Message from the Provost / Faculty Updates

To: Paul Smith’s College faculty

Delivered: July 31, 2020

Dear Faculty

This upcoming semester is getting closer (and it seems, stranger) by the day. No plan is perfect but I am comfortable saying that PSC is doing well developing an approach that balances safety with allowing our students to have the experiential education they need.

This is an update on a bunch of topics that I have been asked about in the last few weeks. Sorry for the ugly format.

Campus Open: Offices on campus are “open” after August 1st. In reality, most campus offices are likely to open gradually with things fully open by the time classes start.

Classes Start: For fall, classes start on Tuesday, Aug 18th. Face-to-face classes end at the start of Thanksgiving break. Final exams and capstones will be run fully online the week after Thanksgiving (exams Tue-Thursday, capstones Fri-Sat).

Attendance Policy: PSC is updating its attendance policy for fall 2020. I discussed this at some length with CSC. It was agreed that we would implement this now and have further discussions about revisions for the future during the semester. Here is the revised policy with new language underlined:

Attendance is expected of all students. For Fall 2020, students are expected to attend classes in person or by distance technology (such as Zoom) at the scheduled class meeting time. Students may be granted permission to participate in a course asynchronously (rather than “live”) for a specific period of time or for the full semester. Students interested in this option must apply through the Center for Academic and Career Success (CACS) for permission. For those students, participation would be evaluated by their participation in course activities and assignments during each week, rather than attending each class period.

Unsatisfactory attendance occurs when a student’s accumulated absences in a semester exceed the number of times the class meets per week. Individual instructors may establish policies in their syllabi which determine the impact of unsatisfactory absences on the student’s grade in the course. Faculty report class absences through PowerCampus SelfService or StarFish. Weekly updates of students’ absences are provided to faculty and support offices from the Office of Institutional Research. Faculty may also flag a student for low attendance in StarFish.

Verification of unavoidable absences is the student’s responsibility. Such absences do not excuse a student from completing the work included in a course.

Daily Health Screening App: You will separately be informed by the campus about a daily health screening app for employees and students. Once we are back at work, you will be expected to respond to the app daily, Monday through Friday.

Classrooms and Other Learning Spaces: We are doing our best to provide physical spacing (six feet between each person) in each classroom. Even with proper spacing, we expect students to keep masks on during class (see below under “Masks”).

Faculty who require the use of shared spaces (e.g., computer labs, the gazebo) may reserve these spaces through the Faculty Office. All surfaces in these spaces must be disinfected prior to leaving the space using college-provided cleaning supplies.

Desk Covers: The College will provide single-use paper mats for covering desks and workspaces. If a space needs to be sanitized, cleaning supplies will be provided in each classroom.

Masks: Everyone is expected to wear masks entering and walking around the academic buildings. Our policy is that students should keep their masks on, even when physical distancing is possible. Given this, please be tolerant of students who need to take a break during class and walk out for a few minutes. Faculty who maintain a minimum distance of six feet from assembled students are permitted to remove their facial coverings. The college is installing protective plastic and/or plexiglass shields in a number of classrooms so that faculty can walk around at the front of the room and write on the blackboards.

Mask Outdoors: Faculty and students participating in outdoor classes and labs may remove their face coverings provided that a distance of at least six feet is maintained among individuals.

Visitors/Guest Lectures: The key issue is to minimize mass meetings. Thus, if you have a major speaker with lots of students attending, do that through Zoom at a distance. If you have a small class and a responsible outside speaker who will follow our policies about mask wearing, etc., then you could choose to bring them to class in person.

Office Hours: Faculty must still have office hours. “Office hour” means being available to meeting with students at a particular time without students needing an appointment. It is PERFECTLY acceptable for those hours to be run through Zoom/Teams. You could run these as additional meeting times in Canvas/Zoom. Alternately, if you are using Starfish to schedule appointments, you can create Zoom/Teams meetings there instead. You can choose to run those as “open” so anyone can log in, or (when using Zoom) you could have students log in and then put them in meeting rooms to have a private conversation.

Vans: For Fall 2020, PSC vans will have a capacity of 7 passengers plus the driver. Passengers will sit two-to-a-row in the back, plus one next to the driver. They will be required to wear masks the entire time they are in the van. Spray bottles and disinfectant will be available. The Facilities department will disinfect each van after it returns from a trip.

Electronic Submission for Fall Classes through Canvas: The Library recommends that we have students submit all their assignment electronically through Canvas. That will significantly reduce printing in the Library. Their goal is to reduce the congregation of students around the printers when papers are due.

IT/Classroom Tech, etc.: We have had a turbulent few months, and I am incredibly grateful to all of you who stepped up to help with training and support this summer. As we move towards the start of classes, I would ask you to submit all your Canvas and teaching technology questions to the IT Help Desk at Ian will triage questions and call on help from others for some questions…Sorry Mel, you are still the campus GoPro guru!

Part of our role as educators is to maintain and perpetuate human civilization. In normal times it seems weird to actually say that. Right now, it is something I cling to. Imperfect as we all are, we play a critical social role and should be proud of our continuing Smitty-style muddling through to help our students and their families.

Thank you all again for your contributions to PSC and the world.

Nicholas Hunt-Bull, Ph.D.

Provost and VPAA

Paul Smith’s College

Key Contacts

COVID Coordinator
Teresa Grosskopf
(518) 327-6451

Student Health Services
Abigail Fontaine, RN, BSN, Director
(518) 327-6349

Housing & Residence Life
Lou Kaminski, Director
(518) 327-6488

Campus Safety
Holly Parker, Director
(518) 327-6300