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March 5, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

As we continue to monitor and respond to the rapidly evolving circumstances presented by the spread of COVID-19, we are taking steps across the university to prepare for a wide range of contingencies. As communicated earlier this week, Executive Vice President Mike Howard is leading a university-wide coordinating committee to ensure that we take a comprehensive, proactive approach to this complex situation.

Among the several areas of priority focus is academic continuity. In order to ensure the continuity of our academic mission, we are calling on each of you to take certain immediate steps to prepare for the possibility of student and/or faculty absences due to travel restrictions, illness, requirements to self-isolate or quarantine, or the need to care for family diagnosed with COVID-19. In a worst-case scenario, we also must plan for the possibility that the university could discontinue face-to-face classes before the end of the spring 2020 semester. And we must consider the possibility that these conditions could extend into the summer and beyond. Our immediate goal is to ensure that students have the opportunity to complete the spring 2020 semester, and that those in their final year of study have the opportunity to graduate on time.

Deans will be communicating with their faculty to outline guiding principles for this preparation that are specific to each of their schools. However, certain principles apply to all faculty and require your immediate attention—for the current term and the summer and fall terms.

  • We urge all faculty and academic administrators to take the actions outlined below for the educational benefit of our students.
  • Familiarize or re-familiarize yourself with the Tufts learning management system, Canvas. TTS Educational Technology Services has posted tips, guidance, and support for moving classes online. Please note: faculty at the School of Medicine should continue to use the school’s in-house system, TUSK.
  • Make your syllabi and all course materials available online to enable students to complete work remotely if needed; this includes students who might be required to self-isolate. Every effort should be made to provide all students with course content and other instructional support.
  • Determine how you will adjust course policies on class attendance to afford flexibility to students who are unable to attend class in person in the event they become ill, are required to self-isolate, are placed under quarantine, or are unable to attend class in person due to travel restrictions or the need to care for sick family members.
  • Temporarily, during this period of uncertainty due to COVID-19, forgo asking students to document absences, but provide flexibility for any students who are absent to make up any coursework or exams remotely.
  • Create and regularly update a grade book in Canvas and develop a back-up plan for computing and submitting course grades in the event you become ill, are required to self-isolate, are placed under quarantine, or are unable to attend class in person due to travel restrictions.
  • Working with your colleagues, department chairs, and deans, create contingency staffing plans for your class should you become unable to teach.
  • If (and as) you make changes to your syllabi and/or the way you calculate grades, communicate those changes immediately and proactively.
  • Determine how to maximize the time you have in the classroom to cover as much of your course material as possible.
  • Consider moving work requiring hands-on participation (e.g. labs, and other critical lessons that are scheduled for later in the semester) to the coming weeks.
  • Consider recorded lectures and/or online videoconferencing using the tools recommended by ETS.
  • Be prepared to replace in-class examinations with take-home examinations.

For assistance with any items involving educational technology, contact edtech@tufts.edu.

We hope that the spread of COVID-19 abates and that our spring 2020 semester continues uninterrupted. However, we must prepare for a range of possibilities to ensure that we meet our students’ needs. To do so, it is critical for you to follow the steps outlined above.

We thank you for your dedication and commitment to excellence in teaching, especially in these uncertain circumstances and potentially difficult conditions.

Sincerely,

Tony Monaco
President

Nadine Aubry
Provost and Senior Vice President

Kevin Dunn
Vice Provost

Melissa Mazan
President, Tufts University Faculty Senate