Dec. 10 Message to Campus: Spring 2021 and Students in Distant Time Zones

To Our Faculty, Staff and Students:

I write today regarding implementing an interim measure for the Spring 2021 semester designed to address the academic challenges that living in distant time zones pose for our students. Since our transition to remote instruction last March, we have collectively realized the difficulties that students confront when taking synchronous, remote courses during hours typically reserved for their sleep. This challenge becomes particularly acute when students take exams, tests or quizzes between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. in their local time zones.

All semester, I have lauded and applauded the tireless efforts of our faculty in delivering our curriculum under stressful circumstances. I have equally praised our students for their incredible resilience in pursuing their studies during these most unusual times. I, and our student body, deeply appreciate the many adjustments made by our faculty to overcome obstacles associated with delivering remote instruction. But given that exams and assessments are fundamental elements of realizing our institution’s educational mission—and given the great encumbrance that being in a distant time zone can place on our students’ ability to demonstrate their knowledge—these factors demand special consideration. After extensive discussion within the Faculty Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education, the Academic Continuity group and other campus leaders, I am adopting their consensus recommendation regarding accommodations for the scheduling of all graded assessments for remote students:

During the Spring 2021 semester, faculty may not require students to take any graded assessments outside of the hours from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. in the time zones where they live. Instead, they should work with students to identify alternate approaches—in terms of timing and/or nature of the assessment—to accommodate remote students in such circumstances.  

At the same time, students in distant time zones who want to take synchronous remote courses should recognize that they are responsible for meeting faculty expectations for attendance and participation in class meetings at their scheduled times—unless they secure the instructor’s advance written approval of alternate arrangements for class meetings.

Undergraduates who cannot identify a sufficient number of spring semester courses offered at times when they can regularly participate should consult their advisor or the academic representative for their major about possible course substitutions that will allow necessary progress toward a degree. Graduate and professional students should consult their academic advisors, departments, or school deans for similar advice. 

Faculty teaching undergraduates who may have questions about this testing time accommodation should contact the Office of Undergraduate Studies (216.368.2928 or, their departments, or their schools’ deans. Faculty teaching graduate or professional students should contact their departments or school deans.

With best wishes to all,

Ben Vinson III
Provost and Executive Vice President