Key takeaways from the past two faculty meetings

Last Wednesday and today at two extraordinary faculty meetings held on Zoom, President Maud S. Mandel and Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom gave updates on next year’s academic calendar and faculty voted on changes to the class schedule and Pass/Fail policy, as the College figures out what next academic year will look like amidst the pandemic.

Here are the main takeaways from the meetings.

Faculty face choice between in-person and remote instruction if campus reopens

Faculty members have been asked to inform the College by yesterday, June 20, whether they would teach in person or remotely if the campus were to reopen in the fall. The academic subcommittee of the working group tasked with determining what an on-campus fall would look like sent an all-faculty email on June 10 to address curricular planning in the case that campus reopens in the fall. The College has not yet decided whether or not to open campus in the fall, with the decision deadline still set for July 1.

Students’ study abroad plans remain in flux amidst fall planning

While faculty and staff deliberate on various contingency plans for the upcoming semester, many students are also waiting on word from their study abroad programs. Rising juniors who planned to study away are uncertain whether fall semester and year-long programs will commence in person, proceed with an alternative learning environment or be cancelled outright.

College considers trimester or three-semester calendar for 2020-2021 academic year

In an all-faculty meeting on Wednesday, President Maud S. Mandel announced that she is strongly considering adopting either a trimester or a three-semester model for the 2020-2021 academic calendar. This adjustment to the academic calendar, Mandel said, has the potential to mitigate some of the difficulties posed to the College by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mandel emphasized in a later interview with the Record that no final determination on the academic calendar has been reached, but that both the trimester and the three-semester systems are under serious consideration.

Record survey results elucidate student views on potential fall plans

Last week, the Record sent out an anonymous survey to gauge student views on various possibilities the College is considering for the fall 2020 semester. The survey found broad dissatisfaction with online learning and a willingness to withdraw for the fall semester either if campus were not opened or if it were opened under flawed circumstances.

Division III courses adapt laboratory activities to online learning

Collecting specimens from local frog ponds in the Berkshires, manipulating glassware and working with hazardous chemicals are just some of the activities originally designed for Division III lab courses that faculty have had to alter drastically or remove entirely since the College switched to remote learning.