August 24, 2020

Message from Dean Lang – Best wishes for the start of the Fall Semester

To: Liberal Arts Faculty, Staff, Graduate Students, and Post-Doctoral Students
From: Clarence Lang 
Date: August 24, 2020 

Dear Colleagues: 

I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome you back – or for those just beginning their Penn State tenure, welcome you – as we begin the fall semester. 

As I said to those attending the All-Staff Meeting hosted by our Staff Advisory Council last week, it is not lost on me that in a year unlike any other we are about to embark on a fall semester unlike any other. Many of you may go the entire fall without ever setting foot on campus, in fact – and those who do will encounter fewer students and fewer colleagues in an environment where mask wearing and physical distancing will be essential. Despite these unusual circumstances, I look forward to interacting regularly with you and our students and alumni, and to celebrating our individual and collective successes throughout the semester – even though those celebrations must take place remotely. 

As you begin to settle into your routine this week, here are a few important items I would like to bring to your attention: 

  • For those who are returning to on-campus this fall, Penn State’s Office of Human Resources has created this helpful “Back to State” Booklet that offers a host of guidelines and resources to help with the transition (Those of you who will continue working remotely may nevertheless  find the “Stay Well” section of the booklet  useful). Penn State is requesting any employee and student who will be on campus to complete the daily symptom assessment checker on the Penn State GO App in order to self-screen for potential COVID-19 symptoms. 
  • If you are working on-site and find that you are experiencing COVID symptoms, you should immediately leave your work area. If you are working remotely or are working-on site but experience COVID symptoms while at home, you should stay home. In either case, please call your personal healthcare provider or use Penn State Health OnDemand to conduct a COVID-19 screening assessment. If the screening suggests possible exposure, employees are required to contact Occupational Medicine at (814) 863-8492 to help determine if self-quarantine, contact tracing, and/or work area closures are necessary.  
  • For faculty, the University has compiled an evolving Instructor Guide for Fall 2020 that covers topics such as health and safety, technology and training, preparing a backup plan for remote instruction, facilitating students’ academic success, monitoring academic integrity, and setting the classroom tone for the semester. I can’t stress enough how important it is that instructors are prepared to quickly shift any in-person or hybrid courses to a fully remote environment. I also encourage instructors to familiarize themselves with the Classroom Disruption Protocols: Guidelines for Faculty Academic Units created by the Office of Educational Equity. 
  • If you haven’t done so already, I strongly encourage you to bookmark the University’s and college’s coronavirus websites to receive the latest information and to access a variety of resources for faculty, staff, and students. 

  • One more important  housekeeping item is a routine reminder about records management: all faculty, graduate students, post-doctoral students, and staff are required to maintain and properly dispose of their own University records in compliance with Penn State Policy AD35. For additional information, please refer to the attached guidance on maintaining, archiving, and/or disposing University records. 

While my first year may have unfolded in ways I never could have imagined, in many ways it also reinforced why I chose to come to Penn State and why I value being the dean of this great college. I watched in awe as we pivoted so quickly and seamlessly to a remote learning environment last spring; I have continued to be impressed by the creative ways we have taught our students and kept our alumni engaged; and I am heartened by the groundbreaking research and dedicated community service that reminds us all of the important role that the liberal arts play in our society, especially in the most turbulent times. 

Thank you for all you do for your units, the college, and Penn State. I hope that your semester begins on a strong note; please be safe and be well.