Update on Fall 2020 Planning

Sent: April 24, 2020

From: Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs

Dear Colleagues,

I understand there has been some confusion about the messages that came out this week and the interpretation of some of these messages in the press. It was not the intent of the message to create greater anxiety but to manage the reality of what might come next. We need to plan because public health officials are indicating that practices, such as physical distancing requirements, will remain in place into the fall. But, let me be clear about what I would love to see happen:

1. Physical distancing requirements are lifted

The best case scenario for the fall is that physical distancing requirements are lifted and we can return to as much face-to-face instruction as possible. 

2. Retain as much as we can in a face-to-face modality

That if #1 is not possible due to guidelines from our public health authorities, we retain as much as we can in a face-to-face modality (based on our ability to manage physical distancing). This means looking at labs, dance studios, art programs, research experiences, clinical opportunities and even classes with fewer than 19 students to see if we can schedule them in rooms that allow for enough space to keep everyone as safe as possible. We may even be able to serve some classes in the 20-50 range, although we have fewer rooms that could probably make that a reality under physical distancing guidelines.

3. A synchronous or asynchronous mode of online education

For faculty whose classes can’t meet face-to-face either because of class sizes (and public health requirements) or their own personal health issues, they are being asked to consider either a synchronous or asynchronous mode of online education. This will be a faculty preference. We are putting together a training program for the summer that will help faculty in their planning—participants will be given stipends and professional support to make their courses work better for them and for their students.

Let me be crystal clear—no one is being asked, or pushed toward, asynchronous modalities. Some students (and faculty) have asked for “maximum flexibility” in these hard times and having some part of our schedule asynchronous does help some students. 

I really appreciate how amazing the faculty are on our campus and how much they have done to make an almost impossible situation work this semester. Everyone is tired. No one wants to think about how long these disruptions to higher education might last. If I had a vote, I would go with #1 above in a second! 

I want to make a few last comments. There are some concerns that my background as the former leader of Arizona Online puts me in a position of hoping to convert as much of the campus experience to online education as possible. Nothing could be further from the truth. Providing access to our campus for fully-online learners serves what many call “adult learners” who have very different needs from the “traditional” first-time freshmen and college transfer students. The average age of a student on the campus at Arizona when I was there was probably 22, the average age of an Arizona Online student was 30. They are different communities with different needs. If we have any conversation about some development of fully-online education now or in the future it is to serve the latter population not the former. I wish everyone in the country was given a four-year scholarship and a living wage to go to college. We don’t currently live in that world. 

I have been holding open forums with colleagues from across our division on a bi-weekly basis. I have been meeting with faculty, staff, students, chairs, associate deans, deans, and student affairs professionals. I have additional meetings scheduled with a number of faculty groups over the next several days. I hope to put together a Town Hall in May to open up a wider conversation about the future direction of our campus in a post-COVID-19 world. 

In the meantime, as always, please feel free to reach out to me directly with your questions and concerns. I try to respond to everyone as quickly as I can.