Update from Provost Harbor

March 26, 2020

Dear colleagues,

We began remote instruction this week holding our breaths, hoping that the transition would be smooth. I have been hearing from students and faculty that, in general, the move to remote instruction has gone amazingly well—people are adapting creatively and being very understanding. Faculty are putting in remarkable effort to make this work for their students, and their efforts are supported by outstanding work from our staff. I’d like to especially thank our UMOnline and Information Technology colleagues for going above and beyond to support this transition. About 4,000 course sections that were originally face-to-face or blended delivery and have moved to fully remote instruction.

Today’s update features new international travel guidelines and exceptions to the hiring freeze. And since we need to continue looking forward, I’d like to share my thoughts about reinstating a winter term at UM and solicit your input about that future possibility.

International Travel and COVID-19

Based on current U.S. Department of State guidelines, all UM-sponsored international travel for students, staff, and faculty is canceled through May 31, 2020. UM-sponsored travel beginning after June 1, 2020 or after will be reviewed in mid-April by the International Travel Review Committee. I will approve or suspend travel planned for June and beyond based on the committee’s recommendations. Please consider purchasing fully refundable plane tickets until GEO communicates my decisions. For more information, please contact Marja Unkuri-Chaudhry, associate director, Global Engagement Office.

Exceptions to hiring freeze

Last week, the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education instituted a hiring freeze. I am pleased to report that we have permission to make requests for hiring exceptions for positions that are 100 percent externally funded. We are also able to request exceptions to hire instructors for summer courses. Please know that my colleagues and I are working closely with Grace Gardner, director of UMSummer, and deans to coordinate efforts for another successful summer session.

A winter term at UM

When I was new at UM, almost two years ago, I heard a lot about a former winter session that had been removed from our academic calendar. The time between fall and spring semesters can be used to offer students some high-impact and focused learning experiences that complement and advance their regular course of study.

Vice Provost Lindsay has been discussing the possibility of a winter term at UM with a small group of faculty and staff. The winter term model under consideration would differ from UM’s former winter session in that it would last three weeks, from late December to mid-January, and students would be billed for winter term separately from fall and spring semesters. We would like to continue developing this new winter term concept with input from the campus community via a voluntary and anonymous survey and virtual listening sessions (details forthcoming).

Thank you again for your hard work and support for our campus community. Please stay informed, via UMToday and UMTonight, and stay well.

Jon Harbor, Provost

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