Coronavirus Update

March 7, 2020

COVID-19 Information for Faculty

Dear Colleagues —

While I presented some of this information in the chairs’ meeting this past Tuesday, and will be presenting it again at the faculty meeting next Tuesday, things are moving fast enough that I thought it would be helpful to get out a comprehensive overview, to ensure everyone has access to the same information.

What should you know about COVID-19 on campus, and what can and should you be doing?

First of all: you are the best source of contact with our students. Many of them do not read their e-mail, and are not going to the university’s COVID-19 informational website, which means they’re not getting the most up-to-date information, are passing around misinformation, and/or are asking the same answerable questions over and over, which takes up a lot of Bishop’s bandwidth. This website, which is linked from the main Willamette page, contains (and will continue to be updated with more) Willamette-specific information; it also, though, contains links to a number of other resources with general information about the virus and its spread. Both the Oregon Health Authority’s and the CDC’s coronavirus pages, which are regularly updated, are linked to from our site. Please take a few moments of class to tell your students about this website, and pull it up and walk through it with them.

Assure students that facilities staff and dining personnel have instituted significant extra cleaning and disinfecting protocols on campus, but remind them that one of the most important ways of minimizing the spread of disease is for individuals to be scrupulous about their own actions: wash hands frequently, with hot water and soap, for at least 20 seconds. Sneeze or cough into Kleenexes, dispose of these carefully, and wash their hands again. Tell them that even if they’re not particularly worried about getting sick themselves, this is how they can be responsible towards others with more fragile immune systems. Please do deliver this important public health information!

Willamette currently has no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. Should that change, the community will be notified broadly, and take appropriate action. We are in daily communication with the Oregon Health Authority and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and are coordinating our responses and actions in alignment with their directives, along with current CDC protocols. The Oregon Health Authority is specifically requesting that schools (K-12 and universities) do not close; they expect consultation about widespread class and event cancellations. 

If you have questions, please do not direct them to Don Thomson or others doing front-line work (in dining, facilities, etc.): send them to CLA-dean, and we will triage as appropriate. Please be patient, as we may need to check in with others before responding to make sure we are delivering the most informed answers.

Other things to do as instructors:

  1. Be liberal about absences, and announce this to students. Explicitly tell them they will not be penalized for missing class when ill, and encourage them to stay home if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 or other easily communicable diseases (like the flu). Have alternate plans for exams. 
  2. Tell your students that if they are ill, they should call Bishop for advice, rather than going in in person.
  3. Stay home yourself if you are ill.
  4. Have a plan for different distance learning scenarios: how might a sick student keep up in your course? What would you ask students to do should you yourself be out for a week or more? What will you do if the university cancels all classes for several weeks?

WITS has put together a helpful webpage on different forms of distance education technology available to you. Ryan Bundy will be giving a quick overview of some of these at Tuesday’s faculty meeting, and WITS will also be offering smaller, more in-depth workshops to help you get comfortable with the technology. 

  1. Departments with hard-to-replicate learning experiences (labs, rehearsals, etc.) should develop plans for how they would handle a closure.

At the moment, only a small number of our students have been called back from study abroad programs (more information on travel policies is on our COVID-19 page, and in HR’s message to employees which is linked at the bottom of said page). This number may increase as conditions change rapidly around the world. It’s hard to know what the implications of this will be, but we may have students coming back to campus hoping to pick up credits. Any individual—student, faculty, or staff—returning from a country at watch list level of 3 or above due to coronavirus is being required to sequester for 14 days before returning to campus. 

As of right now, we do have a handful of students who are returning from TIU, whose semester has not yet started, and who are now in need of coursework in order to graduate on schedule and/or keep their financial aid. If you are teaching classes it might be possible for students to join for the second half of the semester for .5 credits, or are able to take on an independent study — particularly one that would extend past the end of the semester, and allow students to do a full credit of work, please let me know ASAP. I hope to have schedules for these students established next week.

As we move into the registration period, encourage students who are planning to study abroad in fall semester to also register for classes at Willamette. In the unlikely scenario that they are unable to travel, we want to make sure that they get the courses they need at Willamette.

— Ruth.


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