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Welcome back!

Published on Thu 08/19/21
Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the fall 2021 term! I hope you have all remained healthy and safe over the summer. Thank you for your continued commitment to teaching excellence and student success. As we concluded another series of commencement ceremonies these past weeks, it is clear that your dedication and resilience have contributed to the success of our students.
In an effort to help you better prepare for the start of the semester, please find information below (with links) that provide more detailed information about academic considerations or guidelines for the beginning of classes. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions: Patrick Louchouarn, loup@tamu.edu.

PLEASE NOTE that general communications regarding COVID policies, and how these will impact fall semester teaching, will be regularly updated on the following website: www.tamu.edu/coronavirus/index.html. Any information specific to COVID response and management in classrooms will be shared in additional email communications.
 


Classes begin on Monday, August 30, 2021, for most, although some units have alternative dates. The last class day will be December 8, 2021. Final exams are scheduled for the period of December 10, 13, 14, and 15, 2021. 

Learning Management System Notice 
Texas A&M University has completed the implementation of Canvas, the new Learning Management System (LMS) for the university. In order to reduce any confusion at the start of the fall semester, eCampus will be inaccessible after August 26 at 11:59 p.m. 
  • The Office for Academic Innovation (OAI) created storage shells available in Canvas to export content from eCampus for storage in Canvas.
  • Canvas-led training sessions are offered on August 20 and 24 with registration. The Office for Academic Innovation Canvas on-the-hour trainings on various topics are available in August.
  • Virtual office hours with the Office for Academic Innovation are available throughout August.
  • The Office for Academic Innovation will provide staffing on the following: Sundays August 22 and 29 and September 5. Extended hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. will be offered August 30 -September 8.
  • For more information about operations in the Office for Academic Innovation for the month of August, please click here.

Course Syllabi
  • Course syllabi must be provided to students no later than the first day of your class. These can be hard copies, electronic copies, or both. To comply with state law requiring online posting, please upload your syllabi on the Howdy portal.
  • The Faculty Senate-approved minimum syllabus requirements can be found here along with an optional MS Word template to help build your own syllabus. Recall that student learning outcomes are required on most undergraduate syllabi. A syllabus template that includes the required ADA statement and Aggie Honor Code is available for your optional use. Other helpful information is posted here: academic calendars, exam schedules, and religious observance.
  • The Faculty Senate Executive Committee unanimously adopted the following proposed syllabus statement regarding vaccines and face coverings. Feel free to use it in your syllabi: 
    • “To help protect Aggieland and stop the spread of COVID-19, Texas A&M University urges students to be vaccinated and to wear masks in classrooms and all other academic facilities on campus, including labs. Doing so exemplifies the Aggie Core Values of respect, leadership, integrity, and selfless service by putting community concerns above individual preferences. COVID-19 vaccines and masking — regardless of vaccination status — have been shown to be safe and effective at reducing spread to others, infection, hospitalization, and death.” 

Online Office Hours
These past 18 months have shown that online office hours are convenient to students, increase student access to instructors, and consequently promote both participation and inclusion.
During fall 2021, faculty members will have the option of holding office hours online, face-to-face, or both. Regardless of the method, instructors should schedule an adequate amount of time for office hours so that students can get assistance. Office hours and method should both be indicated on the syllabus at the start of the semester. Directions for scheduling office hours through Zoom are available here.

Statement on Mental Health and Wellness
The Faculty Senate has approved the following information on student mental health resources, which should be included in your syllabus this semester:
  • Texas A&M University recognizes that mental health and wellness are critical factors that influence a student’s academic success and overall wellbeing. Students are encouraged to engage in proper self-care by utilizing the resources and services available from Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS). Students who need someone to talk to can call the Texas A&M Helpline (979-845-2700) from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. weekdays and 24 hours on weekends. Emergency help is also available 24 hours through the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255) or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Attendance Policy
As we return to pre-COVID modalities for instruction, students experiencing personal injury or illness that is too severe for the student to attend class (including students isolating or quarantining due to COVID-19 protocols) qualify for an excused absence (See Student Rule 7, Section 7.2.2.) To receive an excused absence, students must comply with the documentation and notification guidelines outlined in Student Rule 7. 

Reading Days
Please note that on Reading Days (November 24 and December 9 on the main University Academic Calendar), no classes, exams, or other university-related graded activity may be scheduled. Instructors may hold office hours (virtual or face-to-face) and review sessions. Dates and policies may vary for the professional programs.

Student Observances for Religious Holy Days
In accordance with Texas Education Code §51.911(b) and TAMU Student Rule 7: Attendance: Students shall be excused from attending classes or other required activities, including examinations, for the observance of a religious holy day, including travel for that purpose. For more information about excused absences due to religious holy days, visit student-rules.tamu.edu/append4/

Graduate Students
Many of you work with graduate students in a research capacity, as teaching or non-teaching assistants, or both. Please be aware that the Graduate and Professional School will be releasing a communication regarding COVID and our research, and teaching policies, which will be posted on their website. If the graduate students you work with have questions related to how these policies apply to them, please direct them to the Graduate and Professional School website: grad.tamu.edu.

Other Resources
Additional resources are available to assist with teaching effectiveness, compliance, and explanations for rules that govern faculty and student rights and responsibilities. Many of these are linked from the Howdy portal under the "faculty/teaching" tab:
Textbooks & Course Materials
The cost of textbooks and other course materials continues to be a concern for students, families, and legislators. The state requires us to post information about course materials, including textbooks, for each course at the time of registration. 
  • For faculty on campus in College Station, Barnes & Noble at the MSC serves as the designated “collector” of the listing of “required and recommended” course materials. Please notify your department's bookstore liaison with the required and recommended course materials for your assigned section(s). Barnes & Noble at Texas A&M posts the complete listing by course on their website, links the listing by course to the registration system in Howdy, and provides the information to other bookstore vendors.
  • The list of materials does not obligate students to purchase from the campus bookstore; students are free to shop for the best value using the information provided them for each course. Departments electing to purchase course materials on the students’ behalf, such as online homework subscriptions or special textbooks, must use Barnes & Noble at Texas A&M to facilitate the purchase, as outlined in the University’s contract with Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble at Texas A&M staff are available to assist faculty with course material adoption, whether intended for student purchase or departmental purchase. Additional information, including state and federal regulations for universities, campus bookstores, and publishers of course materials, can be found on the provost's website under “Resources” at aa.tamu.edu/Resources#textbook-and-course
  • The current COVID-19 situation is impacting almost every aspect of the supply chain. It is critical that you communicate as soon as you can what course materials you would like to use for fall 2021. This will ensure that students will have ample time to obtain all necessary materials for your course.
  • You can log in to the Adoptions & Insights portal in Howdy, and list any course material needs you have for your class, including supplies. You can log in to their website at tamubookstore.com to verify your materials. Please email textbooth@tamu.edu with any necessary changes ASAP.
  • For faculty at educational sites outside of College Station, please confer with your department head for how “required and recommended” course materials are communicated to students.
  • Course Material on Reserve at University Libraries: The Libraries will attempt to license ebooks, as well as digitize print material where possible, to meet instructor needs.
    • For textbook and course reading requests, as well as additional seats for an eBook already in the collection, request here: tamu.libwizard.com/f/coursereading.
    • For streaming audio and video requests, request here
  • Instructors accustomed to making requests through the Course Reserves page can also continue to do so for eReserves and eBook requests.

Faculty should refrain from promoting any one vendor of course materials to their students through the syllabi or other communication; instead, generally encourage students to seek the noted “required and recommended” course material at vendors that provide the best value and amenities for their selection.


For additional information on faculty processes and affairs, please consult the faculty handbook
As always, thank you for your hard work in providing the best education possible and a stimulating and intellectually challenging learning environment for all of our students, particularly under the trying circumstances we face.

Sincerely,

Patrick Louchouarn
Interim Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Interdisciplinary Initiatives