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Provost's Update for Week of November 16-20

Statement: Alternative grading, extension of course drop deadline for fall 2020 semester

In an effort to mitigate the negative impact on student GPAs and academic progress this late in the semester, Virginia Tech released a statement to students this week reiterating its decision not to offer an alternative grading system for fall 2020. This decision ensures the university can maintain academic rigor and preserve the strength, integrity, and value of a Virginia Tech degree, and was made in accordance with our commitment to shared governance and the respective responsibilities of representative bodies such as the SGA and Faculty Senate.

To assist students who are experiencing course performance and/or completion challenges, the university has re-opened registration for the fall semester to allow course drops through December 9. Important factors students should consider before opting to drop any course include the following:

  • Graduate Students should NOT drop a course through Course Registration. Instead they should contact the Graduate School and utilize a WG grade.
  • International Students should NOT drop a course without first consulting with an International Student Advisor in Cranwell International Center(schedule a virtual/online appointment) if doing so will impact Visa enrollment requirements.
  • Any Student receiving any type of financial aid should reach out to the Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid prior to dropping a course to ensure doing so will not negatively impact their aid package.
  • All Students should consider what impact dropping a course will have on their ability to make progress toward degree.

Students have been encouraged to work closely with their faculty and academic advisors to make informed decisions that will allow them to be successful and progress toward degree completion. For additional details, read the full statement on the University Registrar website.

University Libraries: Journal package negotiations with Elsevier

University Libraries is currently negotiating its “Big Deal” journal package with Elsevier and expects to have a finalized 2021 agreement by the beginning of next month. The goal of this process is to work with Virginia research library partners at James Madison University, William & Mary, University of Virginia, George Mason University, and Old Dominion University to negotiate the best deal based on our values of equity, accessibility, and affordability.

According to Virginia Tech’s usage data, more than 40% of journals in the Elsevier Freedom Collection Package get 50 or fewer downloads per year. With extensive research into user data, previous input from faculty, and input from college library liaisons, the University Libraries is creating a list of must-have journal titles from Elsevier’s Freedom Collection Package. We propose that we only pay for those journals that are used by our faculty.

If there are journals faculty need infrequently, the University Libraries can use alternative ways to access those titles including interlibrary loan or expedited document delivery services, among others. For most titles, access to content published through 2020 is permanently retained.

Those who would like to discuss preferences for Elsevier journal titles should contact their library liaison. Your liaison will be able to discuss whether the title is one that we will be subscribing to, based on university-wide usage, or if we will need to obtain that title through other means.

For background information about “Big Deal” journal packages and Elsevier negotiations, visit the University Libraries Access Matters webpage.

Faculty Affairs: Forms for dual career and retention requests

In the interest of continuing to streamline, digitize, and standardize many of our personnel processes, Faculty Affairs is providing two forms for colleges to use when requesting financial support for dual career and retention efforts. These forms will be available on the Faculty Forms webpage and the Dual Career form will also be available under the Dual Career tab on the Work-Life Policies webpage.

We recognize that initial contact on the negotiations related to these efforts will continue to be done in-person or over email with department heads, the dean’s office, and Faculty Affairs. As those processes move forward for approval, though, Faculty Affairs hopes these forms will allow their staff to gather consistent information on the use and approval of these programs and to more consistently communicate with departments, colleges, and fiscal officers to assure accurate and timely processing of these requests. These forms will also ensure that databases are updated and accurate.

Please share this information with anyone who is involved in these requests. If you have questions, please email them to Faculty Affairs.

Virtual faculty writing retreat

All Virginia Tech faculty (tenured or tenure-track, collegiate, continued appointment or continued appointment track, research, extension, clinical, instructors, adjuncts) are invited to spend three days, January 6-8, 2021, immersed in writing during the Winter Virtual Faculty Writing Retreat. Each day of the retreat includes hands-on workshops and plenty of time to write independently in a comfortable, relaxed virtual space among fellow writers.

The goals of this workshop are to provide tools for a realistic, sustainable writing practice, to create space for you to make progress on a project, and to nurture a writing community. The virtual faculty writing retreat program is sponsored by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, and will be facilitated by Dr. Monique Dufour. A boxed lunch will be provided each day of the retreat for participants in the Blacksburg area.

This event is free, but space is limited to 30 participants and a brief application is required. Registration will remain open until December 15 with preference given to those who have not participated in a prior winter retreat at Virginia Tech.

If you apply and are accepted, you should plan to attend all three days of the retreat. For more information, email Rachel Gabriele in Faculty Affairs.

ICYMI: COVID-19 holiday travel guidance and tips

In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during the holiday season, Virginia Tech Emergency Managementhas shared some tips and guidance related to in-state and out-of-state travel. As cases of COVID-19 are increasing off-campus and across the country, it is recommended that students, faculty, and staff avoid all unnecessary travel and large gatherings, if at all possible. If travel or gatherings with others is planned, be sure to wear a face covering, practice physical distancing, wash hands frequently, and get a flu shot.

There are currently no official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Virginia Department of Health (VDH), or Virginia Tech quarantine requirements following domestic or international travel. If you do travel, are in large gatherings, or think that you may have been exposed before or during your trip, take extra precautions to protect others for 14 days after arrival at your destination or your return home:

  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Practice physical distancing (greater than 6 feet) around people not in your household or “pod” to include family you have not been around recently.
  • Always wear a face covering when outside your home.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with people at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you start to feel sick, isolate yourself at home and consult with a medical provider.
  • Consider getting tested for COVID-19.

For more information on travel and recommendations before, during, or after your trip, read the campus notice or visit VT Ready.

Recent resource and information updates

Please visit VT Ready and the Provost’s website frequently for new and updated university information. All members of the campus community should also read their VT Daily email for further important updates, notices, and resources.