Updates from the Provost
- Author: Monday, June 22nd, 2020
First, I hope you are enjoying some time outdoors. It has been a remarkably beautiful spring this year and time outdoors is good for your health.
As you know, there are many moving parts associated with our plans to welcome students back to campus in August. The recently updated Big Red Restart Plan can be found here. In addition, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few other things.
Like many other universities, WKU is anticipating a significant budget reduction next year. Navigating this unprecedented reduction during these unprecedented times, has proven to be challenging. However, as a campus community, we have come together with plans to significantly reduce spending so that we can meet the anticipated budget shortfall. The deans and I recognize and appreciate the commitments and sacrifices that you have each made through tiered salary reductions and reduced travel to help us through these challenges. Unfortunately, we need to ask you to contribute more by increasing instructional loads through an increase in SCHs or an extra section. We certainly anticipate that this request is only for next year.
A rumor on campus that research is dead for the next year is just not true! We must prioritize academic instruction and student success during these next months. However, teaching, scholarship, and service remain the usual expectations for faculty work. Colleges and Departments should take into consideration that teaching expectations for last spring and next year have been higher than in the past. Depending on the nature of your research or creative activity, you may continue to be productive or you may need to take a hiatus. No one should be penalized for changing the focus of their faculty work as we navigate through this pandemic.
As we look forward to students returning to campus, please know that many students - especially freshmen - are looking forward to a Face-to-Face (F2F) WKU experience. We have defined five different types of course modalities that span the range from full F2F to full online along with three hybrid modalities. The online parts of these courses should be engaging experiences that could include small group work, presentations, demonstrations, and other creative educational experiences. The recommendation from the deans and the Academic and Inquiry Taskforce is that there should be a good balance of course modalities offered and that the average target mix per department should be approximately 30% online and 70% hybrid or F2F. Please work within your departments and colleges to develop a distribution of courses that are of the appropriate mix for your disciplines. We will follow and enforce KY Healthy at Work guidelines on our campuses. Therefore, students in F2F classrooms must practice physical and social distancing and wear a mask the entire time.
On Friday, we finalized our plan to review alternative work considerations for faculty in light of COVID-19. If you need to request an exception/adjustment to your teaching schedule because of the pandemic, the first step is to reach out to your department head to submit an Alternative Work Arrangement Consideration form (https://www.wku.edu/eoo/). After any necessary consultation with you, the department head (DH) and dean will assess your request in light of the instructional needs of your unit and the university. If an agreeable arrangement can be reached, the DH will inform you of the agreement in writing. If not, your options are to accept the original course assignment, or request a workplace accommodation through the EEO office. That office will review your request and engage with you, your department head, and health care provider / treating physician to evaluate reasonable accommodation options. We’ve built privacy protections into this process that we hope will become apparent to those of you who request alternative work arrangements. While some of you may have had informal conversations and come to agreements with your department head already, you will need to fill out the forms retroactively so that we can document all of the requests and outcomes.
Finally, I want to thank you for reaching out to me after my husband’s passing. Your kindness and care have helped me during this difficult time. I am truly grateful.
Cheryl Stevens, PhD
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs