Dear Deans, Associate Deans, and Department Chairs,
As we prepare for the start of the spring semester, I want to communicate expectations for the semester regarding desired changes in course modality of in-person courses.
As you know from last semester, some of our students and staff tested positive for COVID-19. UWM decided early on that it would transparently inform instructors and classmates when students in their classes reported a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. To the extent we have student consent through testing or self-reporting, we will continue this practice.
In addition to the Dean of Students Office notifications, we have developed tools for tracking known positive COVID-19 cases of students enrolled in in-person classes (P, H1, H2, and H3) and students living in the residence halls. Updated daily, these tools allow us to identify possible clusters of infections in a timely fashion. In most cases, these clusters will likely have causes outside of the classroom environment. Nonetheless, we recognized the desire last semester to have a clearer picture of where cases were occurring on our campuses. On a weekly basis, we plan to share with deans deidentified case counts for particular courses within respective schools/colleges. These reports are supplemental to the notifications coming from the Dean of Students Office.
Combined, our existing safety protocols and de-densification practices, increased frequency of testing of students and staff regularly visiting campuses, and tracking, tracing and notifications make UWM campuses safe environments to pursue our educational mission.
Part of our educational mission is to provide students with the courses they need and want, including in-person courses. Learning from last semester, we are providing more detailed guidelines regarding any changes of delivery mode for Spring 2021 courses. The attached document provides details on the process instructors and academic unit leads should follow in requesting a change in modality. As the guidelines make clear, changes in modality should be a collaborative conversation between instructors, department chairs, associate deans and deans with the intent of meeting students’ needs.
Please let me know if you have any questions. And, thank you for your and your colleagues’ continued efforts during this challenging year.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs