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Academic Affairs Updates

August 12, 2020

What to Expect When Classes Start

Fall 2020 is upon us and we anticipate you will have some need-to-know answers to questions this week. A complete list of resources detailing fall opening is available on the websites below. This is meant to communicate some items of general information we hope will facilitate a successful start to the semester.

As we begin the fall term, whether you are teaching online, onsite in Cullowhee or Biltmore Park, or some combination of the above, we ask each of us to focus on creating a culture of support and understanding and show additional grace for others and ourselves. Thank you for everything you are doing for our students and our community.

Access

Academic buildings have remained locked for the past five months as we have maintained working remotely and reduced the number of staff on campus. The buildings will be unlocked before 8:00a on Thursday, August 13th. Department offices will be staffed, some on a staggered schedule, beginning at the same time. Classrooms will be unlocked prior to the first classes being held in academic buildings beginning on Monday, August 17th.

Classroom Capacity and Signs

All general classrooms have been re-configured and the furniture has been rearranged or removed to adhere to the 6ft social distancing protocol.  Information stickers have been placed throughout classrooms indicating proper furniture placement and sitting locations. Signs requiring face coverings/masks as well as recommendations for frequent handwashing and social distancing are installed throughout academic buildings. 

Classroom Cleaning

WCU’s housekeeping services are being significantly revised to make sure campus facilities, including classrooms, are ready for the fall. Buildings will be unlocked at 6:00a and a team of housekeepers will check rooms and honor submitted work requests; a new shift of housekeeping staff is being added (8a-4:30p weekdays) with over 20 housekeepers to clean and disinfect public access, academic, and administrative areas and offices and to be on call; the last shift (4p-12:30a) of 30 housekeepers will re-clean and disinfect public access areas and classrooms/labs. Housekeepers will use handheld electrostatic sprayers as needed while the floor scrub team will focus on floors also using a commercial electrostatic sprayer.

Containers of wipes will be available in every classroom for students to use to wipe down their seats and desks. There will also be special wipes available in department offices for faculty to wipe the equipment before and after instructor’s use. Containers will be restocked regularly by housekeeping.

There are hand sanitizer refill stations located at the entrance to most campus buildings, as well as in common areas across campus.

Trash cans and recycle bins will be returned to their stations and trash cans will be emptied daily.

Instructional Equipment

Multiple upgrades to instructional equipment have taken place over the last few months-please check it out prior to your first class meeting. Technology workstations have been enhanced; webcams and microphones are either in classrooms or available for check out in department or dean’s offices. Additional information on classroom technology is available here or through the IT help desk.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Face masks/appropriate face coverings are required in classes and all public common areas. Students and faculty/staff may pick up disposable masks if they need to at the following locations:

  • Hinds University Center - Main Information Desk (2nd floor)
  • Hunter Library - Circulation Desk (main entrance)
  • Belk Building – College of Engineering and Technology Dean’s Office (Room 161)
  • Health and Human Sciences Building – College of Health and Human Sciences Dean’s Office (Room 201)
  • Biltmore Park Instructional Site – 3rd floor Information Desk

The mask/face covering requirement for students is an expectation of the Code of Conduct and violations are subject to code of conduct proceedings and disciplinary action. Faculty and staff can communicate with the Department of Student Community Ethics using Maxient, WCU’s online student alert system, regarding students who do not honor the requirement.

Students and all faculty and staff received PPE packages delivered to their offices in July. The packages include instructions for required mask use, handwashing, taking temperature, and social/physical distancing. Please refer to the package insert for more information.

Face shields, courtesy of our colleagues in the Rapid Product Realization Center in the College of Engineering and Technology, have been distributed to all instructional faculty. Face shields do not provide the same protection as properly worn face masks, but may be used by instructors when communication through a mask proves too difficult.

Food and Drink

Due to the mandatory mask requirement, food and drink are not permitted to be consumed in academic buildings, including Hunter Library. Physically distant spaces, tents, and other locations will be available for students to practice social distancing and to consume food and drink.

Mail Delivery

Mail operations have changed because of new safe pickup and delivery protocols; USPS letters and small packages, as well as interoffice mail will be delivered to newly created central locations in academic buildings starting in August. Building coordinators will share that information soon.

Biltmore Park

If you teach classes at our Biltmore Park instructional site, there are some changes you will need to know about before classes begin. For example,

  • furniture in common areas has been removed and stored to eliminate social gathering; 
  • floor access via stairs will be one directional; 
  • elevators are limited to one person per trip; 
  • hallways on the 3rd floor have one-way directional signs to help safely circulate people around the 3rd floor; and 
  • all meeting and conference rooms are offline for this fall.  

Executive Director Kevan Frazier is communicating by email with all faculty and staff who teach and/or are based at WCU Biltmore Park with more specifics. 

Best wishes for a safe and calm opening of the academic year!

June 26, 2020

Update from Provost's Council

The Provost’s Council met with WCU’s directors of Emergency Services (Shane Stovall), Health Services (Pam Buchanan), Safety and Risk Management (Jon Maddy), and assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs (Kellie Monteith), to determine the status of several questions particularly pertinent to Academic Affairs.

The questions and answers resulting from that meeting have been compiled into a faculty and classroom FAQ/important information webpage that is linked from the employee resources page in the Coronavirus website.

June 25, 2020

Dear WCU Student:

Since March this year, our world has changed in significant and unprecedented ways. I write to assure you that we continue to place your ongoing academic success at the forefront of our minds, even as we grapple with the impacts of a global pandemic and experience the unrest and change associated with efforts to address long-standing racial disparities. Western Carolina University’s 131-year history is a testament to the strength of our conviction that preparing you to make a difference in a dynamic and complex world is our primary mission.

I hope you have taken time to stay abreast of our summer session offerings and our plans to operate during the fall semester. To that end, for those of you who will be here in-person this fall, you will see some major changes in Cullowhee and at Biltmore Park. Our efforts to create a safe and healthy environment for you to learn and live will be evident. We are adopting the best available practices for educational institutions operating in a pandemic and we need your pledge to adhere to our new protocols. For those of you who are enrolled in our programs remotely, you also will continue to receive a superior academic education. Please revisit the Fall 2020 Operations and Procedures website for details on our preparation for operations during the fall semester.

Within the next few days you will receive communication from WCU asking you to review your fall schedule (now and periodically over the next several weeks). Our academic programs have updated the course schedule based on how courses will be taught (instructional modality); in some cases, courses will remain in the format they were initially listed and in other cases the format will be altered. We want to be transparent about our actions and to afford you time to digest any changes. I encourage you to contact your assigned professional advisor if you have questions about fall courses or registration.

We will meet our commitment to you for a high-quality educational experience regardless of the program in which you are enrolled, the modality of your instruction, your undergraduate or graduate student status, or your physical location. Thank you for your trust in Western Carolina University.

I wish you a peaceful, safe, and restful summer.

Sincerely,

Richard D. Starnes
Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

June 2, 2020

Fall 2020 Assistance Request process for at-risk faculty

Dear Faculty:

As part of our institutional response to COVID-19, the University is committed to supporting faculty who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, which generally includes all individuals over the age of 65 and anyone with an underlying medical condition that may be affected by the virus.  Please review this link for additional information regarding COVID-19 and the risks associated with it. 

Consistent with current University protocols and when requested by a faculty member considered at high-risk from exposure to COVID-19, the University will provide options for reasonable alternative work arrangements such as online teaching/instruction, telework, alternative work locations, reassignment, or social distancing measures whenever possible. We are developing a similar protocol for staff and details will be forthcoming soon.

Faculty who meet high risk criteria and for which face-to-face instruction during the Fall semester could place them further at risk may request assistance through the University’s formal request process (COVID-19 Assistance Request Form). To facilitate planning, we are requesting that any faculty member who wishes to seek assistance due to being at high-risk for the Fall 2020 semester submit a request by June 30, 2020.

Adherence to this timeline for requesting assistance is essential so that we may have sufficient time to address the anticipated complexities of Fall 2020 course schedule planning.  Colleges and departments are actively planning now for fall semester instructional modality and at the institutional level, we are adopting protocols for appropriate social distancing, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, etc.

Please visit the fall instructional plan at this SharePoint link for more information (requires your WCU log on credentials; VPN required for off campus access). 

Questions regarding the faculty COVID 19 assistance process may be directed to Matt Brown or 828.227.3139 or Trisha Ray or 828.227.2522 in Human Resources. 

Best,
Richard D. Starnes
Interim Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

June 1, 2020

Fall 2020 Instructional Plan

Colleagues:

The recent global and national developments around COVID (Coronavirus) 19 have afforded us new challenges to how we deliver on our promises to WCU students. As we continue to offer summer courses and programs remotely, we are actively planning for the fall 2020 semester. We anticipate that we will be operating in a multimodal instructional arrangement with faculty flexibility, student success, staff support, and multiple pedagogical and logistical realities as our guides. These plans have been developed in collaboration with a large working group of faculty and staff, including several members from Faculty Senate. Additionally, we have sought feedback from Faculty Senate leadership, all Department Heads, and members of Provost Council. All have had a meaningful voice in developing this plan for fall 2020.

The fall instructional plan provides a roadmap to address current uncertainties while adhering to best pedagogical standards, teaching excellence, quality staff engagement, and preserving to the degree circumstances allow, the valuable face to face components of our residential programs.

The plan provides a shared framework for how we will prepare for and operate instructionally to: 

  • incorporate pedagogical goals while honoring the disciplinary differences that exist at WCU;
  • consider and apply the criteria that will determine the most appropriate instructional modality for each course;
  • make (and share) decisions that will guide student understanding and choice regarding their programs of study; and
  • meet institutional infrastructure and logistical processes in preparation for the fall semester, e.g., classrooms, technology, book rental and purchase, student billing and financial aid, and residential contracts, etc.

Please visit the plan on our SharePoint site, which requires your WCU log on credentials and VPN is required for off campus access.

Note: the fall academic calendar was released previously Updates to the plan will be provided as needed. Other aspects of WCU operations, e.g., Student Affairs, Administration and Finance, are crafting similar plans for fall. These plans will address housing and dining, classroom cleaning protocols, personal protective equipment standards and availability, campus health matters, and other topics. Additionally, Human Resources is creating a process for members of our faculty at high risk for COVID-19 transmission to request on-line teaching for the Fall 2020 term. More about that process, as well as information on accommodations for staff members, will follow in the next couple of days.

Thank you for your tireless work on behalf of our students.

Best,
Richard D. Starnes
Interim Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

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