Living Room Classrooms and Kitchen Offices

Popular Mechanics magazine cover from the 1970s with home office pictures

As universities across the country are making plans for whether, and if so how, to return to face-to-face instruction in the Fall semester, I wanted to send out a big thank you to the REL faculty and staff who, like so many others around the U.S. and the world, quickly turned their homes into their offices and their classrooms for the past two months. That means that private internet connections and home utility bills have quite literally kept the lights on and the information flowing for all of our schools and for all of our students.

While it may seem a small thing when judged on an individual basis — after all, I was going to pay that cable bill anyway… — it’s actually rather remarkable when you consider that, collectively, the day-to-day operations of the university have almost completely shifted to the homes of its faculty and staff. Add to this the families of their own that many of them have, let alone their own concerns for the situation that we’ve all found ourselves in (coz they too were scrambling to find homemade masks), and you arrive at a pretty remarkable past two months, in which they each became the University of Alabama.

So, as the Spring semester ends, and as we transition to a summer of online instruction, all the while working to put the proper conditions into place to have a safe and successful Fall, I just wanted to highlight what’s been going on behind-the-scenes for the past 8 weeks. While we’re very grateful for the staff who remained on campus — after all, many essential facilities workers have been busy on campus all this time — and for all of the students who each had to figure out their own adaptations to instruction going remote, the way that faculty and staff members’ living rooms and kitchens became lecture halls and offices, complete with all of those unscripted pet interruptions, also deserves our thanks.

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