A Message from the Provost

Wednesday, Mar. 10, 2021

Stetson Community,

I continue to marvel at the amazing things that you are doing this spring semester! So many of you—educator and student, coach and mentor, supporter and facilitator—have been giving 110% in an environment that demands as much just to feel like we’re moving forward. For your perseverance and stamina through a really difficult period in this world’s history…well done.

The academic planning for a strong summer and fall in 2021 is coming into place. On some points, we would like more information in order to be fully comfortable with our decisions, but time does not allow for us to wait. We have to continue doing what we have done so well now for a year: remain student-focused, plan with the best information that we have available, and then be nimble enough to shift if necessary. The best information we have now gives us increasing confidence about our ability to safely return to in-person learning for students in the fall 2021 semester and to make that learning available as broadly as possible. That information includes

  • The emergency-use approval of a third, effective vaccine to combat COVID-19;
  • A boost in manufacturing for the J&J vaccine resulting in more doses to be distributed in the US;
  • Increasing confidence in the availability of vaccines for all adults by the end of May this year;
  • Published studies indicating that more Americans intend to get the vaccine than initially anticipated;
  • The dramatic increase in daily administered vaccinations (recently 2.5 million doses on one day alone); and
  • Expansion of the state and federal criteria for receiving a vaccination to include some educators and adults younger than 65.

With the strongly positive directional changes identified above, and recognizing the successes of Stetson’s mitigation efforts thus far, we feel confident in planning for a largely in-person educational experience for fall 2021. The following are some of the important decisions that are included in our planning.

Residential Life

Stetson residential halls, apartments, and catalyst houses will return to double occupancy in the fall. In a “normal” year, the DeLand campus is the residential home to 2,054 students, and we expect that number to be close to 2,000 in fall 2021.

Academic Calendar

The Academic Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate studied potential options for confirmation of or adjustments to the Fall 2021 academic calendar for graduate and undergraduate students in DeLand. Their research included a survey distributed broadly to students, staff, and faculty, the results of which were considered in their final determination. In line with the committee’s recommendation, the academic calendar for all DeLand programs will not be adjusted. The calendar continues to include fall break (2 days), a Thanksgiving holiday, and both classes and exams on campus into December. The current 2021-22 calendars posted on the Registrar’s webpage are accurate.

Course Scheduling

The Academic Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate also studied the benefits and disadvantages of the two class-time schedules that we have had in place over the past year: 1) a “normal” schedule with 10- or 15- minutes between classes, depending on the day of the week; or 2) an “expanded” schedule, with 30-minutes between classes and generally earlier or later class offerings. The committee considered the results of a broadly distributed survey completed and considering the input of the Safer Stetson Task Force as well as our facilities experts. In line with the committee’s recommendation, the class-time schedule for all DeLand graduate and undergraduate classes will not be adjusted. As such, we will implement a “normal” schedule for fall 2021; the class times that currently appear in course lookup are accurate.

Classroom Cleaning and Air Purification

In response to the pandemic, Stetson has added considerable air purification adjustments to all Stetson buildings. As an added precaution, but primarily for community confidence rather than for safety measures, we included extensive sanitation of classrooms throughout the day this spring semester. Science continues to inform us that the virus is transmitted largely through the air rather than on surfaces, giving us confidence in our decision to reduce the time between classes when expanded cleaning would have occurred. Classrooms will continue to have thorough cleaning daily, and cleaning materials will be provided in every classroom for additional self-use by students and faculty as they deem appropriate. All persons in the classroom will be required to wear a mask in the fall term.

Classroom Capacity

The primary barrier to accommodating more students in face-to-face instruction in fall 2021 is classroom capacity. With 6-foot social distancing in classrooms, the capacity of our rooms is greatly diminished, resulting in many rooms that can hold only a dozen students or fewer. To continue 6-foot distancing would result in increased use of hybrid teaching modalities (which is not preferred by most students and faculty) and more fully-online classes simply because we would not have enough rooms available. Therefore, with much consideration and given our growing confidence in COVID-19 mitigation efforts nationwide, we are setting fall 2021 classroom capacity at levels which represent having participants at 3-foot distancing. For most classrooms, the reduced distancing will restore full, or almost full, capacity as would have been the case pre-pandemic. Masks will still be required for all participants. 

Course Registration

The evolution of our planning demands that we make some adjustments to course modality, course capacity, and course availability for the fall semester. In order to have the most accurate list of classes available at the start of the registration period, the undergraduate registration date is being delayed by one week, to begin on Monday, April 5 (instead of Monday, March 29). The registration schedule for graduate classes is unchanged.

Available Modalities for Courses

While most classes in fall 2021 will be face-to-face instruction (classes, ensembles, labs, and lessons), we will continue to offer a limited number of experiences in hybrid and online formats. Increasingly, we are aware of the benefit of such modalities to student learning and student flexibility. I expect that these modalities will continue to be a part of the Stetson education moving forward, well beyond the pandemic. But, as is confirmed day after day in my discussions with many members of the Stetson community, our core educational experience is borne out through relationships, and those are formed most powerfully in person and on campus. 

Registration Considerations for Students who Intend to Request Approval for Remote Academic Participation

Importantly, everyone recognizes that COVID-19 will still be with us in the fall term and that there will be students and faculty who will request approval for remote learning based on medical documentation for their increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Students: we will work with you diligently to ensure that you make progress toward completing your degree in a timely fashion; however, approval for remote learning does not mean that all classes can be taken in an online format. If you expect that you will be approved for remote learning in the fall, you should register for courses that are listed as fully online. In situations where a face-to-face course is required for you to make appropriate progress in your degree, students will need to work carefully with faculty and department chairs to ensure an outcome that works well for both the student and faculty.

We make these plans fully aware that we may need to adapt. With that in mind, we have identified multiple points between now and the August start of classes where we will reassess our current world state, as well as Stetson’s internal ability to advance our return to a more-normal (though still not fully normal) fall learning experience. Also, in the same way that we have studied and adapted to our national context, we will continue to value nationwide vaccination percentages, statewide positivity rates, evolving CDC guidelines, vaccine availability, the presence of COVID-19 variants in the US, information about the effectiveness of the vaccine, and the counsel of our internal and external public health experts as our planning evolves.

Keep up the good work, everyone! We are in this together.

Sincerely,

Noel Painter, PhD

Executive Vice President, Provost and Professor of Music