St. Olaf College | COVID-19

June 17, 2020 at 8:25 p.m.

To St. Olaf College faculty and staffFrom Marci Sortor, Provost and Dean of the College

Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

We are working steadily to address a number of issues linked to the August 20 start of classes. Some of the items we are currently working on include the following. Please read through all of the items in case there is something with which you should be helping.

· Community mindfulness. We need to recognize that the pandemic impacts community members differently. Our community members come from a variety of backgrounds and from communities who have had varying degrees of COVID-19 impact. There has also been discrimination and bias as a result of COVID-19. St. Olaf remains committed to creating and maintaining an environment where everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

· Community Standards and Community Pledge. Please read the College’s Community Standards and Community Pledge, which David Anderson described in his June 16 message. The Community Pledge will be made available soon for everyone to sign electronically.

· COVID-19 related accommodations. HR is receiving requests for health-related accommodations to people’s work. HR keeps the health information confidential and will alert supervisors to the kinds of accommodations that are needed. It will be up to the staff supervisors to address the accommodation in light of the requirements for the work to be done. In the case of accommodations for faculty members, Dan Dressen or your Associate Dean will contact you.

· Book orders! The deadline for ordering books under the previous version of the fall calendar was already past, so imagine how hard the bookstore is working to make sure that students have books for your courses now that classes begin Aug. 20. If you have not yet ordered the books you want students to use, I encourage you to contact the bookstore now to see what might be possible.

· Fully online courses. Please contact your Associate Dean if you want to offer a course (or if your department would like to offer a group of courses) that will be fully online. There are a number of considerations for offering a fully online course, including the health needs of the professor (requests for accommodations go through HR). In some cases, given the pedagogy employed, online delivery may be preferable to distanced in-class teaching. Having a combination of different kinds of course delivery such as in-person hybrid and fully online may help with a number of issues including having some online options for students who can’t make it to St. Olaf in the fall. Knowing which courses will be fully online will also help determine what our space needs will be. We will reissue the course schedule to indicate which offerings will be fully online.

· Determining maximum capacities for classrooms and other kinds of teaching and learning spaces. The Academic Space Committee is finalizing its work on inventorying classroom spaces, spaces that can be converted to classrooms, their capacities in light of physical distancing guidelines, and their technology set-up. Courses may be reassigned to a new location. You should hear about the location of your courses no later than July 1.

· Offices. Supervisors are working on a timeline for when their operations need to be back to full staffing, and to work with their teams to develop a staffing plan for their offices. These plans will vary according to the type of work done and the circumstances in which it takes place. Considerations for the staffing plan include: meeting safety guidelines such as physical distancing, following the Governor’s guidance to work from home if this is feasible, and being sufficiently available for students and colleagues in those aspects of work that call for more immediate interactions. Supervisors are also working with their teams to develop plans for how to conduct their operations.

· Preparing spaces. Preparations will be based on guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health. You can expect in some areas to see fewer seats or tables and some new technology in classrooms. Associate Deans will be reaching out to department chairs and program directors to identify whether their programs have particular issues linked to course delivery.

· Opening Faculty Meeting and Welcome Day. We do not yet have information for you about Welcome Day. We will be doing something, but it will be very different from what we’ve done in the past. Stay tuned for this. Faculty colleagues, please mark August 6 for the opening faculty meeting.

We will be doing our best to have things operate much as they usually do, but there is no question that we are all having to rethink what we do and how we accomplish it. In some cases, resources need to be diverted in order to respond to the demands of this pandemic time. If something doesn’t seem to be working as you think it should, let us know, while keeping in mind there are likely considerations that require the response you see.

Some Important Dates

  • June 23 Next Opening Update
  • July 1 All Campus Meeting (virtual)
  • August 6 Opening Faculty Meeting (virtual)
  • August 15-19 New Student Orientation
  • August 13 Academic Leadership Meeting (virtual)
  • August 20 Classes begin!