COVID-19: Faculty Update #8

Dear Colleagues,

The finish line at the end of the spring semester is in sight! As we approach the last official day of class, we hope you will all be able to take a deep breath and prepare for the final phase of this challenging and unprecedented semester. To that end, we have provided a number of updates/reminders below to address items relevant to finals and grading.

Before launching into those end-of-semester details, I would like to take this opportunity offer some much-deserved recognition for the work being done by our colleagues in Student Affairs and Enrollment Management to support our students this spring.

The UHD Office of Student Affairs (OSA) has provided essential expertise and innovative solutions to support and engage our students. Under the leadership of Interim Dean Meritza Tamez, the entire Student Affairs team has moved its operation online, providing student activities, student wellness support and more to the entire UHD student population. This team’s guidance has been vital as we work with our students on overcoming new challenges brought on by COVID-19. Most recently, the OSA created the COVID 19 Student Success Barrier Response Guide based on the frequency of certain questions they are receiving from students. This document provides information and guidance on how faculty and staff can best help UHD students during the current COVID-19 crisis. Key points include Mental Health, Physical Health, and Coronavirus Reporting Protocols

For more information on student mental and physical health resources as well as COVID-19 reporting measures and guidelines CLICK HERE or contact the Office of Student Affairs (713) 221-8100.

Along with caring for our students’ wellbeing, Student Affairs has done a remarkable job of creating an incredibly inclusive and exciting virtual campus experience for our students by offering a wide range of virtual experiences and support mechanisms. Everything from eSports and virtual social events like Bingo to drop-in career counseling via Zoom are keeping our students engaged with one another and the rest of the Gator community.

Enrollment Management has been working to communicate with continuing and new students on how to understand options for their future educational paths via innovative virtual registration, open houses, and videos. Their work, in concert with our dedicated advising teams across the colleges, has contributed to promising summer enrollments. 

The efforts to uplift the Gator community are inspiring. Other student-focused initiatives from teams across campus include the Gator C.A.R.E. Initiative and the Gator Emergency Fund. The CARES Initiative launched with over 90 volunteers, including staff, faculty, and students, calling the 11,956 undergraduate students and 1,537 graduate students to offer support and encouragement. If you are still interested in participating in this incredible community support effort please contact the Office of Student Affairs or CLICK HERE.

The recently created Gator Emergency Fund works to assist students with payments for emergency housing, unpaid utilities, medical expenses, food or other expenses that would otherwise force them to drop out of the University of Houston-Downtown. I agree with President Munoz’s sentiments towards our community in his message today. As I am constantly inspired by all of the empathy, flexibility, and Gator Grit!

And now for this week’s omnibus updates, with special attention on end-of-the semester preparations: 

  • Newly Elected Committee Members and Senators: We congratulate all of those who have been elected to serve in various shared governance capacities via Senate processes. In any context, this service is critical and much appreciated, and we offer special recognition for those able to consider the commitment under current conditions. We in the Provost’s Office look forward to working with all of you.
  • Finals and Respondus: The final exam period is April 30-May 8. We ask faculty to respect the intent of the reading days on April 28 and 29 to allow students to study and prepare. We also encourage faculty to keep in mind that students have multiple exams and to ensure, to the extent possible, that the window overlaps the finals time frame originally assigned to FTF or hybrid classes. If you choose to use Respondus, we suggest that you consider a “trial” run with your class to iron out tech issues for your students and review the Respondus tips resources.
  • S/U Implementation Steps: As the end of the semester arrives, we want to be sure faculty have needed information to address the S/U option for their own work and in response to students. Below is a brief summary of key steps for you to consider. We have also developed an FAQ for faculty:

1. Faculty will complete all class grading according to the system described in the class syllabus. When initially determining grades, please do not consider the S/U system.

2. Faculty will post all final course letter grades in their class Blackboard shell gradebooks no later than May 13 at 5:00 p.m. and notify students that they are available to look at.

3. Students will look at grades and by May 18 at 5:00 p.m. they will notify their instructors in writing (email or BB options established by the instructor) that they want to choose the S/U option. (Students may notify faculty of this request any time from now until May 18 but grading strategies should not change.) 

4. Faculty will keep track of student requests for the S/U option—students must request this explicitly in written form (e.g., email or via BB options established by faculty) by May 18 at 5:00 p.m. NOTE: students do not need to notify faculty if they want to keep their letter grade and not avail themselves of the S/U option. 

5. Faculty will enter grades as normal for the registrar via the myUHD grade roster from May 19 at 8:00am until May 23 at noon, when the grading period for spring 2020 ends officially. Faculty will have be able to enter letter grades and S/U options.. Faculty should use the S/U only for students who have requested it and the S/U must be based on the following:

For Undergraduate courses, the S/U grading will be applied in this manner:

  • S: Satisfactory = C or above, no effect on GPA, hours count toward graduation.
  • U: Unsatisfactory = D or F, no effect on GPA, hours do not count toward graduation. Some degree programs may count a D as acceptable for the purpose of degree completion or graduation – students should consult with advisors to determine this before making a decision.

For Graduate courses, the S/U grading will be applied in this manner:

  • S: Satisfactory = B or above, no effect on GPA, hours count toward graduation
  • U: Unsatisfactory = C, D, or F, no effect on GPA, hours do not count toward graduation. Grades of “U” cannot by themselves be used as a basis to dismiss students from graduate programs.

All information from these update messages will also be available on the Provost’s Office website:  Keep on Teaching