Academic Affairs Updates (SVPP COVID-19 Communication #8)

April 17, 2020

I am writing to share several updates on postdoc hiring, an expansion of Pass/Not Pass grading to all Spring 2020 courses, and updates on Prep Week, final exams, and course evaluations.

Please broadly share and discuss this communication within your colleges, departments, and units.

Temporary policy change offers flexibility in hiring postdocs

A temporary change to the policy for hiring postdoctoral scholars (postdocs) is effective immediately. The change applies only to hiring postdocs who have recently graduated from a doctoral program at Iowa State University.

The existing policy allows for the appointment of recent graduates for up to three months without advertising the position. In response to disruption caused by COVID-19, appointments of up to six months are allowed for doctoral candidates who graduate in Spring or Summer 2020. These graduates may be appointed, without advertising, to a single six-month term, or to shorter separate terms of uninterrupted service that total up to six months. Any Spring and Summer 2020 doctoral graduate will qualify for this temporary change in policy if their postdoc appointment begins by Monday, August 24.

In addition to flexibility in hiring new postdocs, current postdocs hired via the three-month advertising exemption may have their appointments extended, without advertising, such that the total uninterrupted appointment period does not exceed six months.

An FAQ on the temporary process can be found on the Graduate College’s website. Additional renewals, longer initial appointments, and hiring those who earned their doctoral degree elsewhere need to follow the existing policy.

Changes to Pass/Not Pass policy for Spring 2020

Associate Provost for Academic Programs Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Graduate College Dean Bill Graves, and their teams have finalized changes to the Pass/Not Pass grading option for Spring 2020 courses. The original temporary policy was limited to courses impacted by the transition to virtual instruction, but did not include those courses already being taught online. This policy is now expanded, effective immediately, to include all Spring 2020 courses, acknowledging the disruption students are experiencing in all areas of their lives, in addition to their academic coursework. I appreciate collaboration with the Faculty Senate’s Executive Board on this decision. Updated information and FAQ documents are posted on the Provost’s Office website.

Prep Week and final exams

Temporary updates to Iowa State’s policies on Prep Week (formerly Dead Week) and final exams were communicated to the academic colleges last week. As a result of the shift to virtual instruction, any change in due dates for mandatory graded submissions of any kind that fall within Prep Week should be communicated to students by April 22.

For final exams, and since we do not have the technology to remotely proctor final exams in a manner that would mimic the monitored experience in a campus classroom, it is important for faculty to carefully review their plans for final exams (including timing, format, student’s ability to access online content, and grading). Instructors should also keep in mind that considerable variation exists in the circumstances under which our students are completing this semester virtually, including different time zones, limited or variable internet access, and less than ideal work spaces.

Course evaluations

Associate Provost for Faculty Dawn Bratsch-Prince communicated to deans, department chairs, and faculty leaders last week about course evaluations and student surveys. I would reiterate here that, per our earlier guidance, course evaluations for Spring 2020 will not be included in annual evaluations or reviews for advancement, promotion, and tenure, or post-tenure review unless a faculty member chooses to include this information.

Again, thank you for everything you are doing during these unprecedented and challenging times, and take care.