Daily digest archives

Previous COVID-19 daily updates, sent by the Office of the Provost, can be found below:

Best Practices for Teaching Remotely with Zoom
A new guide on best practices for teaching with Zoom and other video conferencing tools has been developed to help faculty more easily avoid potential FERPA violations, particularly as it pertains to recordings.

Support for International Students
International students and their faculty and advisors with questions can find resources at the Global Education Office's COVID-19 page, which includes links to immigration services as well as contact information for support on other issues related to remaining in Richmond, travel and health. They can also reach out directly to the director of international student and scholar programs, Amber Bennett Hill, at abennett@vcu.edu.

Fall 2020 or full-year study abroad
Students who are considering Fall 2020 or Full-Year Study Abroad are encouraged to continue their applications at this time. As updates are made about fall travel abroad, VCU will notify all students and refund any VCU registration fees that have been paid if programs are cancelled due to COVID-19. Students are advised not to make any financial commitments (purchase flights, housing deposits, etc) and to register for fall coursework at VCU until there is more clarity about fall travel. For more information, visit the Global Education Office's COVID-19 page.

Student reimbursements for spring 2020

  • Tuition and Mandatory Fees: Mandatory fees (University, Library, Technology, Campus Learning Center, Activity, Health, etc.) ensure VCU can provide instructional and support services to students as they pursue their education. Although VCU has moved to remote instruction for the Spring 2020 semester, we continue to provide essential services that promote, facilitate and support student learning in a remote environment. Thus, no reimbursement for tuition and/or mandatory fees will be granted for the Spring 2020 semester. If you are interested in learning more about the services provided by specific offices, please visit their website or contact them directly. The staff and faculty continue to work tirelessly to provide you a quality education and student experience to ensure that you can finish Spring 2020 strong.
  • Student parking permits: VCU will be issuing refunds/credits for student parking permits. Information regarding parking permit refunds/credits will be communicated to students by April 9.

Honors College conversion to potential patient site
VCU and the VCU Health System are working with state and local officials to prepare in the event of a surge in patients caused by COVID-19. One of the sites identified for potential non-COVID-19, low acuity patients is the Honors College residential housing, which originally was built as a hospital. As minor modifications have begun to ready the building, the belongings of students in Honors College housing are being inventoried, boxed, labeled and relocated to storage at no cost to the student. The university posted a statement to the COVID-19 webpage and additional details were posted on the Residential Life and Housing page.

Announcement of pass/fail grading option
Today the university announced a new, temporary pass/fail grading option for undergraduate and graduate students. The VCU Faculty Senate passed a resolution in favor of the new grading option. Details are available on the Spring 2020 Pass/Fail Option webpage. In addition, emails announcing the new option have been sent to undergraduate students and to graduate students.

Supporting students in managing stress
VCU University Counseling Services in the Division of Student Affairs today sent a letter to all VCU faculty with information and tips on supporting students who are expressing stress with both their new learning format and the international COVID-19 crisis. As a reminder, a new form has also been created for faculty to refer a student for support. That form is posted for easy access on the Keep on Learning website.

Opportunities to give private funds to support students with financial needs
Two funds have been created to support students and patients affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The VCU COVID-19 Response Fund, administered by the Office of the Senior Vice President for VCU Health Sciences and CEO of VCU Health System, supports research and clinical care related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The VCU Student Life and Learning Fund, administered by the Office of the Provost, provides unrestricted dollars dedicated to enriching the life and learning experiences of VCU students or student groups. This is a newly-created fund that will serve students during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Keep on Teaching and Keep on Learning websites are updated daily
Please be sure to check the Keep on Teaching and Keep on Learning websites frequently. Information on university wide teaching and learning resources for faculty and students is included on these sites.If you have a suggested resource that you would like to submit for consideration on either of these websites, please email Dr. Kim Case, director of faculty success in the Office of the Provost at casek3@vcu.edu.

Online course for VCU faculty, staff and students: Digital Media Strategies for the COVID-19 Crisis
The Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences in partnership with the Office of Continuing and Professional Education (OCPE) has launched a new self-paced online course designed to help students and professionals develop digital content for nonprofit messaging and campaigns around the COVID-19 crisis. Digital Media Strategies for the COVID-19 Crisis is open to VCU students and VCU and VCU Health employees for academic credit (eligible employees may use their tuition benefit/education assistance when registering for credit). It is also offered in a noncredit format for the general community.

VCU Mail Services suspends delivery
VCU Mail Services has suspended delivery to departments effective Tuesday, March 24. The VMI Building and the Valentine House are open 8am-2pm. Mail Services will hold department mail until further notice. For arrangements to pick up critical essential mail, contact Donnette Haynes at haynesds@vcu.edu or 804-828-1343.

Research continuity guidance
The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation posts FAQs and announcements related to COVID-19 as they become available. The most resent message from Dr. Srirama Rao was sent on March 23: Human Subject Research - Important Additional Guidelines and Updates.

FERPA and Virtual Learning
The U.S. Department of Education has developed a FERPA and Virtual Learning Related Resources flyer. As noted on Keep on Teaching , VCU faculty should rely on university supported tools and understand that grades and other forms of feedback should be transmitted within a dual authenticated system (like the BlackBoard LMS) to ensure FERPA compliance. You can explore FERPA policy and what is protected student information here.

Pass/fail grading policy in review
The ICT subcommittee on Academic Continuity, the VCU Faculty Senate and the Office of the Provost are currently reviewing a draft, temporary pass/fail grading policy for undergraduate and graduate students to address the challenges of moving to a remote academic experience. The purpose of this policy is to create more options for students to successfully complete the spring 2020 semester with minimal barriers. The full Faculty Senate will discuss the policy at a special meeting tomorrow. We anticipate an announcement to faculty, advisors and students regarding pass/fail later this week.

Please donate PPE to VCU Medical Center
Our VCU Medical Center is in need of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect medical staff as they treat patients. If your college/school/department has any masks, gloves and gowns please contact Lindsay Turpin, Director, Supply Chain Strategic Sourcing & Data Management at the VCU Health System (via email at Lindsay.turpin@vcuhealth.org, or by phone at 513-907-2337). She will need to know the type and quantity that you have available of each. We anticipate these items will be in labs and studios in a variety of disciplines. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Forms for students needing additional support
The following forms have been added to the Keep on Learning website:

VCU Recreation Sports online resources
VCU Recreational Sports has developed a menu of virtual programs to help our community stay fit, well and connected. These programs are free and available to anyone. Visit Recreational Sports’ Virtual Programming.

Recent messages sent to the VCU community

Summer 2020 Study Abroad Programs Canceled
VCU has canceled all upcoming study abroad programs for summer 2020, regardless of destination, due to the risks associated with traveling abroad during the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19. The health and safety of our students and faculty is our number one priority. VCU has evaluated the risks associated with choosing to maintain its programs abroad and determined that it is in the best interest of all involved to cancel all upcoming programs in summer 2020. This proactive measure provides both faculty and students with sufficient time to identify alternative summer plans. The decision also reflects a response to recent recommendations from the CDC to institutions of higher education in the U.S. to consider canceling outbound education abroad programs due to the expectation that the outbreak will continue to grow and that students "may face unpredictable circumstances, travel restrictions, challenges in returning home or accessing health care while abroad." This decision was also made in light of the U.S. State Department's recent raising of the global health advisory level to a 4 (Do Not Travel). The Education Abroad office informed students of this decision today and is providing full refunds of deposits and application fees. Please be assured that we remain committed to providing global education experiences to our students and will work even more diligently to continue to grow our programs into the future. Please email abroad@vcu.edu if you have any questions at this time.

VCU Parking and Transportation Announcements
VCU Parking and Transportation will issue prorated refunds for all standard student commuter and 24/7 commuter permit holders for the remaining months in the spring 2020 semester. Commuter permit holders will be refunded for April and May 2020, and 24/7 permit holders will be refunded for April, May and June 2020. Refunds do not apply to evening permits. For details, visit: https://orange.hosting.lsoft.com/list/ov8ia944/200320Y/bjakmi6zkfqq.vib?test. In addition, parking has issued a statement to employees about parking: https://orange.hosting.lsoft.com/list/ov8ia944/200320AE/cijrk90zt01m.vib?a0=1426

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March 19, 2020

On-campus student housing update
In his message to the university community on March 18, President Rao announced that on-campus student housing will now be restricted to international students who can no longer travel home and cannot make alternative arrangements, and students who would be otherwise homeless if they are unable to remain in on-campus housing. Immediately following that announcement, VCU Residential LIfe and Housing sent a message to the 1,000 students who had previously been approved to stay on campus. The remaining 5,000 VCU housing residents received an email today with additional details. The Residential Life and Housing webpage has been updated with this information and a FAQ.

Information on emergency funds for students; strategic enrollment management operations
The Division of Strategic Enrollment Management now has a web page with new information regarding division operations and the availability of emergency funding for students.

Laptops for student and instructional faculty use
VCU is providing a limited number of laptops to assist with online learning and instruction that will be available on loan for students and instructional faculty. These laptops will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. The laptops that are being distributed are subject to VCU computing use policies. Please make an appointment to pick one up on Friday, March 20th in the IT Support Center located in the lower level of Cabell Library. Additional information on access to these loaner laptops after Friday will be forthcoming.

Clarification on COVID-19 telework form
In an email to faculty and staff on Tues., March 17, non-designated employees were instructed to complete the COVID-19 Incident Response Temporary Telework form. This telework form is ONLY for use by university administrative professionals (UAP) and classified staff. Faculty should complete the My Plan to Keep on Teaching form.

Reminder: unit messaging regarding COVID-19
Any communications and actions related to COVID-19 testing, affected employees or students, or response to potential exposures should be directed to Meredith Weiss, head of the COVID-19 Incident Coordinating Team, for vetting and further action. No unit should manage this on its own.

Kudos for The Keep on Learning website
We extend both our congratulations and appreciation for the ALT Lab and Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (CTLE) teams and other campus partners for their excellent work in quickly organizing the Keep on Learning website for our students. Information from units throughout the university has been collected and posted to this site, which today was recognized by The Chronicle for Higher Education.

March 18, 2020

Announcement of major university decisions
President Rao's message to the university community this evening contains significant information related to continuing remote classes through the end of the semester; limited housing; refunds for housing and dining; and the cancellation of May commencement.

Important reminder about messaging regarding COVID-19
Any communications and actions related to COVID-19 testing, affected employees or students, or response to potential exposures should be directed to Meredith Weiss, head of the COVID-19 Incident CoordinationTeam, for vetting and further action. No unit should manage this on its own.

VCU Libraries physical spaces closed; digitizing available
Starting March 21, all VCU Libraries physical spaces are closed until further notice. VCU Libraries has created a comprehensive guide to services and resources to support instruction and research during the COVID-19 emergency. The guide includes information how VCU Libraries can digitize physical course materials that students need for their remote work, with priority to high-use physical items on course reserves. See the library guide on COVID-19 for details and updates.

New student resources for online learning
A new web page was launched today with Tips for Success When Learning Online. That page was added to the Keep on Learning website.

Faculty access to remote teaching support
Faculty may still complete this form to alert the ALT Lab team of their plans for remote teaching and the level of their support needs. A description of the form and its intended use has been developed to answer faculty concerns. The Keep on Teaching web page is being updated with new information and resources regularly.

March 17, 2020

Mandatory telework
In an email to faculty and staff, it was announced that, effective Monday, March 23, the university will operate under a mandatory telework environment for all non-designated employees, with only designated employees reporting to campus until further notice. Further guidance is forthcoming to those who work in the VCU Health System or support the health system. Please read the message in its entirety as there are a number of items that are requested of all employees.

Academic support for returned study abroad students
The Global Education Office has a group (Jill Blondin, Sarah Carrier, Andrew Arroyo, and Kelly Coldiron) working on academic support for returned study abroad students. If you have questions or have students who need support, please reach out to Sarah Carrier (syoung8@vcu.edu).

Reimbursements and commencement decisions
The university will announce decisions by April 9 regarding reimbursements for housing, dining and similar fees, as well as the status of the May 9th university wide commencement.

Student workers and federal work study participants
A message was sent to VCU student workers and federal work-study participants on the Monroe Park and Health Sciences campuses earlier today with important information. All federal work-study and student worker assignments requiring a physical presence on campus terminate effective today, March 17, 2020. If students are authorized to return to campus when VCU resumes normal operations, these assignments will resume. Additional information regarding their compensation is at the HR COVID-19 webpage under the FAQs.

Student laptops available for check-out
As noted on the Keep on Learning website, students may check-out a laptop from the IT Support Center in the lower level of the James Branch Cabell Library. Technology Services has been steadily adding laptops to meet student needs.

Community partner communication
With very few exceptions, in-person experiential learning activities should be suspended or replaced with remote alternatives for the foreseeable future. Faculty and students engaged with practicums, internships, field placements and clinical placements should work directly with their deans for specific plans of action. To ensure timely and consistent communication with our partnering organizations, you may use this downloadable message template to directly inform community partners about changes in student placements with their organizations and about experiential learning activities more generally.

New remote teaching resources for faculty
In addition to the Keep on Teaching website, a Facebook page has been created for faculty to connect and share tips. This page is for VCU faculty only. To join, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/VCUfacultypeersupport/

Remote learning resources for students
The Keep on Learning website for students has been updated with information on access to technology and internet connectivity opportunities. Additional information on being successful in this learning environment will be posted later this week.  The Keep on Being Well at VCU website provides information for students on dealing with this stressful time.

Residential student access to belongings
Updated information was provided today to our residential students regarding how and when they can retrieve their belongings from VCU housing.

Reminders

Faculty who teach classes on the Monroe Park Campus must complete this brief form, My Plan to Keep on Teaching, by 5 p.m., March 17. Information collected through this form will help us ensure that we are staffed appropriately to support the shift to remote teaching.

Staying informed

  • VCU COVID-19 website: This is the central source for university-wide information.
  • VCU Health COVID-19 site: This is the central source for information about COVID-19 (coronavirus).
  • VCU email: It is imperative faculty, staff and students monitor their VCU email account regularly for updates.
  • Social media: universitywide announcements will be posted to VCU’s official social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram Stories.

Finally, if you don’t find the answers you need, please email COVID-19@vcu.edu.