Dear Students: Another weekend is upon us. We’ve made it through four full weeks of the semester. Thank you for making this possible. But please don’t let your guard down now. As we’ve seen in recent days, it’s on all…
Academic Affairs Update 5.29.20: Fall Calendar, Course Development Stipends, Resuming Research Activity
As we move toward a phased reopening of the University, we are writing today to address three issues that we know are critical to your ability to plan for the remainder of the summer and the start of the fall semester. They are:
- academic calendar and capacity planning for in-person courses;
- faculty summer stipends for Fall 2020 course development; and
- return-to-research guidance for faculty, researchers and graduate students.
Additionally, we call to your attention yesterday’s message from Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie regarding the public health and emergency management framework that will be used to ensure Syracuse University is fully equipped and prepared to resume campus operations in August. Please stay tuned for additional updates specific to health, safety and wellness.
And, of course, while our planning efforts continue, we want to hear from you. We have created a web form to ask questions, provide suggestions and share concerns. We also are adding all of our communications to the University’s coronavirus web pages.
Now to today’s updates.
What You Need to Know about the Fall 2020 Academic Calendar
Last week, the University announced it would follow a modified academic calendar for the fall semester. We know that changes to the academic calendar place a burden on faculty to rework syllabi and schedules. We are sharing these additional details now so that you have a better sense of what planning is necessary before the fall semester begins.
The calendar was developed with the following objectives in mind:
- Protect the health and well-being of our community by limiting the amount of travel in and out of Syracuse by our students. Ending in-person instruction before Thanksgiving will allow our students to go home and stay there until the beginning of the spring semester. We are cognizant of the needs of students who may not be able to travel home and are working on plans for those affected.
- Resume residential instruction with our students in alignment with public health guidance.
- Ensure that the academic calendar meets New York State requirements for minimum contact time and federal financial aid regulations concerning the minimum length of academic semesters.
- Preserve the existing course scheduling paradigm as much as possible to avoid requiring students to re-register for courses.
Here is what you need to know about the fall calendar:
- The semester starts one week early. The calendar also adds two days of instruction during the week of Thanksgiving. These changes make up for most, but not all, of the two weeks of instruction eliminated after Thanksgiving. To make up for the remaining time, additional instruction on Fridays and some instruction on weekends and Labor Day will be necessary to reach the required contact hours for all course formats.
- The Academic Strategy/Contingency Subcommittee of the Fall 2020 Open Working Group has worked to maintain the class schedule that was previously developed for this fall.
- Three-credit classes that meet three times per week will meet as scheduled for 55 minutes in their assigned time slots.
- Three-credit classes that meet twice per week will still meet for 80 minutes in their assigned time slots.
- In addition to the scheduled meeting times, most classes will meet at least once on a weekend day and/or Labor Day in order to reach the required contact hours.
- For the purposes of unit-level planning and preparation, faculty are asked to return to work on Aug. 17 to ensure a smooth start of classes on Aug. 24. The College of Law will communicate separately any scheduling that is unique to the programs within the college.
The Academic Strategy/Contingency Subcommittee, composed of faculty and academic leaders, is working on recommendations regarding instructional approaches that meet public health guidelines. One thing that is already clear is that the capacities of our classrooms, studios and teaching laboratories will be reduced significantly to meet the 6-foot social distance requirement. Addressing this challenge likely will include use of large spaces that traditionally are not used as classrooms, use of multiple instructional modalities, hybrid online and in-person classes, and scheduling additional laboratory sessions and recitations in time slots that are not heavily subscribed—Friday afternoons in particular. We will communicate more on this subject as guidelines are clarified.
These calendar modifications were informed by the guidance of public health officials, government leaders and faculty epidemiologists. Some of our peers—such as the University of Notre Dame, New York University, UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of Texas at Austin—are taking similar approaches. Others have yet to announce their fall plans. While our Fall 2020 semester plan involves some changes to our standard practices, the benefits to community health that result from ending instructional activities before Thanksgiving are significant.
Faculty Summer Stipends for Fall 2020 Course Development
Recognizing the challenges of planning for a modified calendar and planning for flexible course formats, the University has earmarked central funds to provide summer stipends for faculty to support development of Fall 2020 courses that can run simultaneously face-to-face and online, while seeking to achieve the same learning outcomes.
Funds will be allocated by block grant to each school and college and will be available to full-time and part-time faculty, with a limit of one stipend of between $500 and $1,500 per faculty member. Stipend amounts will be proportionate to the anticipated amount of effort based on the package of courses a faculty member will prepare to teach in the fall (e.g., seminars, small-class formats, large lecture-oriented courses with discussion sections and recitations, and hands-on and experiential learning). Independent study and one-on-one instruction courses, such as lessons, are not eligible for consideration in computing a faculty member’s stipend.
Beginning in early June, each academic dean will collaborate with department chairs and program directors to develop and communicate rules for distribution of stipends, clear guidelines and expectations, including:
- timelines to ensure that courses are ready for delivery at the start of the Fall 2020 semester;
- course design and evaluation, including a flexible format, that provides for both learner and instructor engagement; is fully aligned from content through assignments, assessments and outcomes; and will be otherwise accessible and appropriately structured to accommodate a flexible delivery model; and
- collaboration and consultation with the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence and the Center for Online and Digital Learning.
Your deans will be in touch with you shortly about how to access stipends and other support available to you.
One of the most common questions regarding return-to-work guidance is specific to our faculty and graduate students’ ability to resume research activity. Please note: faculty, research staff and graduate students should follow the same guidelines.
The Office of Research has coordinated with Environmental Health and Safety Services to prepare Return-to-Research Guidance for campus use. This document contains information and recommended practices to assist researchers in restarting laboratory operations once they are approved to return to campus. It also should answer most of the questions that you have been asking about working in the laboratory after restart, including:
- Required Laboratory Attire
- Cleaning and Disinfections
- Hand Sanitation
- Physical Distancing
- Reoccupancy Laboratory Checklist
- Shared Facilities and Equipment
- Waste Management
As previously communicated, researchers who must conduct on-campus activities related to essential research or COVID-19 prior to the start of Phase 1 should submit a disclosure. All disclosures are subject to approval by your chair, associate dean of research and the interim vice president of research.
See the following:
Please note that all in-person data collection activities for non-essential human subjects research are still paused until further notice. We will share the timeline for returning to laboratory research as soon as we have definitive dates and guidance from state and local government officials about when we will be allowed to resume these activities and at what level.
We appreciate your flexibility and your commitment to providing an outstanding educational experience to our students while continuing to advance your research, scholarship and creative work. Please be on the lookout for future communications addressing other details about our return.
John Liu, Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost
LaVonda Reed, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs
Ramesh Raina, Interim Vice President for Research