Dear Faculty: Halloween is one of the most active student gathering weekends of the fall semester. I understand the draw of Halloween, and I am sensitive to the fact that this is one more sacrifice we are asking our students to make, but this year we cannot afford to have our students participate in Halloween parties and other large gatherings. Please discuss this with your students and advisees, and encourage them to continue to observe COVID-19 safety guidelines at all times; to be thoughtful about costume selections that can be offensive to other cultures; and to be aware that the misuse of alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs can impact health, safety, and decision-making. The immediate and broad spread at St. Michael’s College several days ago serves as an important reminder of the need for continued vigilance.

As we approach Thanksgiving break, this edition of the weekly digest focuses on strategies[1] to support our students and address student concerns.


  • Please consider the number of platforms you are using from the perspective of a student taking multiple online/remote classes. Explore ways to further simplify, clarify, and bring increased consistency to your course materials and teaching methods. 
  • 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.
  • The majority of our undergraduates will transition to fully remote instruction following Thanksgiving break. Please adhere to your assigned class time, and take time well ahead of the break to communicate your plans to students so they are clear about expectations for remote instruction, and the technology and materials they will need to engage fully with their classes. Flexibility may be needed if students anticipate or encounter connectivity issues. Please be sensitive to the needs of your students.
  • Please adhere to the exam schedule that has been created by the Registrar’s Office to minimize instances of conflicting exam times for students, and follow all other aspects of the UVM exam policy. Communicate exam structure and expectations to students so they are prepared for exam week.
  • If you are using Blackboard for your exams, please make sure students have sufficient time to answer the questions posed. If you enable the no-backtracking feature for a Blackboard exam, please inform students that they will not be able to go back and review their answers. Please be aware that students with certain SAS accommodations may need a version of the exam without this feature turned on. CTL has an excellent summary of ways to encourage academic honesty without creating high-pressure timed assessments, as well as a helpful exam decision tool.
  • There are no plans to offer a Pass/No Pass option this fall. To provide students with additional time to make informed decisions about withdrawals, the withdrawal date has been extended from October 29 to November 2.
  • Student Services offices across campus are reporting higher than usual numbers of requests for incompletes, withdrawals, and academic flexibility. Students who receive incompletes should be encouraged to complete course work during the extended January break and discouraged from taking any winter session courses. When possible, faculty should assess and grade the work of incompletes before the spring semester begins.
  • The higher rates of requests for withdrawals include withdrawals from required courses. Students need to be supported in understanding the cumulative effect of withdrawals and the potential impact on progression and time to graduation. That said, there are times when partial or full withdrawals may be of benefit to students.
  • A number of students are reporting significant stress over their GPAs and financial aid implications of their fall grades. Please refer these students to your college’s Student Services office and Student Financial Services to identify options and whether any flexibility is possible.
  • It is not too late to seek support from the Center for Teaching and Learning if you need assistance with the use of Blackboard or other instructional technology. The ETS Knowledge Base offers comprehensive self-help guides on Blackboard and Teams if you prefer to look up how-to’s on your own.

Other Updates

  • As a reminder, undergraduate for-credit internships should shift to remote after Thanksgiving break. This does not apply to internships and practica that are part of required degree components such as clinical or teaching placements.
  • Conducting Community-Based Research in Service-Learning Classes: A CELO workshop led by Professor of Geography Cherie Morse. Learn how to conduct research for community partners within academic courses -- a significant learning experience for students, and a viable alternative to other forms of service-learning in the pandemic. Professor Morse has partnered with the Vermont Land Trust, Franklin-Grand Isle Community Action, the Town of Greensboro and others to develop research projects implemented within courses. November 11, 2020; 3:00 - 4:00pm. Join in Teams
  • Next week’s election may add another layer of uncertainty to our students’ lives. Our students will be looking to you for guidance, and your thoughtful acknowledgement can provide helpful framing that elicits their constructive response. The Center for Teaching and Learning is collecting resources from other institutions, including examples of how to acknowledge the situation while respecting diverse perspectives. These resources along with the recording of the UVM faculty panel “Teaching in Tumultuous Times” will be published to the CTL site over the weekend and early next week. Additional events planned for the coming two weeks include:
We’re entering what is typically the most challenging period of the semester, and this semester is especially trying. I am grateful for your work on behalf of our students. Your employment of the strategies outlined above will have a powerful and positive impact on our students’ academic experience at a critical point in the semester. You are an incredibly important part of the network helping them find their way through the pandemic. They will remember your support and encouragement long after the pandemic ends.

Patricia A. Prelock
Provost and Senior Vice President
The University of Vermont



Patricia Prelock, Provost and Sr. VP