COVID-19 Update: Academic Preparedness

March 11, 2020

Dear Deans, Department Chairs, Vice Chancellors, Vice and Associate Provosts,

As our community works to address the rapidly evolving novel coronavirus / COVID-19 disease situation, the leadership and guidance of Vice Chancellor, Deans and Department Chairs will be critical. Below are tasks that we need department chairs to complete in order to help us prepare for the possibility of disruption due to COVID-19.  This is a non-exhaustive list of issues and we will address many more in as expeditious a fashion as we can.

Immediate Actions

If they have not done so already, department chairs will need to do the following this week:

  • Forward the Provost’s two emails from last week (“Travel Information” (3/4) and “Academic Planning for COVID-19” (3/6)) to their faculty.
  • Collect all international travel plans of their faculty, asking specifically if students will be on these trips, and sending them to the Office of the
  • If there are any events that involve international visitors in your department, please communicate that with your Dean immediately.
  • Remind all faculty that students should not be penalized for missing class if they are sick.
  • Require all faculty to set up Canvas sites for their classes and review their functionality.
  • Set up a series of department- or program-wide Zoom meetings for faculty to learn how to use this technology.
  • Direct faculty who need a quick-start guide to remote teaching to the following resources: UM System Emergency Management Services – Quick Start Guide to Remote Teaching:

Decisions about faculty requesting to work remotely

We are aware that some faculty have requested to begin teaching remotely due to specific circumstances (e.g. having a compromised immune system).  Decisions about these requests should be made at the department level. In such cases, department chairs should consult with their respective Dean’s office.  In the case of a decision to move a face-to-face course to a remote format, it is critical to message this decision appropriately. Word may spread quickly that a course has moved online, which may make some students very anxious.  For example, the faculty member might need to make it clear that they are making the decision to teach remotely because of personal reasons, rather than because of an elevated risk level on campus. All such messages should be approved by the Chair before they are sent to students.

Issues involving students who are engaged in experiential coursework.

We know that there are a large number of students who are engaging in non-study abroad official university activities, including coursework, with entities outside of the university (e.g., student teachers in Columbia Public Schools; students in the health professions working at MU Health and other care settings; business students doing internships with corporate entities). It is possible that at some point we may need to suspend these activities, or you may have department/college policies that warrant modifications to these experiences. If you have any students engaging in off-site academic activities, we strongly encourage you to consider the following:

  1. Establish a point person for communication with the external site regarding potential disruptions from COVID-19 (e.g., point person on student teaching with Columbia Public Schools)
  2. Be mindful of limiting student access to populations particularly at-risk for COVID-19 (e.g., students working in a nursing home setting).
  3. Make sure you understand relevant polices/procedures at sites where students are engaging in experiential activities.
  4. Work with your faculty on developing contingency plans if experiential coursework is suspended or cancelled.

Communication Expectations:

So we facilitate agility in our decision making process, I ask that the Department Chair be the point person for communication with their faculty and graduate student instructors about being academically prepared for potential disruption due to COVID-19. This could potentially take different forms, depending upon the scope and severity of the situation. As much as possible, we would like faculty and other instructors to receive emails about COVID-19 from a consistent set of sources, in order to limit confusion and panic. It is important that chairs be the official source of department-specific information. Ideally, department chairs should be organizing communication for their department and should have a communications plan.

Please let us know if and how we can help you. I appreciate your leadership as we face and overcome this challenge, and am truly grateful for your attentiveness to these issues.

Thank you for all you do for Mizzou.


Latha Ramchand