Good morning everyone. We’re back to some Seattle rain. I’m thinking now is the time to start marketing umbrellas with a 6 foot radius, then figure out how to get Seattleites to start using umbrellas. Here’s what I’ve got for today.
CDLI just came out with many new resources to support virtual courses. Academic Affairs sent out an email at 12:04 on Wednesday with more details. They are providing many resources and training options, covering everything from Zoom-based “synchronous” classes to fully asynchronous approaches. They still offer the training on how to do fully asynchronous courses, but now offer much, much more.
We had a great conversation in Executive Committee yesterday, prompting me to share these thoughts. It was focused around what we seem to be facing in the coming months and how we might prioritize our resources given what we expect. Lots of different ideas where shared; here’s how I am looking at and approaching things right now.
- Our mission, vision and values have not changed. They are strong enough to endure this crisis and we remain committed to them.
- I see two distinct periods in our future: what I will call the pre-stability and stability periods. The pre-stability period is defined as the time between now and when an effective COVID-19 vaccine is distributed and widely available, at which point the stability period begins. The best scientifically-based estimates are that the pre-stability phase will last 18-24 months, with general improvement and setbacks expected across that period. It seems the stability period will be closer to how things were through 2019, but probably never exactly the same.
- The ways in which we can go about our work as a college will be different in these two periods, but we can still manage the pre-stability phase with an eye toward the stability phase, planning strategically for both with our mission, vision and values as our base. The approaches we take will therefore include adapting to conditions and continuing to live out our identity as an academic institution.
- The approaches we develop and take moving forward should be designed to support our students, faculty and staff through what we know will be a difficult but temporary period of 18-24 months of variability and unpredictability in being able to get together in physical spaces. We will manage that period in a way that supports a quality academic experience for our students and keeps us connected as a community.
- The university, the college, departments and all of us as individual members of the community must and will take measures, many of them difficult, to remain financially robust. However, even in the face of those difficulties I think we need to commit resources to maintaining our vision and supporting our community members in a way that maintains the nature of our academic community as closely as possible and supports our shared ability to be part of that community. I am committed to supporting and promoting a distinctively Seattle University education through the pre-stability period, however long it lasts and whatever may occur. This means committing resources to maximize student accessibility to quality education and community connectedness in the face of physical distance (and in the face of reduction in resources), as well as support and training for faculty and staff as they both provide that education and participate in that community. It is critical that we continue our commitment to scholarly and creative work, but we may need to adapt our expectations around faculty scholarly/creative contributions at least through the “pre-stability” phase, perhaps to varying degrees in varying fields.
- The role and voice of different groups within our community - faculty, staff, students, alumni and administrators - in shaping the direction forward is very important, those shared roles will be sustained through structures we have now and approaches/systems that we may need to add or change moving forward.
- I am committed to quality, direct and frequent two-way communication within our community to help us all move forward. This kind of communication is increasingly important, at a different level than in the past. At the same time, we are facing more circumstances in which we do not always have time to engage our standard communication and shared governance processes. I will engage those processes as much as I can, but also see a shift in communication approaches as part of a way to extend community engagement and understanding of decisions moving forward. That shift includes as much checking in as feasible in any given circumstances, broadly when possible but particularly with designated faculty/staff leaders and experts relevant to issues at hand.
The science and data are easy to read, can be somewhat harder to understand, but their implications are most difficult to come to terms with emotionally. In the short run it can feel easier to deny than to breathe and look at what we’re really facing. Sometimes it feels easier to take the stance of Trump instead of Fauci, of Pope Urban VIII rather than Pope Francis. Take breaks, take care of yourself and then let’s look at the facts and their implications together. The sooner we can adapt and plan (flexibly) for the short and the long run, the better for everyone and our society.
Associate Dean Kan Liang has something he would like to share in his own words.
I’d like to share a decision of mine: I have decided to step down from the position of Associate Dean for Arts & Humanities by the end of this academic year. It has been my great honor and pleasure working with all the colleagues in the college and witnessing significant changes of the college. After one decade working in this position, however, I have decided to move on. I plan to take a sabbatical leave next year before returning to teaching in the History Department. I’d like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to all of you for your support and kindness during these years. And I am confident the college will continue to strive under David’s leadership.
Kan has served in the role of Associate Dean of Arts and Humanities for ten years, after serving both as Director of the International Studies Program and Chair of the History Department. The contributions he has made to enriching the academic community for our students, faculty and staff in each of those roles are countless. Along with leadership roles in the college he has served a critical role at the university level in developing international relations in Asia. He served as a critical advisor and leader in developing many connections in China and was central in the establishment of our own Peter Lee Endowed Lecture Series. He also continued to lead study abroad courses and published a major 2-volume translation of Human Memory: Evidence of the Nanjing Massacre. In his Associate Dean role he is a staunch advocate for departments and faculty and has a wise perspective on managing our resources responsibly and supportively. I have the deepest appreciation for his service in this role over the past ten years, exceeded only by my respect and appreciation of him as a bright, thoughtful, caring and honorable human being. In any other circumstances, this is where I would announce a gathering in his honor. We’ll do that when we can, but in lieu of that for now, please take a moment to follow up with him directly.
Kan, thank you for everything you have contributed and for what lies ahead in your continued contributions as a highly valued member of our college.
That’s where we’ll end today.