July 28, 2021
TO: UNCG Faculty
FROM: Provost Debbie Storrs
RE: Fall 2021 Instructional Update
In the first few weeks as your new provost at UNCG, I’ve been immersed in learning about the diverse academic programs and the outstanding work occurring in each of the colleges and schools. I am excited to welcome our students to the fall semester and support our faculty and staff as they return to campus and we venture into our “new normal.”
I refer to the “new normal” because we clearly must continue to adjust, plan, and be proactive in preventing the spread of COVID-19. You recently received a university-wide email about campus COVID protocols for the fall term. I’m writing now with more information and details related to in-person instruction. I would first like to acknowledge your continued flexibility and responsiveness to the summer request to consider mode-of-instruction changes for the fall semester in an effort to serve our students better. You approached the issue with thoughtfulness and a sense of urgency, ensuring that process went smoothly. Thank you.
Below are updates and requests for fall instruction, all of which will help us manage and prevent the spread of COVID-19:
UNCG will require the use of seating charts for face-to-face courses to facilitate contact tracing. Facilities and the University Registrar’s Office are working together to provide seating-chart templates for instructor use. These templates are intended to make record keeping easier for instructors, but you may use a seating chart of your own design. Revised Fall 2021 seating charts for all General Purpose classrooms—those scheduled by the Registrar’s Office—are available at this link. We cannot provide templates for rooms not scheduled centrally, but we would happily provide advice and support for instructors who teach in those spaces. Those with questions should contact Andrew Hamilton (firstname.lastname@example.org) who will coordinate responses.
The Fall 2021 COVID protocols make face coverings optional for fully vaccinated instructors while teaching if they can maintain six feet of distance from students. Students must wear face covering in the classrooms at all times regardless of the instructor’s decision to wear a face covering. I recommend, however, that all instructors enter the classroom for the first time wearing a face covering and then explain to their students why they are removing it for instruction (if they so choose) and remind students that they are required to wear face coverings in the classroom. Instructors should remember to put their face coverings back on at the end of class so they are wearing it should they engage with students at a distance of less than six feet.
The libraries will have designated instructional spaces in which the face covering rules will apply. This will include labs, conference rooms, and service desks.
The University of North Carolina System has reviewed relevant legal and policy considerations regarding vaccine mandates. Based on its review of state law, the UNC System and the constituent campuses (including UNCG) are not legally permitted to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for faculty, staff, or students as we are technically agencies of the State. However, we will continue to encourage vaccinations through continued communications, and an incentive program, and by ensuring they are easily accessible on campus.
It’s important to note that some external learning sites (e.g., clinical settings) may require vaccination. Instructors should encourage students to consider this as their vaccination status may impact their access to clinical/external placements.
For the last three semesters, the watchwords have been ”grace” and ”flexibility.” As a result, many instructors have been hesitant to enforce their attendance policies. University policy leaves attendance requirements to instructors in most cases. While some continued flexibility will be necessary in the upcoming term, I encourage instructors to adopt and enforce attendance policies that best serve their chosen pedagogy, facilitate student engagement, and address mastery of course content. The more connected our students are to their courses and instructors, the better they will do.
Required COVID-19 Syllabus Statement
A syllabus statement again will be required this year. Faculty Senate is currently revising the statement to make it consistent with new safety protocols. The revised statement will be circulated to all instructors, as well as to deans, heads, chairs, and directors before the start of the fall semester.
As most of you are aware, we completed nearly 500 mode-of-instruction changes in June, notifying affected students as the changes were made. In the last few days, more mode-of-instruction change requests have come in, mostly as a result of faculty working to accommodate student requests to participate remotely in face-to-face class sections. While I very much appreciate the active attention to helping these students, I ask that any further mode-of-instruction changes at this late date be very carefully considered and that they are approved at the department and dean levels before they go to Dean Hamilton for review. Asking students to further shift their schedules may generate considerable frustration and given the challenges of the past eighteen months, could lead to students to question their commitment to remain enrolled for the term.
Thank you again for your commitment to students and your hard work. This year promises to bring both challenges and opportunities. You have my pledge to work closely with you and your deans to accomplish our goals.