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A Message to Staff and Faculty from President Kathleen McCartney, March 23, 2020

Dear Staff and Faculty,

Today, Inside Higher Education did a story on how some colleges are thinking about what we are calling alternate modes of instruction. I am sharing the link, because I think we could all use this uplifting news.

Here is a quote from the article that is essentially a shout-out to Dean of the Faculty and Provost Michael Thurston:

“Smith College in Northampton, Mass., is another college that offers an excellent model for changing how to calculate student success. Seemingly overnight, Smith not only moved to remote learning but also went to a mandatory satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading system in order to “recognize the extraordinary character of current circumstances.” Thoughtfully, the Smith FAQ about academic continuity explains, “As we move instruction into alternative modes, we are necessarily changing our agreements about expectations and assessments. In a new and unfamiliar environment, we cannot hold faculty and students to expectations constructed in and for a different instructional experience.” Everything about this statement reaffirms the foundational principles of a liberal arts education, even when conducted at a distance: it should prepare you for whatever challenges might lie ahead outside of college, or, as noted on the Smith College homepage, it is an education designed to “empower the whole you.”

I am so proud of everyone in the Office of the Provost and the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning, who are doing heroic work to support the faculty; of this faculty, who are embracing the myriad challenges of alternate modes of instruction with the right sensibility; and of the many staff supporting our academic mission under these extraordinary circumstances.

Warm regards,
Kathy