Welcome to Fall 2021

Dear faculty and instructors,

Welcome to the 2021-2022 academic year. This is a busy time of the year with residence halls opening this week and classes starting next week. We also have new faculty and new student orientation activities lined up prior to the start of classes.

For fall 2021, we are following our normal academic calendar. We have well over 1,100 course sections (of a total of ~2,700) being offered in-person. A big thank you to the faculty members for stepping up to provide this in-person learning opportunity that our students are so looking forward to. I responded to questions from some of you regarding COVID protocols, classroom settings, and other academic matters that I am sharing more broadly here:

  • Face coverings: Following the UAF mask policy, masks will be requireda requirement for all in-person classes. If you find a student is not wearing a mask (and does not have an approved exception for a mask), you can require the student to leave the classroom. You can also refer the matter to the Center for Students Rights and Responsibilities and a staff member will promptly follow up with the student. If a student refuses to leave the classroom you have the option of ending the class session.

The pandemic has continued for long enough and most of us have figured out which sort of mask or face covering works best for us. UAF does have several masks and face shields. If you are teaching in -person and would like a face shield, please let your dean’s office know and they (or you) can arrange for a pick up from the Facilities Services customer service center.

  • Classroom assignment and capacities: This summer we brought back furniture into most of the classrooms to bring them to full capacity. This means that the classrooms are not set up for 6ft social distancing. The increasing number of vaccinated students and employees on campus, the easy availability of free vaccination, and the effectiveness of masking has driven this change. The registrar’s office and your units assigned classroom spaces with this setup in mind and based on listed course caps. 

Some of you have asked questions on whether you can rearrange the classroom to space out students, be assigned a different classroom space if possible, or go for other creative solutions. The answer is YES, you can. Here are some things we are already doing to address some of these concerns:

  • Last Friday I worked with the registrar’s office to go through every in-person class and the classroom space assigned to it. Departments are monitoring the course enrollments very closely on a daily basis to help optimize the classroom assignment for courses. For a vast majority of the in-person courses the enrollments are well below the advertised course caps, which means that the classrooms will not be full and the students will be able to self-distance as best as possible. 
  • In hybrid classes, some students will attend remotely and there will be more flexibility for in-person students to spread out in the class.
  • In some courses, the enrollment is reaching the course cap (e.g. MATH, AFPM, DSLT, a few GERs and science courses) that is also close to the classroom capacity. AFPM and DSLT faculty have already worked with their dean’s office to resolve the issues. For MATH courses on Troth Yeddha’ campus, I have asked the registrar’s office to reassign the courses to larger classrooms. 
  • If your enrollment reaches the maximum capacity, and you are concerned about the room assigned to you, we will do our best to find an alternate space for you. Here is who you can reach out to:
    • For CTC faculty, please contact Keith Swarner (email: kswarner@alaska.edu)
    • For CRCD faculty, please contact your campus Director
    • For Troth Yeddha’ faculty, please contact Janeen Culbertson (email: jjruge@alaska.edu)
  • Note: Please recognize that the room scheduling staff have already tried to optimize classroom assignments. Please refrain from making a request for a larger space just because it would be ideal to have more space. Too many unnecessary requests will bog down the system. For in-person classes, please carefully check the room capacity prior to granting any capacity overrides this semester, and do this only where it is safely and practically possible.
  • Classroom cleaning and signage: Facilities services is continuing to follow the CDC guidelines and the same high standards of cleanliness as it followed in Spring 2021. This means that classrooms will be routinely cleaned. Cleaning and sanitizing supplies will be available for students. As in the past, please continue to familiarize yourself with the seating arrangement and the signage that indicates which way the students will enter and exit the classroom, and make sure that you are familiar with the technology that you are planning to use in the classroom. Please let the dean’s office know if there is something missing in the classroom setup.
  • Internet and personal technology needs: UAF OIT has provisions to lend you equipment such as webcams, headsets, styluses, Chromebooks and mifi devices to support your distance delivery needs. Forms to request this equipment are available on this OIT website. For other teaching technology resources and assistance, please check out the available eCampus services
  • Academic flexibility, FERPA: Adapting to the changing scenarios that the pandemic continues to pose requires that we remain flexible in our approach to teaching and assessment. Please continue to make provisions for students who are unwell or in quarantine to catch up with missed lectures and assignments. Some faculty have asked about FERPA issues related to recording classes and if students have to sign a waiver for the class to be recorded. Students need not sign a waiver. They should be notified in advance of the recording or the possibility of recording (in the syllabus, announcements at the start of each class, or preferably both). The recording should be shared through a system accessible only to those enrolled in the course. A statement in the syllabus should let them know that class sessions will be recorded and shared with only other enrolled students.
  • Syllabus update: In summer 2020, the Faculty Senate Administrative Committee approved a new required statement which is still in effect: “Students should keep up-to-date on the university’s policies, practices, and mandates related to COVID-19 by regularly checking this website. Further, students are expected to adhere to the university’s policies, practices, and mandates and are subject to disciplinary actions if they do not comply.”
  • Grading and final exams: We will follow our regular academic policies for CR/NC, deferred, and incomplete grades. The schedule for the final exams will be communicated separately by the registrar.

As always, should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact your dean or me at aprakash@alaska.edu.

— Anupma Prakash, provost and executive vice chancellor