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Academic Affairs Updates

June 26, 2020

Update from Provost's Council

The Provost’s Council met with WCU’s directors of Emergency Services (Shane Stovall), Health Services (Pam Buchanan), Safety and Risk Management (Jon Maddy), and assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs (Kellie Monteith), to determine the status of several questions particularly pertinent to Academic Affairs.

The questions and answers resulting from that meeting have been compiled into a faculty and classroom FAQ/important information webpage that is linked from the employee resources page in the Coronavirus website.

June 25, 2020

Dear WCU Student:

Since March this year, our world has changed in significant and unprecedented ways. I write to assure you that we continue to place your ongoing academic success at the forefront of our minds, even as we grapple with the impacts of a global pandemic and experience the unrest and change associated with efforts to address long-standing racial disparities. Western Carolina University’s 131-year history is a testament to the strength of our conviction that preparing you to make a difference in a dynamic and complex world is our primary mission.

I hope you have taken time to stay abreast of our summer session offerings and our plans to operate during the fall semester. To that end, for those of you who will be here in-person this fall, you will see some major changes in Cullowhee and at Biltmore Park. Our efforts to create a safe and healthy environment for you to learn and live will be evident. We are adopting the best available practices for educational institutions operating in a pandemic and we need your pledge to adhere to our new protocols. For those of you who are enrolled in our programs remotely, you also will continue to receive a superior academic education. Please revisit the Fall 2020 Operations and Procedures website for details on our preparation for operations during the fall semester.

Within the next few days you will receive communication from WCU asking you to review your fall schedule (now and periodically over the next several weeks). Our academic programs have updated the course schedule based on how courses will be taught (instructional modality); in some cases, courses will remain in the format they were initially listed and in other cases the format will be altered. We want to be transparent about our actions and to afford you time to digest any changes. I encourage you to contact your assigned professional advisor if you have questions about fall courses or registration.

We will meet our commitment to you for a high-quality educational experience regardless of the program in which you are enrolled, the modality of your instruction, your undergraduate or graduate student status, or your physical location. Thank you for your trust in Western Carolina University.

I wish you a peaceful, safe, and restful summer.


Richard D. Starnes
Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

June 2, 2020

Fall 2020 Assistance Request process for at-risk faculty

Dear Faculty:

As part of our institutional response to COVID-19, the University is committed to supporting faculty who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, which generally includes all individuals over the age of 65 and anyone with an underlying medical condition that may be affected by the virus.  Please review this link for additional information regarding COVID-19 and the risks associated with it. 

Consistent with current University protocols and when requested by a faculty member considered at high-risk from exposure to COVID-19, the University will provide options for reasonable alternative work arrangements such as online teaching/instruction, telework, alternative work locations, reassignment, or social distancing measures whenever possible. We are developing a similar protocol for staff and details will be forthcoming soon.

Faculty who meet high risk criteria and for which face-to-face instruction during the Fall semester could place them further at risk may request assistance through the University’s formal request process (COVID-19 Assistance Request Form). To facilitate planning, we are requesting that any faculty member who wishes to seek assistance due to being at high-risk for the Fall 2020 semester submit a request by June 30, 2020.

Adherence to this timeline for requesting assistance is essential so that we may have sufficient time to address the anticipated complexities of Fall 2020 course schedule planning.  Colleges and departments are actively planning now for fall semester instructional modality and at the institutional level, we are adopting protocols for appropriate social distancing, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, etc.

Please visit the fall instructional plan at this SharePoint link for more information (requires your WCU log on credentials; VPN required for off campus access). 

Questions regarding the faculty COVID 19 assistance process may be directed to Matt Brown or 828.227.3139 or Trisha Ray or 828.227.2522 in Human Resources. 

Richard D. Starnes
Interim Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

June 1, 2020

Fall 2020 Instructional Plan


The recent global and national developments around COVID (Coronavirus) 19 have afforded us new challenges to how we deliver on our promises to WCU students. As we continue to offer summer courses and programs remotely, we are actively planning for the fall 2020 semester. We anticipate that we will be operating in a multimodal instructional arrangement with faculty flexibility, student success, staff support, and multiple pedagogical and logistical realities as our guides. These plans have been developed in collaboration with a large working group of faculty and staff, including several members from Faculty Senate. Additionally, we have sought feedback from Faculty Senate leadership, all Department Heads, and members of Provost Council. All have had a meaningful voice in developing this plan for fall 2020.

The fall instructional plan provides a roadmap to address current uncertainties while adhering to best pedagogical standards, teaching excellence, quality staff engagement, and preserving to the degree circumstances allow, the valuable face to face components of our residential programs.

The plan provides a shared framework for how we will prepare for and operate instructionally to: 

  • incorporate pedagogical goals while honoring the disciplinary differences that exist at WCU;
  • consider and apply the criteria that will determine the most appropriate instructional modality for each course;
  • make (and share) decisions that will guide student understanding and choice regarding their programs of study; and
  • meet institutional infrastructure and logistical processes in preparation for the fall semester, e.g., classrooms, technology, book rental and purchase, student billing and financial aid, and residential contracts, etc.

Please visit the plan on our SharePoint site, which requires your WCU log on credentials and VPN is required for off campus access.

Note: the fall academic calendar was released previously Updates to the plan will be provided as needed. Other aspects of WCU operations, e.g., Student Affairs, Administration and Finance, are crafting similar plans for fall. These plans will address housing and dining, classroom cleaning protocols, personal protective equipment standards and availability, campus health matters, and other topics. Additionally, Human Resources is creating a process for members of our faculty at high risk for COVID-19 transmission to request on-line teaching for the Fall 2020 term. More about that process, as well as information on accommodations for staff members, will follow in the next couple of days.

Thank you for your tireless work on behalf of our students.

Richard D. Starnes
Interim Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

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