Since the spring of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the United States, we have learned a great deal about the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Promising vaccines have been developed and are now reaching some of our highest risk populations, and treatment protocols have been refined and improved. While these advances have strengthened our response to the pandemic, the transmission and risks of COVID-19 remain high. It continues to be transmitted easily and rapidly through personal contact; its morbidity and mortality rates are staggering; and despite the promise that comes from the development of vaccines, native immunity to the virus is out of reach for the remainder of this academic year. As such, the guidelines for teaching and learning established for the fall 2020 semester will remain in place for the spring 2021 semester.
The guidelines for teaching and learning, both individually and collectively, are grounded in what we have learned since the start of the pandemic. They have been developed by the Deans Council in consultation with a wide variety of internal and external experts and stakeholders. The overall aim of these guidelines is to create an environment that mitigates virus transmission, while maintaining the high-quality learning experiences that make Florida Southern a special place to live and learn.
In the context of this overall purpose, the guidelines for teaching and learning seek to achieve three major goals:
Our ability to meet these goals will depend on all members of our community understanding that taking steps to reduce virus transmission is a shared responsibility.
Members of the Deans Council recognize that enacting these guidelines is challenging, and they have done their best to balance the tradeoffs inherent in such a situation with our shared goal of educating students to make a positive and consequential impact on society. Our experiences in the fall 2020 semester demonstrate that these guidelines, when combined with the measures outlined in the overall institutional plan, can substantially reduce the likelihood of virus transmission. Thus, academic guidelines will continue to rely on social distancing, wearing masks during personal interactions, following hygiene and cleaning practices recommended by the CDC, isolating individuals who test positive or have known exposure, avoiding high-risk situations, and remaining open to modifying elements of the overall plan if conditions change.
Neither the institutional plan nor these guidelines respond to every conceivable scenario—nor could they be expected to do so—but they do provide a framework for continuing the academic enterprise and conducting campus life in ways that are grounded in the best knowledge of our scientific and medical communities. As such, the Deans Council believes that these guidelines and the overall institutional plan will allow us to continue to fulfill our mission in the safest ways possible during this global pandemic. Each of its members stands ready to guide the academic enterprise in the context of the institutional plan, and each sees it as a living plan, which means that they are committed to listening to and working with faculty and students to ensure that the plan is serving our community well and being adjusted when necessary.
Last updated: January 13, 2021