March 20 Message to Faculty: Tenure, Admissions, and Grading

To Our Faculty:

Thank you.

In a time of tremendous uncertainty, you responded with tremendous dedication to our students—and to one another.

Just over a week ago, we announced the transition to remote instruction after Spring Break. Right in the middle of a much-anticipated respite, we asked you to re-imagine your courses for entirely new modes of delivery—and do so within seven days.

With tremendous assistance from UTech staff and many of your own colleagues, you launched this new experiment Wednesday. Was everything perfect? Of course not. Would most of you and your students prefer to be together in an actual room? Absolutely.

But by that first day’s end, six hundred and thirty-six Zoom meetings had taken place. By Thursday, that number nearly tripled. We realize not all held classes, but given that Tuesday featured just 17 Zoom sessions, it’s clear that a sizable number did. We appreciate the tremendous efforts involved in making that first day possible, and hope that every subsequent class becomes easier for professors and students alike.

Even as you were managing your educational responsibilities, your Faculty Senate leaders adapted Wednesday’s agenda to accommodate three major issues. Each related to challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic created, and each received tremendous support:

Tenure Extensions: Junior faculty represent another group with significant concerns. Each must demonstrate significant academic potential in the years before their tenure review, but their current timelines make no allowance for a global crisis like this one.

On Wednesday, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee supported a proposal to allow the provost to grant a one-year extension in the event of extraordinary circumstances affecting the university; the group felt such urgency that the measure went to the full senate for electronic vote that afternoon. It quickly won an overwhelming number of votes, which allowed for presentation to the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustee leaders yesterday. They too backed the measure.

We will provide more details shortly, but it will not apply to faculty in a mandatory tenure review this year, nor will it apply to faculty with terminal appointments for this year and next. Nevertheless, in a time of so much worry, we are glad to be able to share this small bit of relief to our tenure-track professors.

Test-Optional Admissions: As you may have read in yesterday’s Daily (or Wednesday night on, Case Western Reserve will make submission of SAT or ACT scores optional for the class entering in the fall of 2021. The decision came after Monday’s cancellation of testing administrations through May, a move that caused considerable stress among students, parents and high school counselors.

Our university became likely the first to announce such a change, thanks first to Vice President for Enrollment Management Rick Bischoff’s quick request of us—and then to the rapid approval by the Faculty Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education (FSCUE) and Faculty Executive Committee. The executive committee felt so strongly that the motion empowered Bischoff to act immediately, rather than wait for full senate action.

Pass/No Pass Option: The shift to remote learning, plus the need to move (or stay) home gave many students pause about their ability to do as well academically as they had hoped this semester. Both FSCUE and the faculty executive committee supported measures to allow students to choose the P/NP option for any course (rather than just one)—or stick with letter grades if they prefer. The full Senate will act Monday; in light of the backing already, we are hopeful.

Any one of these actions would show our university as a place of great compassion and empathy. To accomplish all three—and in a matter of days—demonstrate admirable alacrity, and true generosity of spirit.

Thank you.

Barbara R. Snyder

Ben Vinson III
Provost and Executive Vice President