COVID-19 update for the Faculty

I apologize it has taken me longer than I had hoped to prepare and distribute this communication. I am writing to provide an update on some recent decisions and changes within academic affairs as a result of COVID-19.

Let me begin by thanking you again for your quick response to move your classes online as well as your ongoing support of our students. I believe Bradley is providing the best possible education under difficult circumstances. While I know you would prefer to work with your students face-to-face, I am proud of your efforts to continue to engage them. 

Our IT team has made the following efforts to ensure our students had the technology they needed for distance learning. Starting in January and February, the IT team developed plans to support students, faculty and staff in the event the COVID-19 virus spread to such a degree we had to engage in distance teaching and learning. When we found ourselves in that position a few weeks ago, IT moved forward to address the immediate requirements of those students most in need of technology by delivering on all calls for computers at home. The IT team provided devices to those who needed them and augmented our VDI environment for students who would need a fully built Windows environment. By providing a path to remote into computer labs from anywhere in the country, they allowed students to have a direct link to the specialized software found in many programs. The team also provided, and in some cases directly assisted students, in accessing the internet when it might not be available at home. Please join me in thanking CIO Zach Gorman and his team for their extraordinary efforts to support the campus and our students in this crisis.

As noted in President Robert’s message to campus last week, we will be able to offer nearly all our students a pass/fail option. Once final grades have been submitted, they will have three (3) business days to select that change. A letter grade of C or better will convert to Pass; a D or F will convert to Fail. These grades will not count toward their GPA, but students will earn the associated credit hours for any passing grades.

Before deciding whether to convert a grade to Pass/Fail, we have encouraged students to seek guidance from Bradley’s Financial Assistance Office, their Academic Advisor or Graduate Coordinator, and any other related office on campus with whom the student works regularly.

Important dates:

  • Students who started their Spring Semester in any of our online graduate programs will have from April 23, 2020 at 8 a.m. CST to April 27, 2020 at 5 p.m. CST to identify those courses they would like to convert their assigned grade to a pass/fail option via MyOnline.
  • Students who started their Spring Semester in on campus programs will have from May 18, 2020 at 8 a.m. CST to May 20, 2020 at 5 p.m. CST to identify those courses they would like to convert their assigned grade to a pass/fail option via Webster.

Please review the official policy here as there is more information you should know.

I am pleased (per President Robert’s message) we will be able to offer faculty members the option of stopping the tenure clock for the 2019/2020 academic year. Probationary tenure-track faculty members will have until Monday August 17, 2020 to submit their intention to stop the tenure clock. My office will provide more information about how to exercise this option in the near future.

I asked the deans to reduce their fall class offerings with an assumption of a 20% decrease in enrollment. This loss of enrollment is a likely scenario because of the economic impact of COVID-19 on our students and their families, as well as any lingering concerns students might have for their health and welfare. Our enrollment management consultant has recommended institutions of higher education should plan for up to a 25% decrease in enrollment for the 2020-2021 academic year. We can adjust our class offerings down if we find we are closer to the 25% than the 20% figure. Consistent with this concern, I directed the deans to avoid or at least minimize the use of affiliate instructors for the 2020-2021 academic year and to move full-time faculty members to a 4-4 teaching load. The deans have assured me that we can reduce the number of sections without compromising the ability of our seniors to graduate on time. We will adjust our offerings upward if we are in the happy position of having students return to campus in larger numbers than anticipated.

Like you, I am hopeful our students will be back on campus next fall and we will teach face-to-face. It would, however, be a mistake for us not to plan for the possibility of having to offer classes remotely again. I will work with the deans to put together a team to anticipate how we might work through several different fall semester scenarios, including remote teaching. My goal is for all of us to be prepared for several contingencies beyond face-to-face instruction this fall.

Finally, I thought you should know I am suspending the internal search for the associate provost. I will keep Dr. Skaggs in place for the next year as a crisis is not the right time to train someone new to take on such an important leadership role. Also, after multiple failed searches for an OSP director, we are looking for a faculty member who is capable and interested and who can be trained to do this as part of his/her appointment. Dean Bakken is working with Dr. Skaggs to identify possible candidates for this role.

To end with something fun, as we previewed last week, you and some of your colleagues have provided some encouraging words to our students via video. Here’s another video we shared with students to let them know you are thinking of them.

Thank you again for your continued commitment to our students and to Bradley University.

Some media in Bradley University's current print, video and online materials was acquired before the COVID-19 pandemic. Media acquired after the pandemic began was done so in compliance with Bradley's COVID-19 safety protocols at the time. The ongoing safety of our faculty, staff and students is of the utmost concern during these unprecedented times.