Dear Faculty Colleagues,
As we approach our fifth pandemic impacted semester there are many things we can build upon from our experiences in the previous four. In particular, CITLS provides a range of resources, and resources for student well-being and academic support were highlighted in a recent Lafayette Today.
The recent update on COVID-19 protocols and testing continues Lafayette’s community-focused efforts to deliver exceptional experiences to our students. Everyone should continue to pay attention to the protocols, as they will evolve in response to what is occurring on campus and in our region. At the heart of the academic experience is classroom instruction. Classrooms continue to be amongst the safest enclosed environments, particularly when there is a high rate of vaccination and everyone is masked. Our HVAC systems were upgraded to the highest level of filtration possible and dozens of (admittedly noisy) HEPA filters were placed in classrooms not serviced by highly efficient central HVAC systems. For much of the fall semester we witnessed high levels of community compliance with indoor masking requirements, and we ask everyone to be diligent in helping re-establish this community expectation at the start of the spring semester. Teaching while masked is difficult, but it is an exceptionally strong signal of the value we place on taking reasonable precautions to increase health and well being of the campus community. And remember to fill out the short survey if you would like a package of KN-95 masks for teaching.
I know that teaching right now is not simply a matter of wearing masks and developing virtual office hours skills. In addition to gaps in students’ preparation, I have heard reports of an increased number of disruptive behaviors as well as increased absenteeism in classes this past semester. If any of your students manifest such behaviors this spring, please reach out to the student’s class dean. Receiving these alerts early on allows them to connect students with appropriate resources in a timely manner. Additional information is available in a message from the Office of Advising and Co-Curricular Programs.
Finally, let me reiterate what I wrote last August in preparation for the fall semester. In-person instruction is a fundamental aspect of a Lafayette College education and it remains a priority. We also know that there are extraordinary situations where remote instruction, for a limited amount of time, may be appropriate. Vaccinated faculty members may still need to briefly quarantine, for example, or a daycare center may temporarily close and leave parents with small children with limited options. A significant increase in the number of students needing to isolate or quarantine may result in half or more of a class not being able to attend. In exceptional situations such as these the instructor may temporarily move their course to remote instruction, pivoting back to in-person instruction as soon as possible. The instructor should notify their program chair/department head of the need to move to remote instruction, and when they will be returning to in-person classes.
This will be another semester full of decisions that we wouldn’t ordinarily have to make. In doing so we will individually and collectively keep student learning, development, and the well-being of the Lafayette community in the front of our minds.