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March 19 Dean of the College Email to Undergraduates on Learning Continuity

TO:                    All Undergraduate Students


FROM:             Jill Dolan, Dean of the College


RE:                    Learning continuity, spring 2020


Date: March 19, 2020


             First off, I want to thank the many of you who were able to return home or leave campus so quickly and efficiently last week.  At this point, fewer than 500 students remain, which allows us to much better manage how we’ll address the coronavirus pandemic on campus.


Only students who met the strictest criteria, as outlined in our previous email, were approved to stay, since reducing our population density is our most important public health priority.  We’re doing everything we can to support our students on campus and off logistically, academically, and emotionally.


             I know this week hardly feels like “spring break,” as you’ve all spent your much-needed downtime instead leaving campus or otherwise adjusting to the new reality of a world overturned by this global pandemic.  Our faculty and my colleagues in the Office of the Dean of the College have now turned our attention to ensuring that you can continue your courses through spring 2020 and complete them successfully by the semester’s end.


I’m sure you all have many questions.  Please don’t hesitate to email your instructors directly or to reach out to your residential college Dean or Director of Studies.  If you’re a junior or senior, your department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies may also be a good resource.  I know all academic departments are planning to keep in close touch with their concentrators. Everyone wants to help you succeed in these transformed circumstances any way we can.


             Let me emphasize that teaching and learning will continue this semester.  Although remote instruction will be different, our collective goal should be to continue our academic work as effectively as possible.  We aim to help you complete your courses successfully so that you can continue your progress toward your degree.


I know you’ve been distraught at leaving your friends and our campus.  My hope is that you’ll appreciate the structure and the rigorous intellectual community that continued instruction will provide.


I hope you take comfort in knowing that while we share this moment of uncertainty, everyone—faculty, staff, administrators, other students—is committed to providing the exceptional teaching experience for which we are renowned.  We need to gather as a learning community, in whatever new and different ways, more than ever.


I know that beginning March 23rd, your questions will only increase—we’re here to support you in any way we can.  The McGraw Center has created a virtual learning resource for undergraduate and graduate students; study hallindividual tutoring, learning consultations, and workshops will move online.  Students can now schedule online consultations with the Writing Center.


We’ve made these academic adjustments for the spring semester 2020 to ensure that you succeed in this transformed environment:


  • Midterms.  We’ve encouraged instructors to reweight this assignment’s grade at their discretion, bearing in mind the stress and anxiety you suffered during midterm week. 
  • Senior thesis deadlines.  Departments can move their deadline as close as possible to the University deadline of May 4 to give students ample time to complete their work.
  • Senior thesis advising.  Please let your advisor know how best to contact you remotely (Skype, Zoom, email, phone, etc.).  Regular remote communication with your advisor is key to the successful completion of your thesis.
  • Senior thesis grading and assessment.  Given these unusual circumstances, we’ve encouraged departments to consider how best to assess senior theses, junior papers, and all student work fairly and transparently.
  • Senior comprehensive exams.  Departments will administer these exams remotely and may adjust their format as needed.
  • Junior independent work:  We’ve urged departments to be flexible with deadline extensions.  The University deadline will be extended to May 15.  
  • Dean’s date.  Dean’s date remains May 12.  We currently have no plans to extend the date.  As always, if you need support managing deadlines or extensions you should contact your residential college Dean or Director of Studies.
  • Final exams.  Final exams will be administered remotely through Blackboard or Canvas.  More information about scheduling and administering final exams will be out shortly.
  • A.B. sophomore concentration declaration.  We’ve asked departments to post instructions on their websites telling sophomores how to meet department requirements for the concentration declarations scheduled for April 2nd.  We’ve also asked that they add instructions on how to call, Zoom, or Skype the appropriate faculty for course advice.  We’ll send more detailed instructions to rising sophomores soon.


We have expanded the use of the Pass/D/Fail (P/D/F) option to help faculty and students navigate this new landscape for teaching and for assessing learning this semester. 


  • For the current term, we’ve urged faculty to change the grading basis for their courses to include the P/D/F option.  This will permit students to elect this option, even if faculty continue to grade their course as usual.
  • We’ve also encouraged faculty to considering changing to the P/D/F-only grading option for your courses in-progress.  Faculty can elect the P/D/F only option if they wish.
  • We have extended the student deadline for electing to P/D/F your courses.  Students can now select to P/D/F courses beginning Monday, April 6, until the semester’s last day of class on Friday, May 1 at 11:55 p.m.
  • In a typical semester, students can only elect to P/D/F one course.  For this semester, we’ve waived that restriction.  Students may choose the P/D/F grading option for any course that offers the option.  This decision will not limit your ability to choose the P/D/F option according to the usual policy in future semesters.
  • Given the extraordinary nature of this crisis, for the spring semester of 2020 only, we expect departments to accept the P/D/F for departmental courses and prerequisites.


Support for learning during a global pandemic:


  • We urge you to consult with your instructors about expectations for your work for the rest of the semester, given our changed circumstances.  Some faculty might revise their syllabi; be sure you understand their expectations.
  • We know that you’re currently dispersed across time zones.  We’re encouraging faculty to teach both in “real time,” during your regularly scheduled course meeting, and “asynchronously,” so that those of you who can’t “come” to class because of time zone differences can watch recordings of the class meetings later.
  • Some of you have expressed concern about reliable access to high-speed internet.  Students can apply for emergency funding to secure hotspots.
  • Do understand that you’ll need to actively continue participating and completing assignments and exams.  A passing grade is not a given unless you do the required work.
  • Communication.  Please don’t hesitate to use email and other electronic communication platforms to stay in touch with your department, your faculty, and your residential college Deans and Directors of Studies.  We’re all standing by to help and would be happy to hear from you directly.


I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to continue your coursework this semester.  We don’t want you to fall behind; we want you to be prepared to continue toward your degree when life returns to normal.  And if you’re a senior, we want you to graduate in June.


We’ll continue to reach out to see how you’re doing.  Please ask questions of your instructors, your departments, and your academic advisors in the colleges.


I know that we’re all bewildered, trying to contemplate and adjust to how our lives have been utterly rearranged.


Please consider us your partners as we see our way through together.


My best,


Dean Dolan


Jill Dolan

Dean of the College


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