I write this message primarily to thank you for the sacrifices you have been making in the best interests of our students and to provide some information about resources that may be useful for you.
First, I thank you all very much for the very hard work you are doing. This is a difficult time, not just for our University community, but for our families, friends and loved ones. We are all feeling stress and disorientation as we work to collectively respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic—both professionally and personally. As the virus spread in my home country of China, I was monitoring the situation closely and watching in despair as so many grappled with the severity of the spread. Yet I did not realize the amount of disruption caused by the pandemic until it hit our community here in Syracuse. During spring break, when the faculty are supposed to refresh and catch up to be ready to complete the long academic year, you have all suddenly been asked to transition to online instruction. Among the many stresses we all face, the sudden and complete transition to online instruction with no exceptions, certainly adds significant additional work and complexity. Thank you for rising to the occasion!
Second, we are all sharing the experience of crisis management. The nature of decision-making in a crisis means that the process is inherently imperfect. We have made a number of necessary decisions in a difficult environment, weighing many factors. These include uncertainty about whether new information will challenge or contradict previous decisions. In hindsight, some of these decisions will turn out to have been right and others wrong. I recognize that we are asking the faculty to step up in enormous ways for the benefit of our students while your lives are also disrupted. I know you are working tirelessly to manage family obligations, caregiving, school closures, working from home, technology challenges, social distancing and other stressors—all while at the same time we have asked you to work over spring break to transition your courses online. This is a crisis and we all need to recognize that our best will have to be good enough.
Third, we share the experience of a truly fluid situation where the messages sometimes don’t keep up with our reality. As Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie said in his communication yesterday, we have been focused on “just the facts” and much of our effort has been centered on keeping our students safe. What has been missing or diluted is the recognition that we are all human beings facing a crisis unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime. We all have different challenges and needs, and I want to provide you with some insight into how we are thinking about support for you, our faculty.
I recognize that you have many questions, and I want to assure you that we are thinking about how you may experience the effects of this massive disruption in the short- and long-term. This includes issues like the tenure clock, final exams and their grading, whether course evaluations from this semester should be considered in promotion and tenure evaluations, how to give faculty credit for conference presentations when so many have been cancelled, research interruptions, publication delays and other impacts to scholarly activity. While I do not have concrete answers to these questions, I want to assure you that we will make decisions with your concerns in mind.
The following list of resources may be helpful to you, recognizing that there is not a one-size fits all solution for every course and discipline or for every individual’s situation:
Teaching and Learning:
- Academic Continuity Resources Toolkit
- Rapid Online Course Development Guide
- Our Libraries have assembled Faculty Resources for Online Teaching.
- The Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence offers resources and individual consultations. Of note, Jeanine Irons, who is a faculty developer in the CTLE, reminded me that she is a former K-12 educator. She is available to provide consultations for faculty who are trying to manage gearing up to teach our University students online, while also homeschooling their own children.
- We have an institutional membership for the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, which offers several types of resources. Instructions for activating your membership are available on the Faculty Affairs web site.
Technology and Accessibility:
- We recognize that moving teaching online creates challenges for disability-related accommodations. Faculty can request an accommodation online or contact the accommodation specialist/ADA coordinator at email@example.com.
- Information Technology Services (ITS) is working with partners across campus to ease the transition to teaching, studying and working online. For example, the new Remote Desktop Services (RDS) provides remote access to a Windows 10 operating system complete with University-licensed software applications. This service is intended for Syracuse University students, faculty and staff who have a stable broadband internet connection but do not have a pre-existing method for working remotely. You can learn about the new Remote Desktop Services, as well as other remote access solutions, on Answers.
Health and Wellness:
- Interim Sick Leave Policy: Faculty and staff who are directed by a health care professional to self-quarantine due to suspected COVID-19 exposure will not be required to use their personal sick leave during the self-quarantine period. We do this so that those who are directed to self-isolate or quarantine by a health care professional can do so without concern about their sick leave or pay. If you have questions about this policy, contact HR Shared Services at 315.443.4042 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Expanded Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Coverage: Syracuse University, in partnership with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, has expanded coverage for faculty and staff enrolled in its health plans to include telemedicine. Effective immediately, if a member’s health care provider, including a behavioral health provider, offers virtual (online) options for care, those services will be covered under the health plan. Effective April 1, members will also have access to MDLIVE, a national telehealth provider that provides patients with 24/7 access to a network of board-certified doctors, pediatricians and licensed therapists that can treat more than 50 non-emergency conditions, including providing behavioral health services, via a computer or mobile device. See the Office of Human Resources’ frequently asked questionsfor additional information.
- Carebridge Resources: The Human Resources website has been updated to include supplemental resources from Carebridge to assist you as we navigate the unique challenges related to COVID-19. In particular, Carebridge is providing resources to support employees and leaders in reducing the risk for illness, tending to the needs of loved ones while remaining focused and productive.
I know that this is a great deal of information, but I hope that you find it useful to have it in one place. I also acknowledge that we may not have addressed every issue that you are facing. Please reach out to me or others in the Academic Affairs with questions, concerns, ideas or suggestions.
I ask for your creativity and understanding as we all navigate these unknown circumstances together. I am grateful for the work you do every day and am even more appreciative of your extraordinary contributions during these very tough times. Thank you.