Office of the Provost
Updates from the Provost’s Office, April 30, 2021
Our office and many partners across the University continue to be busily engaged in activities and planning in response to the operational impact of COVID-19. I share here a summary of notable updates, most of which stem from our planning efforts, as well as a few related to ongoing operations.
In-person teaching exemption
As vaccination rates increase and COVID-19 infection rates stabilize at lower rates, we have been preparing for a more fully in-person academic experience for fall 2021. We asked departments and faculty to use fall 2019 course proofs as their guide for course offerings this coming fall, which has resulted in the large majority of fall classes listed as in person.
We hope to maintain in-person offerings as close to this level as possible. However, we also want to ensure accommodations are available for instructors and their household with significant health risk associated with COVID-19. Thus, we are setting up a process by which University representatives will review potential exceptions for individuals to switch their teaching modality from in-person to fully virtual instruction. The review will be based on age, pregnancy status, and the individual or someone in their household meeting CDC criteria with significant immunity suppression health conditions and based on medical documentation voluntarily supplied by the instructor from their medical provider. Exceptions will be considered in this process through the end of May. Full details will be provided next week.
**Please note, these exceptions are specific to teaching assignments that are being brought forward now to ensure sufficient time for students registering and the class instructors to adjust to any modality changes. A separate process for employee re-entry in the fall is forthcoming at the end of May based on recommendations from the Future of Work Committee.
COVID Impact Statements
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in disruptions in faculty’s teaching, research, and service activities. Because of that, UConn is engaged in large-scale efforts to account for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and find ways to provide needed support. As a specific strategy, the Provost’s Office has been researching COVID Impact Statements for inclusion in future performance review processes (e.g., Annual/Merit Review, PTR, and P&R).
At this time, we encourage faculty to document COVID impact to their teaching, research, and service activities. We have developed guidance on COVID Impact Statements that includes a list of potential COVID-19 impacts that faculty may wish to address in such a statement. This is available on our website. Faculty who are interested should create a COVID Impact Statement that can be included in their PTR and annual review materials. Over the coming year we will work with deans, department heads, and faculty as well as the senate and AAUP to further develop the process for documenting and considering the short- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on our faculty.
COVID PTR Extensions
At the Board of Trustees meeting on April 28, we presented several informational items regarding COVID impact. These information items will be presented again at the May 19 meeting for a vote on adoption of each. We will be back in touch following the May 19 board meeting with more details.
We have asked the Board to consider a one-year tenure clock extension for tenure-track faculty if they meet one of the following criteria: a) began their employment between March 2, 2020 and March 1, 2021; b) qualified for an FMLA-related additional year on their tenure clock during the COVID-19 pandemic and were thus prevented from taking the COVID extension as well; or c) did not take the extension in the previous year but whose work was impacted in this past year such that they would like to take the extension now. While this proposal does provide extensions to new faculty and several faculty who did not take the extension last year, it’s important to note that this proposal does not increase the number of extensions one may be granted and it does not allow for someone to take two COVID-related extensions.
Clinical, In-Residence and Extension faculty
The Provost’s Office has signed an MOA with UConn AAUP that allows non-tenure track faculty in their final one-year appointment prior to becoming eligible for a multi-year appointment to request a one-year delay toward their P&R review for their initial multi-year appointment effective academic year 2022-23. Provost’s Office staff will reach out directly to individuals who are eligible for this delay to provide more detail on process.
International student needs
As we look toward a more in-person fall semester, we know that many of our international students who went home due to COVID-19 may have difficulty returning to UConn for in-person classes even though some restrictions on travel are being lifted. While UConn will again offer international undergraduate students the opportunity to study at some of our partner institutions abroad, this option may not suit all students. Many of our upper-level students need very specific courses to graduate that are offered only in-person. Other students have major course requirements that are not offered through our partner institutions. We are working now to assess the extent of international student need for alternative course arrangements, and in the coming weeks the Registrar may be reaching out to departments for assistance to find a solution for our international students who cannot return to campus. Department Heads and Program Directors are encouraged, in agreement with their Deans, to identify flexible alternatives where appropriate.
For more information about international graduate students, please plan to attend the Timely Topics session next Wednesday, May 5, at 11 a.m. Registration for the session is available in this online form.
Core Curriculum forums
After four years of research and consultations, the University Senate’s Delta General Education Taskforce (comprised of representatives of each school and college, as well as key administrative stakeholders) has published a proposed undergraduate Core Curriculum for Leadership and Global Citizenship: https://delta.senate.uconn.edu/
First presented in an outline accepted by the University Senate in 2019, the taskforce has refined and developed the Core Curriculum based on feedback from students, faculty, and staff. The taskforce scheduled five forums in April and May, with two still remaining this semester:
- Tuesday, May 4: 1-2:30 p.m.
- Thursday, May 6: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
At the Board of Trustees meeting on April 28, we presented an informational item to expand eligibility for automatic emeritus status. Previously, any faculty member who was not at the rank of full professor and who had not served in this rank for at least five years had to apply to the University Retirement Committee to request emeritus status. The proposed changes, with the support of the University Senate, allow faculty who are at the rank of associate professor or equivalent in non-tenure track faculty ranks, and who have been at the University for at least five years, to automatically receive emeritus status. The changes also clarify the route through which emeritus status may be revoked and update the name of the Retirement Committee to the Emeritus Committee. These information items will be presented again at the May 19 meeting for a vote on adoption of each. We will be back in touch following the May 19 board meeting with more details.
Future of Journal Subscriptions
The Future of Journal Subscriptions continues its work to explore new strategies for providing access to journal articles for our faculty, staff, and students. Currently we are making progress but will need the upcoming academic year to test and evaluate potential new approaches. In the meantime, we will continue to support existing approaches to maintain existing access and services.
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs