As we near the end of the week, I wanted to update you on a few important matters regarding academics and instruction for the remainder of this semester.
First, please note that Spring Break has been extended through Monday and Tuesday of next week, thus classes formally begin on Wednesday, March 25. This is a directive from the Chancellor.
Second, I am planning implementation of two temporary policies, in effect through May 31 only, in regards to academic grades. Students will have the option to W a course at any time through the end of the semester. Students will also have the opportunity to convert any number of courses this semester to a P/F option through the end of the semester. Following procedures recommended out of the University of Maine (developed by their Faculty Senate chair and the President of AFUM), and being generally implemented on campuses, students will have up until 7 days after grades are due to make final requests in these matters (May 17). In addition, students may request a complete withdrawal for the semester up until the same date. We revert to the standard policies after May 31, although these policies may be revisited for extension if the situation warrants. As these are extraordinary situations for the majority of our students, who are feeling displaced and unsettled both within their academic environment and within their personal lives, I believe these temporary policies to be both prudent and critical to the success and persistence of our students. I welcome your feedback on them.
In regards to these extraordinary times, for faculty as well as students, I would also ask you to be particularly mindful of the challenges our students face upon returning home, facing domestic situations that could include younger siblings who are themselves effectively being home-schooled or taught through distance techniques, as well as negotiating myriad disruptions within their personal lives. Carol Gilligan, the renowned ethicist, psychologist, and professor of gender studies, notes the importance of an “ethics of care” in which we direct our attention to the need for responsiveness in relationships (paying attention, listening, responding) and to the costs of losing connection with both oneself and with others. She notes also that the logic of such care is inductive and contextual. I can think of no greater time in higher education during our careers in which such a logic is necessary and implore you to be mindful of and connected to our students’ situation and needs (as well your/our own as educators!). The cost of this pandemic, in emotional, cultural, and financial terms, to our students, ourselves, and this institution, will be profound and enduring. The work we all do now to demonstrate an ethics of care can not only help our students to succeed– and return to our institution– but is essential for building the foundation for our university’s sustainability after this crisis ends.
A couple other notes:
Please keep in mind that Heather Nunez-Olmstead (firstname.lastname@example.org) is on hand to provide support throughout the remainder of the semester, and beyond, in terms of instructional technology.
Travel bans are now in effect internationally, to other states, and also within the State of Maine. This bans any travel incorporating any university business or in which an individual travels as a representative of the university. Travel to other states must be deemed absolutely essential, must be penultimately approved by the campus President, and then must receive final approval directly from the Chancellor. Travel in state, even between campuses, is not allowed unless approved directly– and only– by the campus president. All international travel is prohibited until further notice.
Also, although we are transitioning to a majority of staff individuals who are working at home (also employing various distance technologies), our campus remains accessible to students, faculty, and staff. This means that you may always come to campus to do work having to do with your teaching. Your offices are available to you as are classrooms, laboratories, etc. Certain facilities that involve high risk activities in which social distancing is difficult and/or impossible to ensure will be closed except to faculty and staff with specific business within them. More information on this will follow tomorrow morning.
Finally, for those who are still involved with essential (and Dean-approved) research at this point, and have student workers/researchers similarly engaged, such individuals can be identified as “critical” and cleared to continue that research with you (if you have not already done so). Please see your respective Dean in regards to any questions along these lines. Obviously, this situation could change, and we will keep you apprised of any changes to accessibility to the campus and your offices.
My thanks, once again, to you all.