Update from the Provost

March 24, 2020

Dear colleagues,

If there was ever a time to be nimble and creative, it is now. I am grateful for the amazing efforts all of you are making to adapt to remote instruction this week. The purpose of this message is to share an update on academic affairs policy revisions, a reminder to use Starfish to help students, acknowledge faculty concerns, and ask you to take care of yourselves and each other.

Proposed revisions to academic affairs policies

As a part of routine policy review, I submitted proposed revisions of four academic affairs policies to ECOS earlier this month in advance of Faculty Senate discussion of these proposals. These policies were to be discussed at this week’s Faculty Senate meeting but, due to more pressing concerns, only the policy on international travel (policy 380) will be on the agenda March 26. Proposed revisions to policies on faculty work-life, non-tenurable academic appointments, and rights and responsibilities of academic personnel will be discussed at the April 23 Faculty Senate meeting.

The process for substantial policy revisions includes solicitation of feedback from shared governance, followed by discussion at the President’s Cabinet, and then final decision making by the President. Given the academic nature of the proposed revisions, Faculty Senate will have in-depth discussion of these proposed policy revisions.

Using Starfish can help students transition to remote instruction

Instructors, please continue to use Starfish Early Alert to provide feedback on students in your courses as you transition to remote instruction, especially if students are not engaging. Starfish Early Alert is the best mechanism we currently have for connecting instructors with advisors, and is a great way to encourage student engagement.

“Ad-hoc” tracking items to provide feedback on students anytime in Starfish. Learn how to use “ad-hoc” tracking in Starfish.

Awareness of faculty concerns

I am aware that many faculty members have questions about the effects this disruption might have on faculty contractual matters such as evaluation of faculty performance and possible tenure clock suspensions.  Please know that I am discussing these important matters with our faculty union partners and will communicate decisions in a timely manner.

Take care of yourselves and each other

Many of my communications in the past days have been focused on sharing information and giving you guidance related to remote instruction. I cannot underestimate the importance of self-care at the moment. I believe “social distancing” is a misnomer; “physical distancing” is more accurate. Social connections and support networks are more critical than ever. I encourage you to:

  • Find creative ways to build community among colleagues in your units, for example, by hosting a virtual coffee hour or birthday celebration on Zoom.
  • Cultivate your work-life balance. Make sure you take time to go outside every day, connect with loved ones, etc.
  • Consider taking advantage of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a free service from for MUS employees and household members. This program helps you privately work through challenges that may interfere with your work, family, and life in general.

Those of us who work closely with students tend to focus on their needs rather than on our own. This takes a toll on our well-being. You are essential, valued members of our campus community. Please take care of yourselves and of each other during this stressful time.

As always, I welcome your input and feedback. Please feel free to schedule an appointment during my virtual office hours or email me at provost@umontana.edu.

Jon Harbor, Provost


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