DOF Covid-19 Communications
It is important that the faculty and the Dean of the Faculty are in open communication as we adapt to our temporary move to remote learning. To this end, Margaret Imber (email@example.com) will be our point person to whom you can send your concerns, requests, questions, and comments related to the transition.
We will use this webpage to archive our mass communications with the faculty. Each message to the faculty is given below. There are also many resources for remote teaching available through ILS and elsewhere. The DOF and ILS pages are a good place to start. Additionally, I remind you that you can find all of the college – wide communications on the Bates Covid-19 webpage.
Dean of the Faculty
May 20: A Message from Committee on Personnel
As the faculty members of the Committee on Personnel, we seek to assure you that we recognize how the current public health circumstances have affected our personal and professional lives. To that end, we draw your attention to the committee’s statement below, which will also be published on the college’s COVID-19 web page:
The Committee on Personnel (COP) acknowledges that COVID-19 has complicated our professional lives in a variety of ways. We recognize that the impact of COVID-19 will reverberate in the years ahead, delaying and shifting how we do our work in a manner we cannot imagine fully yet. In this unique moment, we remind you that reappointment, tenure, and promotion criteria at Bates have always allowed for myriad approaches to demonstrating excellence in teaching and significant professional achievement, and included a prospective judgment about promise for further development, rather than a specific number of publications, books, or other output. We respect the full range of contributions faculty members make, including the effort and creativity required in adjusting to this very complicated time.
John Baughman, Associate Professor of Politics
Carol Dilley, Professor of Dance
Steven Dillon, Professor of English
Stephen Engel, Professor of Politics
Emily Kane, Professor of Sociology
Jennifer Koviach-Côté, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Peter Wong, Professor of Mathematics
May 8: Academic Planning for 2020-21
The faculty responded in remarkable fashion to the pressing and immediate challenges that the pandemic introduced to our Winter 2020 semester. I remain inspired by the care and commitment to our students with which you approached the transition to remote learning. As historic as this past semester was, it is becoming clear that the next academic year is poised to challenge our institution in equally historic ways.
As our attention turns to the 2020-21 academic year, I write to share key information about our planning and to present programming that will be available. Our fervent hope is that it will be safe to welcome new and returning students to campus in person in the fall, and we are working very hard to understand the many dimensions of our programs and operations that will need to be adapted to make this possible. We are also carefully assessing evolving public health information, as any decisions we make must be guided by consideration for the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and our impact on our local community.
It is clear that even if we are able to open in-person in the fall, we also need to prepare for remote instruction. First, we won’t know until late June what the decision for the fall will be, because we need to understand more about the public health situation and testing before it will be responsible to make that call. Second, even with the most careful decision making and management, we cannot eliminate the possibility that at some point next year we might need to send students home for a period of remote learning. Third, some students may not be able to return to campus due to travel, visa, or health restrictions, and some faculty may not be able to teach in person.
For all of these reasons our planning needs to proceed on parallel tracks. Fortunately, unlike the circumstances of our transition to remote teaching in the winter semester, we now have time to plan and incorporate some of the best practices associated with remote instruction. At the same time, students and parents will expect us to deliver high-quality remote educational experience if we find ourselves needing to do so. We all recognize the considerable work on the part of faculty that must go into the process of preparing for these different contingencies, and we are committed to making sure that you have the tools and support to meet these challenges.
To facilitate efforts to develop pedagogical skills in remote instruction, we are coordinating a series of learning opportunities in the coming weeks and months. Working with Pat Schoknecht and her team, and in consultation with faculty, we will offer a curriculum for professional development around remote instruction. These modules will be recorded and will also be available in an asynchronous manner.
In addition to these offerings, several faculty have indicated an interest in coordinating learning groups focused on more specific issues tailored to individual instructor goals (e.g., community engagement in remote spaces; creative ways to address lab work; addressing challenges of performances in remote environments). For example, the HHMI team and Dr. Noelle Chaddock with the Mellon team have begun considering ways they might mobilize experts to study equitable and inclusive practices in remote spaces. Additional communities of practice will emerge throughout the months ahead. We have also been working with Colby and Bowdoin to modify the “Pedagogy Matters” conference (typically held in August) to focus on the needs of all of our faculty as they consider remote teaching options. We will coordinate the dissemination of this information through the DOF website.
In addition to providing resources to support faculty in the further development of remote learning, we are also working to develop flexible strategies for delivering the curriculum that will allow us to minimize pedagogical disruptions during the next academic year. Among other things, the Fall Planning Working Group is examining different scenarios for how we might deliver a Bates education in the context of COVID-19. Topics under consideration include a modified start date, modifications to breaks, and modifications to the semester model. The latter includes examining semester structures that offer greater flexibility and pedagogical stability (e.g., a 2+2 module system like the newly adopted Beloit model). Modular academic calendars are being considered by many colleges and universities, including other NESCAC institutions, because of the nimbleness they provide as conditions change and evolve. Meanwhile, the Finances Working Group is considering how the potential of lost revenue through reduced enrollment or remote instruction will influence our operation. They are also considering ways to respond to, and mitigate effects of, a budgetary disruption.
Our office will begin working with department and program chairs as we evaluate options for teaching in the fall. Given the need to prepare for remote instruction, we will soon conduct an audit of the courses that had been planned for Fall 2020. We will also discuss some of the consequences an alternate calendar might present, and will focus on topics such as:
- First Year Seminars
- General Education offerings
- Major, minor, and GEC needs
- Enrollment caps and floors
- Sequencing of courses
- Replacement of courses that cannot be taught remotely
We are recovering from an intense semester and yet there is much work to do. I wish we could find easier paths out of this situation. While the unknowns of the coming year will add complexity to our lives, our only path forward involves preparation. There is simply no other way to meet the uncertainty and contingencies inherent in the current situation. Our pledge to you is that we will work very hard to assist and support you in whatever ways we can.
Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.
April 17: Short Term
As you know, when President Spencer announced the decision to transition the faculty and students to remote learning, she made clear that the college’s commitment to providing a Short Term class to those students who needed one was a priority. We are happy to announce that all students (mostly seniors) who needed a Short Term unit to graduate have either received the appropriate waiver for the requirement or indicated their desire to take a Short Term remotely.
After looking at the areas of interest of those students (Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Social Sciences), we called for volunteers among the faculty from those divisions who were scheduled to teach Short Term. I am deeply grateful to Dr. Katie Dobkowski in the Department of Biology for volunteering to design and teach a new course to meet the needs of these students.
We are canceling all other courses that faculty members had committed to teaching this Short Term. It is difficult to anticipate the enrollment effects that COVID-19 will create during the 2020-2021 academic year and beyond. Students in the classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023 who lost an opportunity to take one of their Short Term courses may place additional demands on Short Term courses in future years. Those faculty who were not able to teach their Short Term course this year may be asked to help address these COVID-related enrollment challenges as affected students work towards graduation. We will be sure to communicate any requests in as timely a manner as possible.
I would like to thank Katie again for her willingness to help us fulfill an important component of the Bates degree for these students. I hope you all are staying safe.
April 17: Student Summer Research
Thank you for your patience as we have worked to reimagine summer research in a period of unprecedented uncertainty. In light of the ongoing global health crisis and uncertainty about how the pandemic will play out over the coming weeks and months, I write to confirm that we are not in a position to offer a residential experience to student researchers this summer.
As you have no doubt seen, the Bates Dance Festival, Gordon Conferences, and athletic camps have also been canceled for 2020. Dining services will therefore not be available for the summer, and on-campus housing will be unavailable to all but a very limited number of students who must remain on-campus because of international travel issues or other extenuating circumstances.
Nevertheless, student summer research is critical to our mission as an academic institution, facilitating scholarship and creative work by our faculty and offering important experiences to our students. After considerable deliberation among the dean’s office, senior staff, and many faculty, and after consultation with colleagues at many of our peer institutions, we have made several decisions regarding student summer research. These changes are a consequence of COVID-19, and will require recalibration of important aspects of faculty-student collaboration this summer.
- Regardless of funding source, we will not have a summer research program for students on campus this summer. Students who are currently housed on campus may be eligible to work on campus if social distancing plans can be developed and approved.
- Regardless of funding source, we will have a summer research program for students who can work remotely on projects.
- Due to shifts in the availability of summer research funds, we have made changes to the allocation process for summer funding. Our objective is to equitably distribute opportunities. To that end:
- We ask faculty who have been awarded college funds that include hiring students to submit updated information on remote research plans.
- The Faculty Scholarship Committee will review revised plans, assess available resources, and determine funding by mid-May.
The college’s decision about summer research with students may have an impact on your work and grant-related requirements. This change also may affect student scholarship, including pre-thesis work. This was a difficult decision, but the only prudent and practical one given ongoing restrictions on in-person activities on residential college campuses. Furthermore, given the ongoing financial impact of the COVID-19 situation, there will be pressure across the college to use unrestricted funds, including those typically earmarked for summer research, to address financial shortfalls.
For faculty members planning to engage students in their research this summer, here are the parameters:
- If you have an external grant to employ one or more students in research, and if that work can be done remotely, you are encouraged to proceed. Please inform Kerry O’Brien (firstname.lastname@example.org) who they are so that we can confirm that they can work remotely (some restrictions apply for graduating seniors and international students).
- If you have already received funding through the Dean of the Faculty’s Office to support students in your research, and if that work can be accomplished remotely, we ask you to submit a revised project description, timetable, and budget, using this webform. All revisions must be submitted online by May 1. Based on the response and the amount of funding we have available, we will determine the recipients of remote summer funding. We will try to fund as many remote projects as we possibly can, being mindful of who has access to these opportunities.
Important details to note:
- Faculty and staff may continue to work on campus in accordance with the rules of social distancing.
- Students who are housed on campus during the summer because they cannot go home may be eligible to conduct research on campus provided social distancing plans can be developed and approved.
- Current international students, however, may face restrictions on whether they can work in the United States.
- Due to visa restrictions, graduating international students cannot work on campus this summer.
If you have any questions about student summer research in 2020, please contact Kerry O’Brien (email@example.com).
Thank you for your patience and understanding. We stand ready to assist in all the ways we can.
All the best,
April 2: Interrupted Study Abroad
Subject: Impact of Interrupted Winter Study Abroad on Students
The continued spread of COVID-19 impacted our students studying abroad as all of their programs were closed down, and students sent home. In all, we had 135 students studying abroad in the winter semester. When the programs shut down, some programs provided opportunities for students to complete their courses remotely, while others made no such provisions. In addition, students studying in southern-hemisphere countries had barely begun their programs before being sent back. Hence for many of these students, their plans for transferring credits toward their Bates degree are now in limbo. Needless to say, we are expecting a healthy amount of petitioning from students. As they do so, we are asking students to engage their academic advisors as they work through the curricular ramifications and seek a path forward toward graduation. We also wanted to make advisors aware of the process that will be used to decide on these petitions.
Many of these petitions will be quite complex. Some students may have to re-plan the remainder of their studies at Bates, including perhaps taking non-Bates courses remotely to accrue more credits so they can remain on track to graduate on time. As advisors work with students in this situation, they may encounter questions they cannot answer. When that happens, please reach out to either Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir or Darren Gallant, Director of the Center for Global Education, who can help.
The Bates Policy on transfer credit allows students to transfer at most four courses taken after they matriculate at Bates, toward their degrees. These courses often serve to fulfill general education, or major requirements, pending approval from chairs of academic units. For as long as anyone can remember, the practice at Bates has been for the Off-Campus Study Committee (OCSC) to review and approve credits for students returning from abroad. However, the only committee with the authority to decide on exceptions to academic policies is the Academic Standing Committee (ASC). Because of the complexity involved with these petitions, the Dean of the Faculty’s Office and the Center for Global Education (CGE), engaged in multiple conversations with the OCSC and ASC this week, about how to handle these petitions. We thank the participants for their generosity of spirit and their willingness to share the work, as we develop a proper pathway for these petitions.
Given the expertise the OCSC, and the CGE, have in evaluating courses in a multitude of educational settings, the process the OCSC suggested would be to have all petitions be sent to Global Education and OCSC, which would evaluate them and then make one of two decisions. First, for relatively straight-forward petitions, OCSC would make a recommendation to the ASC to deny or approve the petition, which ASC would then consider. With more complicated petitions, the OCSC would provide expert advice on the petitions, which could be helpful as ASC deliberates and decides on this subset.
All the best,
Associate Dean of the Faculty
March 30: Update on Short Term 2020 for Faculty
Subject: Update on Short Term 2020
Dear Faculty Colleagues,
President Spencer’s letter of March 13th indicated that we did not plan to reconvene the college for an on-campus Short Term in May. While this remains true, we do have a small number of seniors who need to complete degree requirements during Short Term. After much deliberation, and discussions with the Academic Affairs Council, the Academic Standing Committee, and department and program chairs — who were particularly wise and insightful on this issue — we have determined that we will offer only those courses that students need to graduate, and these courses will be offered remotely.
A letter was sent to students this morning (copied below), which outlines our approaches to students who require Short Term courses this spring. These students fall into two categories: those who simply need to complete a second Short Term to graduate, and those whose majors, minors, GECs, or SLQ requirements are incomplete. Margaret Imber, Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir, and Carl Steidel are communicating with these students. The outcomes of their conversations will help us to determine how many courses must be offered in Short Term 2020, and how they can be best targeted to meet specific curricular needs. We may also need to provide options for students to work individually with certain faculty on an independent study basis in lieu of a formal Short Term course.
Once we understand students’ needs and intentions (by the end of this week), we will reach out individually to faculty as we develop plans to work with this small group of students. We will turn first to faculty who were already scheduled to teach in Short Term 2020.
I appreciate your patience as we work through this process. Because the decision to limit Short Term was forced on the college by extraordinary global circumstances, we want to assure faculty whose Short Term courses will not be taught this spring that there will be no change to their current compensation. While we cannot predict the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on future enrollment patterns, it is possible that we will ask faculty who cannot fulfill their teaching obligations in Short Term 2020 to help us resolve possible enrollment issues over the next two to three years.
While the loss of students and faculty engaged in challenging and creative work together on our campus during Short Term is profound, we believe the approach to deal with individual student needs is the only practical path forward.
My continued thanks to you as you work diligently on the task immediately at hand. I am so grateful for your efforts, and for the way the whole community has stepped up to make the best of a challenging situation.
Dean of the Faculty
March 30: Update on Short Term 2020 for Students
In recent days, I have received a number of inquiries from students about the status of Short Term 2020. As we all know, Short Term is a special experience on campus, one that lends itself to unique and engaging curricular offerings, a plethora of co-curricular programs, and generally a more relaxed atmosphere to further build relationships with your peers. Given the current conditions, and as President Spencer noted in her communication to the community on March 13, we will not reconvene the college for an on-campus Short Term in May. However, we will work individually, through remote learning, with the small number of students needing to complete Short Term this spring to complete degree requirements. Other students will have the opportunity to complete their required Short Terms in future years.
Students Needing Short Term 2020 to Fulfill Other Degree Requirements (i.e. major, minor, GEC, S/L/Q)
There remain a small number of students, including some seniors, who need Short Term 2020 to fulfill other degree requirements (i.e. major, minor, GEC, S/L/Q). The Dean of the Faculty’s Office will be emailing each of you later today to schedule a time to discuss your options, which may involve enrolling in one of a limited number of remote learning courses in Short Term or petitioning to request a waiver of the requirement.
Juniors and Seniors Needing Short Term 2020 to Fulfill the Two Short Term Requirement
For those juniors who were planning to take their first Short Term in 2020 and seniors planning to take their second Short Term in 2020 for the sole purpose of fulfilling the requirement that they complete two Short Terms for graduation, the Academic Standing Committee has waived this degree requirement due to unprecedented circumstances. This means that you will not be required to take two Short Terms to graduate. However, the college will offer a limited number of remote learning courses during Short Term. Unfortunately, we will not be able to identify the courses to be offered until we know how many students elect to pursue this option. It is important for each student to which this situation applies to complete this form by Wednesday, April 1 at 5:00 p.m. EDT indicating whether you wish to take advantage of the waiver of the second short term requirement or whether you wish to register for a remote short term. If you have questions about this issue, please contact Carl Steidel, Senior Associate Dean of Students, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know that it is particularly disappointing for seniors not to have the opportunity to close out their four years at Bates on campus, with friends. Under the circumstances we wanted to provide you with the flexibility to use your time in May for pursuits that may have more interest and value to you than a remote Short Term course.
March 30: Building Access
Subject: Building Access
Faculty at Bates have individual offices, which you may use if you have on-site needs. If you go into the office, please observe the general guidance about physical distancing; if you want to engage with others who may be in the building, please stay six-feet apart as you do so.
Please note that your office will be cooler than normal, as Bates is seeking to conserve energy by lowering building temperatures across campus. Academic buildings are being kept at 60 degrees, so if you plan an extended stay at work, consider bringing a sweater.
Academic buildings are also on a reduced cleaning schedule reflecting the reduced occupancy. Currently facilities prioritizes the cleaning of occupied buildings, which currently would be most academic buildings. Their coverage of those buildings will be if they are informed of need. We therefore ask that if you bring food into your office, please bring organic refuse back home with you, instead of depositing it in your trash can.
If you expect to be in your office regularly and would like custodial support, or your own cleaning supplies for your work space, please submit a work request to facilities.
March 27: Personnel review delay option
Subject: Personnel review delay option
COVID-19 has affected many aspects of our professional lives, and faculty are understandably concerned about the effects this global disruption may have on their ability to build the dossiers that will be reviewed by the Committee on Personnel (COP). The COP understands that scholarly or creative projects may be on hold, and that an ability to build evidence of teaching for the Winter 2020 semester and Short Term 2020 may be curtailed. Due to the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 situation, the COP convened to discuss the question of schedules of review. The consensus of the group, with support from the dean of faculty and president, was to allow faculty the option of extending their tenure clock by one year if they so desire. The COP agreed that any decision to delay would have no bearing on the review – indeed, all colleagues understood the extraordinary historical moment we find ourselves in. The COP was also in agreement that this delay did not signal any expectation of additional work. The option to delay is meant to be a clear statement of support for colleagues who might have had their professional planning disrupted by COVID-19. It is important to emphasize that there is no expectation that individuals choose to delay their scheduled reviews. There is also no consequence to accepting a delay of the scheduled review.
Dean of the Faculty
March 25: A letter from the Dean regarding grades for winter semester
Subject: A letter from the Dean regarding grades for winter semester
With each passing day, we see additional evidence of the level of disruption to our personal and professional lives caused by the current global health crisis. This is an unprecedented situation that demands clear thinking and swift action, even as it has introduced a pattern of constantly-evolving external events and profound uncertainty. It also demands that our thinking and action take into account the impact the crisis is having on every member of our community, and calls on us to look for ways that we can respond in humane and generous ways to changed circumstances.
On the curricular front, we had to shift the mode of course delivery two-thirds of the way through the Winter 2020 semester, which has created a number of challenges. Both faculty and students have risen to these challenges with integrity, creativity, and courage, and we are on our way to completing the semester remotely. On the professional front, many faculty have described the impact of library closures, travel restrictions, cancellations of meetings, and extra demands caused by the current situation that require attention above and beyond teaching and scholarly and creative work.
Under the circumstances, grading has emerged as a source of stress and anxiety for students and faculty alike. The unprecedented shift from traditional to remote instruction has necessitated swift adaptations by faculty of both content and well-honed teaching strategies. Likewise, students suddenly separated from friends, faculty, and a campus they love find themselves in new learning spaces, each as different as the individual students occupying them. As has been eloquently stated by so many colleagues, we need to recognize the disparate impact of these dislocations in the decisions we make this spring about various aspects of the academic program.
Once we made the decision to move to remote teaching, it became clear that our petition process for pass/fail grading set too high a threshold and put the onus on individual students to advocate for themselves when that might not be possible. The feedback from many faculty and students indicated a clear desire to adopt a more flexible grading policy in light of current circumstances. Grading is a subject on which faculty should– and do–have strong and divergent views, which have been expressed in recent days in many spaces, including live conversations and faculty listservs.
In response to the feedback and recommendations from the community, the Academic Standing Committee (ASC) considered options for changing our mode of grading for the Winter 2020 semester. The ASC recommended giving students considerable flexibility in determining when to deploy the pass/fail option (i.e., through May 5th — after final exams have concluded but before final grades are viewable), and recommended the simplest mechanism for opting in to pass/fail (removing a petition process–students would simply notify the registrar via a simple automated process which courses, if any, they would like to exercise the pass/fail option).
The Academic Affairs Council (AAC) considered the ramifications to the broader curriculum of the temporary change to pass/fail grading proposed by the ASC. The AAC recommended lifting the restriction that pass/fail courses taken in the Winter 2020 semester cannot be used to meet the requirements of majors, minors, GECs, General Education courses, thesis, and the BS degree. The combined proposal (i.e., grading mode and lifting pass/fail restrictions) was submitted to the Committee on Faculty Governance (CFG) to consider how to move this policy through our deliberative processes.
After discussing the many challenges we face given the imposition of social distancing, virtual meeting spaces, and the requirement for rapid decision-making, the CFG recommended that the dean of faculty make the final decision regarding this temporary change to grading policy. After carefully considering the proposals, the concerns of colleagues, and arguments for a shift in our current policy, I have accepted the recommended proposal, which is described in detail below. This policy will go into effect immediately. The policy applies only to the Winter 2020 semester.
Although I know that the policy we have adopted will not please everyone, it has the virtue of providing a unified institutional framework, which allows flexibility for students who want or need letter grades, while also removing barriers for students who wish to elect the pass/fail mode.
There is no way to convey how challenging these times are. However, there is a solidarity of purpose at Bates. I can imagine no time when what we offer the world is required more acutely. Education is not a luxury but a necessity–especially in moments of crisis or uncertainty. Thank you for all of the work you are doing and the manner in which you are doing that work.
Dean of the Faculty
Temporary Modification of Grading Mode: Winter 2020 Semester
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pass/fail option articulated in the course catalogue will be modified for students enrolled in the Winter 2020 semester. Any course taken in the Winter 2020 semester may be taken pass/fail at the discretion of the student. The following conditions apply:
- Students may designate pass/fail grading for any Winter 2020 semester course, including either a one-semester winter thesis or the winter semester of a two-semester thesis, until May 5, 2020 at 5 pm EDT. If a Fall 2019 semester thesis grade was deferred for an ongoing two-semester thesis, the fall semester grade assigned at the end of Winter 2020 semester would not convert to pass/fail, even if a student elects to take the winter semester thesis pass/fail.
- Faculty members submit a regular letter grade (A, B, C, D, F) to the registrar. A grade of D-minus or above is considered a passing grade. Unless the student chooses to inform the instructor, only the student, the student’s advisor, and the registrar know the grading mode for the course.
- For courses taken in the Winter 2020 semester, any pass/fail restrictions on major, minor, general education, or BS requirements are waived. Courses taken pass/fail are not computed in the student’s grade point average. A pass is equivalent to two quality points.
March 20: Winter semester reboot
Subject: Winter semester reboot
As we get ready to resume the winter semester on Monday, I wanted to begin this letter by thanking you for all the work you have done this past week to get ready to begin remote teaching on Monday. We wish you well as you restart the semester.
Participating in workshops designed by ILS and Writing at Bates, you have expanded your knowledge of Lyceum, learned new ways to use Zoom, thought about how to teach students located in different time zones, with different degrees of access to technology. You have thought about how to engage your students in creative assignments, and how to hold virtual office hours. You have also thought about ways to be generous towards your students in the way you approach the final third of the semester.
As our remote teaching begins next week, we anticipate things will run (mostly) smoothly, but where there are glitches, we would like for you to let us know how our office, and others at Bates, can help address those problems. To that effect, we have established a remote teaching hotline – by which we mean, please contact Margaret Imber (email@example.com) if any matters come up that you’d like some assistance on. She will be a conduit to coordinate responses to any questions or challenges that arise, and we will act quickly to get your needs met. Thank you for your patience as we all work to continue to offer an excellent and accessible education to our students.
Please bear in mind that many college offices are moving to modified hours or remote work. As the situation is in a state of flux, please look for emails from these administrative offices or check their websites for the most up-to-date information on their operations. I hope you take the time to be kind to yourselves and our students, trust your pedagogical intuition (i.e., you know what good teaching is), and hang in there.
We are here to support you in your efforts.
All the best,
March 18: COVID-19 Update
I want to start with a heartfelt thank you to our entire community for the way you have responded to the challenges Bates faces because of the COVID-19 situation that is gripping the world. I have witnessed many acts of kindness and generosity on our campus over the last couple of weeks. I have heard expressions of concern for our students and our colleagues. I have observed admirable professionalism among our faculty and staff. It has been inspiring to be part of a community that cares about and supports each other.
We find ourselves planning as best we can for many unknowns. This tests us, and will test us, but we have responded exceptionally well. Our office has heard from and met with many faculty who have been doing outstanding work to get ready for the remote teaching that begins next week. I would especially like to thank Pat Schoknecht and her entire team. They have been incredible partners and have created fantastic training opportunities for all of us. I understand how big a challenge our current task is. All of our work will require creativity and flexibility – perhaps even some humor (see the link at the end of this message). Our students are fortunate to have faculty like ours, among the best in the world, working to make something remarkable as we modify and reimagine our courses.
As you begin your work for the final third of our semester, I include in this message some important notifications as you begin next week’s work. This information is also available on our DOF website and will be linked to from the COVID-19 information page. We have been fielding a series of important faculty questions, and attempting to provide answers as rapidly as possible. We have consulted the appropriate faculty governance committees on curricular issues. We know you are fully preoccupied, but we will be sending some important messages out to the community in the coming days. Please read below for some policies about grading, course evaluations, and summer work. A message about Short Term will be coming soon.
Please take care of yourself in the coming weeks, and feel free to reach out with any questions.
All the best,
Continued Use of Letter Grades
Our office has received inquiries from faculty about the possibility of having all courses this semester be graded using pass/fail. This week, we sought input from three key faculty committees that deal with curricular matters, and we have carefully considered this complicated aspect of our academic policy. We met virtually with the Academic Affairs Council, the Curricular Review Committee, and the Academic Standing Committee (ASC). We also talked with the Registrar, and heard from students. Based on sound advice and broad consensus, we will continue to assess student work using the letter-grading system with which we started the semester.
In making this decision, we considered that students already have finished two-thirds of their semester, unlike many peer institutions, and thus already have a good idea of how they are doing in their classes. Many graduate schools and professional programs require letter grades for key courses, and many academic programs at Bates only allow courses with letter grades to count toward the major. We want to encourage the students to continue their serious attention to their work. Please keep in mind that if a student believes they have a compelling reason to request a grading mode change to pass/fail (e.g., in isolation because of illness, limited access to the internet, extenuating personal challenges at home), the student may petition the ASC for consideration.
While it is disappointing not to be able to engage our students in person for the remainder of the semester, we encourage you to think capaciously and generously about assignments and how you will integrate your evaluation of remote work with your evaluation of work students have already completed.
Student Course Evaluations
Upon the advice of the Committee on Teaching and Learning, the Academic Affairs Council, and Committee on Personnel, we have adopted the following policy on student evaluations of this semester’s teaching. Students will complete course evaluations as usual at the end of the semester. You may choose to use this semester’s evaluations as evidence of teaching excellence. However, you may also choose to omit Winter 2020 evaluations from your future dossiers. The Committee on Personnel has agreed that it will not expect them in dossiers and will not view the absence of these evaluations in a negative way.
Student Summer Research at Bates or with Bates Faculty Members
We are working on the assumption that the summer research season will proceed as planned, starting June 1, barring any further delays due to the evolving COVID-19 situation. Summer student researchers may not conduct research on campus before June 1, 2020.
Internal Faculty Funds and Deadlines
We will continue to award funding via internal grant programs for faculty through the remainder of the academic year. Because the semester will now end in May, we have extended timelines for existing internal grants, and changed future deadlines.
Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir, and the Faculty Scholarship Committee, have been working with faculty with existing BFDF grants to extend the deadlines when needed. Our office has unilaterally extended the deadline for faculty to use their start-up funds by twelve months.
Extended Grant Deadlines for Faculty
5/8/20: Bates Faculty Development Fund; First Book Award
5/8/20: Learning Associates for 2020-21
All other remaining grant program deadlines will remain the same.
Some levity: Online College Course Preparation
March 17: Message to staff about …
Subject: Message to staff about remote working model @Bates
I wanted to make sure you were aware of a message Clayton sent out to staff this afternoon (see below). Our objective is to put social distancing efforts into practice at Bates. Details of the letter can be found here: https://www.bates.edu/covid-19/. We are interested in maintaining the work flow for our employees, and thus are open for business. However, our methods of delivery of the work of the college will be slightly different – at least through April 10th. If there are questions about specific roles, please feel free to contact me as we execute the transition to remote work. I hope you all are well.
All the best,
March 16: Office hours in DOF office
Subject: Office hours in DOF office
As we begin a week of training and adaptation, I want to start with a profound thank you for the work you have done and continue to do to get our students to a stable space. This is a difficult time for them, and you have made their lives a bit easier with your generosity and flexibility.
I realize how different our model of education will be in the coming weeks. However, Bates students are lucky to have our faculty doing this work. Our excellent professors will bring their creativity and brilliance to these virtual and remote classrooms. I spoke with deans at approximately 40 small liberal arts colleges this weekend. While our broad academic community is dealing with remote learning, I feel fortunate to have this particular faculty working on creative teaching solutions. We will learn important lessons, and I have no doubt we will have many successes.
Our office will hold virtual office hours from 10-11 am M-Th this week (https://bates.zoom.us/j/4793728810). The goal of this meeting is to open our office so we can learn about questions or issues you may be dealing with in the coming days. While we may not be able to have immediate answers, we will at least be able to gather information to get answers. Do not feel compelled to join if you are otherwise occupied – I realize how busy everyone is preparing their courses.
I wish you all the best, and look forward to working with you as we embrace this challenge. Please stay tuned for messages throughout the week.
All the best,
March 13: Important information about remote teaching
Subject: Important information about remote teaching
As you all know, Bates is moving to remote learning starting on March 23rd. We know this represents a significant change to your teaching, and our initial concern in this unprecedented situation is to finish the work of the winter semester with the same rigor and enthusiasm that we do each semester. We recognize that this transition requires significant work and a flexible attitude from each of us, and we are confident that our faculty are up to the challenge of providing the best educational experience possible to our students in the midst of this global health crisis. The college is committed to supporting faculty as they adapt their courses for remote teaching.
We are a community that cares about our students, faculty and staff. We understand that COVID-19 is not simply a professional challenge. We are mindful of the range of pressures each of us will face in many aspects of our lives in the coming weeks. We are committed to working together and supporting each other as we work through a rapidly changing situation.
We ask you to consider how our students might face challenges with the move to remote teaching, what adaptations you can make to the courses you are teaching this semester that facilitate successful remote teaching, and that you have conversations within your academic units to share successful strategies about remote teaching. This will help all of us to reach our individual and collective pedagogical goals.
Classes are suspended next week. In their place, we will offer a period of intensive training for members of the faculty so that they may feel comfortable using existing tools that will facilitate remote teaching. As we move into this new phase of the semester, administrators and staff who support teaching at Bates are ready to help you work through the inevitable questions that will arise.
Our division chairs have communicated with you and will facilitate conversations and coordinate information gathering that will help us address your needs. Starting next week, our office will host a series of virtual office hours where faculty can share their needs about remote teaching. In addition, we will have a sign-up sheet for individual meetings (virtual or in person) for those faculty who want to discuss course-specific challenges. That form is available here. We are coordinating efforts with ILS, Writing at Bates and the Math and Statistics Workshop to provide comprehensive support.
Dean of the Faculty
General information for the community:
The work of the college continues next week, focusing on the transition to remote learning, and many meetings will be cancelled. To the extent that it will be possible, normal work of the college resumes during the week of March 23. As you begin to think about the work ahead, we have gathered the following information that may be helpful to you.
Possible challenges for students
- We recommend that you use technology that we provide, and that you and your students already have familiarity with. Chief among them is of course Lyceum, the Google Suite (Docs, Sheets, Chat, Meet, Forms to name a few) and Zoom. While a great number of vendors of online teaching platforms are currently offering their services for free, please keep in mind that our staff does not have the expertise to help you or the students troubleshoot if these platforms do not work. Having to learn multiple new ways of learning, will put undue burden on our students.
- Our students live in different timezones. Therefore, think about how you will deliver course content to your students, that is asynchronous (not in real time).
- Our students may have to share bandwidth with other family members, or may have spotty internet services at home. Additionally, some of our students may only have access to cellular data, which in some cases is expensive. While we do have the ability to offer synchronous (in real time) classes, we do encourage you to think about low-tech, asynchronous ways to deliver content via short videos, using forums on Lyceum, and exploiting existing technology.
- While Bates is working to ensure that every student has access to a working computer while at home, please consider that some of our students will be accessing Lyceum through their phones. They will be observing your content through a small window.
- Do not assume that our students are technologically proficient. Frequent and regular communication is essential. As you transition your course to remote learning, please give students clear guidelines and expectations for the rest of your course.
- Students may face additional challenges during this period, were they to fall ill themselves or if they have to care for an ill family member. Please be mindful of this possibility and consider how you will manage this.
- Keep in mind that students are signed up for multiple classes, all of which are changing. If you want to use synchronous delivery of content, please use your existing class times only.
Strategies for communicating changes with students
- Communicate with your students as soon as possible to reassure them.
- Once you have made decisions about changes to your syllabus, assignments, and finals, how you calculate final grades, and communicate these clearly to your students early on.
- Give students clear expectations of how and when they should be working on your course, and how and when to communicate with you. Consider hosting either digital office hours (Google Chat or texting), or virtual ones, using Zoom, FaceTime or Skype. Alternatively, you may want to specify the times at which you’ll respond to their emails.
- Students are suffering from a high level of anxiety right now. It’s not unreasonable to assume they will continue to do so, even at home. Think of strategies to help them manage their coursework in such a difficult situation. You might want to develop a communication plan or a reminder system for due dates, for example. Regular communication with students will help you and help them to overcome the distancing effects possible in remote teaching.
Adaptations to consider for your syllabus
- Consider whether your learning goals need to be reimagined.
- Lyceum forums offer a way to sustain asynchronous discussion groups. For example, you can ask students to ask or answer a question about assigned readings. The forum will allow you to observe their engagement with the material and respond to misconceptions, overlooked aspects of the reading, and areas of keen student interest.
- Think about how your students will submit written work. If you use Lyceum, be sure to point them to the instructions on how to upload papers. You will also need to think about how you set course deadlines (i.e., if or when Lyceum will stop accepting submissions.
- Think about how students will perform group work. You can, for example, create Lyceum forums for groups in your classes that will allow group members to communicate with you and each other, but not the class as a whole. Alternatively, students may prefer to communicate via text. Consider how you want them to communicate the results of their work to you. While there are a variety of possible solutions, you may want to use Lyceum for all class communications in order to keep a comprehensive record of class activity.
- If you have assigned group projects, consider how students who will no longer be in physical proximity can complete these projects and deliver them to you. Do you want to create an alternative assignment, or ask students to work with each other remotely? Do you know that your students have the technological skills such remote collaboration will require?
- If your course has presentations, we can help you explore alternative ways for students to do their presentations.
- If you have exams or quizzes scheduled during the remaining time in the semester, we recommend that you convert these to open book assessments. Lyceum has the capacity to offer and administer tests remotely. You may find that converting your exam to a format that can be administered through survey software (Qualtrix or Google forms) will also serve your needs. If you are using a textbook, the publisher may have tests that you can load directly into Lyceum. Alternatively, you may decide to switch from a test format to another form of assessment: a paper, a video essay, etc. that students can send to you through Lyceum. These observations hold true for a final exam as well.
- Consider whether the weight you have given the different forms of assessment in your syllabus still make sense given the disruption to the semester and the anxiety new forms of content delivery will create for you and students. You might find that you can derive a more meaningful assessment under the current circumstances through more assignments of lower weight than one or two significantly weighted assessments.
Discussing Teaching Strategies Within Academic Units
- Discuss the questions and concerns that reviewing your syllabus for adaptation to remote course content delivery has created with your colleagues. You may find that multiple points of view on similar questions will help you prepare. Similarly, you may discover that you have a knowledge of different technologies that will help your colleagues.
- Consider barriers to remote learning in your discipline. If you teach a lab, can you use lab simulations or will it be too burdensome to do so? If you can’t offer students this alternative, what approaches to the problem can you suggest that our office consider?
- Members of the faculty who teach studio courses or courses that incorporate community-engaged learning will face comparable challenges. We believe that you will be the best source of ideas about how to face these challenges and we want to hear your ideas.
- We also ask you to discuss how courses can be covered should it prove difficult for a member of your unit to complete the semester.
- We ask you to discuss the various ways you can facilitate the work of students completing theses and honor theses. We will be communicating directly with honors advisors.
Attend training sessions on the transition to remote teaching
- ILS will be offering workshops on how to use Zoom to create an on-line classroom (which will work best for classes less than 30) and how to deliver taped lectures using tools like Google, YouTube and Lyceum.
- ILS and the DOF will offer a short, intensive, curriculum for members of the faculty on the various aspects of remote teaching.
March 5: A message from the dean regarding COVID-19
Subject: A message from the dean regarding COVID-19
I write to provide a brief update on contingency planning underway in the Office of the Dean of the Faculty with respect to how COVID-19 could affect our academic offerings. As you saw in Geoff Swift’s February 28 message to the Bates community, the college is fully engaged in planning to mitigate overall health risks of this novel virus, and the impact it might have on our operational continuity. In our office, we are specifically focused on the academic issues that may be of interest to faculty.
While we anticipate a smooth finish to our academic year, it is wise to prepare for potential disruptions. We are closely monitoring all developments, and will be proactively responding to conditions if they warrant action. As we think about the final weeks of the semester, I ask that you consider how your classes might be affected by changes in our ability to meet in person, to travel off campus, to deliver the last week or weeks of classes, or to schedule honors thesis defenses. If public health directives from the CDC should restrict travel, or you choose not to travel, our office will work with faculty to discuss options.
In addition, ILS has increased the number of Zoom licenses the college holds, and we have the computer bandwidth to support the widespread use of this resource. If this technology becomes a necessary means of delivering course content, we are prepared to help you implement a solution like Zoom.
We ask that you also think about alternative ways students can complete the work of your courses, and how you or a colleague could deliver the content of your course should events make this necessary. This may be a worthwhile topic to discuss in a meeting of your academic unit, and our office is willing to help in any way we can. We encourage faculty to consider, if events warrant, being flexible with aspects of their courses (e.g., attendance and exam policies).
Bates continues to monitor this public health issue in close consultation with our clinical partners at Central Maine Medical Center and based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. While this is a rapidly evolving public health situation, it is important to reiterate that, according to the CDC, no cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Maine.
Please pay close attention to updates from the Senior Emergency Response Group, which will keep the Bates campus informed of any relevant information as it becomes available. I also encourage you to review the February 28 message, as it contained important information about off-campus study, college-sponsored travel, and overall prevention measures.
Please stay tuned for any messages on this topic.