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Dear Faculty,

As of this week, I am pleased to report that almost all of our course sections have been scheduled for the fall semester. This has been a monumental effort coordinated by the Registrar’s Office with assistance from your deans and chairs, and I want to thank everyone involved. We have learned some important lessons that should make the spring course scheduling process more efficient, but I could not be more proud of the effort that got us to this point.

In scheduling our fall courses, we tried to preserve as much face-to-face contact with students as possible. We lost a significant portion of our classroom capacity, which required asking faculty to move a relatively small number of courses online (about 5%) and a much larger number (about 25%) to hybrid delivery format. As promised earlier, faculty who have been asked to shift their course modalities prior to the start of the semester are eligible for stipends and training through a process administered by the Center for Teaching and Learning. The learning resources that have been developed by CTL for remote instruction are available to all faculty, whether or not they are formally converting their courses.

Given the uncertainties of the fall term, none of us can predict whether or not USD will be forced to revert to online or remote learning in the coming months. This uncertainty worries us all, and I know many faculty across campus are taking steps to prepare their courses now for such an eventuality. If we return to an entirely online, virtual environment, I understand this will create a burden on all of us. While we were able to allocate financial resources and provide stipends based on our current need to transition some fall classes to a different format, USD will not be able to provide supplemental stipends to all faculty in the event of everyone teaching remote classes again. As faculty members, I recognize that each of you has been asked to continually adjust and adapt to a situation that is more difficult than any we have seen in our lifetimes. And as we approach the beginning of classes, please know that your work and your dedication are valued. They are valued by me, by your chairs and deans, and by President Gestring.

One of the consequences of moving courses online is that state law requires that a different tuition rate be applied, and several of you have expressed concern for what that means for our students. While we have to operate under the tuition structure required by statute, I am pleased to tell you that President Gestring and the USD Foundation have figured out a way of covering tuition differentials for affected students. Continuing & Distance Education and the Academic & Career Planning Center are working with Financial Aid and the Business Office to contact those students directly.

As the fall semester arrives, thank you for your work during the summer. Thank you for honestly sharing your concerns and your ideas and your insights. Thank you for your patience as your schedules were shifted, as protocols were revised, as classrooms were re-imagined. The global pandemic of COVID-19 has affected each of us, and I am proud to be your provost. I am proud to be your colleague in these difficult times, and I look forward to working closely with you throughout the fall semester as we get through this together.

Sincerely,

Dr. Kurt Hackemer
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs