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COVID-19 Resources

Setting realistic expectations of our students, our colleagues and ourselves


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March 24, 2020 

Dear UD faculty colleagues,

As we work through these early days of remote teaching and wrestle with many sudden changes throughout every dimension of our lives, the stresses on all of us have increased precipitously.  Our students, our colleagues, our families and friends and neighborhoods are anxious, unsettled, distracted, and tired.  Some are frightened; some are coping with illness or material insecurity; all of us feel isolated and worried.  We are enveloped by uncertainty, yet many of us are working as hard as we can to recover some degree of balance and stability.  

As we grapple with the waves of difficulty occasioned by the pandemic, I urge us all to set realistic expectations -- for our students, for our faculty and staff colleagues, and for ourselves.  Under current circumstances, there is much that we will do that may fall far short of our best.  As we need to be forgiving of ourselves for that, we also need to be forgiving of our students and our colleagues.  For the past two weeks, I have seen remarkable good will and solidarity demonstrated throughout the University community.  I encourage all of us to make every effort to sustain that collective good will through empathetic attention and generosity of spirit.  This requires energy, time, and patience, and there will be days when those are in short supply.  Nevertheless, I trust that all of us will take particular care in the weeks ahead to strive to set realistic expectations for all those with whom we work.  

Setting realistic expectations means, in part, that we must be attentive to the wide array of circumstantial difficulties that each of us now faces and that we should seek to be accommodating and adaptive as our students and colleagues grapple with those difficulties.  Being realistic about what we can accomplish in the current environment may often mean that we should strive to simplify our work, focusing on essentials and dispensing for the moment with things that it would be good to do but for which we currently lack the time or resources to achieve.  Where we have the ability to continue to pursue the excellence and creativity that inspire our pedagogical and scholarly vocations, by all means we should do so.  But where our normal responsibilities overburden us, we should acknowledge that and work to keep things simpler and more manageable.  

This week we will be announcing some changes in academic policies and practices in order to help students and faculty work through the remainder of Spring Term more productively.  For example,

  • We will offer to all pre-tenure, tenure-track faculty the option to extend their tenure clocks for an additional year, if they wish, without penalty and without revising tenure and promotion criteria.
  • We will supply additional guidance about ways in which student evaluations of teaching this semester should be used for purposes of faculty performance reviews and tenure or promotion evaluations. 
  • We are extending to undergraduate students waivers of some features of our standard policies for Option 2 (Satisfactory/No Credit) grading, so that, in consultation with their advisors or deans' offices, students can opt to change one or more of their current courses to Option 2 grading. 
  • We also will grant students more time this semester to request withdrawal from a Spring Term course with a record of "W."
  • We will work with deans, department chairs, and graduate program directors to assist graduate students who have had to delay their own research activities in order to assist with the transition of course work to online modes of instruction.  

Please look for more information about these changes in future communications and on the COVID-19 Resources website.  In the meantime, let me express my gratitude and admiration for the special efforts you are making this semester to engage and advise your students effectively, to sustain some measure of research and scholarship where possible, and to carry on with integrity the academic life of your department or program.  Please temper those efforts with realism and a spirit of mercy, so that you can sustain the care and attention you need to devote to your family, community, and life outside the university.  Let us support one another in friendship and common purpose as we carry out the work we love. 


Paul H. Benson
Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs