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Coronavirus COVID-19 Modified Class Schedules

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

COVID-19 Modified Class Schedules

West Texas A&M University Provost Office

Effective Sat., March 14, 2020

Greetings.  Let me take a moment and share a few thoughts on where we stand at this time with the current health-risk situation.  Note, this is a fluid situation and answers to questions might change as we gain additional information.

  1. Are we closing the dorms?  No, it is our intent to keep the dorms and food service open for the semester.  The dorms are the home to many of our students, and they do not have an alternative place to relocate. Of course, some students might prefer to live at home during these uncertain times.  If a student will inform the university of a decision to depart, they will receive housing and meal plan credit in the future for the residual of their housing bill.
  2. Do I have to teach online?  No, but we are encouraging faculty to do everything they can to accommodate the current situation. Going online is the most efficient path for most faculty and students.  IT is willing to help with technology and training, please use them as a resource.  I was told over 30 faculty members received additional online training this morning, which is much appreciated by all involved.  Of course, some classes simply do not translate to the online environment.  If it is in the best interest to stay on campus, that is a faculty decision - unless we reach a higher level of health risk.  For those of you staying on campus, please try to employ a room with lecture capture and record the content in order to share with students that might be challenged with respect to continuing campus courses.  In short, try to help accommodate as much as you possibly can.  This is not a normal time in history.  Faculty members are the content experts, and we want to do everything we can to honor your right to deliver the class the way you see fit.  At the same time, we ask for your help in adjusting as much as you can to accommodate the reality of the current situation.  We know of students that went home to New York, California, and Alaska over spring break that cannot easily return to campus at this time.  Other students from the region have family obligations (i.e. elderly or high-risk family members) that complicate their ability to come to campus.  If your class is going to stay on campus, please do everything you can to accommodate these students.  This is not always a situation where someone is simply making a decision to avoid coming to class.  This situation will pass, please do your best to accommodate for the rest of this semester.  Finally, we are not requiring everyone to go online at this time, but the current effort to place the decision under the domain of individual faculty members could change if the situation escalates.
  3. Do I have to hold office hours?  No, we are suspending office hours for the rest of the semester.  Some of our faculty and staff (or their family members) could be compromised by a virus outbreak.  We want to do everything we can to keep the campus open, but we do not want to require people at risk to be on the premise for the rest of the semester.  Faculty will still need to be responsive to student emails and equivalent, but it is a personal choice as to being on campus or addressing student responsibilities at home.  By the way, we are working on a path where staff members can also have options to work from home.  It is not a one size fits all, but President Wendler and the rest of the administrative team are doing their best to support the health and wellness of all constituents.
  4. When does the university return from spring break?  The Chancellor sent out a message about System schools continuing spring break for an extra week. At this time, the note is not applicable for West Texas A&M University.  Most Texas A&M System schools have been on spring break this week.  They have not had a chance to discuss contingency plans, transitioned appropriate classes online, or related.  While not perfect, there has been significant effort at WT this week to modify instruction delivery, create contingency plans, and related.  We believe it prudent to take the 23rd and 24th as days to assess the situation (e.g., help faculty that decide to move to online classes, help faculty that decide to stay on campus but need to move to a lecture capture room, etc…), followed by an intent for a formal return to classes on March 25th
  5. Why no public events?  At this time, it is not prudent for large group gatherings.  From Disneyland to the world of sports, we have a couple of months where life is going to be a little different as the nation moves away from any type of robust gathering.  WT is simply following the policy of best practice based on the currently available information. We will adjust back to normalcy as soon as possible, but anticipate the spring semester to be a likely window of significant limitations.
  6. Why cancel graduation ceremonies this early?  Many students are upset about the decision to cancel graduation.  You hate to see that milestone moment lost for our hardworking students. On the other hand, making the decision later on down the road is also problematic as there are travel plans and other organizational issues to consider.  We may not ever have a local health problem, and it is possible the decision to cancel was done in haste.  If so, we might have an opportunity to revisit the decision in the middle of April.  If it appears appropriate later in the semester, we can consider a ceremony in the new outdoor stadium, campus pedestrian mall informal regalia celebration, or equivalent.  But as we stand today, the decision is to mitigate the risk of a larger public event.  By the way, many of our students have forwarded email complaints on the grounds that they are young and healthy.  Many of our students see the decision to cancel the ceremony as unfair as they are very low-risk of death.  However, that is not a correct statement for everyone involved with graduation.  We understand they are upset and disappointed.  The decision is based on public safety, not individual safety. The current information available is to proceed with caution, which is our path.  Regardless of ceremony, student scheduled to graduate will still do so as long as academic courses are successfully completed.
  7. Do we know what we are doing?  As an institution, we are doing our best.  The hardest thing about the current situation is 1/4 of people think it is a media-hyped non-issue, 1/4 of people think the sky is falling, and 1/2 do not know (but will stock up on water and toilet paper, just in case).  We are going to look back three months from now and be able to identify several mistakes that have been made.  Let's hope the mistakes are that we acted too quickly and canceled too many events.  Most of us have experienced great loss at some point in our life within our personal and work families.  Please help us do our best to deal with this situation in a way that seeks a positive path without creating chaos.  As a community of scholars - please help us employ our collective institutional talent in a way that is most productive.