Re: Clarification Regarding Fall Instruction
To: All faculty
April 27, 2021
We fear that the messages coming out of our last two town-halls may have created confusion about the coming fall semester. In the April 2 town hall focused on faculty, we addressed our expectations for a return to campus for in-person instruction beginning in August. Since that meeting, conditions in the state and announced changes in state regulations have strengthened our expectation to have all students on campus and almost all classes held in person next academic year. In the more recent April 16 town hall focused on staff, campus leadership spoke of some flexibility for staff to include a larger portion of telecommuting than was permitted pre-pandemic. Since then, academic leadership has heard faculty expressing their belief that we would be allowing the same kind of flexibility for teaching. We apologize for any confusion.
With this context, we write to confirm our expectation is to return to in-person instruction in August. These plans have been shared with students, and they are making arrangements to return to Merced for the start of fall semester.
More specifically, we are planning for full capacity occupancy of our instructional classrooms and labs, with all courses offered in-person during regularly assigned class times in assigned classrooms. We will let you know no later than July 1st if there are any changes to this plan. Should conditions necessitate changes, the most likely fallback alternative is that classes held in our largest, fixed seat lecture halls might need to alter delivery for the first few weeks of the semester while we wait for recently vaccinated students to build antibodies. Instructors scheduled to teach these largest classes will receive an invitation to a planning meeting to discuss such a fallback option.
Consistent with pre-pandemic practices, the expectation is that the only exceptions to in-person teaching will be for courses approved through the Academic Senate to be taught in an online, hybrid or hyflex modality or for faculty who receive a medical disability accommodation. Requests to modify a course should follow the usual course proposal process and be with the Academic Senate by May 1. The medical disability accommodation request form is expected to be released next month. Please note that medical accommodations will only be available for instructors, teaching assistants, and staff with documented medical conditions for which a medical professional recommends specific accommodation.
We also anticipate that instructors may receive requests from individual students who would like to take courses remotely in the fall. Instructors should refer such students to their academic advisors. If an instructor would like to allow online participation in a course currently authorized by the Senate for in-person instruction, the Senate will need to approve the course for hyflex delivery (see the preceding paragraph). If such a change is made, the hyflex option must be made available to all students in the class. Instructors may not make individual arrangements with students for remote participation.
Finally, we understand that some graduate programs have international students who may be unable to get a visa to come to Merced in time for the fall semester. Such programs should work with Interim Graduate Dean Kello to address these students’ needs.
As discussed in both town-hall meetings, we are doing everything within reason to protect our faculty and staff from COVID-19. We will continue to update you on those plans as they grow clearer over the coming days and weeks.
Gregg Camfield, Ph.D.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Robin DeLugan, Ph.D.
Chair of the Academic Senate