Dear Illinois Tech Scarlet Hawks,
We are now more than six weeks into our shelter-in-place conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope and trust that you are all safe and well with your families and friends, or here at Illinois Tech in our residence halls, but we know these are challenging and stressful times for you. Our hope is that you are managing these challenges well. Our purpose today is to communicate a number of items that we hope will be of help and solace to you.
Completing Classes This Semester
In large part we have heard very positive reports from most of you that classes are going well online. Our faculty have worked hard to deliver their courses with learning outcomes that are just as good as if you were on campus and in the classroom. Most students have expressed the sentiment that they are just as pleased with the content and delivery as they were before the lockdown. Our Office of Digital Learning has worked hard to train all of our faculty and to disseminate best practices in online learning. We believe that these learnings and experience will enable us to augment in-class teaching in the future with online complements (such as flipped classroom content and synchronous recitation sections) that will enhance your coursework at Illinois Tech. Many faculty members are also going to online assessments and exams, and some are also examining by video through oral face-to-face exams. We believe your education and learning this semester did not miss a beat despite the crisis.
We have also added a question about this semester’s online transition efforts to the student class survey. I want to emphasize that the university takes this feedback very seriously and that we will use this information to further improve what we believe is a very strong education, especially as online education is further developed moving forward. So I urge all students to participate in this effort and provide your feedback. This is your chance to give your perspective on what went well and what did not. I also think that this is a great time to identify classes that were great online experiences, so that they can be emulated.
Pass-Fail Undergraduate Policy
With the unanimous approval of the SGA leaders, the University Faculty Council, and the Office of the Provost, all grading in undergraduate classes reverted to pass-fail for this semester only. There were many reasons for this: (1) we know many students would face challenges during the roughly six weeks from March 20 to May 10, including acclimating to the new environment, slow internet at home, family challenges including parent or guardian job loss, and other issues; (2) pass-fail would not harm any student’s GPA; and (3) most or all medical schools and many graduate schools indicated they would accept pass-fail in this semester provided it was institutional policy. We did allow graduating seniors only to request that they receive letter grades. We also approved a modest number of petitions from students who requested letter grades and could demonstrate real harm due to the pass-fail policy.
We also emphasize that this pass-fail policy applies only to this semester, when a transition to online delivery was forced on faculty and students alike in an unanticipated fashion. Moving into summer and beyond, all classes, including any online classes, will be developed and offered in a fashion where letter grades will be awarded, as usual.
Virtual Commencement Ceremonies
In late March we announced that, due to the shelter-in-place order, Illinois Tech would hold a virtual commencement ceremony on May 16, 2020. Following the university-wide virtual commencement on Saturday, May 16, at 10 a.m. CST, individual colleges, schools, and academic units will also hold their own recognition ceremonies. Please stay tuned for additional details from both the university and the schools, colleges, and units.
I should note that all of our graduates from the academic year 2019–2020 are very warmly invited to join us in May 2021 for our on-campus commencement celebration.
Many departments have increased summer course offerings in order to provide students with enhanced learning opportunities this summer, and all students are invited to reexamine the summer schedule if they have not looked at it recently. As of today, all summer classes will be held online and will be graded. We believe these classes will be excellent learning experiences for students, and we encourage all of you to seriously consider taking these classes to catch up, to lighten your load in the fall, and to keep your minds sharp this summer. All students are eligible for the same financial aid for these summer classes that you enjoy during the academic year.
Support of Students with Unanticipated Financial Hardships Due to COVID-19
We are pleased to note two important efforts to support many students with unanticipated expenditures and financial hardship due to COVID-19. The first is that, as part of the CARES Act, Illinois Tech will be participating in distributing additional financial aid to students who have unmet financial need. The second is that, through the generosity and support of our alumni and supporter network, our Hawk 4 Hawks program is now providing additional resources for impacted students. Both of these efforts are being coordinated through the usual financial aid process, and students do not need to do anything beyond participating in their usual review with the Office of Financial Aid.
Fall Semester 2020
As of today, the university is anticipating that we will be back on campus, at full force, with in-person classes, labs, and studios for the fall semester 2020. While there is no guarantee, our best understanding is that individual states will begin to reopen as the pandemic subsides throughout the country, hopefully in the next two months. We should note that we are still on track to have a newly renovated 10-story residence hall this summer with the opening of George J. Kacek Hall on the north end of our residential portion of campus. We are also pleased to announce that work is already beginning on Kacek Hall’s neighbor, Cunningham Hall, which may open as early as next year. Thus, the university is well on its way to completing the rejuvenation of our housing stock. These two residence halls and their renovations were made possible by very generous gifts from our donors.
University Faculty Council Chair