March 12, 2020


Dear Colleagues,

As President Campbell has announced, in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, Spelman College is taking proactive steps, including suspending face-to-face classes and conducting classes remotely, for the remainder of the semester. The decision to extend Spring Break by one week is designed, among other things, to give our faculty, students and staff an additional week to prepare for the shift to remote instruction, and to identify courses/learning experiences that may have to be altered should remote instruction not be feasible. Classes will transition from face-to-face instruction on Monday, March 23, 2020.

As we all know, the speed and scope of this worldwide event makes perfect decision-making impossible. But we must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Our decisions are being made out of an abundance of caution to protect the health and well-being of our entire community. Although a high degree of uncertainty surrounds the scope of the coronavirus pandemic, Spelman has a responsibility, alongside the nation’s other colleges and universities, to institute mitigation practices of social distancing to help stem its spread. These mitigation practices prudently limit travel, gatherings of large groups, and events that involve extended amounts of time in close proximity, including classes.

We recognize that the decision to shift from in-person to remote instruction asks much of our faculty and will have a major impact on the remainder of the spring semester. But as you likely know, similar decisions have been made by colleges and universities across the country, many with much larger student bodies than ours. In the end, nothing outweighs the well-being of our students, faculty and staff.
Below you will find instructions designed to clarify expectations, including information about instructional continuity and research continuity.

Instructional Continuity
With the temporary suspension of in-person classes, our job is to quickly adjust our approach to teaching so that students can successfully stay on track and finish out the semester. Face-to-face instruction will be suspended for lectures, discussion sections, seminars and other similar classroom settings, through the end of the semester. In the small group of courses where remote instruction may not be feasible (such as laboratory and performance classes), we will ask faculty to consider other ways to continue instruction. The Provost Office will work with faculty in those circumstances, and exceptions will be decided on an "as needed" case-by-case basis.  

All faculty should start with the assumption that online delivery will be necessary, and begin to prepare to deliver their classes online.
Where online delivery is not feasible, faculty will be asked to reconceive their courses to enable students to continue their progress by other means for the time being. Faculty will also need to establish and hold virtual office hours, and communicate those to your students and department chairs.

To assist faculty and to meet our academic responsibilities to our students, with the leadership of our Vice Provost for Faculty, Dr. Dolores Bradley Brennan, and critical input from our colleagues in STS, the college sent a survey to faculty over Spring Break to determine:
the faculty’s possession of the computer hardware that will be needed to teach remotely; the faculty’s comfort level shifting their teaching to online; and the training/support many faculty will need to accomplish that shift. Within days, despite the break, we received a 98% response rate to that survey from our full-time faculty, and a high response rate from our part-time faculty as well. Thank you all for making that a priority. Your responses have been essential to our planning.  

Using the results, our STS colleagues have created for the faculty an Instructional Continuity Training website
to share strategies and tools that faculty can use to prepare for remote modes of delivery of their courses. Many thanks to Blanche Bryant and Connie Dixon in particular for their leadership on this, and to our CIO John Wilson and the entire STS team that has helped to prepare us for this moment.

In addition to the resources you will find on our Instructional Continuity Training Website
an ad hoc Instructional Continuity Faculty Support Task Force has been composed, consisting of the Provost, the Vice Provost for Faculty, members of our EdTech Committee, the STS team, and designated peer "Tech Buddies" from most departments/programs and all divisions. These colleagues have graciously volunteered to assist faculty who have questions about how to teach a class from a distance, and to troubleshoot difficulties as they arise.

This is new for our community.
We should expect bumps along the way. Be patient with yourselves, and with others, and reach out for help whenever it is needed.

I also ask faculty to be flexible with students who are too ill to participate in class. Illness-caused absences should be accommodated. So too, faculty who are too ill to teach remotely should contact their department chair and the Provost’s Office, so that a replacement instructor can be arranged.

Research Continuity
Although classes will not be taught in-person for the time being, faculty with ongoing research projects on campuses may continue to come to campus as necessary. We do ask, if you are on campus, that you engage in social distance and other health-promoting practices (no large gatherings, try to remain 6 feet away from others, wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer liberally).

Please do not come to campus if you are feeling ill. If your research needs monitoring and you are unable to come to campus because you are ill, please contact Dr. Tasha Inniss, Associate Provost for Research, who will assist you. If you are faculty member in the Division of Natural Sciences & Mathematics, please also copy Dr. Leyte Winfield, Division Chair, who oversees the Office of Science Infrastructure.

Travel Restrictions--International and Domestic Travel
The College’s previously-issued guidance remains in place, suspending all College-related travel for faculty, staff and students to any country designated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as "Level 3 – Avoid Nonessential Travel" due to coronavirus.

Also, effective immediately, Spelman College is suspending ALL college-sponsored or college-related faculty, student or staff international travel, including travel previously authorized, through June 30, 2020.

This includes travel for students preparing to begin study abroad or foreign exchange opportunities in the coming weeks. Students with plans to participate in a college-sponsored or -related international travel program, will be assisted by the Vice Provost for Global Studies and their relevant academic department chairs regarding next steps. We recognize how disruptive and significant this decision is for our students, and the college is actively working with relevant departments to help affected students continue their academic progress through instructional continuity and by other means.

This also includes any international travel associated with scholarly activities as a Spelman College employee, whether funded by the College or by a government grant, foundation, company or other university. (Rare exceptions will be considered. Those who feel they have a compelling need to travel internationally may apply in writing to the provost and the president.)

The College also
strongly urges all members of our community to reconsider any personal international travel plans through the end of the Spring semester, due to escalating or unpredictable health risks, rapidly changing international travel guidance, and the associated risk of disruptions to their reentry to the United States.

These difficult decisions were made in the interest of the health and safety of our entire college community.
They recognize the dynamic nature of the situation, possible disruptions to international travel, over-taxed foreign health care systems, and potential challenges in reentering the United States from abroad.

Domestic Travel
Effective immediately, all college-related or college-funded domestic travel is suspended as well, through June 30, 2020. Please explore alternative options to join meetings or events remotely.

In addition, we encourage everyone in our community – faculty, staff and students – to seriously weigh whether personal domestic travel between now and the end of the semester, especially in the growing number of areas with high infection rates.

Major Upcoming Large Population Academic Events
The College is reviewing whether to cancel large population upcoming academic events. Additional instructions will be forthcoming.

This is a fluid situation, and the global coronavirus public health challenge has compelled communities across the country to act quickly and pragmatically. We will continue to regularly engage with the Faculty Council and the Council of Chairs as we move forward. Please continue to carefully review the latest communications about protocols, guidance and resources via  Spelman’s Coronavirus Update web page.

Any questions can be directed to Vice Provost Brennan, and/or to my office,

Thanks to all of you for your leadership, flexibility and partnership.

Sharon L. Davies, J.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs


Office of the Provost
Phone: 404-270-5021

Fax: 404-270-5028

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