Update from Provost Harbor on COVID-19 response

March 13, 2020

To the campus community,

Many thanks to so many across campus who are working diligently, calmly, and thoughtfully to ensure that we have an effective transition that supports the needs of students, faculty, and staff. As you have heard, UM is remaining open through spring break and beyond, but is implementing remote instruction starting March 23.

This message provides more detail, especially for instructors, and addresses questions that have come in from faculty, students and staff. We are sending this to all faculty, students, and staff, so that everybody has the same information and expectations. This message covers the following topics:

  1.  Transition to remote instruction
  2.  Expectations for instructors
  3.  Action items for instructors
  4.  Exceptions to remote instruction
  5.  Campus remains open
  6.  Supporting students’ needs
  7.  Stay kind
  8.  Thank you

We have been asking instructors to make plans to transition to remote instruction since last week and really appreciate all the time and effort spent by UM faculty in preparing to continue teaching in these extraordinary circumstances.

  • Resources and training are available on the Keep on Teaching website. Please click on the “training and support” link to access lots of great material, and announcements about in-person and online assistance over spring break.
  • Instructors are encouraged to use part of spring break to finalize course plans, pre-record material for use during the next few weeks of class, design modified assignments, and communicate changes to students.
  • Resources for teaching remotely are not limited to online teaching. UM’s Keep on Teaching website offers sample approaches for other types of remote instruction, and which are designed for equity and student access.
  • As long as instructors use the tools provided by the University for teaching remotely (Zoom, Moodle, etc.), you and your data will be protected by UM’s security protocols and firewalls, just as they are in your classrooms and offices.
  • Instructors will retain intellectual property rights and sole ownership over all materials used for remote instruction, including online materials, per collective bargaining agreements.
  • Instructors delivering synchronous remote instruction must schedule sessions on the same schedule that in-person teaching took place earlier this semester.


  • Instructors are empowered to adjust your courses to achieve learning objectives through remote instruction, and have the latitude to determine when students have attained course learning outcomes.
  • Instructors can modify syllabi, choose delivery methods, change absence policies, adjust grading criteria, etc. based on the unique characteristics of your course and your students’ needs.
  • If students do not finish coursework for this semester, instructors should assign “N” grades, not “I” grades, for financial aid reasons. We will share additional guidance on grading with instructors at the end of the semester.


  • Please communicate the changes you make to your courses to students by the end of the day on March 18 so they can plan accordingly.
  • Please carry out the changes you make to your courses consistently and fairly.

In exceptional circumstances, the Office of the Provost will allow exemptions from the remote instruction requirement. Such circumstances will apply to small groups where in-person instruction is absolutely required, for example, due to:

  • specialized equipment or unique conditions critical for learning, such as highly specialized lab or studio equipment that must be used hands-on,
  • field work experiences,
  • clinical experiences associated with professional licensure requirements, or
  • specialized learning / experiences required for students for graduation in May 2020.

Instructors should follow these steps to request an exception:

  1. Instructor submits request to their dean by email, with cc to the department chair, by noon, Monday, March 16. Requests should be three sentences or less, and include the specific exceptional reason for the request and the number of students involved.
  2. Deans will vet the requests and share those they support with the Office of the Provost for review by 5 p.m. Monday, March 16.
  3. The Office of the Provost will provide a response via email to the instructor with cc to the dean and department chair no later than 5pm on Tuesday, March 17.

Instructors may not conduct face to face teaching unless they have explicit permission from the Office of the Provost through the process described above.

The purpose of cancelling face-to-face classes is to limit mandatory gatherings of large groups of people, to diminish the transmission of COVID-19 in our community.

  • UM will remain open and employees will be able to come to work as usual.
  • Faculty and staff will be able to use your offices.
  • It is expected that small groups of faculty and staff will still meet to conduct University business.
  • Students will be able to use computer labs, the libraries, and other campus services.
  • Campus Dining will continue to serve meals to our community and is instituting enhanced hygiene measures including requiring all patrons to use disposable gloves when accessing self-service food items and, in some cases, will wear gloves to serve guests.
  • The UC Food Court and Market and the Iron Griz will be open during spring break. Visit the Campus Dining website for hours.
  • Residence halls will remain open and staffed, including during spring break.
  • Custodians are using new cleaning products and protocols to keep our spaces safe.
  • Employees and students are encouraged to use CDC guidelines for keeping your personal areas clean and safe.
  • More information and resources are available on the Keep on Working website.

Student employment will continue:

  • Supervisors and student employees should check in on any changes to work assignments or schedules.
  • Graduate students on assistantships will continue to receive their funding and should contact their supervisors if they have questions about best ways to continue their activity.
  • Teaching assistants should be in contact with the instructors they support to discuss their roles in remote instruction.
  • Students who decide to quit their campus job must notify their supervisor by March 23.

Many faculty and staff have expressed concerns about students’ additional needs. We are working with all students to ensure they have access to housing, food, technology, healthcare and other basic needs. If you are a student in need, or know one, please direct them to Sarah Swager, Vice Provost for Student Success, in UH 022, via phone at 243-5225, or email studentaffairs@umontana.edu.

The emergence of COVID-19 requires that we come together not only to fulfill our roles in practicing healthy preventative measures but also to ensure no member of our community is stigmatized due to coronavirus (COVID-19). We need to support individuals who are facing discrimination and being subjected to xenophobic behavior due to the origin of the virus in Asia. There is no place on our campus for racist or xenophobic behaviors. It is our duty to ensure members of our community feel safe, included and welcome. We must remain steadfast in our commitment to inclusion.

Thank you for your calm commitment to supporting UM during this challenging time. Please check UM’s Coronavirus website for updates and FAQs, check your UM email often, and call 243-INFO (4636) if you have questions.

Jon Harbor, Provost

This message was sent by the Office of the Provost to all UM students, administrators, faculty, staff and affiliates.