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Provost’s Office Response to Faculty Senate Concerns

Dear Colleagues – On August 25th I summarized several questions from the constituent concerns forum and forwarded these to the Provost Office for further attention. The response was positive and immediate. Please below and let me know if you have additional concerns.

Sincerely, Douglas Call, Faculty Senate Chair.

Provost’s Office Response to Faculty Senate Concerns

August 27, 2021

When updating the FAQ page, please provide a date with specific questions when they have been updated to help readers quickly locate changes in an otherwise lengthy text.

The information has been sorted into two categories: 1) Frequently Asked Questions; and 2) Additional Questions from Faculty.  Both categories have a last update date.  (https://provost.wsu.edu/oae/ppf/fall2021faqs/)

Faculty have asked why unmasking by lecturers is allowed when this does not appear to be permitted under the governor’s guidance.

Per Secretary Shah’s Health Order 20-03.4, “[p]eople are not required to wear face coverings…[w]hile actively engaged in a performing arts performance, leading religious services, or engaged in other similar activities…” (see bullet point 7 on page 3 here).  Lecturing in a classroom falls into this category. Please note that unmasking during lecture is only allowed for fully vaccinated instructors, provided they maintain 6 feet of distance from their class or can instruct behind a plexiglass barrier. Vaccinated instructors who would like a face shield may request one by emailing craig.cole@wsu.edu.

Faculty have asked about what qualifies as an acceptable mask – please post a link to the state guidance in the FAQ

Per Secretary Shah’s Health Order 20-03.4, “…a face covering must:

  • Fit snugly against the sides of the face;
  • Completely cover the nose and mouth;
  • Be secured with ties, ear loops, elastic bands, or other equally effective method; and
  • Include at least one layer of tightly woven fabric without visible holes, although multiple layers are strongly recommended.

A face covering may also be a mask or face covering that provides a higher level of protection than a cloth face covering, such as a medical procedure/surgical mask, a KN95 mask, or an N95 mask.

Clear or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel may be used when interacting with people who are deaf or hard of hearing, young children or students learning to read, students learning a new language, people with disabilities, and people who need to see the proper shape of the mouth for making appropriate vowel sounds.”

The exact language can be viewed here on page 4, bullet point 2 under “Additional Provisions”.

WSU does not allow faculty who are primary care givers to opt for a hybrid or online option. Please provide the rationale for this policy. <<if this is due to an NWCUU constraint as has been communicated to the exec committee, it would be easiest to answer by saying this and providing a link to where faculty can find documentation>>

During the spring semester of 2021, WSU made the decision to offer a robust in-person experience for our students system-wide as of Fall 2021. It is clear that remote instruction has taken a toll on students across the nation, particularly first year students. And it is also clear that access to technologies and appropriate learning environments have broadened inequities in learning outcomes and student persistence (one recent article on this topic: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2021/08/25/first-year-students-struggled-online-learning-last-year).

WSU leadership has consistently communicated to students, parents, and faculty that we would deliver a face-to-face experience for students, while also doing our utmost to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. This decision is in alignment with a handbook published by Department of Education in June 2021, which was shared with higher education institutions in Washington by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

As previously communicated and in alignment with WSU’s decision described above, faculty who were unable to return to in-person instruction for the Fall 2021 semester needed to complete either the required Modified Duties Request for Faculty or Reasonable Accommodation Request prior to July 31, 2021.  Descriptions of each process is provided below.

Modified Duties Request

  • Circumstances Leading to a Request for Modified Duties
    • when the faculty member is responsible for the primary care giving for a family member who requires assistance due to a serious health condition;
    • when the faculty member is responsible for the primary care giving for a family member who requires assistance as the result of being injured while in duty for the armed services, or
    • when the faculty member is a parent or in a parental role and shares primary care giving responsibilities for a newborn or for a placed or adopted child of age 6 or younger who has recently entered the home.
  • For more information, and to apply for a Modified Duties Request, please visit: https://hrs.wsu.edu/employees/disability-services/modified-duties/.

Reasonable Accommodation Request

  • Reasonable Accommodation is modification or adjustment to a job, work environment, policy, practice, or procedure that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunity and help them remain in their jobs or appointments, with or without accommodations.
  • For more information and to apply for a Reasonable Accommodation Request, please visit: https://hrs.wsu.edu/employees/disability-services/reasonable-accommodation/.

If an instructor tests positive for COVID-19 and has to isolate (14 days) or has been exposed and needs to quarantine, we need clarification about how course content can be delivered. Is online delivery allowed in this case? If students are isolated (14 days), how are they supposed to keep up with class if course content can’t be delivered in a hybrid manner? If an instructor becomes sick and unable to deliver course content (even remotely), are departments required to find replacements? 

Part A:  If an instructor tests positive for COVID-19 and must isolate, we need clarification about how course content can be delivered. Is online delivery allowed in this case?

As always, department chair or director can approve an accommodation for a change in course delivery to remote instruction due to instructor illness or a need to quarantine.  If they do, then faculty should consult the memo on Videoconference courses and EPPM 14, dated August 18, 2021 (available here) because IT issues will need to be handled by the department.  With appropriate consideration of the faculty member’s privacy, any changes should be communicated clearly to students as soon as possible so that they can transition to a different instructional mode.

Part B:  If students have been exposed to COVID and need to quarantine, how are they supposed to keep up with class if course content can’t be delivered in a hybrid manner?

There has been a misinterpretation of the Accommodation memo dated August 19, 2021 (available here).   Nowhere does it state that students who have requested non-medical accommodations cannot receive them.  Instead, it lays out how accommodation requests should be handled when they are medically related.  AOI and the Provost’s office have suggested to instructors that they use Cougar Lecture Capture in General University Classrooms and provide those recordings to students.  Alternatively, many instructors spent the 2020-2021 academic year creating innovative educational materials, and those could be repurposed for the Fall semester as a part of an accommodation plan.

NOTE:  Instructors should be cautious if they want to repurpose course materials (e.g. prior zoom or Panopto recordings) that contain student identifiable information (names, ID, etc.) so that there is not a violation of FERPA.  Prior materials should only be used if either:

1) all students with identifiable information have consented to their use, or

2) all student identifying information has been removed.  Another option that we encourage instructors to consider is to create an opportunity for all students to connect with others in a virtual space so that missed notes can be shared should anyone have to be absent for any reason.

Because we are committed to a robust in-person classroom experience for students this fall, we have discouraged faculty from converting classes to HyFlex (meaning that students can choose to be in person or remote throughout the semester). HyFlex learning environments are extraordinarily challenging, and the quality of instruction for all is difficult to ensure. However, if an instructor wishes to teach a class in a HyFlex mode, then, as stated in EPPM 14 (can be reviewed here), if the class is in a non-Videoconference classroom then it will require approval of the Chair or Director; in that case the department IT–not AOI–would need to provide support to both the instructor and accommodated students.

Part C:  If an instructor becomes sick and unable to deliver course content (even remotely), are departments required to find replacements?

Department chairs and directors are responsible for finding alternative arrangements for classes when faculty are unable to teach due to illness, family emergencies, or other unavoidable situations.

NWCCU Guidance to WSU about Face to Face vs. Remote Instruction

WSU has been in close communication with NWCCU regarding expectations for course delivery.  NWCCU has indicated that the decision on how to deliver curriculum resides with institutional leadership and that they will support universities that choose to deliver partial or fully remote instruction throughout the National Covid Emergency. WSU developed our polices about remote instruction, in consultation with NWCCU, during July and early August.  These policies are reflected on Page 4 of the Fall 2021 Instruction Guidelines memorandum, which was reviewed by Sonny Ramaswamy, NWCCU President, prior to release.  The memorandum frames the circumstances under which remote/online instruction can be conducted during the Fall 2021 semester at WSU.

 

 

Notice: FacSen Chair Update on Vaccination Data

Dear Colleagues — I am sharing the latest vaccination data for the WSU system. The denominator for total proportions is not available yet, but for the Pullman campus 60-70% of students are likely accounted for with these numbers. For example, if we have as many as 20,000 students in Pullman this semester, then 66% of students are represented in the table below. It will be another week or two before tallies are complete and vaccination status is completed. WSU will actively engage with students who declared personal exemptions to remind them that they need to get vaccinated.

For those who have reported, >90% are reporting that vaccination is complete (system-wide). Even if all undeclared students claim exemptions moving forward (a very unlikely scenario), we will still have a much higher vaccination compliance than the state overall and certainly for some of the counties where our campuses are located. Please recall that students have to provide documentation for their vaccination status and barring evidence for widespread fraud, these numbers should come with high confidence.

Student Tally as of 26 Aug 2021
Campus Vaccinated / Medical / Religious / Personal / Total
Everett – 59 / 0 / 5 / 5 / 69
Global70 / 2 / 5 / 1 / 78
Pullman – 11,668 / 50 / 239 / 603 / 12,560
Spokane – 412 / 1 / 19 / 1 / 433
Tri-Cities – 285 / 1 / 19 / 14 / 319
Vancouver – 725 / 0 / 44 / 24 / 793

  • Total – 13,219 / 54 / 331 / 648 / 14,252

Campus Vaccinated / Medical / Religious / Personal
Everett – 85.5% / 0.0% / 7.2% / 7.2%
Global – 89.7% / 2.6% / 6.4% / 1.3%
Pullman – 92.9% / 0.4% / 1.9% / 4.8%
Spokane – 95.2% / 0.2% / 4.4% / 0.2%
Tri-Cities – 89.3% / 0.3% / 6.0% / 4.4%
Vancouver – 91.4% / 0.0% / 5.5% / 3.0%

  • Total – 92.8% 0.4% 2.3% 4.5%

Doug Call, Chair, Faculty Senate

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Notice: Message from the Faculty Senate Chair

Dear Colleagues – Several individuals have expressed concerns about the lack of apparent response to some of the constituent concerns expressed in this forum. The Provost’s Office has assured us that they are monitoring these concerns and that the primary mechanism for them to respond is via the WSU Covid FAQ page. At this juncture, we are sending a summary of outstanding constituent concerns to the Provost’s Office and have requested a direct response that we can share through this constituent concerns page. Thank you for your patience.

Additionally, here are some mostly Pullman-centric factoids about COVID-19 as of 24 Aug 2021:

  • The Whitman County case count (293/100,000) is lower than the state level (437.5/100,000).
  • The vaccination rate in Pullman is much higher (59%) than other areas (36-39%).
  • Local hospital representatives report an increase in case load, but we are doing “ok” overall.
  • Approximately 11,300 students have reported their vaccination status (>90% vaccinated) with about 500 reporting personal exemptions (these will have to be adjusted given the recent vaccination mandate). Students have until 10 September to declare their status and WSU is receiving about 200 declarations per day at present. The rolling 5-day testing average has increased to 23.6 tests/day. I don’t have a positivity rate.
  • K-12 schools start classes today and a mask mandate is in place.
  • More local information can be found at: https://www.whitmancountypublichealth.org (presumably, the same can be said for other campus county health departments).
  • We are asking the administration for a public-facing, system-level dashboard with COVID-19 metrics.

Doug Call, Chair, Faculty Senate

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