Fall Planning Communications


This page holds a growing list of communications from the Dean to the faculty that relate to planning for the fall semester of the 2020-21 academic year.


September 11, 2020: Committee on Personnel Statement on AY 2020-21

The Committee on Personnel recognizes 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.

As we acknowledged in our May 2020 statement, COVID-19 has complicated our professional lives in a variety of ways:

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.” 

In this spirit, we remind members of the faculty that the committee will take the unique and ongoing constraints of this time into consideration. In the various statements candidates submit as part of their dossiers, we welcome explicit comments they may wish to offer about the impact of this pandemic on their teaching, professional achievement, and service in order to provide context for the committee. 

Student and Colleague Evaluation of Teaching:

In a June 30th statement, the Dean of the Faculty noted that the formal student evaluations of teaching would be optional only for the coming year, at the discretion of the candidate (details available at this link). He also noted that the Committee on Personnel would develop guidelines for faculty responsible for conducting evaluations of their colleagues during the 2020-21 academic year. The committee now offers the following guidelines for colleague evaluations. We offer these in the spirit of recognizing what a challenging year this will be.

Given the many constraints we all face, whether we elected to teach remotely, in-person, or in a mixed format, and given the uncertainties in the months ahead, we discourage in-person classroom visits by colleague evaluators. Our faculty handbook recognizes a variety of sources of evidence colleagues can use in the evaluation of teaching, and we suggest a focus on the following evidence types specified in Article IV, Section 5 of the Faculty Handbook: syllabi, examinations, or other course materials; observation outside of the classroom concerning such qualities as rapport with and accessibility to students; and responsibility in meeting obligations. In addition, a personal discussion with the candidate can be useful, though the evaluator should take care to ensure a collegial and supportive discussion. Course materials shared by candidates will be especially helpful in this assessment, as evidence of the kind of effort and creativity required in adjusting pedagogy.  

The complexities of remote teaching are new to most of us, and therefore we also suggest that remote visits or sharing recorded class material not be required.  If a candidate wishes to share recordings or invite a virtual visit, then colleagues can consider those opportunities as additional evidence. We also wish to remind colleague evaluators that each Bates faculty member was given a choice about which modes of instruction were most appropriate for them, and evaluators should not make any judgments on the basis of which mode(s) a candidate chose.

In this unprecedented year, classes will take every form imaginable, and committed teachers will adapt with flexibility, resourcefulness, and generosity.  We trust that colleague evaluators writing letters will also cultivate these qualities in their approach to the evaluation of teaching. 

Carol Dilley, Professor of Dance
Steven Dillon, Professor of English
Emily Kane, Professor of Sociology
Jennifer Koviach-Côté, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
James Richter, Professor of Politics
Daniel Riera-Crichton, Associate Professor of Economics
Peter Wong, Professor of Mathematics

July 31, 2020: Fall Planning Update

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

I appreciate deeply your commitment to tackling the challenges we have been presented with, and for the work you are doing to offer a Bates education in the fall. I acknowledge the time, energy, and ingenuity required to retool courses to accommodate the new modular schedule and the new modes of instruction, whichever mode you have elected to pursue. We know that inventive pedagogies will be on full display in all of the courses offered next year, and I look forward to championing the work of our faculty. I realize what follows is a bit long, but hope the updates, observations, and suggestions are useful as we move towards August.

The beginning of the academic year. Convocation will take place virtually on Tuesday, September 1 at 12 noon. Thank you to Professor Charles Nero and Professor Stephanie Kelley-Romano who will offer remarks to kick off the year. Classes will begin on Wednesday, September 2.

Academic advising. Students will likely require additional attention and support, given the large number of changes on campus next year. To assist advisors, we are creating an academic advising FAQ that will be available on our website. Professor Steve Engel and Assistant Dean of Students Blake Reilly, involving broad consultation, have crafted a plan that should benefit students greatly. I hope you will take the opportunity to touch base with your advisees and students in your classes to answer any questions they might have about what awaits them in the coming academic year.

Grading Policy. We will return to regular grading practices and the longstanding Pass/Fail policy articulated in the course catalog. This summer, the Academic Standing Committee (ASC) gave serious consideration to the experiences from the winter semester and our plans for the next academic year. They shared their decision with the Committee on Faculty Governance, the Academic Affairs Council, and our office. While the grading policy will revert to our existing practices, the ASC will expand significantly the grounds available to students seeking exceptions to the general petition guidelines, including waiving limitations for students whose petitions are directly linked to challenges arising from the pandemic. The members of the committee will evaluate petitions on a case-by-case basis. I am grateful for the ASC’s thoroughness, thoughtfulness, and student-centered framing of their deliberations. 

Courses.  I have every confidence and expectation that all courses next year — remote, in-person, and mixed format — will meet the high standards of a Bates education. As you continue to develop your courses for the fall, please bear in mind a few guiding principles:

  • Commitment to accessibility. The coming year may be especially challenging for many of our students – especially those studying remotely. We must remain vigilant to ensure that all students have equal access to their courses, regardless of whether you are teaching in person, remotely, or in a mixed format.
  • Remote learning options for every course. As has been discussed in a variety of venues, all courses must be prepared for remote options for students. Some students may choose not to reside on campus, some may not be able to make it back to campus, and some may be unable to appear in person even if on campus. We may also require a shift to remote instruction at some point in the semester. Please keep in mind that synchronous remote courses may not offer an equitable experience for all students. Lyceum has resources available to help faculty adapt asynchronous approaches. If you need assistance, our office will help you find the tools needed to develop asynchronous experiences. As a bit of an aside, I want to assure faculty that whenever I have had the opportunity (e.g., student or parent forums), I have communicated that remote instruction at Bates will be remarkable and will offer excellent educational experiences.
  • Communication. When we surveyed students in the spring, they reported that their sudden foray into remote learning benefited immensely from regular communications they received from their instructors. When rosters are conveyed to you, we recommend that you communicate with your students in advance of the term, explaining the ways in which your course will unfold, whether you are teaching in person, remotely, or in a mixed format. Giving them this information in advance will help them know what to expect in the very different semester ahead, and will help allay any anxieties about changes they will encounter in the fall. It also will get them excited about your course. 
  • Contact hours. The new format to the semester will take some adjustment for all of us. While we have built considerable flexibility into expectations for class activities, please be mindful of the contact hours required in a compressed modular schedule, whether you are directly engaged with in class activities, synchronously or asynchronously mentoring student groups, or coordinating independent work. 
  • Classroom Privacy. Students will be informed that there are restrictions on the extent to which they will be able to record or circulate course material, particularly course content delivered online. The following statement will be circulated to students. You also may wish to include it in your syllabi: In line with our shared values around Academic Integrity and Conduct as articulated in the Student Code of Conduct, we would like to remind you that screen capturing or making audio/video recordings of synchronous or asynchronous meetings, lectures, discussions, course materials, or other classroom activities without the prior knowledge and consent of all parties is prohibited. This applies to the use of tape or digital recorders, cell phones, smartphones, computers, and other devices capable of creating a screen capture or making audio/video recordings. Likewise, the editing, sharing, or use of recorded or digitally shared course content outside of their assigned or intended purpose is also prohibited. Students with disabilities who wish to record classroom activity should contact the Office of Accessible Education for information about appropriate protocols.
  • Attendance. Please examine any attendance policies you might have built into your courses taught in a traditional semester. We know that in 2020-21, students’ schedules may be disrupted, especially those studying remotely. For those students on campus, we do not want to encourage class attendance if students are not feeling well. Thus, grading schemes that have an attendance component should be reevaluated. 
  • Faculty development. We have already had a number of professional development opportunities to explore different pedagogies relevant for remote instruction. These resources are still available. Our Teaching in AY 2020-21 website is continuously updated as new programs are added; be sure to check on upcoming events and recorded programs archived at the site. We will have additional development opportunities that are based on responses to faculty requests. The August 11-13 CBB Course Design Workshop will offer useful tips and tools, and our searchable Resources for Remote Teaching and Learning on Lyceum is a great resource. Finally, we are organizing a panel discussion (date TBA) featuring Bates faculty who are experts in, and have experience with, remote teaching; they’ll offer practical ideas, from online class activities, to building community remotely, to facilitating effective discussions.
  • Teaching modes: Asynchronous learning options are expected for all remote instruction. For colleagues engaging in person instruction, we have worked with faculty to develop guidelines for courses focused on experiential learning (dance, music, science labs, studio, and theater). If you have specific needs or accommodations regarding your physical space, or to learn about options to make your course materials accessible to all students (e.g., having all class materials on Lyceum), please contact us. If anyone observes students facing technological or other challenges, please do not hesitate to contact us so we can work to remedy the issue. 

Finally, remember that as we approach the fall, so many Bates colleagues are ready to help you meet your goals. As you continue preparing your courses, Associate Dean Krista Aronson (Humanities and Interdisciplinary Programs) or Associate Dean Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir (Natural Sciences & Mathematics and Social Sciences) are prepared to find ways that we can support your work. Our colleagues in ILS have been remarkable partners. Colleagues in student services have gone above and beyond in their efforts to help students prepare for the academic year. Colleagues in facilities have been reimaging and preparing the physical campus. We are indebted to our unflappable registrar Mary Meserve and her team for their tireless work to manage student schedules. Assistant Vice President Christine Schwartz and her team have created an impressive plan for food services next year. There are so many others who have worked long hours over the summer. This has been a phenomenal team effort.

Thank you all, and best wishes as we move towards the fall semester.

All the best,

Malcolm

June 30, 2020: Modes of Delivery and Course Evaluations

Dear Colleagues,

I write with greater detail about two faculty policies involving instruction next year that may be of particular interest. The first deals with remote/in-person instruction options for faculty given that we are planning to have students residing on campus in the fall. The second focuses on plans for evaluation of instruction next year.

Remote / In-Person Instruction Options

Faculty have raised important questions about the conditions for teaching next year. We are working hard to protect the in-person experience in a way that prioritizes and protects the health of faculty, staff, and students in a manner consistent with the best guidance available from public health experts. Teaching under these circumstances will inevitably be altered, but we are confident that, with appropriate adaptations, we can preserve the most important aspects of the on-campus academic experience for our students.

We very much hope that most faculty will choose to teach some portion or all of their course in-person next year, because it is important to offer an experience that makes sense for our students who have chosen to live and learn on campus. That said, we understand that certain faculty have personal or family concerns that may make it difficult or unwise for them to teach in person. Thus, as is explained in the faculty FAQ, faculty will have the choice to select in-person teaching or total remote instruction, and we will not ask for reasons or documentation concerning your decision to teach an entirely remote course.

As we heard at recent town halls, we are operationalizing plans to create a robust testing routine, contact tracing policies, classroom de-densification strategies, social distancing guidelines, face masking on campus and in classes, updated cleaning protocols, and travel policies restricting movement from and to campus. We realize these may influence your decision about mode of teaching. For those faculty who are unsure of the steps they plan to take, I would welcome a conversation to learn about conditions that would help you feel comfortable returning to the classroom with students. Lori Ouellette will help set up meetings with any faculty interested in such a conversation.

We must identify the mode of instruction for all courses so that students can make informed decisions and select courses that match their preferences about instructional mode. For this reason, I have been working with the Registrar, the Academic Affairs Council, and the Curriculum Review Committee to develop a plan for identifying the courses you will teach entirely remotely or in an in-person mode. That information should be available this week. We know that students have indicated a strong preference for in-person instruction, and we will work with the Registrar to manage any enrollment shifts that may arise in the coming weeks as students learn which courses will be offered in which modalities. 

Evaluation of Instruction

Several faculty members have expressed concerns about teaching evaluations in the coming year. I have had several conversations with the Committee on Personnel on this topic. We recognize that the modular structure and possibility of remote instruction complicates our normal practices and raises questions about longitudinal interpretation of student evaluations. While we will continue to allow students to complete course evaluations, and these will be available for your review should you desire, the Committee on Personnel will not review student evaluations generated from courses taught during the 2020-21 academic year.  

We are also developing guidelines for faculty who are responsible for conducting evaluations of their colleagues next year. Classroom visits may present challenges in the coming academic year so we should rely on other important pedagogical evidence during colleague evaluations (e.g., syllabi, additional course materials, engaged learning objectives). As per our handbook (Article II, Section 6a&b; Article IV, Section 5d), peer evaluation of instruction can and should consider many aspects of a colleague’s teaching portfolio. We plan to distribute guidelines to all evaluators before the beginning of the academic year. We will also work with the Committee of Teaching and Learning to identify methods that will allow us to gain valuable lessons about the efforts of our faculty this year as we assess remote instruction.

We are very grateful for how faculty have engaged with us and our students as we continue to respond to this ongoing crisis. Faculty have been incredibly responsive. Faculty voted overwhelmingly for the modular approach, and are currently working with the Registrar and the CRC to figure out logical grids for the fall. Most of our faculty have attended pedagogical training sessions. You continue to contribute to our shared work and key decisions. The reality is that we may need additional flexibility as our contingency plans continue to evolve in an ever-changing public health landscape. We recognize this involves tremendous effort and time, and we know the vital role you play in defining Bates’ key strengths. I want to thank everyone for their hard work and patience as we attempt to plan for a frustratingly uncertain future.

All the best,
Malcolm

May 20: From Committee on Personnel

The Committee on Personnel 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.

Sincerely,

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