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Coffee and Conversation, 9/4 Faculty Questions

Questions posed by faculty members during the Coffee and Conversation meeting on September 4 are included below. Answers are provided from the Provost unless otherwise noted.

We are repeating the message of how we have supported our instructors through the summer, praising faculty for their efforts, and carrying the message that difference does not mean inferior. We will continue to carry these messages; and, once we find the time to turn our attention from crisis communication, we will feature some of the innovative and creative ways that faculty have responded to the pandemic.

I have not intended to convey a message that faculty need to work harder. I will continue to work with the deans to see if there are creative and compassionate ways to reduce workplace stress for all our employees. During this pandemic, I hope that we can be flexible in our expectations of what can be accomplished, both in class and outside of class. We will continue to communicate that flexibility to our deans and department heads.

Yes, we will look for exceptions. Our Phase 2 plan calls for a “phased” approach, which would allow for considering the kinds of exceptions that you describe.

I will ask that the deans encourage department heads to limit/spread out new preps for courses this spring to be more equitable between tenure-line and non-tenure-line faculty. We need to know where inequities exist before we can take any action. If faculty members don’t feel comfortable bringing this up with their department heads, then they should reach out to their college leadership to make the inequities known. Another good resource is Lisa Yamagata-Lynch (, who serves in the role of Ombuds.

Vice Provost Amber Williams: A message from Vice Provosts Hinde and Williams was sent to faculty at the beginning of the semester which included some messaging to students. Another message will be sent to faculty the week of September 6 regarding resources to assist disengaged students. We will add in language for student expectations in an online environment.

Vice Provost Amber Williams: The results will be shared with deans and department heads so they can share with their faculty members.

Sherry Sims (UT System HR): The decision on the Parental Leave policy was postponed until the upcoming legislative session. Our Office of Government Relations and Advocacy is continuing to monitor the proposal, and we will update staff and faculty when we have additional information.

Mark Savage (OIT): OIT provides two full time staff members to assist faculty with classroom technology support at 865-974-9110. Support hours are 8am to 8pm. We are continuing looking at available resources and balancing the support between classroom technology and general helpdesk questions. At peak classroom start times, faculty may experience hold times due to the number of support calls occurring at the same time. OIT also offers in-person, one on one training in your assigned classroom. This can be scheduled around faculty schedules by calling the support hotline. If you are experiencing a technology issue and cannot connect on the support hotline, contact the OIT helpdesk at 865-974-9900, and OIT will assist you as soon as possible.

We are instructing students to quarantine at home if it is safe for them to do so. Keep in mind that quarantine refers to students who have been identified as “close contacts”—that is, at risk for infection because of exposure to someone who has tested positive—and that we are also offering options for them to stay here on campus.