Provost Burish: Faculty update on COVID-19

Dear Colleagues,

Words cannot adequately express my gratitude for your overwhelming support as we move forward on the decision to move all classes online starting March 23.  As you know, our coronavirus response efforts have been unfolding quickly for the past few days and are likely to continue this weekend and into next week.

Your response to this unprecedented situation – transitioning to online education delivery within a week – has been exceptional.  Things will surely get more interesting and challenging when we actually start to deliver online instruction.  Elliott Visconsi and Hugh Page will continue to provide regular updates and information as our needs and challenges evolve.  Instructional resources, plans, and best practices will continue to be published at coronavirus.nd.edu/instructional-continuity.

In addition, Notre Dame Research is developing guidance that we will implement should it become necessary to curtail research operations on campus.  We do not anticipate doing so at this time, but clarifying our plans now is a prudent step.

On Friday, the deans and I decided that we will distribute CIFs at the end of the semester.  Our singular aim is to gauge overall student response to our efforts to deliver instruction remotely.  With input from the Faculty Taskforce on Instructional Continuity, we will add several questions to the CIF in an effort to assess various aspects of online learning modalities.  We will not use student feedback, whether positive or negative, in any other evaluative way.  These CIFs, for example, will not be included in any renewal, promotion, or tenure files.

We also learned yesterday of plans to temporarily close the Duncan Student Center.  Please know that while Duncan is closed, Ryan Willerton and his team at the Meruelo Family Center for Career Development will continue to connect our students with employers and other career opportunities.  Their entire staff will be working proactively to check in with and support students during this interruption in normal operations.

Last evening, Fr. John, Shannon Cullinan, and I sent out this letter to the staff.  Human Resources followed up our letter with this additional guidance to staff members about working from home.  I share them with you so that you are aware of this new guidance, as I know that some of you supervise staff members.  Should you have additional questions about how to navigate remote work options with your staff, Human Resources can assist you.

While we plan to keep on-campus resources open and available to assist you in designing and delivering your online instruction, please know that you can also continue to enjoy the flexibility to work from home as needed to suit your schedules and individual situations.

At a time when we are primarily focused on practical solutions to urgent problems, it is easy to overlook those who are the focus of our efforts: our students.  Except for a small number of students who remain on our campus because they could not return to their own homes, the majority of our students left campus for spring break and are returning to many different places, facing the uncertainties of online courses with instructors who, in most cases, are learning for the first time how to teach an online course.  They lost, at least temporarily, many of the connections to our campus and community that they most valued: their connection to friends and sporting activities, to extracurriculars and events they worked hard to plan, the Grotto and Mass in their residence halls, and to many other features of Notre Dame that made it a special place, a second home, for them.

You now provide one of the few connections our students still have to their university.  Your compassionate instruction during these trying times will make all the difference to our students and to our university.  Thank you for it, for your patience, and for your good ideas as we work through the issues and challenges before us.

Yours in Notre Dame,

Tom