The following report was shared with faculty and staff via email on Dec. 2.
Dear Faculty Colleagues:
With no way to assure success at the outset but with willingness to work together for the common good of students, faculty, and staff as well as the broader community, we made our way to a successful transition to remote operations, including teaching and learning, one week ago. Thank you for your steadfast contributions to the success of students and colleagues in these still uncertain times. In this report, I will address student and faculty support, focus on inclusive excellence capacity building, provide announcements and updates, and call attention to faculty achievements, awards, honors, and publications.
- Enhancing Support of Students
- Links to Emergency and Other Student Supports
- Looking Ahead to Enhanced Student Support in Spring 2021
- Enhancing Support of Faculty
- SUNY Standards Regarding Plan for Remote Instruction Spring 2021
- The Plan to Address These Standards
- Advancing Capacity for Inclusive Excellence and Equity
- Recent Faculty Awards, Honors, and Publications/Creative Work
Enhancing Support of Students
- Conduct check-ins with students
- Communicate and clarify expectations regularly, ideally weekly
- Exercise flexibilities when students face harder circumstances under COVID than usual
- Consider accommodating some changes in due dates
- Mediate students’ learning experiences, using teaching strategies engaging you with students and students with students
In this season for gratitude, I note that students have on many occasions expressed deep appreciation for the ongoing commitment of our dedicated faculty. But we know that students are under extraordinary pressure right now and so they also seek to have their considerations heard, not only as the fall semester concludes but, perhaps more importantly, as we look ahead to spring and the fresh start that a new semester provides. I urge your close attention to the students’ recent message, in both letter and video forms.
Links to Emergency and Other Student Supports
As just one sign of the care and concern that faculty have for our students, the Faculty Senate had requested that a link be provided to all emergency and support services for students. I am happy to provide it, thanks to Vice President Blaisdell and her committed staff. The place to go is the Student Affairs main page at https://www.newpaltz.edu/studentaffairs/, where one can find links to everything from the food pantry and crisis funds to mental health and student rights and responsibilities, as well as one of the latest and most important additions, the new bias response support network process, and many other procedures.
Looking Ahead to Enhanced Student Support in Spring 2021
Please help ensure that students know of the following enhanced support available for them in spring:
- The expanded S/U grade option, which extends from this fall through the spring 2021 semester.
- Piloting of a National Science Foundation supported program called CircleIn, which supports students in effectively studying remotely whether alone, in study groups, or with the help of our tutors. More information will follow.
- The Student Blackboard Online Training Orientation short course, which remains available and in which students can earn a certificate. Consider encouraging and rewarding students who could benefit from it to take this short, self-paced Blackboard course before the start of spring semester.
- Mind Body Spirit (MBS) Days designed in lieu of Spring Break and involving the five dates of Tuesday, Feb. 9, Wednesday, Feb. 24, Thursday, March 11, Friday, April 9, and Monday, April 19. There must be no class meetings of any modality on these dates. In addition, as you plan your course agendas, kindly consider front-loading test and assignment due dates, that is, scheduling these a bit ahead and not immediately after Mind Body Spirit dates. Structured student activities are being planned for those days and will be announced as dates approach.
Enhancing Support of Faculty
Faculty are surely experiencing enormous pressure, too, as was illuminated in the open letter from faculty earlier this fall, and we remain committed to supporting you as you strive to educate our students under our current and immediately foreseeable circumstances. What follows in this portion of my report this month lays out our accountability to SUNY (and to ourselves and our students and their families) with regard to the quality of remote instruction, ways in which we continue bolstering support for faculty in this regard, and considerations as we look ahead to delivering New Paltz educational experiences in the spring 2021 semester.
SUNY Standards Regarding Plan for Remote Instruction Spring 2021
In the spring 2021 reopening guidance received from system Chancellor Malatras in November, we were directed to prepare and submit our plan for ensuring “Academic Continuity and the Health and Safety of Students, Faculty, and Staff” through spring 2021. While this new draft plan is an extension of our New Paltz Forward Fall Semester 2020 Reopening Plan, SUNY’s latest guidance provides specific expectations regarding remote instruction. Because of its importance to our planning, I will quote here key parts of SUNY’s guidance on remote instruction for spring 2021:
Working together with campus governance processes and in collaboration with its faculty and support staff, campuses must work to ensure that remote instruction meets or exceeds expectations of regular and substantive interaction. Campuses will continue to assist students with access to devices and internet connectivity in order for students to be successful with remote instruction.
i. Transparency: Before the beginning of each semester, campuses must publish [on their website] the percentage of courses which will be offered in-person and remote.
ii. Regular Interaction: The institution must provide for the opportunity for substantive interactions with the student on a predictable and regular basis commensurate with both the length of time, and the amount of content, in the course or competency, must monitor the student’s academic engagement and success, and must make clear that the instructor(s) are responsible for promptly and proactively engaging in substantive interaction with the student when needed on the basis of such monitoring, or upon request by the student
iv. Substantive Interaction: The institution must engage students in teaching, learning, and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, while also including at least two of the following:
- Provision of direct instruction;
- Assessment and / or the provision of feedback on a student’s coursework;
- Provision of information and / or responding to questions about the content of a course or competency;
- Facilitation of group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency; or
- Other instructional activities approved by the institution’s/program’s accrediting agency.
vi. Campuses must work to ensure all faculty and students have access to orientation/training opportunities to familiarize them with instructional technologies and remote pedagogies, especially those faculty for whom such technologies/pedagogies are new and for those students in vulnerable populations.
The Plan to Address These Standards
The draft plan being submitted to SUNY has been shared with Faculty Governance and UUP as well as student leadership, in addition to having had the input of the COVID-19 Cabinet group and of the Academic Planning-CV19 group, which includes faculty (department chair) representation. Below I call your attention to parts of the plan regarding remote instruction that shape how we will support faculty and ensure accountability to SUNY (and to ourselves and our students and their families) for the standards related to remote instruction.
In the interest of making you aware of what is in our draft plan in this regard, below is related language from the plan, shared with you now even though the document as a whole is embargoed until SUNY has reviewed and approved it. Please expect additional communications and exchanges of information, opportunities to ask questions, and avenues for addressing any concerns that you may have. Here is the plan excerpt related to remote instruction:
- We will post on the college website the percentage of courses offered in- person and remotely.
- Regular and substantive interaction. We will ensure regular and substantive interaction through an OSCQR-based (Open SUNY Course Quality Review) course review process and remote teaching and learning support.
- OSCQR Review and Expectations
- All faculty are expected to apply the OSCQR best practices to their remote learning environments.
- Faculty will be asked to conduct a self-evaluation of each course being offered remotely using the OSCQR rubric that has been customized for New Paltz.
- All faculty teaching remotely are encouraged to use their self- evaluation to determine whether they may need additional training or support. These may include: New Paltz Training: Developing a Blended Learning Course (available to all faculty in Blackboard [Bb]), SUNY Online OSCQR supports, live or recorded campus webinars, archived support materials in the campus Knowledge Base, or one-on-one support with an instructional designer and/or one of our online teacher mentors. (See Faculty Training and Support below.)
- Faculty who are teaching a course with reduced campus presence, (e.g., hybrid, where they meet in person some of the time and online for the rest) also need to complete the self-evaluation.
- Any faculty who have not been through our certification training who are teaching fully asynchronous courses will be required to submit their self-evaluation to their Chair, Associate Dean or Dean as determined by their school/college. If course remediation is necessary, the self-evaluation may be additionally submitted to the instructional design team.
- All remote courses will include the following elements:
- Assessment/feedback on student coursework
- Provision of information or responding to questions about course work
- An opportunity for live office hours via phone or web-conferencing (connection beyond email exchange)
- Remote courses should also include two or more of the following:
- Direct instruction
- Facilitation of group discussion of coursework or study groups
- Facilitation of team projects or student presentations
- Opportunities for feedback from students via surveys, discussion boards, or web-conferencing
- Other means of ensuring substantive interaction not named above
- OSCQR Review and Expectations
I conclude this section by expressing my confidence that our approach will prompt and facilitate faculty taking greater advantage of a superb set of supports already in place, thanks to the excellent work of Kate Bohan and Rich McElrath of OIT on remote teaching, learning, and working, Sarah Wyman of FDC, and the seven Peer Instructional Designer Teacher Mentors, each dedicated to faculty in their respective schools or to new faculty. I envision that when faculty who have not previously done so can slow down and spend time exploring and then immersing themselves in these resources, some faculty still feeling weighed down by seemingly unrelenting pressures of remote teaching may well find themselves flooded with relief at the amount and kind of help that is here for you. In the days ahead, look for further announcements on enhanced support for faculty with regard to remote teaching and learning.
Advancing Capacity for Inclusive Excellence and Equity
As part of cost-cutting across the institution this year, we have looked closely at institutional memberships in higher education professional organizations and we have let some go. However, because the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) membership continues to offer opportunities to build our collective and individual capacity to advance inclusive excellence and equity, we have recommitted to this membership while not renewing others. An example of AAC&U advancing inclusive excellence comes through the “Upholding These Truths: Equity, Diversity, and Democracy” March 2021 Virtual Conference on Diversity, Equity, and Student Success. Proposals for strategy sessions, workshops, facilitated discussions, and posters are being accepted until Dec. 15. Examples of session topics being encouraged include:
- Elevating Anti-Racism as a Priority in Higher Education
- Building Capacity of Racial Trauma Informed Leaders
- Student Activism as a High-Impact Practice
- Designing Equity-Conscious High-Impact Practices
- Faculty Diversity, Retention, and Recruitment
- Inclusive and Responsive Pedagogy in all Settings (virtual, hybrid and in-person)
- Reimagining Higher Education to Better Educate Students
- Institutional Accountability and DEI efforts
- Student Well-Being and Sense of Belonging
- Supporting Students Who are Experiencing Basic Needs Insecurities
- Supporting DACA students
- Social Responsibility and Community Engagement
- Supporting Non-tenured Faculty
- Campus Safety
- Racial Healing and Transformation
- Assessing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Efforts
- Civil Discourse and Campus Free Speech
- Technology Designs that Advance Equity
- Collaboration Across Departments and Divisions to Support Student Success
Unfortunately, the timing of the conference conflicts directly with our Middle States Review Team Visit, and many of us absolutely must prioritize availability to meet with the Middle States Team. However, for those who can, I encourage you to consider submitting proposals for this conference, whether individual or co-authored presentations. If accepted, you can be supported with conference registration fees and thus also attend all parts of the conference as a result, connecting with and learning from diverse colleagues of their transferable approaches and advances in making excellence inclusive and advancing equity along racial and other fronts.
Recent Faculty Awards, Honors, and Publications/Creative Work
You will find recent recognitions of faculty accomplishments at the following link: https://sites.newpaltz.edu/news/category/research/. With the pandemic having forced academic conferences to remote formats, I will take this moment to remind faculty that while we have instituted SUNY guidelines strictly limiting travel expenditures due to COVID-19 safety and budget impacts, faculty may still apply for support to participate in conferences when presenting.
As always, my deep appreciation goes out to the dedicated faculty of New Paltz for your demonstration of unwavering commitment to the success of our students.
Best regards, Barbara
Barbara G. Lyman
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs