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Amid Pandemic, April FAS Faculty Meeting Canceled Over ‘Insufficient Business Ready for Action’

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences will not meet this month as coronavirus brings massive change to the University.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences will not meet this month as coronavirus brings massive change to the University. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By James S. Bikales and Kevin R. Chen, Crimson Staff Writers

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences will not convene its monthly meeting in April, Secretary of the Faculty Susan L. Lively announced in an email to faculty and guests Wednesday.

FAS Dean Claudine Gay requested the April 7 meeting be canceled, and the Faculty Council agreed, according to Lively’s email. Gay recommended the cancellation due to “there being insufficient business ready for action upon the docket,” according to an update posted to the Office of the Secretary’s website.

The next FAS meeting is now scheduled for May 5.

The routines of University and faculty governance were thrown up in the air last month after Harvard took unprecedented measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus across campus. The University transitioned all classes to online learning and asked most students to leave campus in mid-March due to the pandemic.

Gay announced in a March 10 email to faculty that future FAS Faculty Council and Faculty meetings would be held virtually. A March 20 announcement required all FAS faculty and staff to work from home until they receive further notice.

FAS spokesperson Anna G. Cowenhoven declined to comment on whether the May meeting would take place as scheduled.

Faculty members convened for a virtual “Town Hall” on March 20, during which administrators announced that Harvard will offer many tenure-track faculty the option to extend their current appointments and postpone their promotion reviews by up to a year due to the pandemic.

FAS made another major academic decision outside of a faculty meeting later that month, when the Faculty Council — FAS’s highest governing body — voted unanimously to recommend adopting a universal "emergency" satisfactory-unsatisfactory grading system for College students. Gay subsequently accepted the proposal.

Last month’s faculty meeting, held March 3, marked the first time administrators raised the potential of a transition to remote learning due to the coronavirus outbreak.

At that meeting, Gay and Harvard University Health Services director Giang T. Nguyen suggested faculty should learn to teach using Zoom, a video communication platform; just under a month later, campus sits mostly empty and all classes are taking place remotely, the majority of them on Zoom.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

—Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

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