March 16, 2020

 
TAMU Faculty Senate Meeting Minutes
March 16, 2020
3:00pm
Via Zoom, and Blocker 117
http://facultysenate.tamu.edu
 
 
CALL TO ORDER
Speaker Andrew Klein called the meeting to order at 3:00pm.  Due to the unusual circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Senators attended the meeting via Zoom.  Provost Carol Fierke and members of her team joined Speaker Klein in Blocker 117, with President Michael K. Young joining via Zoom.  The meeting consisted of sharing information with Faculty Senators along with their questions, with answers from the Provost and her team.
 
Speaker Klein started by sharing some remarks:
  • He believes the Faculty Senate can be an information pathway between the faculty and administration, and encouraged faculty to bring concerns to the Senate.
  • The remainder of the semester will be difficult and perfection is not necessary; he encouraged all to accomplish what can best be done rather than the ideal.
  • Not everything can be accomplished at once and suggested focusing on what can be done in the next few days to prepare for teaching online and communicating with students.
  • Try not to get stressed over things outside our control, for example, frustration over our IT infrastructure and steep learning curve as things move online.  Instead, focus on your mental and physical health as well as that of our students’.
  • When thinking about what students will remember five years from now about faculty is not the details of their course but whether or not we understood and cared about their concerns and wellbeing at this difficult time.
  • Remember that we are in perhaps the most consequential experiment in higher education in our professional lifetimes.  The next fifty days will be challenging but it will also be interesting to see how what we are experiencing today translates into fundamental changes in our profession.
Speaker Klein again encouraged faculty to bring their questions and concerns to the Senate, and thanked everyone for attending. 
 
GUEST SPEAKERS
Speaker Klein introduced guest speaker President Young, who was not yet connected through Zoom, so Provost Carol Fierke was welcomed to address the Faculty Senate.
Dr. Fierke began by offering appreciation for the Aggie Spirit she has seen as everyone pulls together to do the best they can, emphasizing two top priorities: 1) Keeping our community safe and healthy, and 2) Doing our best to provide an education for the remainder of the semester. She then opened the meeting up to questions for her and her team, including Dr. Mike Stephenson, Dr. Jocelyn Widmer, Dr. Juan Garza, Joe Pettibon, Dr. Blanca Lupiani, and Dr. Mark Barteau.  The following items were discussed:
  • Instructors are asked to be flexible regarding exams, assessments, and grading.  The Provost received student feedback that syllabi should not be changed, but since a minimum of a week has been lost there will need to be some changes in syllabi.
  • Dr. Fierke encouraged the Faculty Senate to give thought to what rules need to be adjusting around student grading, including a pass/fail option.
  • It is unlikely that final exams will be in person due to an extension of CDC guidelines regarding group gatherings.  Faculty are encouraged to think about ways to assess student progress.
  • Methods for exam proctoring are being investigated; faculty will find detailed information on the Keep Teaching webpage as it becomes available.
  • They are also investigating options for labs, but they vary widely across programs so colleges are working on solving those issues.
  • Regarding digital solutions, Zoom has assured the University that they have the bandwidth to manage the increased usage.  Any limitation is more likely to be at the user-level, for example, local WiFi may be a limitation.  On-campus computer labs will be open; if students at home are unable to connect to their classes there may be an option to receive an “incomplete,” although this isn’t a preferred solution.  The University VPN has been upgraded to allow for the necessary traffic.
  • Students with disabilities are asked to electronically send their accommodation letter to faculty, as Disability Resources is over-worked, and faculty may help to take some of the load.  For students who are disadvantaged, they can reach the Office for Student Success for advice.
  • Regarding technology and best practices, the Provost’s office is updating the https://provost.tamu.edu/keep-teaching website where information is regularly updated. Regarding FERPA, best solution for posting grades is through eCampus.
  • If students are facing hardships, they are encouraged to utilize resources that are already available including the Financial Aid Office and Student Counseling and Psychological Services; many of these will eventually be moved online.  For student workers, try to have them continue with their job.
  • If we have ill-people on campus, please record this in Workday.  Faculty with online courses, please include a second person on your roster who could potentially take over or find another replacement should you fall ill.  If there are students who are not feeling well, please urge them to stay home.  With staff and student workers, please stay home if you are ill.  Supervisors need to be as flexible as possible.
  • Communication was sent to all graduate students from OGAPS (Dr. Butler-Purry).  Those defending are asked to defend online and limit contact as much as possible.  In-person defense should not be required.  Signatures can be obtained electronically.
  • Testing for COVID-19 is being done in Brazos County and the State is ramping up available testing.
  • Dean Carlson of University Libraries may limit the number of students who can enter a library at any given time and simultaneously increase hours to maintain social distancing, but these are moving targets.  Cleaning will be done in libraries and computer areas regularly.
  • If departments are conducting searches, candidates should not be brought to campus unless there is an exception based on the needs and mission of the unit.  The latest recommendations are to not fly, especially if one has risk factors.  Searches can be delayed as needed.
  • In-person meetings on campus should be limited, doing as much as possible by virtual meetings. All members of the University community must follow CDC guidelines regarding size of groups: 10 people or smaller in a room for 30.  
  • Dr. Barteau, Vice President of Research shared the following: please refer to email that went to the University community. Please refer to https://vpr.tamu.edu/covid-19.  Labs should reduce the density of people who are working together.  Labs must maintain social distancing and plan for reduced operations.  Sponsored Research Services is still open, and resources regarding funding agencies are mentioned in https://vpr.tamu.edu/covid-19.
  • Course evaluations will be done but will NOT be counted.
 
President Michael K. Young joined the meeting partway through the questions addressed above.   He shared the following priorities: 1) keeping faculty, staff, and students safe, and 2) preserving teaching and certain kinds of research that cannot be interrupted.  He indicated a strong focus on graduation and doing everything possible to help students graduate on time.  Critical elements of the University enterprise should be preserved and recovery should be planned.  Administration will continue to communicate as effectively as they can.  Non-essential services will be minimized.  He closed by thanking senior leadership and all members of the University for helping us move forward, appreciating the “can-do” spirit of the Aggies.
 
Dr. Fierke thanked the community for coming together to address the needs of the students and help each other stay safe.
 
Speaker Klein closed the meeting by thanking the leadership team for speaking to the Senate, and everyone attending virtually.