Academic Update for Students

This message was sent on March 22.

Dear Undergraduate Students,

Tomorrow we will resume our Spring semester with remote teaching. This is going to be a new experience for many of us, but I know your professors are looking forward to “seeing” you and getting back to where we left off at the start of Spring Break two weeks ago.

Remote learning is a term you are hearing a lot right now, and I know you have many questions. You may be worried about how this change in instruction will affect you academically, from grading and advising to exams and Commencement. I want you to know that the University and the Office of the Dean of the College have been meeting about each of these concerns around the clock, making our decisions based on the public health guidelines recommended to us. We want you to have the resources and connections to finish this semester strong while also staying safe and well.

With this in mind, I wanted to send you the latest information regarding the changes in academic structures that will shape the remainder of this spring term and help support your transition to remote learning.

Last week, my office — in consultation with the Provost and the Deans from the other schools, the Committee on Academic Affairs, the Office of the University Registrar, and the College’s Department Chairs and Program Directors — reviewed academic expectations given the unique circumstances surrounding Spring 2020. The most important decision is to allow undergraduate students to have the opportunity to elect Pass/Fail for their courses through April 17. (Students receiving financial aid should inquire with the Office of Financial Aid about the impact of taking Pass/Fail courses. The extension of the Pass/Fail option will not apply to some programs, majors, courses, or student populations which have special accreditation, statutory, or contractual requirements, including ROTC students, students who are veterans, and students intending to major in engineering, etc. Note that for students enrolled in business courses, the School of Business will send a separate announcement regarding Pass/Fail mode for those courses.)

About the New Spring 2020 Only Pass/Fail Option
At the outset, we stress the singular nature of this event. It is a one-time exception linked directly to this specific emergency event (COVID-19) in this particular semester, Spring 2020.

Students will be able to elect Pass/Fail mode for each class by filling out a form for each class. Students must use this form to make a mode selection. No mode change to Pass/Fail will be processed using any other method of selection.

Students must make their mode choice (letter grade or Pass/Fail model) by the set deadline: 5 p.m. on April 17, 2020. Retroactive applications or petitions for future courses (that are based on this COVID-19 emergency) will not be granted. Students will not be allowed to reverse their decision after the deadline. The Office of the University Registrar will be in contact with students and faculty to provide instructions on how to make the selection of Pass/Fail when the student is in a course for a standard grade.

Courses taken in Pass/Fail mode in Spring 2020 may not be repeated for a letter grade, unless the course is a required major or minor course, taken Pass/Fail in Spring 2020, and failed. FYS courses taken Pass/Fail in Spring 2020 and failed may be repeated under a different FYS topic.

Spring Advising and Registration for Fall 2020
The advising period and major/minor registration will occur from March 16 to April 3 this year. Lower-division and major/minor advisers will communicate with students digitally (whether via email, phone, Webex, or Google Hangouts) to discuss upcoming courses and review current academic progress. Students and advisers should review Degreeworks and discuss course selection prior to the distribution of a PIN for registration. View the Undergraduate Bulletin and our major exploration page to accommodate student absence from campus. Faculty and students can find additional advising resources at advising.wfu.edu.

Summer Registration has been postponed until April 6. Visit: registrar.wfu.edu for more details.

Fall 2020 Registration Rounds have been rescheduled to take place April 6-12 (Round One) and April 13-19 (Round Two).

Please be reminded that WFU academic and conduct regulations apply to remotely delivered courses just as they do to standard courses.

Resources to Support Student Learning
We know that technology may be a hindrance for some of our students. For any student who lacks broadband access or is without a laptop due to repairs or for other reasons, reach out immediately to the IS Service Desk at help.wfu.edu or 336-758-4357 to request a hotspot or loaner laptop.

I encourage you to check out keeplearning.wfu.edu, a terrific website with tips and resources to help you learn remotely. Additionally, many of our academic centers — the Math & Stats Center, the Chemistry Center, the Writing Center, the Computer Science Center, and the Learning Assistance Center & Disability Services — are transitioning to support you through remote tutoring sessions for the duration of the semester. The LAC-DS will also work with students anxious about learning to manage their time in this transition; please reach out via email.

Academic accommodations approved by the Learning Assistance Center & Disability Services continue to apply in our remote delivery environment. If you have accommodations, please verify with your professors how the logistics of accommodations may change via remote learning. LAC-DS staff remain available to consult with students and to address their individual accommodation needs.

With all of these changes, you may be experiencing a higher level of anxiety, and your mental health is important to us. The University Counseling Center will continue to support you; they have simply shifted how they deliver those services, now through phone consultations and video conferencing. As always, the UCC’s phone line will continue to act as a Crisis Line after normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. EDT and 24/7 on weekends) and can be accessed by students located anywhere in the world. Contact the UCC here.

The Big Picture
Some of you who live locally may have seen Wake Forest Baptist Health infectious disease specialist, Dr. Christopher Ohl, on WXII, answering questions about the disease. He calmly shared what is known about COVID-19 right now, stating that about 85 percent of the cases will have mild to moderate symptoms; that it is spread person-to-person or by contacting the virus on hard surfaces, but social distancing, consistent handwashing, and regular cleaning of surfaces can limit the spread; and that we will see more cases in the next week because more people are being tested. He compared the disease spread to the levels of a hurricane. Right now, we are experiencing a Category 1 or 2 — and that is why we are practicing social distancing, so we can prevent a Category 4 or 5. “We want to protect our grandparents; we want to protect those around us who have underlying diseases,” Dr. Ohl said. “Just another reason to be a good citizen, patriotic and live through the social distancing for a while.” Wise words. With social distancing (which includes not gathering for parties, for studying, etc.), we can make a difference.

If you haven’t seen Senior Natalie Alms’ guest column in the Salisbury Post, I recommend you take a moment to read the terrific perspective she provides about this time. It is a beautiful testament to what many of you are feeling right now and what our University is calling all of us to do: to be the embodiment of Pro Humanitate.

For the class of 2020 and their families, we know you have been looking forward to Commencement. We would like nothing better than to celebrate your achievements with you and your families on Hearn Plaza. But despite our aspirations, we may be constrained by governmental directives and the guidance of public health officials. We will continue to assess the quickly evolving situation to determine if we can hold a ceremony on campus as scheduled and will share our decision no later than March 30.

In this time ahead, I ask that you give grace to yourself. Give grace to your instructors. Give grace to your family and friends. Continue to read, to ask questions, to practice music, to paint, to observe the science happening around you. Take up a new hobby, be physically active, and get lots of sleep. Write down how you are feeling in a journal or poem or long story. Video conference or FaceTime with your professors, friends, and family. Show your Wake Forest spirit at home or online. And above all, I hope you stay safe and healthy. If you have questions or concerns, you can reach me at deanofthecollege@nullwfu.edu.

With warmest wishes for your well-being and academic success,

Michele Gillespie
Dean of the College