The following message was shared with faculty and staff via email on Nov. 3.
Dear Faculty Colleagues:
This is my last report to the faculty before we make the planned move to fully remote instruction and finals after Wednesday, Nov. 25. We now navigate week 11 of the fall 2020 semester moving ahead with some relief mixed with warranted trepidation, knowing that conscientious actions and favorable confluences may yet prove insufficient to protect our fragile progress.
As we make our way to the culmination of this semester, I once again want to thank faculty for all the dedicated work that you do. As we are reporting in our Middle States Self Study, in the May 2020 SUNY New Paltz student survey about experiences under the upheaval of COVID-19, most students responding indicated that their professors were the best thing about the spring semester. I am confident that as you continue to work with students to make the best of another COVID-challenged semester that most students will once again conclude that you, the faculty, are the best thing about the fall semester.
In this report, I will address student and faculty support, provide announcements and updates, and call attention to faculty achievements, awards, honors, and publications.
- Student and Faculty Support
- Enhancing Support of Faculty towards Ensuring Regular and Substantive Interaction in Remote Courses
- Initiatives of Inclusive Excellence and Equity
- Recent Faculty Awards, Honors, and Publications/Creative Work
Student and Faculty Support
While most students would no doubt again say, if surveyed this fall, that faculty are the best thing about the semester, they have nevertheless thoughtfully appealed for your continued consideration along the lines articulated in the recent open letter of students to the faculty and campus. In the letter, students asked that faculty:
- Continue or create opportunities for check-ins with students
- Communicate expectations clearly and consistently, ideally providing weekly updates
- Exercise various additional flexibilities in light of differences in student circumstances
- To the extent feasible, be open to accommodating changes in due dates
- Mediate students’ learning experiences, via a multiplicity of pedagogical options
In the latter weeks of the semester, with the stakes amplified, students will appreciate your continued, renewed, or emergent endeavors to address these appeals.
To provide some additional support to students during another semester complicated by the continuing pandemic, we are considering an option for grading flexibility for this and next semester. As mentioned by President Christian in his report to the faculty, while continuing Pass/Fail may be problematic, other avenues are being explored with faculty input being sought in the process.
As we read in the faculty letter, No End in Sight: Caregivers in Crisis under COVID, faculty who are caregivers, roles falling disproportionately to women, are enduring many additional stresses during the pandemic. I am pleased to report one step being taken to reduce fall semester pressures. We are extending the deadline for faculty to submit final grades to Dec. 18, allowing 10 days beyond Dec. 8 when finals end. Thanks to a recommendation from the early career Futures Committee and out of shared recognition of the need to ameliorate stresses articulated in the faculty letter as well as during the recent Work Life Balance Open Forum, this action is designed to lower pressures on all faculty, pressures felt far more keenly by caregivers.
Enhancing Support of Faculty towards Ensuring Regular and Substantive Interaction in Remote Courses
It is more clearly discernible now that some distressing aspects of the pandemic crisis could be partially ameliorated if enhanced support were provided for and pursued by faculty and students to bolster their respective capacities for teaching and learning in the remote environment on which we must so heavily rely during the pandemic. Please expect communications in the coming weeks about the availability of enhanced faculty support. Much of this support will be focused on amplifying our ability as an institution to assure Middle States and NYSED as well as ourselves that students in remote modality courses are experiencing regular and substantive interaction with their faculty. I look forward to productive exchanges with you about expectations for faculty development for remote instruction given our shared accountability for regular and substantive interaction and the need to preserve our reputation for quality of teaching.
Among current considerations is a special concern for first-year students. In the upheaval of the Spring 2020 shift to remote instruction, practically all SUNY New Paltz undergraduate students had already fully experienced the high-quality teaching for which we are known. They had already been with us throughout the fall and early spring. Moreover, last year’s continuing students had already had two or more academic years in which to thrive as they experienced primarily in person the high-quality teaching and learning that our faculty are known for providing.
However, our first-time-in-college (FTIC) students who began this fall are living through a very different beginning at New Paltz. They typically have one or two courses offering in-person instruction with the rest remote. Reflecting on these entry-year circumstances heightens our awareness of the need to remain vigilant about the quality of the student learning experience. I am grateful for all of the faculty who continue to work so hard and so thoughtfully to protect the quality of the New Paltz educational experience, in which our talented faculty mediate student learning in ways that reflect the richness of faculty expertise and that infuse synergies of that expertise into the learning experience.
Initiatives of Inclusive Excellence and Equity
Among a number of recent initiatives devoted to advancing inclusive excellence and equity is the newly established Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Faculty Fellows Program. The design of this faculty-initiated program rests on this framework:
SUNY New Paltz is committed to implementing greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). At this charged moment, it is imperative that we provide students with a critical apparatus to think about the practice of these values, as well as silenced US histories and their contexts in the world. Centering conversations on DEI also allows us to consider transnational currents and diverse global cultures and contexts. This commitment to DEI calls on us to develop curricula, practices, and programs that engage with dynamics of social inequality and racism in the US and abroad. The main challenges are time, support, and focus.
The yearlong Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Faculty Fellowship for full-time academic and professional faculty will enable faculty to meet these challenges. Applicants will present plans for integrating DEI into a current or future course or program and, at the end of the year, submit a revised or new syllabus that demonstrates how this happens.
My appreciation to Professor Michelle Woods who in collaboration with Professor Sarah Wyman brought forward the idea for the project and launched the process leading to the selection of the inaugural cohort of DEI Faculty Fellows. I am pleased to announce the 2020-2021 Fellows and congratulate them on the impressive list of their projects:
Center for Student Engagement
|Learning to facilitate DEI discussions with students|
|Diversifying course (ARS450):documenting/photographing communities|
|Nina Jecker Byrne Communications Disorders||Enhancing DEI in admin materials and procedures|
|Enhancing DEI practices in the classroom|
|Shannon McManimon Educational Studies and Leadership||Critical disability work in interdisciplinary settings|
|Revising courses: BIPOC artists and structural racism in the art world/market|
|Jack L. Harris
|Centering curricula on environmental racism, in particular, in Crisis, Risk, and Disaster Communication and Public Relations|
Office of Campus Sustainability
|Integrating DEI and racial and social justice into the Office of Campus Sustainability, student Sustainability Ambassador program, and the Sustainability Faculty Learning Community.|
|Lori Ahava Wynters & Joel Oppenheimer
|Developing team-taught course: Relational Culture in the Era of Individualism|
Teaching and Learning
|Creating and developing an interdisciplinary Disability Studies (DS) minor in the School of Education|
While in this report I have highlighted the projects of the inaugural cohort of DEI Faculty Fellows, I look forward to highlighting in the future, further developments from the following as well as other areas of endeavor devoted to advancing inclusive excellence:
Faculty learning from each other’s disciplinary initiatives for inclusive excellence and student success. This includes the work of the faculty coalition comprising Drs. Nancy Campos, Catherine Herne, Stacie Nunes, and Moshe Cohen and their ASPIRE-based endeavors. Future highlights will also include the work led by Professor Jen Waldo et al. which led to the selection of New Paltz for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence 3 Learning Community project. New Paltz was one of only 108 out of 354 applicant institutions deemed to have demonstrated commitment, capacity, and readiness to join this national initiative.
Ensuring equitable distribution of students’ opportunities to engage in high-impact practices, e.g., undergraduate research, internships, study abroad, capstones, living-learning communities, etc.
Advancing the appropriate use of open educational resources to increase not only affordability but also achievement and retention of underrepresented, Pell-eligible, and other vulnerable student populations, such as first-year students
Recent Faculty Awards, Honors, and Publications/Creative Work
You will find recent recognitions of faculty accomplishments at this link. There you will learn of one of our faculty members who was recently the featured presenter for National Public Radio’s Academic Minute.
My appreciation goes out to the dedicated faculty of New Paltz for your demonstration of unwavering commitment to the success of our students.
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs