Published: Nov. 6, 2020

Members of the Boulder Faculty Assembly received an update on Thursday from Provost Russell Moore, who explained in further detail why the campus is shifting sooner than originally planned to a remote instructional mode for the rest of the fall semester.

Effective Nov. 6, Boulder County moved into the more restrictive Safer at Home Level Orange on the state’s COVID-19 dial due to a rise in cases across the county and the greater Denver metropolitan region. Though the shift dictates few operational changes for CU Boulder, the campus pivoted to remote learning through the end of the fall semester to provide students with greater flexibility to return home before Thanksgiving if they desire to do so.

The last day of in-person classes this fall will be on Nov. 13 and remote learning will begin on Nov. 16. Students living in residence halls may remain on campus through Nov. 25. Moore said the campus wanted to provide students and faculty ample time to prepare for the rest of the fall semester and for the coming spring semester.

In a message to campus yesterday, Moore and Patrick O’Rourke, chief operating officer, encouraged students planning to leave Boulder to get tested at an on-campus testing site 48 to 72 hours before departing.

In response to faculty questions about the timing of the decision, Moore told BFA members that, should the state and Boulder County move the community to the more restrictive Stay at Home status, potentially making travel more difficult, campus officials did not want to run the risk of having “large numbers of students being stranded in Boulder” unnecessarily.

Moore was quick to point out that “while we don’t anticipate a move to Stay at Home status before Thanksgiving,” the possibility of that occurrence ultimately drove the decision.  Campus officials do not expect the fall decision to go fully remote to impact plans to offer students in-person, remote and hybrid instruction in the spring semester.

The provost also acknowledged the work and dedication of faculty, staff and frontline employees for the extra effort to successfully conclude a challenging fall semester.

“We know that you, frontline staff and others have been burning the candle at both ends,” he said. “As a small token of appreciation, supervisors and relevant officers will have the option of offering folks administrative paid leave between Christmas and New Year’s so vacation and other leave time do not have to be used.”

BFA members also commemorated the life and contributions of late faculty member David Shneer, a professor of history, religious studies and Jewish studies who was well regarded by students, faculty and staff, and whose recent death was met with widespread regret and sadness among members of the CU Boulder community.

During a question-and-answer session with the provost, faculty members advocated on behalf of their students and acknowledged the frustration many are feeling in relation to how the current academic year has turned out due to the ongoing impacts of the global pandemic.

Moore, who is also a faculty member and who taught this fall, said, “My students, as well, have also expressed incredible frustration. We hope to provide a better academic experience and will work on providing clearer communications in the spring.”

On the plus side, the provost, explained, the university has strengthened its partnerships with Boulder County and the state’s public health agencies over the past several months, which should help facilitate more effective communications going forward. He also acknowledged the anxiety and other tolls that sudden operational changes can exact on students. 

“We will now be tying our modes of operation to the state’s COVID-19 dial. That way people can anticipate changes,” he said.

The provost and Katherine Eggert, senior vice provost and associate vice chancellor for academic planning and assessment, also provided additional context to BFA members regarding the spring semester; a proposed updated faculty grievance policy; state and federal higher education funding; tuition; the university budget; the upcoming CU Board of Regents meeting; and other academic planning issues.

When asked about spring planning, Eggert encouraged faculty to attend to the needs of first-year students and to ensure priority for in-person courses was given to labs, performance classes, and smaller capstone classes “that would be good candidates for in-person instruction.” She also acknowledged the decision to forgo a traditional spring break next year, and called on faculty to ensure that they allow their students—and themselves—to take advantage of the wellness days scheduled for February and March.

“It’s not the day to have make-up classes or schedule big exams or assignments due for the following day,” she cautioned. “Our students, as you know, are feeling tremendously stressed out by learning circumstances this semester. The idea is really to give them a day to rest.”

Members also heard from Aisha Jackson, director of academic technology applications and design in the Office of Information Technology (OIT), who provided details about “academic continuity” and how OIT will continue to support students and faculty with their technology needs for the remainder of fall 2020 and during the upcoming spring semester.

Included among the topics she discussed were faculty-focused training and workshops provided by OIT, the Center for Teaching and Learning and other campus units; the popularity of student technology co-pilots and efforts to identify additional funding to carry the service into the spring; a Canvas/Zoom integration to improve faculty and teaching assistant communication with students; and a discussion about the need for paper printing in the COVID-19 era.

To end the November BFA session, members approved a plan to reschedule the faculty governance body’s final spring semester meeting and annual Excellence Awards from May 6 to April 29.

Nominations for the awards are due on Jan. 31, said BFA Chair Bob Ferry.