Dear Campus Community,

Thank you again for your continued patience and understanding as we all navigate the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation. We are facing unprecedented challenges, and I am so thankful to our Griffon family for their extraordinary efforts as we work together to keep our students and campus community safe. Please excuse the length of my message, but it includes important information related to classes, residence life, and commencement ceremonies.

Spring semester 2020 – No classes on campus but semester continues
Because of public health concerns and in the best interest of our students, we are unable to allow our entire student body to return to campus, essentially preventing the completion of the Spring 2020 semester in its usual format. From academic and student success standpoints, the overarching consideration needs to be how to support our students and make sure that they are not harmed by these uncontrollable circumstances.

So, what is next for spring semester?
We have approached spring semester with the best interests of our students in mind.  An unexpected disruption such as this provides unique challenges and opportunities. It also requires understanding, resilience and flexibility.

Fortunately, we have completed about two-thirds of our spring semester, giving us some flexibility. In an accelerated manner, we have thoroughly considered several options for the remainder of the semester. These discussions have included the deans, administrators, Faculty Senate Executive Committee, Department of Higher Education, our accreditors and others.

In discussing what might work best for our particular situation, we understand that Missouri Western is unique in terms of our mission and student body. As an open access institution, some of our students do not have adequate access to technology or Internet services. We have also been hearing about issues with localized Internet bandwidth concerns and smartphone connectivity. Because of this “digital divide” we are concerned about student success in a 100% online model.

In addition, many students have expressed serious reservations about their ability to learn in an online setting. Other students are very anxious about being able to focus in the current environment of flux that may involve the loss of employment, fluctuating employment hours, significant childcare issues, family or personal illness and even self-quarantine.

Moreover, because of our applied learning focus, it is very difficult to move all of our curriculum to an online model. Courses at issue include science labs; practicums; applied learning courses; internships; music courses (especially choir, band, orchestra, and other group activities); the arts (studio arts, art therapy, sculpture, pottery, art education and the like); theatre; cinema; dance; health and wellness courses and others. We also have courses that rely heavily on software and technology that can only be accessed here on campus.

For these reasons and others, we are not going to make an attempt to hastily move all courses to an online model. Instead we will shift every course to the alternative and flexible delivery modes detailed below.  

Please note that seniors will graduate as scheduled at the end of the semester. Considerations will be made for students preparing for licensure or accreditation requirements. To prepare non-graduating students for future courses, there will be an opportunity for a “bridge” into future semesters through supplemental instruction and a spring semester culminating experience (where applicable).

What does this mean?

  1. Regular (face-to-face and online) class meetings for the Spring 2020 semester will end effective immediately.
  2. This does not bring the semester to an end however. The semester is not cancelled. We are still here for our students. In fact, we are asking our faculty to engage in two methods of alternative course delivery.
    a) Academic opportunity: Faculty will provide students in each course with a “spring semester culminating experience.” This may include a final project, assignment, or series of assignments.  This experience provides students with the opportunity to both acquire additional knowledge and potentially raise a final grade. Please note that this option might not be fitting or available for all courses, so faculty will have the flexibility to opt out.  Also, we are encouraging faculty to work with students so they are not disadvantaged.
    b)  Information “bridge”: We feel it is vital to provide students with important information related to their course of study. As a result, we are asking faculty to prepare supplemental materials for each course (in their choice of form) that will enable students to acquire useful knowledge and also help them prepare for successive courses or opportunities in the workplace.  Additional details pertaining to delivery expectations will be provided to faculty in short order.
  3. The academic calendar will remain the same, and students will have the remainder of the semester to complete the spring semester culminating experience. All student work must be submitted by the last day of the semester on April 24 (Friday).
  4. By end of the day on March 23rd, faculty will be contacting students with details about the availability of a culminating experience and related expectations.

What is a “spring semester culminating experience”?

  1. Faculty have wide discretion in formulating a spring semester culminating experience that will allow students a chance to improve upon their midterm grade and/or obtain useful course materials. (We are asking faculty to be mindful of our students and their circumstances, and focus their attention on providing students with a quality learning experience delivered in an alternate format. We are also sensitive to the fact that our students’ access to technology and other materials outside of the university campus might be limited.)
  2. For traditional courses, a spring semester culminating experience could involve an exam, research paper, simulation, Powerpoint presentation, video presentation, webpage, scientific abstract, policy memo, analysis (of a case study, event, performance,or work of art), business plan, brochure, development of a product, executive summary, literature review, reflection, portfolio, work of art, or other assignment.
  3. For existing online courses, the faculty member has the option of using some or all of the materials remaining for the course either for the culminating experience or as supplemental materials.  Again, we will be very mindful of challenges with access.
  4. For a course involving a clinical experience or internship, the culminating experience can be completing the hours required for the clinical or internship especially as it relates to licensure issues.

What about grades and course credits?

Students and faculty will have multiple options with respect to Spring 2020 semester grades. A student may select one of the following options for their final grade in each class:

  1. Final grade is the combination of the midterm grade, plus the grade for the spring semester culminating experience (if such experience is offered by your professor).
  2. You can opt to receive the grade of “Credit” if your midterm grade is a passing grade.  This option would have no impact on your GPA.
  3. A grade of “Incomplete” — you would not receive a grade at the end of the spring semester, but would make alternative arrangements with the relevant professor to complete coursework.
  4. Withdraw from the course — no grade issued, no financial refund, and a “W” mark would appear on your transcript for the course. Please note the deadline to withdraw from a course is Friday, April 3rd.

Details will be circulated in the near future regarding how to select options.

What about Commencement? 

With so many things outside our control and requests at the city, state, and federal level to limit large gatherings, we will need to suspend our commencement ceremony on May 2nd and all gatherings related to commencement. This is very disappointing to all of us who had hoped to celebrate with our graduates and their families this spring. However, rest assured we will celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2020, as soon as it is safe to do so.

What about campus housing and the cafeteria?

We continue to encourage students to remain at their permanent residence and not move back into the residence halls. However, the residence halls and cafeteria will remain open for students who need to continue to live on campus due to extenuating circumstances. If students plan on continuing to live on campus through the end of the semester, they should register their request here.

What about room and board charges if a student is no longer living on campus?

Students who do not return to the residence halls will receive prorated credit on their Missouri Western account. This credit can be applied toward summer tuition, fall tuition or fall housing. Seniors who will be graduating in May 2020 will be issued a refund for the prorated amount. Residential students will receive details in a separate communication.

When can students retrieve belongings from the residence halls?

Residence hall students will be asked to collect their belongings by Wednesday, April 1, 2020.Please use our sign-up page to schedule your check-out time so we can practice social distancing.  If a student cannot return to campus by April 1, 2020, please let Residential Life know, and they will be happy to accommodate. Students should be receiving detailed instructions from the Residential Life staff shortly.

What are some student resources? 

In these uncertain times, please know that we are here for you. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly. Student Affairs staff and counseling services will continue to be made available. I will also be holding a virtual town hall for students this afternoon at 4 p.m. if you would like to watch and ask questions. Students can also rely on faculty and staff for support and understanding. It is vitally important to maintain good communication during this time. We will continue to provide assistance and resources to those who need them.

What are some faculty resources? 

For faculty, please do not hesitate to consult with your dean, your chair, or your faculty leadership.  Provost Davenport will also be reaching out with additional details later in the day.

Closing thoughts

I know this is a lot to process, and there will be some challenges as we work through this very different approach to finishing our semester. There is nothing we want more than to welcome our students back to campus and have everything back to normal. Unfortunately, that is not the situation we find ourselves facing. As we look ahead, I am confident we can rise to the occasion and emerge stronger as a Griffon family.

Thank you and …

Go Griffs!