Use time to connect with students, take care of yourselves

April 10, 2020

Dear University of Oregon faculty and GEs,

As Week 2 comes to a close, I’m sure many of us find ourselves looking back and reflecting on how far our university has come in light of the disruption created by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Every term has its share of bumps, but this spring clearly is unprecedented. Our academic way of life has shifted dramatically as we have moved completely to remote instruction. Even so, I hear stories daily about how faculty and GEs are coming up with creative ways to connect with students and make the most of this difficult situation. For these, I am deeply grateful to you all.

I’ve also heard from several faculty who find themselves in a bit of a struggle. Many are working to educate their students, while facing the difficulties of managing children or the health of other relatives in need. And I’m sure it is a burden for some to not be able to work on campus or in our normal office spaces. I hope you are all finding the appropriate balance between working from home and tending to your families. It’s important that you all take the time — especially now that the weather has turned warmer — to take a breather, to step away from the crisis response for a moment, and to take care of yourselves.

I want to share a few things with you so that you are all up to speed on the latest information about UO operations and what’s happening administratively. These include:

  • The provost and all academic deans within the schools and colleges taking a 10 percent pay cut. The move, which was voluntary, is in line with President Michael Schill’s announcement last week about a 10 percent reduction in pay for his vice presidents. President Schill, himself, will take an immediate 12 percent cut to his pay. The reductions will initially last six months. But they could be extended to the end of the 2020-21 school year, depending on the university’s financial outlook.
  • The Weekly Teaching Update to assist all faculty and GEs. These updates will be emailed to you each Friday of this term by the Provost’s Faculty and GE Support Group. The updates include a remote instruction checklist, support options, and other resources to assist you with any needs you might have. More support for faculty and GEs can be found on the Academic Continuity webpage.
  • A reminder to let your students know about the Students in Crisis fund. This fund assists students who are encountering unusual financial hardship caused by circumstances beyond their control. President Schill has added $1 million in donations to the fund to address the coronavirus situation at UO. Students in crisis should send an email to or call 541-346-3216 during business hours.
  • Students are telling us that instructors are an important part of their lives. In the first two weeks of the term, I have heard from students and families about how meaningful it is when the UO makes a personal connection with them. Some students — particularly those from underrepresented communities, those who are lower-income, or those who hail from other countries — can feel particularly isolated during this crisis. (See this New York Times story for reference.)With the challenge of moving to remote education, I know that getting your courses started and making those initial contacts with students has been a tremendous amount of work. But this connection to our students is imperative for them to remain engaged with their courses and with the university. If things don’t run perfectly with your course, that’s OK. Try to continue to find ways to engage with your students and don’t be afraid to share your human side with them.
  • Getting your feedback on remote instruction this term. While UO has made every effort to provide our faculty with the resources you need to teach remotely, I want to provide you with the opportunity to share your experience so we can continue to address your needs. Please take some time to complete this survey at your earliest convenience. A similar survey will be made available to students for their feedback. Links to both surveys also will be available in the Canvas dashboard banner for easy access.
  • A reminder that Governor Kate Brown’s order to physically close all schools and colleges is still in effect across Oregon and was recently extended to the end of the academic year. I understand that this order has implications for faculty and GEs involved in both teaching and research. But it is absolutely necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of our entire community. If you feel that you need access to any of the UO campuses, you must follow university protocols. Right now, new temporary restrictions are in place on our buildings. These guidelines have been progressively updated over the past two weeks and now contain processes and procedures for access to campus facilities for instructional and non-instructional activities. Before coming to campus, including to retrieve materials from an office or work space, employees are expected to submit their plans into the appropriate smartsheet, accessible via the links below, to request and/or document their access.

    Request form for instructors
    Documentation form for researchers and research staff 
    Request form for administrative personnel

This is a tough time for everyone, and the pressures you all have faced to develop a whole new way of teaching in such a short time is not lost on me. You are on the front lines of maintaining that connection because our students are looking to you to set the tone. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns by emailing me at Together, we’ll get through this. Thanks for all you do for our students, for the University of Oregon, and for the entire community.

Best wishes,

Patrick Phillips
Provost and Senior Vice President