Frequently asked questions

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Select a header below to see answers to some of the questions we've received regarding fall 2020 planning. This section will be updated regularly to respond to additional questions and concerns.

One of the strengths of VCU is its interconnectedness with surrounding neighborhoods and all that the city of Richmond affords its citizens. We expect that as students explore the city, live in off-campus neighborhoods, and interact with our diverse city residents, they engage in all state and local health and safety guidelines to show respect and care to our neighbors and friends.

Outside of the classroom and university settings, students – as well as faculty and staff – are encouraged to follow the safety protocols set forward in the OneVCU: Responsible Together plan. Throughout the summer and fall students will receive communications and messaging that emphasize the caring nature of our student body and their advocacy for others; our confidence that they will engage in behaviors that protect the more vulnerable members of our university and Richmond communities; and the consequences of non-compliance as it relates to their health and the health of others.

Students are also required to take an online “return to campus” training. Students will sign attestation indicating training completion and personal compliance with safety protocols. Students will be expected to:

  • Monitor their health daily. Testing will occur according to protocols.
  • Wear a face covering or mask in common areas.
  • Apply physical distance guidelines to all settings.
  • Clean and disinfect personal and shared spaces before and after use. Cleaning supplies will be available in numerous locations.
  • Report symptoms associated with COVID-19 to VCU Student Health Services. A call center hotline will be available later in the summer.

Following rules regarding face coverings or masks, cleaning and disinfecting, and physical distancing is required. Students will receive reminders for daily health monitoring. The dean of Student Affairs will be notified after repeated non-compliance. Refusal to comply with rules can include progressive disciplinary action up to and including suspension, based on the VCU Student Code of Conduct.

The university Incident Coordination Team (ICT) began planning for student quarantine and isolation in spring 2020 when our residential students were still on campus. In preparation for fall 2020 a Public Health Response Team (PHRT) has been formed with membership from VCU Health, University Student Health Services, Employee Health, Residential Life and Housing, Safety and Risk Management, Residential Life, University Relations, Virginia Department of Health, Richmond Health Department and VCU Emergency Management.

To date, the following processes are either in place or being finalized:

  • Students must take an online “return to campus” training and will sign attestation indicating training completion and personal compliance with safety protocols. Among those protocols are daily monitoring of their personal health and reporting symptoms associated with Covid-19 to VCU Health Services.
  • The number of students in on-campus housing will be decreased in fall 2020 and most dorm rooms will be limited to singles, which assists with isolation and quarantine.
  • Students who have been exposed to or develop symptoms of Covid-19 and will be required to quarantine or isolate must:
    • Students living in on-campus housing: Residential Life & Housing is setting aside approximately 50 rooms in a separate building for potential isolation and quarantine needs for on-campus students. Exact procedures are still to be worked out (food delivery, travel, communication, etc.) but these will follow guidelines as outlined by CDC, state and VCU Health guidance.
    • Students living off-campus: Students should contact their landlords/management to determine isolation and quarantine options. The university does not have available on-campus options for non-residential students. We direct students to various resources: dos.vcu.edu/resources/off-campus-resources/.
  • Facilities management will be contacted regarding any presumptive positive cases to ensure contamination of facilities as appropriate.
  • Contact tracing, conducted by a contact tracing team in consultation with Student Health, Richmond Department of Health and Virginia Department of Health, will be implemented to determine any individuals and locations possibly exposed.
  • The student’s dean or department head will make notifications to students, faculty and staff who might be impacted.
  • After 14 days and clearance from University Student Health, quarantined students will be authorized to return to in-person university activities.

Any decision to close the university would be informed by the Public Health Response Team, Richmond Department of Health, and Virginia Department of Health.

We are working with space management to evaluate instructional spaces (classrooms, laboratory, studios, etc.), social distancing requirements and available technology. This information will be shared with academic departments so decisions can be made on instructional needs or adjustments.

Yes. This option is being reviewed.

If teaching responsibilities are increased, we will need to adjust the annual review and P&T criteria. It will also be important to do some additional training for department chairs, peer review committees, and P&T committees.

No professor will be required to add an in-person component. Faculty will soon receive a form to request their previously scheduled in-person course be moved to a fully online course.

VCU is not looking at salary cuts. Unfortunately, we must consider furloughs for all employees, including faculty.

No decision has been made as this matter is still under evaluation.

We have workshops, training, and personalized instructional designers who can help with this overwhelming workload. We will soon know the fall academic calender, any possible furloughs, and budget situation.

We will continue to be very flexible with tenure extension requests. We know we need to do training with Peer Review Committees and P&T committees regarding how to evaluate faculty in light of adjusted workloads and disrupted scholarship/creative activities.

Adjunct faculty

We highly value our adjunct faculty, who bring great expertise to the curriculum. All adjunct faculty will be invited to all faculty development workshops and encouraged to communicate with their department chair about fall re-opening plans and needs.

Adjunct faculty are asked to communicate with their department chair/director regarding any request to change the course modality. We will be flexible with adjunct faculty members' needs.

There are many budget reduction strategies and we may need full-time faculty to take on more teaching responsibilities. Hiring instructors is a local decision and we must first meet student needs. We are doing our best as a university community to deal with our budget situation and protect having to make difficult decisions (i.e., layoffs of full-time employees).

Yes, the survey will be send to all instructors who are scheduled to teach a course(s) in fall 2020.

We recognize there is a need for some type of health insurance. Unfortunately, VCU is not in a position to offer health insurance for adjunct faculty.

Budget and decision making

The process for planning in this COVID-19 environment has been a fluid process with a focus on looking toward the fall enrollment picture and how that will impact VCU globally. For prudent fiscal planning, the Budget and Strategic Planning Committee, a Committee made up of cabinet members, has been working on financial planning and proposing university actions to meet the projected enrollment numbers. As the financial picture becomes more clear, communications have been and will continue to be communicated to the greater university directly from both the President and University Leadership. In addition, University leaders, such as the Provost and CFO, will continue to hold town halls, meet with groups like the University Counsel, University Budget Advisory Committee, and Deans Counsel, along with other groups and forums to answer questions and provide updates. As the Deans and Department Chairs receive more information, they will also be communicating with their faculty and staff. VCU will continue to strive for clear and up to date communications as information becomes available.

As new needs arise to prepare for a return to campus, they will be assessed individually and the most prudent source of funding will be used to fund these critical items. All sources including one time funding, state, and federal dollars will be utilized to keep the financial impact on operations and operating budgets to a minimum.

VCU is in frequent touch with Virginia's congressional delegation to support additional funding for higher education. Additionally, we are closely coordinating our efforts with Virginia's other research universities, APLU, and ACE.

Many detailed questions regarding a furlough were received during the May town hall. At this time, the VCU administration will not recommend a furlough because we are not certain if it will be needed. The use of furloughs will be dependant upon declines in state and federal funding, as well as enrollment. If furloughs would be needed, all faculty and staff with salaries higher than $50,000 would be included.

No. Faculty, by necessity, work a variety of schedules that involve instruction, course design, grading, research and service. Should a furlough become necessary, the administration will work with faculty representatives to determine the most fair and equitable method for furlough implementation and considerations for flexibility.

Center For Teaching and Learning Excellence/ALT Lab

Teaching Online @VCU will be offered on a rolling basis throughout the summer. The course is asynchronous, but does include some checkpoints where items are due to the instructor.

CTLE will be offering online pedagogy workshops during summer 2020 to help faculty prepare quality learning experiences for students. These may include sessions focusing on topics such as online assessments/exams, inclusive pedagogy in virtual environments, universal design, and equity considerations in course design.

Teaching Online and Designing Online offerings by ALT Lab, Online @VCU, and CTLE will be available beginning June 8. The Flex Online Program for departments is available for scheduling now (contact Kim Case at casek3@vcu.edu).

The ALT Lab website will be the location for all updated information regarding the online course development opportunities. In addition, signing up for the CTLE newsletter will keep faculty informed with updates.

Student affairs

We anticipate some reduction in residence hall capacity. We are working with health experts related to COVID-19 protocols.

Student affairs is following recommendations from the CDC, the American College Health Association, Association of College and University Officers - International, the university's Public Health Response Team along with state and local guidance to determine best practices for residence halls.

The Divison of Student Affairs is creating health and safety training for students. Any training for online/remote learning will be done through Online@VCU.

Technology

Almost all of the centrally scheduled classrooms have a microphone and Zoom installed on the PC to allow conferencing (audio and content) without the instructor video. There are also many rooms equipped with conferencing prior to the COVID-19 event that have cameras to allow the instructor video. The Classroom Support team will be testing the systems and will add microphones to any space that doesn't currently have one if possible. The Classroom support team is also coordinating with SEM to make sure the course scheduling process takes room capabilities into account. There will also be some planned upgrades to classrooms over the summer that will add full video conferencing capability.

Careful consideration has been given to the timeline for the transition to Canvas and its impact to our faculty and students. Academic Technologies staff have partnered with the VCU ALTLab to provide support and training resources throughout the transition. Instructure has dedicated resources as well, working with us to ensure a successful implementation. Blackboard Learn will remain available for use until our contract expires on June 30, 2021.

We believe that transitioning to Canvas, even with the current challenges driven by COVID, better serves our faculty and students, whether instruction is bring delivered fully in-person, fully on-line, or in a hybrid manner. For a full FAQ, timeline, and other information, please visit: https://learningsystems.vcu.edu/canvas/

Academic Technologies is currently working with the Student Accessibilty and Educational Opportunity (SAEO) office and VCU's Equity and Access department to provide to provide more tools, like within VoiceThread. Currently content in Kaltura is automatically machine captioned. Human captioning can be requested for a fee. See this website for more detail. Zoom can auto caption but it is not live. The captioning usually shows up about 30 mins after the video is uploaded depending on the file size except on the MCV campus due to HIPAA restrictions.

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