Statement from the Provost: Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Planning for Instructional and Research Continuity

UPDATE: March 10: RIT has developed a set of guidelines and effective practices for faculty planning for academic continuity. This page, which is restricted to RIT faculty and staff and requires a login, includes instructions on using supported academic technology and advice for developing your alternate course plan.

This is a follow-up to the university’s Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) communications and is directed to all faculty and staff in Academic Affairs. As President Munson has stated, it is imperative that we act with purpose to ensure the health and safety of our community and to also have measures available to enable the continuity of our academic mission. As a part of the university’s Critical Incident Management Team, Academic Affairs has formed an Academic Continuity Team, led by Jim Myers, Joe Loffredo and Sue Provenzano. This team is focused on plans to ensure students will be able to continue earning credit toward their academic degrees in the event of significant institutional disruption. The team is monitoring the evolving Coronavirus situation closely and laying the groundwork for academic continuity.

At the recommendation of this team, and out of an abundance of caution, I am asking faculty to prepare for the potential that you may need to finish the semester using an alternate course delivery mode (e.g., online, accelerated delivery, course redesign). I have asked the deans to work with all of you as well as unit chairs/heads, and staff to achieve this goal.

If a significant disruption occurs, it may come with little notice. For this reason, we are starting immediately to ensure resources will be in place if they are needed. First, please begin thinking now about how you would need to modify your courses in the event you cannot be on campus or significant numbers of your students cannot be in class. Second, every college is being asked to evaluate its course needs and provide input to the Academic Continuity Team. This information will be used to determine whether we need to enhance central resources, such as software licenses, to support course completion. Some colleges have this information on file, but it is likely you will be asked to provide detail about your specific courses. If you receive a request for information, please respond immediately. We will do our best to avoid reaching out during spring break but be aware that we cannot predict how the situation will evolve.

As you consider what would be required to complete your courses, please keep the following in mind:

1. Resources may be limited, therefore, consider the minimum required to allow you to complete the course and assign a final grade. This is important because in the unlikely event of a significant institutional disruption, we expect resources to be strained, especially internet capacity beyond the campus.

2. Bear in mind that any changes to the course requirements or schedule must be documented in a revised syllabus and distributed to your students.

3. If you are uncertain as to how you can deliver your course using an alternate mode, the ILI is available to assist you in making necessary modifications. We are also developing resources for you to consult and you will be notified as soon as these are available.

4. Per RIT policy, every faculty member should already have a myCourses shell and gradebook. If you do not already have this in place, please take the time to complete these tasks.

5. The university is implementing quarantine (for healthy but possibly exposed individuals) and isolation (for ill individuals) protocols for Coronavirus. The best way to minimize the spread of any virus is for sick students, faculty and staff to stay home. Work with your students who may be quarantined or in isolation to meet the course requirements without penalty.   Students who cite the Coronavirus as a reason for their absence should be encouraged to contact the Student Health Center for support and monitoring.

 Many health care providers, including the RIT Student Health Center, do not provide medical excuses for illness. The inability to provide a doctor’s note should not be used to penalize a student.

Many of you also have ongoing research, scholarly, or creative projects. Please consider how those projects would be impacted if you were unable to come to campus for an extended period. Faculty members with funded research have been asked to provide feedback via a survey to the VPR. If you did not respond to that survey but are aware of safety or security risks associated with your research, please contact your associate dean for research. 

Continue to check the Coronavirus website for the most up-to-date information about the university’s response to the virus. If you have questions specific to your courses, please contact your unit chair/head.

Thank you for your attention to ensuring student success as we work together to manage this very unusual situation.

Ellen Granberg, Ph.D.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs