May 31 Message from Provost White to Faculty

Dear faculty,

I wanted to offer a few updates concerning ongoing summer plans.

First, I would like to thank the members of the Curriculum Implementation Team for their work on the Compass Curriculum this year. They made remarkable progress over the year, but some work remains to be done in order to make sure the Compass Curriculum is ready for the fall semester. Thus, I’ve asked Lindsay Flynn, Jim Mancall, and Karen McCormack to continue this work over the summer. The CIT email ([email protected]) will still serve as a way to reach out to the summer team. They will also be providing updates when necessary to keep everyone apprised of new developments.

As Dennis explained in his most recent campus message, preparations for the fall semester have accelerated. I wanted to share a little more about their work. The Reopening Task Force is chaired by Zack Irish, Interim VP for Student Affairs and Dean of Students and Meghan Kass, VP for Finance and Administration. There are eight subcommittees, which are represented on the task force as well:

Ed Burnett, Associate Dean for Campus Life
(Chair, Campus Living Reopening Subcommittee)
Therese Doyle-Parillo, Director of Conference and Event Services
(Chair, Campus Events Reopening Subcommittee)
Omaira Roy, Assistant Vice President for Human Resources
(Chair, Staff Reopening Subcommittee)
John Sullivan, Assistant Vice President for Business Services and Physical Plant
(Chair, Facilities and Infrastructure Reopening Subcommittee)
Renée T. White, Provost
(Chair, Academic Reopening Subcommittee)
Gene Begin, Vice President for Marketing and Communications
Craig Kilburn, Director of Environmental Health and Safety
Kim Lavallee, Manager of Business Services
Cynthia Maricle, Associate Director for Student Health Services
Rachael Pauze, Senior Director of Compliance and Policy
Rob Winsor, Director of Public Safety

Zack has prepared a core document that will guide our work, and I wanted to share a little from it that addresses the steering committees’ core goals and charge.

As Wheaton College continues to assess all aspects of its operation amidst response to the COVID-19 emergency, and with the health and safety of its diverse community at the utmost priority, it is also planning for what is needed, how operations will and can change, and how the College can remain nimble and flexible as it prepares to bring its operation back to the campus.
While we intend to resume in-person learning and residency in-line with our regularly scheduled academic calendar, we must prepare for the potential for modifications to the schedule. The COVID-19 Reopening Task Force and subcommittees are charged with developing policy, protocol, and procedures for reopening the College in line with public health guidance.
Each subcommittee will be responsible for outlining preparation action plans that address each of the following categories:

Supplies and Materials – The plan and efforts to re-open are fully contingent upon acquiring and developing an inventory of the essential supplies necessary to support and ensure a safe workplace.
People Reintegration (employees, students, and visitors) – The transition back to on-campus operations must be a gradual and organized process that ensures that the college knows and controls who returns to campus, when they return and where they will be working, living, and learning.
Policies and Protocols – The college will need to develop a broad range of policies and protocols to support this plan that will likely evolve and continue throughout the planning and may shift based on CDC guidance or public health information.
Communications – A successful reopening is dependent upon a comprehensive communications and signage effort that will support the college’s expectations with regard to social distancing and other protective measures.
Training and Education – Health and safety training and education will be an important cornerstone to the re-opening efforts and will ensure that all employees and students have a general understanding of the safety precautions and protocols that the college is establishing to ensure a safe workplace.
Facilities and Space – Comprehensive cleaning and sanitizing as well as a thorough review and assessment of our college facilities and work spaces will be required to support re-opening efforts. Precautionary measures and modifications may need to be made to some spaces and offices in order to support social distancing.

As you will note, I am chair of the Academic Reopening Subcommittee. Our responsibility is to determine what we would need to be ready to offer courses on campus in the fall. We will need to consider facility and technology implications, modes of course delivery, training that might be required, scheduling implications, safety considerations, and much more. We have representation from a wide array of offices and from faculty:

Gina Boyd, Assistant Director, Conference and Events Services
Sally Buckley, Registrar
Kelly Faulkner, Director, Research & Instruction
Peony Fhagen, Associate Provost
Touba Ghadessi, Associate Provost
Kelly Goff, Provost Advisory Committee
Christina Riggs Romaine, Provost Advisory Committee
Steve Viveiros, Dean of Advising and Academic Success
Liz Ziroli, Associate Registrar

I began my work as subcommittee chair by reading as much as I could: reopening plans issued by different state governors, plans shared by colleges and universities, webinars on related issues, and I also continue to learn from a weekly standing meeting with colleagues from the Northeast Deans, a consortium of Provosts, VPAAs and other counterparts. I have already met with PAC a few times to review much of the same materials. We have focused our meetings on identifying possible schedules for fall (early start, early finish, block schedule) and models for offering courses (e.g., hybrid, modified tutorials and Hy-Flex). The subcommittee started meeting subsequently and have identified a set of principles that will govern our work and decision making:

Health and safety of our campus

  • Considerations for immunosuppressed, others in high risk groups whether or not they self-identify.
  • We must recognize that people will likely be facing ongoing challenges (health, financial, psychosocial) and experiencing safety concerns regarding COVID19.


  • Mindful of access, disparate impact of our recommendations, implications for workload (for faculty, staff) and other issues that may surface.

Simple and Practical

  • Simple does not necessarily mean easy, though.

Maintain Flexibility

  • Prioritize plans that can be adjusted in response to new information.

Recordkeeping of what was studied, learned and implemented in this process

  • We need to be able to document how we arrive at decisions and articulate a rationale given our commitment to transparency through the process.

Impact on the student — remain focused on student success

  • We must do everything we can to ensure that students can remain on track to completion of their degrees.

What has become increasingly clear to me is that while we have more time to plan for fall than we did the spring, we are still facing enough unknowns that it is unwise to assume that the fall will be remotely close to the familiar. Rules regarding distancing will affect who is on campus and when, and whether our classrooms will have adequate capacity to accommodate students in ways that we are used to. We cannot assume that traditional in-person teaching is possible. There is no indication that fall 2020 will look like fall 2019 did. Understanding that fact, we need to think about how else we can embrace the core values of our personalized, high-engagement liberal arts education, our preferred pedagogies and related modes of teachings. That will mean exploring and learning about the use of technology (e.g., recording and sharing lectures) and exposing ourselves to learning management systems, tools and other applications like onCourse, Slack and Google Classrooms. The reality is that this summer is going to be defined by re-thinking, preparing, and strategizing for fall. I know that faculty autonomy over their summers is sacrosanct and that you expect to have time away from formal Wheaton duties. Unfortunately, this summer will need to be different. We have so much to do that I am asking you to consider how you can work with PAC, the subcommittee and the Office of the Provost as we devote the summer to fall preparation. I will be working on faculty training on a number of software and platforms that faculty really have to learn for the fall to have any chance of unfolding successfully in ways that align with the core principles of the subcommittee. We need to use this time wisely since we know our students expect more from us this fall in comparison to what they experienced this spring. We have our first incoming class under the Compass Curriculum and need to ensure that their introduction to Wheaton is a good one. Of course what I am asking of you is true for faculty and staff all over the country. Rest assured that we are far from alone in this reality. Every day there are stories on television, radio, Twitter and in publications like Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Ed (to start) about reimagining the fall. Our task is to reimagine the fall in ways that make sense for Wheaton.

As we shift our gaze to the fall, it’s important to me that we think about how to support you, the faculty, in as many ways as we can. I want to reassure you that I am fully aware that you need time to recharge, focus on your work, interact with your families and rest. The spring was extremely stressful on everyone and the ongoing work we face as a college is always in the background. I understand that. That is never far from my mind, and I am looking for ways to find support for the hard work you are and will be doing.

I imagine you have many questions and concerns. PAC will engage in some discussions at the next AAUP meeting, and I will be able to speak with you about many items and there will be more updates at Friday’s special faculty meeting.

Renée T. White