Update from the Senate on COVID–19

Posted on March 30, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

As we begin this week of online teaching, I write to offer the solidary and support of the Academic Senate. The transition to online teaching brings a number of complex challenges, many of which are addressed at pratt.edu/onlineteaching. General information about the Institute’s response to COVID–19 is available at pratt.edu/coronavirus.

Over the past weeks, the Executive Committee has been working through mechanisms of shared governance to advocate for the academic interests of teachers and students in this new landscape. As you know from the Provost’s email yesterday, all Spring 2020 classes will be graded on a pass/fail basis (with appropriate exceptions for students who need them) and course evaluations from this semester will not count against future faculty actions. I am hopeful that these and other measures will help us all to focus on the most pressing issues during this time of emergency.

Faculty across the nation have heard from students, including Pratt students, that their teachers have provided an invaluable sense of support and continuity during this crisis. Some faculty have found it useful to reorienttheirsyllabi around COVID–19, while others have provided students with options to address other topics, recognizing the stressful nature of the pandemic. You can also help by referring students to resources such as the Counseling Center, Learning/Access Center, or Writing and Tutorial Center through Starfish alerts.

As instructors begin the work of online teaching, the Senate is also finding ways to continue important work online:

  • We are drafting a standing rules that would allow online voting on urgent business. Such a measure could be approved by the Executive Committee (using emergency powers) and the Provost (as is required for all standing rules).
  • Senate committees are discussing their business online. In absence of formal votes, committee chairs are forwarding their recommendations to the Executive Committee for resolution.
  • Nomination and election dates will be extended as necessary to adhere to the required period of two weeks while classes are in session. Most immediately, the ongoing APC & ICC elections are extended through April 7.
  • We have contacted all AIF-funded events for the rest of the semester to determine if they will continue online, be rescheduled, or be cancelled.

Later today, we will announce nominations for a range of positions next year, including the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council; the Academic Integrity Standing Committee; and the SLAS Dean Search Committee. Though the coming months are uncertain, I hope you will consider nominating yourself or others for these future positions. Please also be in touch with me or your senators should broad issues arise in the coming weeks where the Senate’s advocacy would be helpful.

Lastly, I want to share a few pieces that have helped me think about the enormous effect this pandemic will have on higher education:  

Wishing you all health, strength, and peace,

Chris Alen Sula
President, Academic Senate