Coming Attractions: A Change in Format

Screenshot of computer screen during Zoom videoconference, with many participants

As communicated to all of our students over the past week, UA is maintaining limited business operations (LBO) for at least the next two weeks (and it will re-assess during that time concerning whether those conditions continue), with students asked not to return to campus. (A plan will soon be rolled out, from the central administration, concerning when those living in the residence system can return to collect their possessions.) This means that offices will not be staffed in person for the coming weeks and, instead, staff and faculty will be working remotely (in most cases, from home); the Spring semester continues, however, though classes are changing, as are the way faculty and students will interact. Continue reading

REL COVID-19 Update

Graphic from University of Alabama COVID-19 Response Site

It’s been an interesting few weeks in REL, to say the least; given the worldwide spread of COVID-19, the University of Alabama extended Spring break, asked students not to return to campus after it, and released a plan to alter how we finish the semester. Originally we planned to re-open main offices on the Monday after Spring break but the so-called limited business operation (LBO) of campus has been extended until Sunday, March 29 (with only essential employees allowed on campus) — though this is all subject to change, as UA System officials and campus leadership reassess a situation that changes daily. For example, as of March 19 the libraries closed and stop loaning material. But classes are indeed still moving to an online format, effective Monday, March 30, and your professors will be in touch — if not already — with the plan for each course. They’ve been working throughout the Spring break to devise a plan for their large lectures, seminars, independent studies, and graduate courses (just as some have been thinking up activities for their own children, who are themselves home from school). And we’ve all been in touch with each other regularly, to ensure that everyone is in the loop and doing well.

Which we all are.

So far, we’ve been communicating with everyone via email, but it seemed time to put a post up on the blog, to update everyone on a few things. Continue reading

Upcoming REL Events Canceled

Canceled Sign in an airport

With Spring break right around the corner, during which little might be taking place on campus, but happening just as the nation-wide spread of the COVID-19 virus shows no signs of slowing down, we felt that it was necessary to be proactive and to think ahead a little, so that REL students, faculty, and staff know that at least a few things are settled for the coming weeks.

Because the experts continue to tell us that not only regular hand-washing, etc. but also maintaining a strategic social distance are crucial elements to curtailing the spread of the illness — going so far as to advise against attending unnecessary large events or engaging in unnecessary travel  — we thought it wise to just go ahead now and cancel some of our upcoming events:

– The 18th annual Aronov Lecture, on April 6, with our guest lecturer coming to Alabama from New York, has been canceled and is being rescheduled for the Fall semester.

– The 7th annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on March 26 is canceled.

– The 19th annual REL Honors Day reception on the balcony, on Apr. 3, is also cancelled; instead, award winners will have letters sent to them in the coming weeks.

In part because we are currently unsure what the University will be doing in the coming weeks, it pains us to send out this news now; but, ensuring that our students, staff, and faculty stay healthy and also stay informed are among our highest priorities.

Be well during the Spring break and stay in touch with UA news in case an announcement is made concerning post-Spring break classes.

New Staff Soon Joining REL

With Betty and Donna’s upcoming retirement (effective April 1 — did you see the announcement?), it’s time to announce who we’ve hired to keep both our main office and the Department as a whole on the right track.

LeCretia Crumpton will be our new full-time Administrative Secretary; she’s currently working on campus in the Department of Chemistry, where, apart from general clerical duties and working with a variety of UA systems, she’s focused on assisting their efforts to recruit and host graduate students.

LeCretia Crumption, new REL Admin Secretary

Edward Guy will be our new half-time Office Associate II (working mornings); he’s worked in a variety of staff positions at UA for about 25 years, including the Grad School and the College of Engineering.

Edward Guy, the new Office Associ II

We’re so very pleased to have both LeCretia and Edward about to join the Department. Looking back on the changes that Betty and Donna have both seen during their time in Manly Hall we’re hoping that our new staff members get to see even bigger changes as REL keeps moving forward.

It Cuts Both Ways

President Trump poses with newspaper headline sayig he was acquitedIf you were paying attention to US news this past week it was probably tough not to know that the Senate trial of President Trump concluded with him being acquitted by a vote that pretty much went along straight party lines. I say pretty much because a lone Republican Senator, Mitt Romney, from Utah, voted to convict.

The reason Romney’s vote stood out for some scholars of religion on social media was likely the manner in which he couched his decision in light of his faith. Continue reading

“Happy Arbitrary New Year”

January 2020 calendar

A friend on social media wished everyone a “happy arbitrary new year” last night. And it got me thinking.

We all know — right? — that there’s a variety of dating systems that have existed historically, let alone today (case in point: see the January 25th Chinese new year on that image up above…?). So, at some level, most of us surely understand that it isn’t really the start of a new year today. Instead, should we grant the Gregorian calendar‘s legitimacy for how we organize time, then, yes, today is the start of a new year. Continue reading