Dear Faculty Colleagues,
Last night Wake Forest College virtually conferred B.A. and B.S. degrees upon our graduating seniors who watched from across the globe with their families and friends. You made this remarkable event happen despite the most extraordinary of circumstances, and you supported your students every step of the way. The College is stronger and better for your personal and professional sacrifices. I know each of you did everything in your power to honor our academic mission and live out our motto of Pro humanitate across our Covid-19 spring.
As we turn to the future, and continue our critical work together, let me remind you that you are the foundation of Wake Forest University. It is only with your help that we can combat together the challenges and uncertainties of these Covid-19 times to educate our next generation of students. At the same time, I know you cannot prepare for our future and continue to do this indispensable work without timely information about what the future at Wake Forest holds. Throughout the summer, I will share timely information about our next steps as we prepare for the Fall semester, in whatever form that may take. I will keep you informed about upcoming university and college plans, alert you to all the ways you can share your concerns, thoughts, and feedback, and invite you to keep me up to date on your challenges and worries.
Protecting the Health and Safety of Faculty and Staff Comes First
The health and safety of Wake Forest students, faculty, and staff is Wake Forest’s top priority. The College is working with leadership from across the university and the public health community to ensure that you will receive clear information related to your safety when we return to campus. In the meantime please take advantage of campus resources designed to support our mental and emotional health through our Office of Wellbeing, including free, virtual wellbeing coaching sessions on stress and anxiety beginning in late May.
The College Covid-19 Working Group
The College Covid-19 Working Group has met twice since its formation. Its charge is to act as an advisory group for the academic task force of the Covid-19 Scenario University Planning Team (CSUPT). It is also charged with acting as a channel of communication for administration and college faculty. The group has chosen Emily Austin, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Committee on Academic Planning, as chair. The group also includes Ananda Mitra, Professor of Communication and Chair of the Collegiate Senators; Paul Jones, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Committee on Academic Advising; Elizabeth Clendinning, Associate Professor of Music and Chair of the Online Education Committee of the College (OLEC); Steve Giles, Professor and Chair of Communication and Chair of the Committee on the Curriculum; Anne Hardcastle, Associate Professor and Chair of Spanish and Italian Studies and incoming Associate Dean of Academic Planning; and Michele Gillespie, Professor of History and Dean of the College. Please direct questions or concerns about Fall academic planning to any of the elected representatives of the faculty in the group (Emily, Ananda, Paul, Elizabeth, Steve). They will bring the questions/concerns to the group for discussion.
Summer Session II Moves to Online Only
On Friday, May 15, President Hatch announced to the Wake Forest community that face-to-face classes will not proceed in Summer II (consistent with the cancellation of face-to-face classes in Summer I). Department chairs & Summer II faculty instructors have been asked to consider whether or not there is sufficient interest and justification to transition summer II face-to-face courses into new online courses, which would be subject to the same provisional approval process by OLEC (and instructors would participate in a second cohort of online teaching training) as was the case for the transition of courses to online modality for Summer I. Changes to the Summer II schedule will be finalized by May 22. All changes will be made by departments/programs in Banner, and will be communicated to the Summer Sessions Office by email (to Anna Henley, email@example.com) so that we can help previously enrolled students transition to new classes if needed.
Please note that the starting and ending dates for summer sessions have not changed:
May 27 – August 11, 2020: Full Summer (online only)
May 27 – July 2, 2020: Summer Session I (online only)
July 7 – August 11, 2020: Summer Session II (online only)
Cares Act Staff Opportunities in the College
On Monday, May 11, Kim Wieters, Assistant Dean for Finance and Administration, Seneca Rudd, Director of Finance and Administration and I met with College staff to share information and answer questions about the voluntary Cares Act opportunities, either furlough through July 25 or reduction in work hours. The structure for this meeting and the subsequent processes created for reviewing staff requests to pursue the Cares Act opportunities were generated by the Chairs Cares Act Working Group, composed of Monique O’Connell (Division 1); Jessica Richard (Division 2); Nina Lucas (Division 3); Eric Stone (Division 4); and Susan Fahrbach (Division 5), in their advisory role to the Office of the Dean of the College.
Approximately 75 of 100 college staff attended the meeting. We advised staff members interested in these opportunities about the process we had devised in the working group (and had shared with all chairs) to ensure all interested staff members were able to make a well-informed decision.
We have heard from those staff who have reached out that they appreciate the opportunity to keep their full salaries while reducing hours worked. The majority of these staff members are pursuing the reduced hours option, which allows for flexibility of hours worked, although a small number of staff preferred the furlough option. At this time, approximately 15% of college staff have reached out to their supervisors.
There is no quota in the College for participation in the Cares Act. However, for some staff members who do not have enough work to fill their work schedules because of Covid-19, the option to be paid a full salary with a reduced work schedule with some flexibility has been appealing. University-wide, at this time, 263 staff have elected to go on furlough and 390 have chosen reduced work schedules. Please feel free to reach out to the working group department chair in your division if you have any questions about this staff opportunity or the College’s process.
Annual Faculty Salary Letter / Faculty Evaluations
Typically, all permanent college faculty receive a signed letter shortly after Commencement from Provost Kersh and myself thanking you for your commitment to Wake Forest University and bearing salary information for the upcoming academic year. This year the delivery of this letter will be delayed (although our thanks for your extraordinary commitment are doubled), as the FY21 University budget finalization has been slowed by complexities surrounding our Covid-19 financial circumstances.
At the request of the Dean’s Office, and ultimately the Deans across the University, the University Budget Committee approved the traditional salary bump (as opposed to individual merit increases, which have been frozen for all faculty and staff, per the April 8 message from VP Milam and Provost Kersh) for promotion from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor for both tenured and teaching track faculty. That decision recognizes this singular accomplishment in a faculty member’s career. The Committee did not approve the request for the salary bump for promotion from Associate to Full for tenure and teaching track faculty, though we expect to provide that salary bump in next year’s budget for AY22. The Office of the Dean of the College encourages all chairs to share annual evaluation feedback for the preceding calendar year with faculty members in their department.
Plans under Development to Train all University Faculty across the Summer
Regardless of possible academic calendar adjustments, social distancing requirements, testing and contact tracing requirements, travel restrictions, or other changes to operations that might be necessitated by Covid-19 this fall, we know that we will have to change the way we teach if we are going to be able to serve ALL of our students, whether they are living on-campus in our residence halls, are temporarily self-isolating, or are in a medically vulnerable group and cannot attend classes with their peers but want to continue their studies. Even if the fall semester could begin with absolutely no changes to the current schedule and no changes to on-campus operations (housing, dining, co-curriculars, athletics, etc.), we must be prepared for disruptions to occur at some point during the semester.
This past spring faculty and students alike handled the Covid-19 disruption with incredible grace and dedication despite the tremendous stress. As we look at the uncertainties of the fall semester, faculty across the university need to be armed with the teaching tools, skills, and confidence needed to assure and assist students as they realize the intended learning outcomes in all classes. Wake Forest has a unique opportunity (and responsibility) to implement a scaled up professional development effort that cements our status as leaders in higher education.
Faculty are trained deeply in their disciplines, and are expert at teaching students according to the pedagogical norms and strategies effective in those disciplines. However, we can anticipate that we will now be called upon to teach in multiple different modalities – perhaps sequentially, or perhaps simultaneously – for each and every class that we offer. This requires faculty to learn new software for course delivery and communication, and it requires faculty to develop new ways to assess student learning outcomes, and it requires faculty to re-imagine the ways in which their disciplinary (and interdisciplinary) expertise can best be shared with a community of student learners who may not all be sitting in front of them in a traditional lecture hall or seminar room.
We anticipate the university will develop, with the leadership of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, a professional development program for all faculty that involves both a midsummer “train the trainers” learning community and unit-based development for all faculty by late summer. Although we do not yet know how we will deliver classes in the fall, we can be sure that faculty will need to be prepared to teach online. If faculty are teaching face to face, there may be disruptions that move course delivery online; and if faculty are teaching in a hybrid or blended mode, a large proportion of student learning experiences will not be in the classroom. As a result, delivering the high quality educational experiences and high levels of faculty-student engagement for which Wake Forest is known requires significant support for faculty as faculty reimagine what is possible for their courses and their students. We will keep you posted on the development of the program and the timing as well as provide information about professional development support in the next several weeks.
Access to Campus for Recording Videos, Teaching Preps and Research Lab Work
Plans are underway to provide faculty summer access to facilities for recording videos and other limited prep for distance courses to be delivered in the fall. Plans are also underway for opening up research lab work that requires physical presence this summer. These plans will be contingent upon public health conditions. We anticipate updates on this access by May 31.
Access to ZSR Library Circulating Materials Expected Soon
ZSR is working hard to support faculty. Staff are scanning course reserve requests for Summer I right now. They are also preparing a system that will allow faculty to pick-up library materials and will announce that system as soon as the campus lockdown is eased. Dean Tim Pyatt hopes to share good news about access to library materials by month’s end (assuming public health conditions permit this).
Arranging Faculty and Staff Office and Work Space Move-Outs during Covid-19
The closure of campus due to Covid-19 has confounded faculty and staff office and work space move-outs, which typically take place during the summer. Associate Dean Laura Giovanelli has worked with our campus partners to develop a plan for exiting faculty and staff to leave most WFU property in a locker at ZSR Library for a contactless drop off. Office cleaning and key return (which must be managed by the department) are also addressed in the plan. More details are also being provided to department chairs and administrative assistants so please contact them with concerns not addressed in the link above. A group is also working on onboarding procedures for incoming employees, including computer pick-up, particularly as we get closer to July 1.
Report from Residence Life and Housing
The carefully phased move-out process for our students, recently endorsed by public health officials, is entering week two. Over 2400 students have booked move-out appointments through June 10. Over 800 students have indicated they will not return to campus to move out. The University will work with those students to have their belongings packed and stored or shipped, at the student’s expense. (Students with financial challenges have been encouraged to reach out to financial aid and the Crisis Fund).
Nearly 200 students will remain on campus for the summer They have moved to a consolidated area of our residence halls, allowing RLH to keep them safe, so they can continue observing the recommended guidance on social distancing during the move-out process. RLH continues scenario planning for the fall semester, exploring safe living options for new and returning students. New students will begin their housing applications soon and returning students will select housing as plans solidify.