Update from Provost Brickhouse Regarding COVID-19
Dear Baylor Faculty,
I cannot express enough how much we appreciate your understanding, dedication and teamwork during these uncertain times in response to the coronavirus or COVID-19. We recognize the significant ask that we have made of you – to stop in the middle of the semester, change pedagogical approaches, rework syllabi and handle student inquiries - while also looking out for your well-being and the health of your families.
The challenges before not only Baylor, but all of higher education, are great this semester, but they are not insurmountable. I am aware of the heroic efforts of many of our faculty who are developing plans for online science labs, determining how to resolve internship dilemmas, and assisting students who need specific learning or physical accommodations, to highlight a few. We must continue to be thoughtful, creative, flexible, and, most of all, student-focused as we approach the next several weeks.
I wanted to address several critical areas as we prepare for online course instruction beginning next Monday, March 23:
- We understand that the temporary closing of elementary and secondary schools across Central Texas has created additional hardships for many of you. As we shared on Friday, a revised Telework Policy has been approved to assist if you need to work remotely on a temporary basis. We ask that you engage your department chairs regarding any accommodations that you may need.
- All University operations will continue as normal during the extended spring break this week. In other words, the campus will remain "open." Faculty and staff are expected to resume their regular work schedules and activities as able.
- As President Livingstone directed on Friday, no academic assignments are due for students this week during extended spring break, and we also request that faculty please refrain from additional assignments this week (excluding those students enrolled in online professional graduate programs). We ask that you please understand many students live out of state and are unable to retrieve their course materials, laptops and other supplies.
- The Keep Teaching website provides a wealth of information related to the availability of electronic textbooks and the possibility of making digital copies of course materials for students. I encourage you to examine the FAQs closely and often, as information is updated frequently.
- Social distancing must remain paramount. As you heard from many state and federal officials over the past several days, we must do everything we can to "flatten the curve" related to the spread of COVID-19 across the country. The Washington Post has published a fascinating and eye-opening interactive piece that illustrates the efficacy of various approaches in mitigating the spread of the virus. We must continue to do our part by limiting the gathering of large groups and managing our interactions with others.
- I strongly encourage you to connect with your current students via email by this Wednesday, March 18 – at the latest – to outline your upcoming online instructional plans. It is critical that we express empathy and instill confidence among our students during this challenging time, as we work to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible. After all, exhibiting care and compassion for our students is a hallmark of Baylor faculty.
The Vice Provosts, Deans and I are working diligently to assist you and provide appropriate resources over the weeks ahead. We must all embrace and exhibit grace and understanding for each other - and particularly for our students - over the next several weeks.
I sincerely appreciate the unwavering support of President Livingstone and the President's Council in their attention to the needs of the faculty and our students and staff. The President's Council and the COVID-19 Task Force continue to monitor all aspects of our current national emergency on an hourly basis. We have developed a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions on Baylor's COVID-19 website, and you can always email any questions directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ultimately, our focus at this time needs to be on our students and on the academic mission of the University. I am truly grateful for your commitment to our students' education, and I pray that you will take care of yourself and your families during these critical times over the next several weeks.
Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D.