Mar. 31, 2020 - Executive VP and Provost Cyril Clarke; Dean Karen P. DePauw; Essential operations status; Updates and Notices

March 31, 2020

A message to faculty from Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke: Online instruction and essential operations

Dear faculty:

Starting a little more than a week ago, Virginia Tech converted its entire curriculum to online delivery. Approximately 2,400 instructors are now teaching about 4,500 sections via Canvas, Zoom and other distance learning systems. Academic advising and student support programs are also now being delivered electronically, with over 2,700 online appointments scheduled through the Navigate platform last week. The number of students living on campus was reduced from over 10,000 to approximately 800, thus allowing single occupancy accommodation of the remaining students, and student dining services have been limited to pick-up and delivery.

These actions and many more are designed to mitigate the health risk posed by COVID-19 and would not have been possible without the extraordinary efforts of faculty and staff.  While not everything has gone smoothly – for example, some students do not have adequate access to the internet – you nevertheless have enabled Virginia Tech to continue to educate students in the face of adversity.

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A message from Dean Karen P. DePauw regarding graduate research

Graduate Student Research – Guidelines to Mitigate COVID-19 Risk
Graduate students play a critical role in advancing Virginia Tech’s research mission and the academic expectations of research-based PhD and MS programs involve successful completion of dissertation or thesis research projects.  Acknowledging that restrictions on research activity may make it difficult for graduate students to maintain their academic progress, Virginia Tech nevertheless is committed to the higher priority of health safety.  Therefore, consistent with Governor Northam’s stay at home order (Executive Order No. 55 – 2020), all research activities involving graduate students will be conducted in accordance with the Essential Operations level stipulated in Presidential Policy Memorandum No. 309.

Specific circumstances vary among graduate students, so a plan for assigned research duties should be developed through an interactive conversation between the student and faculty advisor.  In all cases, plans must be approved by the graduate program director who shall serve as an advocate for the student when necessary.  The following guidelines should be followed in drafting the plan.

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A message from Dean Karen P. DePauw regarding graduate student employment

Graduate Student Employment – Guidelines to Mitigate COVID-19 Risk
Delivery of Virginia Tech’s instructional mission depends on the active participation of graduate assistants, as does the achievement of its research and outreach missions.  Considering these important roles performed by graduate students and their potential vulnerability to financial hardship caused by COVID-19, departments and colleges must make every effort to continue stipend support for graduate assistants at current levels of compensation, at least until the end of the academic year.  The following guidelines are designed to achieve this goal.

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Virginia Tech moves to essential operations status

In response to Gov. Ralph Northam’s statewide “stay-at-home” directive issued Monday, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands has announced that by Friday, April 3, university operations will transition from the “reduced operations” level to the “essential operations” designation, as described in Presidential Policy Memorandum No. 309.

Essential functions and personnel designations will be identified in accordance with the scaling criteria detailed in the memo. This transition will further scale back on-campus operations in response to the COVID-19 emergency. For most students and employees, the transition to essential operations will require only minor adjustments from the current status of operations. Others will see more significant changes.

Sands declared this operational status to be university-wide, affecting all Virginia Tech locations across the commonwealth.

Under this directive, outlined under Presidential Policy Memorandum No. 309, the university will prioritize its resources toward functions and services that are essential to life safety (public safety, health services, and housing and dining for students remaining in university housing), online instruction and academic support services, animal care, essential research, and maintenance of buildings and critical infrastructure.

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Additional updates and notices

Check back with us periodically to learn about updates, notices, and statements. This page is updated throughout the day, as the information becomes available.

Perspectives on life without sports from Virginia Tech’s Bill Roth .
When it comes to sports, nothing in our lifetime compares to what has happened this month, according to Virginia Tech sports media and analytics professor Bill Roth. “From the NCAA Tournament and the Masters, to the start of baseball season and the Olympics, all sports are being cancelled. It’s the correct decision when it comes to public safety, but unprecedented in our time to be completely halted like this,” said Roth. “We don’t know yet how it might impact our pro and college sports leagues, but it could start a surge of e-sports or virtual sports leagues which are growing.” From an economic standpoint, Roth says he’s concerned some teams might not survive.


Update: University Libraries at Virginia Tech transitions to online-only operations.
From: University Libraries.
Editor's note: This notice has been updated to account for the transition to essential operations that was announced on March 31. Classes are online and so is the University Libraries. Visit the access library resources page for updated information about course materials, hours, and services to support faculty and students. Newman Library and library branch facilities are closed. All online services will remain in operation in a regular manner. This includes virtual reference chat via Ask a Librarian, which is available 9 a.m. - 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays. Librarians and consultants will continue to be available to the university community with no interruption via Zoom. Appointments are booked online at https://calendar.lib.vt.edu/appointments/newman. For appointments with your subject specialist liaison librarian, contact them individually.


Updated Student Affairs departments and facilities operations.
From: Student Affairs.
With the university going to essential operations, Student Affairs departments are updating plans for many services and facilities that are important to our students. We are working hard to continue to find ways to support our students that also abide by public health recommendations to keep both the students and our staff safe and healthy. [ Housing, Dining, Basic Needs and Food Insecurity, Newman Library, Squires Student Center ]. Students who meet the housing criteria must apply and receive approval to remain in Virginia Tech housing by completing an application in the StarRez Portal. The deadline to complete the form is Wednesday, April 1 at 5 p.m.  You will receive notification of this decision by Thursday, April 2 at 5 p.m.


Lessons Learned from Week One of Online Instruction.
From: Division of Information Technology.
In the first week of online instruction, Virginia Tech faculty and students shared more than 8 million minutes in Zoom, more than 1.5 million minutes of video, and most importantly, rose to the challenge of moving to online learning. Together with more than 150 Instructional Continuity Partners, Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS) is actively engaged in developing best practices for online learning; facilitating consultations and gathering feedback from faculty and students. The following list contains some of the lessons learned during the first week.


Free webinar series for faculty.
From: Virginia Tech Roanoke Center. Join the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center for this series of free webinars designed just for higher education faculty. Webinars will be led by Lesa Hanlin, EdD, Executive Director, Roanoke Regional Initiatives, Virginia Tech. Participants will receive a link to the Zoom webinar prior to the scheduled date. Due to the anticipated attendance volume, all participants will be muted upon joining the webinar. Questions during the presentation will be welcome via the chat function. Facilitation will take approximately 45 minutes. Open microphone Q&A will be taken at the end.



Live online group fitness classes now available.

From: Recreational Sports. Rec Sports is offering live group exercise classes to Hokies everywhere! Choose from HIIT, pilates, cardio dance, core and more!



Recreational Sports offers four-week Happiness Group.
From: Recreational Sports. Our daily lives have changed tremendously over the past few weeks. Classes are being taught online. The gyms are closed. Everything that gave us structure and predictability seems to be gone. Rec Sports is offering a four-week interactive happiness class that offers ways to cope with all of these changes. Participants will learn how to improve their well-being in a sustainable way, using tools that are backed by science. Each session will be taught via Zoom on Mondays from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Sessions will run April 6-27. The well-being exercises will be sent via email. Some exercises will be done during the session, while others are meant to be done in between the sessions. Spots are limited, enroll now !



Like everything else, primaries and conventions face uncertain future.
The severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the Democratic primaries and the presidential race out of the headlines and off the minds of most Americans. As of late March, 13 primaries have now been delayed. “The calendar was going to slow down in April, but not to this extent,” said Virginia Tech political primary expert Caitlin Jewitt.  “One of the biggest consequences of this movement is that it has transformed June 2 into a major day on the calendar. There are currently eleven contests scheduled for that day, worth about 15 percent of pledged delegates. It is also possible that we will see more states flock to that date in the coming weeks."