To: Liberal Arts Faculty and Staff
From: Clarence Lang
Date: November 20, 2020
I trust this message finds you well.
As you know, the University will switch entirely to remote instruction after today for the rest of the semester and will return to offering a variety of in-person, remote, and mixed-mode courses this spring. Like many of you, I continue to be concerned about the social and emotional impact that being in this largely remote environment is having on our students. In a survey our college conducted in October (which drew 250 responses), students noted feeling less motivated, less connected, and eager to return to the in-person environment to which we are all more accustomed. Some also indicated a desire to be more actively engaged by their instructors in their courses, while others also spoke to the financial and psychological toll the pandemic was having on them.
On a brighter note, however, students indicated that their advising has been going well and that their desire to succeed is as strong as ever. And on the occasions I have had to meet with groups of students this semester, the feedback they gave me about their fall classroom experiences was overwhelmingly positive. I am grateful for all you have done in stewarding our students’ learning; and now that we have had several months of practice with different teaching options, I am confident we will serve them even better this spring.
Additionally, in case you missed it, the University recently announced that all employees currently working remotely should continue to do so next semester unless their supervisor notifies them of the need to return on-site. I hope you will take some comfort in this decision, which prioritizes the health and safety of our Penn State community. Penn State has also designated that February 9, March 11, and April 7 be “Zoom-free” days that I encourage you to reserve now for personal wellness in lieu of spring break. More immediately, I urge you to consider — wherever possible — postponing or altogether cancelling any virtual meetings scheduled next week so you and others can unplug entirely from Zoom on November 23-25.
Again, I cannot thank you enough for all that our college has accomplished under the grueling conditions we have weathered since last spring. Have a good weekend and enjoy next week every bit as much as you can.