Message from Provost Stevens - Updates from the Provost
- Cheryl L. Stevens
- Thursday, July 23rd, 2020
I hope you and your families are staying safe and healthy. One of our WKU initiatives this summer has been to film several short videos describing what students can expect as they return to campus. Here is the link to the academic affairs video.
Our Big Red Restart is less than five weeks away! Planning for this fall semester has involved every unit on campus, and the ability to work together toward our common goal has been extraordinary. I would like to acknowledge the tremendous work being done by department heads/chairs and faculty to prepare for the return of students - some in person and some virtually. The creativity, skill, knowledge, and flexibility to adapt courses for the new modalities during this year’s pandemic is, by far, the most impressive that I’ve seen. CITL continues to be available to provide support and workshops to help teaching faculty prepare and deliver high quality courses. Please check out their webpage for more information.
Daily, we watch the local, regional, and national COVID-19 numbers. While our local numbers have been increasing, we are nowhere near the exponential growth seen in other states. I am convinced that this pandemic will be with us for a while, and we must learn to live with it safely. That said, when we leave our homes and come to campus we must follow the governor’s guidelines of social distancing, wearing masks, and practicing good hand hygiene. All employees and students will be required to follow these practices inside of all of WKU’s buildings. Students should not be allowed to attend classes without masks and must keep at least six feet between themselves and others. Faculty should include the Mask Wearing language in their syllabi, and they will be empowered to enforce this practice whenever necessary. Students who do not comply must be asked to leave and only return when masked. Noncompliance will be dealt with administratively.
After many discussions about alternatives, we have concluded that we must follow the current CDC safety guidelines related to wearing masks. That means that face shields will NOT be allowed in place of masks. However, face shields can be worn in addition to masks. For those faculty who teach in disciplines for which seeing a person’s mouth move is helpful to learning, clear masks can be used instead (example clear mask). Of course, exceptions or accommodations can be requested through the EEO office at WKU.
Throughout the past couple of weeks, we have been working with students and their families to answer questions specific to the changes in their class modalities. What we are learning is that students feel disconnected and isolated due to the pandemic and want, now more than ever before, to engage and build connections with their Hilltopper Family. No matter which modality you’ve chosen for your courses, the most important thing is to make every effort to engage and build a community with your students. This will ultimately be critical in ensuring retention, progression and student success.
Just a few final notes -
- I have heard your comments about the current process for procurement exceptions. We are working to streamline those processes for purchasing approval. More to come.
- Because approved sabbaticals were delayed until next year, no new sabbatical applications will be accepted this fall.
- Several groups on campus are scenario planning in an effort to develop protocols for situations that may arise once the semester starts. We are working toward clear guidance to questions like: What should I do if a student in my class is COVID-19 positive? Or, what are my responsibilities associated with contact tracing? Or, what protocols are in place for students who miss classes due to illness? More to come.
- All faculty should have access to their offices by this point. Please be sure to follow the governor’s Healthy at Work guidelines while in your office areas. Most buildings are not yet open to the public. More to come.
- The office of the Provost in Wetherby will be open on August 10th with some leadership and staff (rotating) presence.
- Most courses (~95%) have been assigned classrooms. Colleges and departments should handle the arrangement of furniture at safe distances in those classrooms. Some empty classrooms will be designated as student study rooms.
Thank you for all you do and please continue to stay healthy.
Cheryl L. Stevens, PhD
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs