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March 23, 2020

Dear Students,

Kahlil Gibran, author of the book, The Prophet, once said /“Your living 
is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude 
you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your 
mind looks at what happens.” /If ever there was a time our attitudes and 
perspectives matter, now is that time.

I feel and appreciate the stress and disappointment many of you are 
experiencing with so many unknowns and unexpected events occurring at 
such an important time in your lives. My job as your Chief Academic 
Officer is to ensure that you are provided the best quality educational 
experience possible. I am committed to making this happen as are your 
course instructors, who have been working diligently to transition 
course materials to a remote instructional format.

There have been many questions raised in higher education and on our own 
campus about the most appropriate ways to evaluate students’ classroom 
performance when there has been disruption midway through the semester. 
These are difficult and complex questions, and I am committed to 
creating a response that considers the implications for your future.

My number one priority is ensuring the integrity of the academic content 
faculty are delivering while balancing the impact of so much unexpected 
change for you as learners. Honoring my commitment to your academic 
experience means grading you fairly and appropriately in the context of 
what is occurring; it is my firm belief that maintaining our current 
grading structure is the best choice for you and for the institution. 
With this is mind, I hope you can understand the principles below that 
have guided my thinking:

  * While a completely remote environment is new territory for many
    students and faculty, I am confident that you will find rich and
    valuable learning taking place during this time.
  * Accreditation bodies require grades for those students in
    professional programs.
  * Students in some programs need letter grades for their major courses
    to progress in their program.
  * Graduate programs across the country often require letter grades for
    courses relevant to the discipline, as do law and medical schools.
  * Many students have worked hard in the first half of the semester and
    continue to do well in their courses; these students deserve to have
    their effort reflected in a letter grade.
  * Some students are counting on a letter grade in their courses to
    boost their GPA which helps to ensure they retain scholarships and
    progress in their programs.

For me, a better option is for the institution to think creatively and 
effectively about how we can ensure your learning success and fairly 
evaluate you during this period of remote instruction. With this goal in 
mind, we have instituted the following:

  * To ensure students have enough graded work to make informed
    decisions prior to the deadline to withdraw from courses, the
    University is *moving the Spring 2020 withdraw deadline to April 3. *
  * Faculty have been given suggestions for alternatives to high-stakes
    exams where appropriate and feasible, such as: more frequent,
    shorter quizzes; open-book take-home exams; and, alternative
    assignments that require application of knowledge across the
    semester. Faculty are making adjustments, recognizing that these
    options may not be a fit in all classes.
  * Faculty have been asked to consider adjusting the weighting of
    assignments or evaluation measures prior to remote instruction, or
    adjusting their scale for assignments and tests given since remote
    instruction began.
  * For some students with health or internet connectivity challenges,
    faculty have been encouraged to *grant an incomplete *so these
    students can complete their work at a later date.
  * We are increasing our online offerings in the summer so students who
    wish to lighten their load can do so, and enroll in a summer course.
  * We have created supports for remote learning for both faculty (CTL
    Teaching Continuity Website
    <https://www.uvm.edu/ctl/teaching-continuity/>) and students
    (central page with information for students
    <https://www.uvm.edu/emergency/students-and-families-what-you-need-know>).

We are dedicated to developing mechanisms to accurately assess your 
knowledge and skills as well as supporting your success. I know you will 
bring your ‘can-do’ attitude to your experience, remembering the words 
of Gibran.

As I used remote instruction to teach my Autism class last Wednesday 
evening, I was so impressed with my students’ engagement in their 
learning as their peers made a presentation to the entire class, we 
commented on video clips using a chat box, and we discussed a case 
study. I have every confidence our students at UVM will rise to the 
challenge we are facing and your faculty will be right there beside you 
to support your success.

Sincerely,

Patricia A. Prelock
Provost and Senior Vice President