Significant Disruption Policy

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Policy Overview

A significant disruption may affect the university’s ability to conduct its courses and academic procedures in usual and customary ways. A significant disruption might include but is not limited to events such as a natural disaster, pandemic illness, or campus emergency that would impede normal operations for more than one week.

When the university president in consultation with the Board of Trustees declares a significant disruption for any or all campuses, the Academic Response Team may authorize alterations to a set of procedures and policies for the term of the significant disruption. The ART will include the provost, vice provost, academic deans, Faculty Senate chair or branch campus faculty representative at each affected campus, and chairs of the terminal academic councils at each affected campus. If the vice provost, any deans, Faculty Senate chair, or academic council chairs are unavailable to serve, the provost or designee will appoint replacements.

The principles that guide the decisions of the ART and actions of the faculty during a significant disruption are maintenance of academic standards and fairness to students. The ART may make decisions related to academic continuity, the academic calendar, and emergency grades.

The ART will establish a plan to continue courses if possible and will take into account the point in the semester at which the disruption occurred, the availability of resources, and the effects on students and faculty. The plan will address alternate locations, times, or modality. It will also make recommendations about any reductions in assignments necessary to complete the term and availability of faculty to students for office hours. The university will provide reasonable notice of the approved alterations to students and faculty before implementation.

Course instructors who are able to continue working should strive to maintain rigorous academic standards balanced with compassion for students. Faculty maintain their freedom and responsibility in the conduct of their courses and purview over evaluation of student performance. They should make every effort to follow best practices recommended by the ART and the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning.

Instructors of record are designated in the university’s student information system and are responsible to teach and issue final grades. If an instructor of record will be unavailable to continue in a course during a significant disruption, the department chair or program director or designee may appoint a replacement instructor of record to complete the course

The ART will aim for the term to continue on its normal calendar. A significant disruption in the final quarter of the term will prompt more limited modifications to standard procedure than will occur for earlier interruptions. The team may extend the academic term when a pause is necessary to allow for better conditions later. The university’s credit hour policy will inform decisions about the academic calendar.

When faculty and students face reduced time, engagement, assignments, or exams, emergency grades may be appropriate based on an academic experience altered more than was expected. The declaration by the university of a significant disruption and explicit authorization by the ART are the only conditions under which emergency grades are available. Unless instructed otherwise by ART, faculty will report letter grades as usual. The ART will determine whether emergency grading should be temporary or permanent, and mandatory or optional. Temporary emergency grades would be replaced by regular grades on a timeline chosen by ART; permanent emergency grades would stand on student transcripts.

Three emergency grades are available:

PE Satisfactory performance during a significant disruption. When authorized, PE represents a grade of C or better for undergraduate courses and a grade of B or better for graduate courses. A grade of PE carries course credit and is not counted toward the GPA.

NE Unsatisfactory performance during a significant disruption. When authorized, NE represents a grade of D or lower for undergraduate courses and a grade of C or lower for graduate courses. A grade of NE does not carry course credit, must include the last date of course participation, and is not counted toward the GPA.

IE Incomplete due to a significant disruption. When authorized, IE indicates that a student has not completed all course requirements. The ART will set a deadline no sooner than the end of the next long term for students to complete requirements to be eligible for a grade reflectingcompletion. Upon completion of the work, the student will receive a letter grade or PE/NE, based on the grading type authorized for the term. Students who do not complete requirements by the deadline will retain an IE. A grade of IE does not carry course credit, does not need to be resolved prior to graduation, and is not counted toward the GPA.

A grade of PE will satisfy all university and major requirements and all future course prerequisites at the institution. Grades of NE and IE will not satisfy requirements or prerequisites. A course where a student received an emergency grade does not count toward any course repeat limits. The use of mandatory emergency grades or students’ individual selection of optional emergency grades supersede any elections students had previously made for P/F or CR/NC grading, and these attempts will not count against the limits on CR/NC grading.

Generally, making letter grades the default and allowing students to select PE/NE grading is preferable because it provides options for several groups of students: those working toward licensure, those planning to attend graduate or professional school, those working to improve their GPA or academic standing, undergraduate students who want an option to keep course credit for an earned D, or graduate students who want an option to keep course credit for an earned C.

If the ART determines that a disruption is severe or prolonged enough, it may authorize the registrar to enter the emergency grade of IE for all course attempts for the term. The academic continuity plan will address whether or how instructors of record will replace these grades.

Each significant disruption is a unique event creating a cascade of needs, which may not all be addressed by this policy. The university should follow its procedure for addressing exceptions to academic policies not included here, which may include engagement of the Provost’s Cabinet for academic policies, faculty Enrollment Committee for admissions decisions, and academic councils for decisions related to general requirements for graduation or policies governing academic probation and suspension. The president may declare a significant disruption for the university’s campuses individually or the institution as a whole. The composition of the ART is designed to represent each affected campus, and its decisions apply to each affected campus.

All credit-bearing activities require a syllabus, which must include the number of credit hours, meeting times, student learning outcomes, assignments to assess performance on the outcomes, and a course calendar.