I hope most of you have been lucky like me and have safely made it through the storm, but I know some of you have been displaced and are suffering losses. I know one of the challenges we face over the next period of time is respecting our differences in circumstances. Many of the UHD faculty, staff and students will be trying to cope with the basic necessities. In response to this reality, I ask that those of us who have been more fortunate try to practice a little more understanding, patience and flexibility than normal.
As we restart the semester on Tuesday, September 5, UH System Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Paula Short has been given the following guidance by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Universities who have been closed due to Tropical Storm Harvey should not extend the fall semester, in other words, UHD will not have to make up the contact hours that it missed while it was closed between August 25 and September 5.
I realize that this means adjustments will have to be made to course syllabi to deal with the shortened semester. I do not minimize the difficulties that this creates. I also firmly believe that the faculty can best balance the trade offs that will have to be made in order to compress the course into the available time. In spite of the limitations, I have confidence and trust that you will make wise choices in putting together the best course possible.
Finally, communication is essential at all levels. I was struck this past week by how much students look to the faculty for word about their courses. Please use every means possible to connect with your students. I have asked the deans and chairs to reach out to you. If your circumstances keep you from covering your course please let them know. I have told the deans and chairs, that ESO is prepared to do everything necessary to respond to the personnel needs of the departments.
One of the privileges of working here has been the way you all have been willing to respond to problems facing our students and our university. Three years ago when I told you that our six year graduation rate had fallen from 19 percent to 13 percent, you stepped up and volunteered to serve as faculty mentors, joined teaching circles, redesigned courses and took students into your research labs. As a result of your efforts and those of our staff and our students, last year the graduation rate went up to 16 percent and this year it reached 21 percent and our first year retention rate jumped from 66 percent to 72 percent.
I am very proud to say UHD can do it.
Ed Hugetz, UHD Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs