and safety practices.
We will shift to remote instruction for the final week of classes and final exams after Thanksgiving. Please prepare your students for this transition so they know what to expect. I want our faculty and our students to finish the semester successfully; please give the strategies identified in last week’s digest your full consideration.
Finally, a heartfelt “thank you!” to those faculty who are already going above and beyond to support students this fall semester; your efforts have made our students feel supported and helped to protect the campus by encouraging responsible behavior.
This week, I offer some important information that I hope you will find helpful.
- The Vermont Department of Health indicates that travel is a significant factor in COVID-19 infection and spread in Vermont. I am issuing my strongest recommendation that you do not travel outside of Vermont for business or personal reasons. If you do travel outside of Vermont, you must abide by all Vermont quarantine restrictions upon your return.
- Some students are not adhering to quarantine requirements for fear they will miss important class material that will have a negative impact on their academic progression. Please make certain you have a plan to make class recordings or alternative materials available to enable students to keep up when they are not allowed to attend class as a result of quarantine or isolation requirements.
- We have heard from some faculty that a quick CTL consult can help you set up Blackboard exams with options that discourage cheating while still allowing students to review their answers, such as creating question pools to present random-ordered questions to students one at a time. CTL staff and CTL faculty associates are available to help you understand and set up these features for your tests. If you plan to offer an online final exam in Blackboard, reviewing your test options and setup with a CTL expert can help you avoid common issues.
- The Student Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate has approved additional flexibility for late withdrawal applications with extenuating circumstances related to the pandemic for fall 2020. If you have an advisee or student who may still need to withdraw from a class, please refer them to your student services/Dean’s Office professionals to discuss their situation.
- No part of UVM's strategic vision—Amplifying Our Impact—can be achieved without a diverse, engaged body of outstanding students. Because of this, we have launched the Student Opportunity, Access, and Recruitment (SOAR) Initiative—a new $150 million fundraising campaign to increase support for undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships at UVM. You can learn more about SOAR here.
- You can find detailed information on COVID-19 tests administered and results on the Weekly Testing Report. There were no positives in last week’s student test results. Faculty and staff who are participating in testing voluntarily had a 99.98% negativity rate last week. I encourage faculty and staff to take advantage of our testing protocol as surveillance testing helps manage any potential spread of the virus.
Each week I thank you for your commitment and engagement with our students. I want to express my continued gratitude, especially during this time. I encourage you to also thank your students for working hard, keeping their Green and Gold Promise and for adjusting to this ‘new normal.’ It is the combined efforts of our community, students, faculty, and staff, that has made our fall semester possible. I leave you a message from John F. Kennedy who said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”
Thank you for all you are doing,
 These do not show in the weekly test results on the website since those are of November 1.