Since the publication of the last update, the University of Houston-Downtown community has learned that President Juan Sánchez-Muñoz will soon be departing. I would like to take a moment at the beginning of this update to express my profound appreciation for his leadership. He is a leader of character, determination, energy, and vision—he embodies the very essence of Gator Grit. On behalf of the Office of the Provost, and the greater UHD community, I want to extend my thanks to President Muñoz for all that he has done to advance our fine institution. I know I speak for faculty, staff, and students across the university when I wish him the very best as he steps into his new role. He may depart our campus, but he will always have a Gator family here in the great city of Houston. Godspeed, President Muñoz.
Below you’ll find information on a range of issues, including summer campus access and course considerations and fall planning.
- Faculty Mandatory Training for Return to Campus: Thank you to all who have completed the COVID-19 trainings via the T.A.P. system. If you have not done so, the deadline for faculty to complete the trainings is June 15 at 5:00 p.m. Instructions can be found in the May 13 communication from VP Montalbano – see attached PDF.
- Planning for the Fall 2020 Semester: On May 26, 2020, the initial findings and recommendations of the ASA COVID Working Group were presented to the President’s cabinet. As discussed at the town hall on the 27th, that set of recommendations will help form the basis for the creation of a blueprint for academic programming, student affairs activities, and enrollment management operations in the fall semester. As indicated during the town hall, the receipt of those recommendations by the cabinet was step one. Now, using the work of that group, coupled with reports generated by ESO and Administration and Finance, as well as UHS and CDC guidelines and other key conceptual frameworks, the task will be to assemble a fall blueprint that can then be operationalized in a way that not only prioritizes the health and wellbeing of all members of the campus community, but is also sensitive to the mission and identity of the university, accounts for budgetary capacity, and offers the greatest chance for student success and achievement. Clarity in decision making is paramount at this point: as was indicated in the town hall, the object is to draw up that blueprint swiftly in early June and to communicate key decisions to faculty, staff, and students as quickly as possible. We fully expect to have a clearer sense of things within two or three weeks, and the goal is to have a published blueprint in place before the end of June at the very latest. More updates to follow soon.
- Spring Virtual Graduation Celebration: UHD will be hosting a virtual graduation for students on June 11, 7:00 p.m. Please consider attending with an RSVP found here. Students may also choose to walk in a future commencement ceremony.
- Student COVID Exposure: If a student reports to you that she/he has COVID or may have been exposed to it, please direct the student to (1) notify Health Services at firstname.lastname@example.org, (2) refer questions to Student Affairs, and (3) submit the required forms that pertain to their situation (COVID-19 Diagnosis Form, Exposure Form, Request to Return to Campus Form, Travel Form). Additional information can be found HERE.
- Summer and May S/U Option: Please remember that the S/U option remains in effect for all May and Summer sessions. The principle is the same at spring—faculty will post letter course grades in BB, students have a window to review and opt in to the S/U, and then faculty enter final grades for the Registrar. The turnaround time on all of these parts is much shorter than in spring, necessitated by the shorter summer sessions and time between. Please carefully review all calendars for your sessions and consider including these key dates on your syllabi and/or a link to the instructions for S/U. Also watch for Registrar emails with reminders for grade entry and check the official calendars.
- Update from Our Library Colleagues: The Library is here for you! Our doors will be closed in June and July so that we can prepare for a safe return to Library access for the fall semester. Library staff are returning to campus beginning in June, though, so we can begin to retrieve items from our collection and from other libraries for your use. In addition, Library electronic collections, Ask-a-Librarian, instruction modules, library research guides and more continue to be available online 24/7. Whether your librarians are at home or in the office, they are ready to serve you! See the Library’s COVID-19 updates for more information. Always feel free to contact us with any questions.
- Raises for Promotions: We assure all faculty who earned a promotion that their promotion pay will take effect as planned on September 1.
- Taking Equipment from Campus: We know that many of you have been using UHD computer equipment, many laptops in particular. Please be aware that taking anything other than the laptop itself (e.g., a monitor, docking station, mouse, printer) from UHD requires formal paperwork to be in place in order to be in compliance with the property management policy.
- Technology and Student Success This Summer: As part of our conversations about student success during this time, a question has arisen about requirements for students to have certain technologies to carry out required coursework or for taking exams.
Because access to campus is restricted for students this summer, instructors are asked to be mindful of the specific technology that students may (or may not) have access to in their homes as they are completely their online coursework. Specifically, students this summer will not have access to campus computer labs, testing facilities, and laboratories. Thus, faculty are asked to plan their assignments accordingly, and not place technological barriers before students that they may not be able to meet. Faculty should not compromise on course content, learning objectives, or rigor, but faculty are asked to find innovative ways to deliver course content and perform class assessments in a manner that is sensitive to issues of student access.
As a way to illustrate this point, the issues surrounding testing poses a variety of complications for our students. The lack of in-person classrooms and testing center resources has created possible challenges for maintaining test integrity. The most obvious solutions for online classes are Proctor U and our in-house Respondus Lockdown/Monitor software. However, both of these options require students to have very specific types of computer equipment (no Chromebooks, no firewalls on work computers, etc.). Proctor U also entails additional costs for students. In the absence of on-campus resources, any requirement that a student must be able to run Respondus creates barriers to access and success for some of our students. At this time, we encourage alternative strategies for test integrity and consideration of other methods of evaluation.
All information from these update messages will also be available on the Provost’s Office website: Keep on Teaching