Dear Liberal Arts Staff:
I know that you have all had an eventful week, but I hope that it has been a manageable one. Based on the feedback that I have received so far, it seems as though our college’s rapid shift from in-person instruction to remote teaching has been largely successful, and the multiple difficulties we were expecting, thankfully, did not occur. I am grateful to you for all the work that you did, in concert with dean’s office staff, to make this major transition happen as smoothly as possible.
As you already may be aware, the University has extended the period of remote teaching for all classes through at least the spring semester; this means that final exams also will take place remotely. Spring commencement ceremonies are also being postponed while the University explores alternative ways of recognizing our graduates for their academic accomplishments. The University will soon announce a schedule for students to return to campus to move out of their on-campus residence halls.
In terms of events, the latest revised guidelines (attached here) include instructions to cancel, reschedule, or offer through virtual means all non-essential events involving 10 or more people between now and May 15; reschedule visits for all visitors, visiting scholars, and postdoctoral scholars who are expected to arrive prior to May 11; and conduct all remaining faculty searches through virtual means until at least March 30 (for domestic candidates) and at least April 20 (for international candidates). If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to visit Penn State’s Coronavirus Information website regularly for additional details and ongoing updates from the University.
The items that I have mentioned above are far from a comprehensive summary of all the organizational, strategic, and practical matters that we face as a college and University community. When and where possible, the dean’s office is maintaining its routine schedule of administrative tasks such as AC14 assessments of heads and directors; interviews and appointments of new department leaders; ballots for service on 2020-2021 committees; negotiations and immediate tenure dossiers for new hires; preparing for the use of Workday for all job searches; and other “normal” duties. At the same time, our college team is engaged in careful considerations about both the short- and long-term consequences of this current crisis on faculty, staff, and students. For example, I am mindful that we need to continue working with your unit heads and program directors, and as well as other campus partners, to determine how to appropriately assess and grade students who have encountered challenges moving to a remote learning environment. I am also mindful that we must make a similar determination for fairly evaluating the teaching effectiveness of instructors who had to make a sudden pivot in their methods of course delivery, and who may not have the opportunity to receive peer teaching evaluations this semester. I will share more information related to both of these items as those conversations continue to unfold.
In the meantime, I urge those of you supporting teaching instruction this semester to visit the Liberal Arts Online Teaching Resources site, which our nimble team of associate deans and IT staff launched earlier this week. The site will be constantly updated as the team compiles new information and material.
For those of you involved in supporting graduate training, I also encourage you to visit the Graduate School’s COVID-19 website for updates, and particularly the Revised Guidance for Exceptions to In-Person Participation Requirements for Graduate Benchmark Examinations.
I understand that Tuesday’s announcement in Penn State News created confusion about who should be reporting to work on campus. As I indicated in my email on Tuesday evening, for now please continue to follow whatever arrangements you have already worked out with your supervisor until instructed to do otherwise. For those of you who are teleworking and looking for information on adapting to your new work environment, visit the Remote Work Information Technology Resources website recently launched by Penn State IT.
As you might suspect, all of these sudden changes as the result of the COVID-19 outbreak have left some students facing unique and immediate financial challenges. If you are able and would like to assist, please visit the Raise Penn State page where donations to the Student Care and Advocacy Emergency Fund are being accepted, and make a contribution.
This entire situation, and all the personal disruptions and social dislocations it has caused, have certainly been tough on our college community. Don’t forget to make time for mental and physical wellness as the weeks continue. If you need it, take advantage of our University’s Employee Assistance Program here. Consider also a few resources that our college’s HR team is gathering for physical exercise that you and others can do at home, no equipment needed —
STRONG by Zumba YouTube: STRONG by Zumba combines bodyweight, cardio, muscle conditioning and plyometric training synced to music. Several at-home workout options are available on YouTube with no equipment needed. Options include 7-minute, 20-minute and 30-minute classes.
Planet Fitness live stream: Planet Fitness, one of the country’s largest chain gyms, is offering free online classes for the next two weeks, starting March 16. The daily workout, which will be 20 minutes and will not require any equipment, will be available on YouTube and Facebook.
CorePower Yoga: This popular yoga studio is offering free access to a selection of online classes while the studio is closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Starting on Thursday, March 19, the studio will also be hosting live online classes available to members. This series of yoga and meditation classes will be taught by CorePower trainers.
Congratulations on making it through the week and thank you for the conscientious and diligent work that you continue to do. Please continue to keep an eye out for opportunities to remain engaged with the College and the University during this remote working period. For example, we would encourage you to attend the virtual town hall week if you are available.