8-5-20 Message to Community


Welcome to August. Despite all the uncertainty in the world, fall semester is coming at us quickly. The business of the university has continued almost without pause throughout the summer. University Senate, along with many other shared governance committees and groups have been meeting throughout the summer to plan for safe return to campus, discuss budget, and plan efforts focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I want to thank each of you for your dedication and energy in helping to prepare for and respond to everything that is happening. 

This Friday we formally welcome the 2020-2021 session of University Senate with a new senator orientation and retreat for returning senators to catch up on what was accomplished over 2019-2020 and to set some priorities for the upcoming year.  As always, we will continue to reinforce the role of senators as your representatives with a primary responsibility to communicate and consult with you on issues under discussion. We will also continue our tradition, started under the leadership of outgoing Senate Executive Committee Chair, Dana Cox, where topics are first introduced, senators are given time for discussion, and then return for deliberation and action.

This year we will be continuing regular consultation and discussion with department chairs and other academic leaders to ensure we are hearing issues, concerns, and providing support as possible. One of the things I am currently working on is a review of my first year as provost and a summary of what has been worked on and accomplished during the past year. In the near future, I will share summaries of where we are with our MiamiRISE strategic plan, Boldly Creative initiatives, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts, and of course, we will frequently update the campus community on our Return to Campus efforts and developments. 

I know you all are busy preparing for the semester. I want to celebrate all our dedicated faculty who spent their summers engaged in developing skills to prepare for this moment. We had well over 500 faculty engage with offerings from our Center for Teaching Excellence, the Howe Center for Writing Excellence, and our Miami Online experts. At the same time, we had a record year for external funding. I have been telling our students, parents, trustees, external partners, and anyone else who will listen how proud I am of our faculty and staff. As we enter the new year, please know how grateful I am for each of you. You are the university. You make Miami the strong institution. Your exceptional efforts during these exceptionally challenging times will carry us into a strong future. Thank you.

Topics for today:

  1. Syllabus information for fall
  2. Go/no go decision for the rest of fall 2020
  3. Flexibility during return week (september 14-21)
  4. Course fee refunds under discussion
  5. Mail delivery
  6. Opening events for 20-21 academic year
  7. Policies and support conversations for COVID/fall
  8. Miamians are making the world better

Syllabus information for fall:  

Many of you have received a recent communication from Dana Cox, our new Special Assistant to the Provost for Faculty Affairs. Dana’s exceptional leadership in Senate this past year as Chair of Executive Committee led to my decision to ask her join my team. In her new role, we can be assured we someone is waking up every day thinking about all areas of faculty life and how we can ensure Miami is a good place to spend a career. In her communication, she provided language you can use in your syllabus around attendance, face masks, and other issues we are facing in this unusual fall semester.  

Please review and use this language where possible: document/d/1w_ zA6vfSbTeWcx9PbAbee1J5_ XUmOvcX96Y2TToXCLc/edit?usp= sharing   

The link to report concerns relating to these issues is: reportingform.php?MiamiUniv& layout_id=12
Go/No Go decision for fall semester:  

The need to have one final decision point where we as a University will either move ahead with our current plan to return to campus as currently planned, or if we will need to declare the rest of the semester online/remote is something that has been much discussed. With the goal of completing phase-in of campus activities and operations by September 21st, and with residence hall move-in needing to occur the week of the 14th, I expect this decision will need to be before Labor Day weekend. We are constantly monitoring developments in all areas of COVID-19 and receiving feedback from our Safe Return to Campus committee as well as from our IUC colleagues, public health experts and scientists, Ohio Department of Health, and the CDC. Guidance will be provided  as soon as we have it.

Flexibility during move in week

We anticipate students will move into their residence halls beginning September 14. As you can imagine, this will be a challenging week for those students, 40% of whom will be moving from out-of-state. If you can develop a plan for that week where asynchronous or individual activities are options, and avoid testing during that week, I am certain the students would deeply appreciate the support.

Course fees:  

We have been fielding questions about whether or not course fees will be refunded. There are three general categories of classes with fees: 
  • Courses that will still use the supplies paid for by the fees regardless of whether we are fully online for the semester or only for the first five weeks:  we will not refund these fees;
  • Courses that cannot use the fees with the first five weeks online or the expected restrictions even if we return to campus: we will refund these fees;
  • Courses that might use the fees if we can return to campus after 9/21 but not if we cannot: we are still evaluating these situations and will provide guidance when we know whether we are able to return.
As with we did over the last spring semester, we will work in collaboration with deans and department chairs to develop our understanding of whether it is appropriate to return fees or not once we are more certain of the trajectory of our fall semester. 

Mail Delivery

Beginning August 10th, the Mail & Package Center will resume normal deliveries to Academic and Administration buildings. UPS, Fed Ex, DHL and Amazon will also resume their deliveries on campus.

Opening Events

For your convenience, the 2020-2021 Academic Year opening events are listed on the following web page: academic-affairs/faculty- affairs/academic-year-opening/ index.html

Policy support for COVID-19 during fall 2020

In line with last spring, when we had to quickly close campus and shift to remote instruction, we consulted with UAAC (Undergraduate Academic Advising Council) and University Senate to adjust some relevant policies and practices. With the remote start for the fall, the concerning trends in COVID throughout our country, and the deep uncertainty about how the fall semester will proceed, I have asked University Senate and UUCA to again implement the same policy changes, including:
  • For students
    • Student ability to select Credit/No Credit for any course until the last day of class,
    • The ability to request an incomplete until the last day of classes, along with an extension of the deadline to complete the incomplete until the end of spring semester.  Note that this is not a requirement for faculty to provide permission for a student to take an incomplete. 
  • For faculty
    • Faculty have complete discretion to report course evaluations from this semester in promotion and tenure review processes; however all course evaluations may be used for formative feedback and improvement by department chairs, deans, and other leaders.
    • Faculty already have the ability to request an extension in the tenure or promotion clock ( tenure-track; this consideration is also hereby extended to all  TCPL faculty).  We continue to affirm the right for faculty in good standing to request these extensions.  We understand that a clock extension is not always sufficient to offset the profound disruption faculty have experienced.  We are looking at other ways we can provide support for faculty.
    • In any P&T process where external evaluations are required, we will provide a statement to the external reviewers reminding them of the profound disruption higher education has endured during this time, the policy we have for clock extensions, and that they should consider scholarly productivity during these times in that context.
We understand that there are other ways members of our community have been impacted. We have multiple University Senate committees looking at further actions we can take to support undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff. 

Some great things Miamians are doing:

Our larger community has a rich history in supporting the Underground Railroad that helped enslaved people escape to freedom, and Miami students will help to amplify that history in a new capstone experience for senior professional writing majors and minors. This exciting project is yet another example of how Miami scholarship and research can create meaningful connections and lead the way to a more inclusive world. These stories make me proud to be a Miamian.

Building a diverse, inclusive and more welcoming community through innovative programs that create measurable progress - that's the goal of a new $1 million fund to support diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at Miami. The fund will enhance the impact of several generous donations and will fund competitive grants for DEI initiatives. There is much work to be done, but this commitment represents an early step toward progress that will make us a better Miami community.

Even though everything seems to be changing every day right now, one thing has remained consistent - Miami graduates succeed. The newest report from Institutional Research shows that 96% of 2019 Oxford graduates and 96.7% of Regionals graduates were employed, continuing their education, serving in the military or in a service program by the end of the year. These remarkable data have persisted, year after year after year. Thanks to all of you who make it possible!
When you are working at home, are you a "segmenter" or an "integrator"? Understanding your own working style can be a key to success, as Miami's Laurens Steed explores in this online piece. Let's all find a style that works for us - and most importantly, our students!

Helping our students prepare for success in their careers is one of Miami's core strengths, as we continue to demonstrate year after year. The latest example: Software developers are in demand, and Miami's software engineering program is ranked among the top programs in the country preparing students for this growing market.

Miami's Ohio Writing Project has been around for more than four decades, providing meaningful professional development for K-12 teachers. This year, the program continues in a digital format - just one more way Miami is connecting with our communities and serving the people of Ohio.

Many Thanks,
Jason Osborne