Letter on reopening the University: Classroom technology, visitors policy, new working groups

Author: John Slott

Note: Dated communications are archived here for reference, but may not reflect the most up-to-date information available.

Tulips blooming on campus with dome in background

Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues:

We have much to accomplish between now and August 10. We are moving steadily and deliberately toward having all the pieces in place for a successful start to the semester, even as we continue to monitor case rates and emerging science. Before undergraduates begin to return, we will be piloting health and safety protocols and practices with several small graduate student programs in July. We will refine our plans as we work optimistically toward the August 10 fall semester start date.

Later today, the University will send the first of what will be weekly coronavirus updates to summarize policy developments and address issues of concern to our University community. I plan to continue sending weekly updates as well on issues of most concern to the faculty and academic staff. What follows is the latest update on a variety of ongoing projects and issues.

Classroom Assignments

We are pleased to report that the Office of the Registrar has published course schedules and classroom assignments for the fall semester. The new schedules are available at InsideND via Class Search. You will note that we have converted and outfitted several non-traditional spaces and auditoriums for classroom use to accommodate physical distancing and other health and safety protocols. If you have questions about your new classroom assignment or meeting time, please contact your dean’s designee for fall scheduling matters, typically an assistant dean. Please note that the classroom assignments are not yet final, as adjustments will be made as we learn which faculty members will be teaching online during the fall semester. We appreciate your patience as we continue to work through these issues.

Building Management

We have heard from multiple faculty with questions regarding how we plan to manage the flow of students through buildings and the cleaning of high touch surfaces in classrooms in ways that maintain public health and safety. We have been working for some time on cleaning guidelines, as well as on a building ambassadors program to address these issues. Now that the classroom assignments have been released, we have a much clearer accounting of how many students will be in which places at what times. This will serve as the basis for the more detailed planning we will now undertake. More soon.

Classroom Technology Enhancements

The Office of Information Technologies is installing enhanced technologies to support interactive learning by remote students, including adding cameras and ambient microphones to classrooms. These technologies will allow students joining the class remotely to hear, see, and interact with the instructor through Zoom. In some rooms, additional microphones will facilitate in-room and remote student discussion and interaction. 

OIT also is building a demonstration classroom in DeBartolo Hall. Beginning the week of July 6, OIT and ND Learning will be offering demonstrations of the technology using this demonstration classroom. A narrated video tour of the classroom and learning experience will be available by July 10 as part of the rollout of this space. ND Learning will be holding overview workshops in DeBartolo to give participants a feel for the dual delivery experience. Additional information regarding resources available to help faculty members prepare for the fall semester are available on the newly updated Instructional Continuity webpage. We have included substantial enhancements to this webpage including information on many of the questions we have been receiving from faculty.  

Campus Visitors Policy

In an effort to safeguard the health of the entire Notre Dame community, we will place significant limitations on the number of visitors to campus during the Fall 2020 semester. We also will require those who visit our campus to comply with our health and safety protocols. Visits will be limited to those with a direct connection to our education and research mission and allowed only as rare exceptions. For this reason, hosted visits require the approval of the appropriate dean or vice president, and will be evaluated based on the urgency of the visit, the immediate importance of the visit to teaching or research, and the potential consequences of not allowing the visit. The complete policy regarding campus visitors during the Fall 2020 semester is available here.

New Working Groups – Behavioral Change and Emotional Support and Wellbeing

The Provost’s Office is convening a working group of faculty experts in behavioral change to suggest evidence-based strategies to achieve the cultural changes we know are needed to keep our campus community safe and healthy in the fall. Similar to our ongoing Epidemiology Working Group, the Behavioral Change Working Group will provide input, ideas, and feedback to our broad preparation for the reopening of campus. 

Drawing on faculty expertise and collaborating across a wide range of units on campus, the Provost’s Office is also forming a new Emotional Support and Wellbeing Working Group. This group will focus on addressing student, faculty, and staff mental health issues regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and work to develop a proactive plan for addressing current and anticipated issues related to reopening and the fall semester. Faculty, students and staff with related expertise and/or suggestions for resources and strategies are encouraged to contact provost@nd.edu.

On a personal note: this is the last letter on coronavirus-related issues that I (Tom Burish) will coauthor. My talented successor, Marie Lynn Miranda, is and has been for some time, fully and expertly engaged in addressing coronavirus issues among many others. Please know of my gratitude for all you do for the University, its students, and our mission. I shall always be grateful to Fr. John and all of you for the privilege of being able to return to Notre Dame and serve as provost. It has been a gift that has enriched my life in countless ways, professionally and personally. 

I join my colleagues in hoping that amidst everything going on, each of you is able to take some time this July 4 weekend to relax, refresh, and rejuvenate as we enjoy the long days of the Midwestern summer. And while you are relaxing, remember to: 

  • Wear a mask.
  • Practice physical distancing.
  • Washing your hands often.
  • [And soon] Complete your daily health check.

Yours in Notre Dame,

Thomas G. Burish
Provost Emeritus

Shannon Cullinan
Executive Vice President

Marie Lynn Miranda