November 19, 2020
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From: David Marshall, Executive Vice Chancellor
Re: Instructional Planning and Related Issues
The deans and I wish to thank you once again for your many efforts to teach our students and ensure that they can continue their education during these emergency conditions. As we prepare for the Winter Quarter and look ahead to the rest of the academic year, I write with some updates about instructional planning.
Planning for Winter Quarter and Beyond
As Chancellor Yang explained in his recent memo, COVID-19 Update: Planning for Winter Quarter, we are cautiously planning to offer some in-person classes in the Winter Quarter, with the majority of courses still taught remotely. The recent Santa Barbara County Public Health Order that returned the County to “Tier One” restricts classroom instruction at this time, but we are hopeful that by January the County will return to the less restrictive “Tier Two,” or make even more progress. We want to prepare for limited classroom instruction if it is allowed, with the understanding that we must remain flexible and be ready to adapt to Public Health guidance at any time.
The Chancellor’s COVID-19 Response Working Group, which continues to be convened almost daily by the Chancellor, is carefully weighing options for the Winter and Spring quarters, consistent with Public Health policies and our capacity to offer testing and contact tracing. (See Required COVID-19 Asymptomatic Undergraduate Student Testing Program.) The Chancellor has announced plans for a limited expansion of on-campus student housing in Winter Quarter. We hope that if conditions improve, departments will consider a further expansion of in-person instruction in Spring Quarter, consistent with Public Health guidance, as the campus lays the groundwork for a gradual resumption of activities with responsibility, determination, and creativity.
Thanks to the cooperation of instructors and departments, Summer Sessions played a very important role in responding to student needs last summer, increasing student FTE by 26%. Summer Sessions is now beginning to work with departments to plan courses for Summer 2021. We anticipate a continued need on the part of instructors and students to provide some remote instruction. However, if we are able to bring additional students to campus, we hope to address the needs of those students who (during the 2020-21 academic year) could not have in-person instruction in courses such as labs, workshops, or studio classes.
Most 2020-21 freshmen and new transfer students will begin their second year at UC Santa Barbara without ever having had in-person instruction or a residential experience at UC Santa Barbara. We are especially interested in expanding transition and bridge programs, as well as the Scholar Retention Program, which supports students who have struggled academically and personally, offering both remote and in-person instruction as well as campus resources to help them catch up and stay in school. Your department will be in touch with instructors to explore these possibilities.
As departments begin to plan the curriculum for the 2021-22 academic year, they should keep in mind that ongoing flexibility and innovation will be required, even if public health conditions improve. The $471.6 million reduction in State funding to the University of California, combined with other budget shortfalls, could result in a funding gap of over $50 million for our campus. This is approximately 11% of our annual core state-funded budget. The Chancellor is convening the Chancellor’s Coordinating Committee on Budget Strategy on a regular basis to discuss options for mitigating these reductions and protecting teaching and research as much as possible. However, there may be fewer Teaching Assistants available next year, not only because of budget constraints, but also because some departments have decided to limit graduate admissions this year. We soon will begin discussions about FTE planning. A reduced number of faculty recruitments were authorized this year, after an ambitious recruitment and renewal effort resulted in 335 new faculty hired in the past six years. We must plan carefully and strategically to ensure our ability to deliver the curriculum needed by our students, and to maintain the strength of our departments and advance our campus goals of excellence and diversity.
Because we are aware that some instructors have home conditions that are not conducive to remote instruction or research activities, special efforts have been made to provide faculty with scheduled access to their individual offices with limits on occupancy and priority given to instruction. (See Faculty Access to Buildings and Offices for Instructional and Research Purposes.) We are pleased to report that, to date, 35 academic buildings have been assessed by Design, Facilities, and Safety Services. With the completion and approval of Building Plans and Work Site Safety Plans, following the “Approval Workflow and Responsibilities” detailed in the Guidance for Use of Faculty Offices, faculty will be allowed to schedule use of their individual offices, consistent with UC, campus, and County policies and protocols. (See Announcing Campus Measures to Mitigate COVID-19, Including a Daily Screening Survey.)
In the meantime, faculty and graduate student instructors who need on-campus space for the purpose of delivering remote instruction may schedule space in the Library and on the first floor of HSSB. The Library, which is part of the ongoing Research Ramp-up overseen by the Office of Research, has resumed interlibrary loans on a limited basis with pickup and mailing services and has opened Special Research Collections to faculty and graduate student researchers by appointment. At this point, we expect that staff in academic departments will be asked to continue working remotely, at least through the Winter Quarter.
Flexibility in Faculty Assignments
The challenges of delivering instruction remotely and carrying out our mission as a public research university during a pandemic extend well beyond the challenges of life on Zoom. We understand that many instructors have additional challenges and pressures caring for children or other dependents at home while trying to work full-time. The campus recognizes that some faculty may need more time to prepare a tenure dossier, just as some graduate students may need more time to complete a degree. We have assured faculty that the conditions of the pandemic and remote teaching will be taken into account when reviewing both teaching and research in merit cases, this year and in the future, and we have reminded chairs to always contextualize faculty records in light of these conditions. (See Academic Personnel Updates Related to the COVID-19 Crisis and ESCI Scores and Teaching Evaluations.) In this spirit, we expect that department chairs will use reasonable flexibility in overseeing assignments to faculty who need scheduling adjustments or temporary modifications of some of their duties.
Last spring, Academic Personnel notified department chairs, business officers, and AP analysts of COVID-19 Related Leaves available for eligible academic employees. For faculty with dependent care challenges, we believe that our policies and practices provide sufficient flexibility and assistance where it is needed. For example:
- Faculty can be excused from some service obligations or responsibilities in a given quarter.
- Support is available for faculty who wish to prepare asynchronous lectures, so their teaching times will be more flexible. (See Keep Teaching.)
- Chairs can provide flexibility in making course assignments, scheduling course assignments during the academic year, and scheduling class days and times (and asynchronous teaching) during a given quarter. This flexibility can be extended into future quarters if faculty who were unable to pursue their research in this remote environment need some additional time to catch up when conditions allow.
- There may be opportunities for co-teaching or team-teaching, or combining courses. In some cases, instructors with fewer pressures have volunteered to rearrange their teaching assignments or course assignments, or to offer guest lectures or seminars in colleagues’ courses.
Faculty who need to explore options for these sorts of modifications are urged to contact their department chair and dean as soon as possible. Chairs, in consultation with deans, will address faculty needs on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the need to deliver the curriculum of the department and offer required courses, the availability of alternative instructors, and the number of individuals requesting modifications in the same term. Accommodations should be documented and endorsed by both the chair and dean in a Memorandum of Understanding and kept on record, comparable to the arrangements made under the Active Service-Modified Duties policy. Discussions with Academic Personnel, the deans, and CAP will continue to ensure that any adjustments or accommodations made in these circumstances will not adversely influence or prejudice merit and promotion cases. Although needs and adjustments will vary, deans will monitor arrangements to ensure consistency and equity. Any modifications or accommodations arranged with represented academic instructors must comply with applicable collective bargaining agreements.
As the pandemic and remote instruction continue, we remind instructors to be alert to students who might be struggling in these emergency conditions. Resources are available via Shoreline and Keep Teaching. We also would like to remind everyone of the resources available for faculty and staff from the Academic & Staff Assistance Program (ASAP). The Ombuds Office has workshops, videos, and other resources available. In our remote environment, in which traditional work-life boundaries are sometimes blurred, it is important to remember that staff are not expected to work on university holidays or days of campus closures. This is a time when we should take care of our colleagues, and ourselves.
We hope that conditions will allow us to continue a carefully managed resumption of campus activities between now and next summer, consistent with UC, County, and State guidance, and we will do our best to prepare for all contingencies so we can respond to the needs of our students, faculty, staff, and researchers. Thank you again for your sustained efforts to support the campus and your dedication to our community.