The 2020 academic year ended on 22 May. With the start of the first semester of 2021 scheduled for next Monday, June 14, the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC) has a positive balance, despite many adjustments and difficulties, and is preparing adjustments to the measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
It has been 14 months since the first measures to combat the pandemic, but Covid-19 continues to claim thousands of victims every day, despite the progress of vaccination. Therefore, UFSC is planning a 2021.1 with in-person activities suspended and remote classes. Even so, some actions are being planned for the institution to continue functioning, with respect for the necessary precautions.
“Since we have adopted the first actions, in March last year, this is perhaps the period in which there are more sensitive changes in the context of the pandemic that need to be adjusted,” explains the rector Ubaldo Cesar Balthazar.
The rector refers to two major measures that will bring some changes to university routines: the possibility of offering practical and theoretical-practical courses, and the updating of the UFSC’s Biosafety Guide, which should be published in the first week of classes.
Practical and theoretical-practical subjects
On 19 May, the Undergraduate Council exceptionally regulated the rite for analyzing requests made by courses to offer in-person activities. The measure was already foreseen in Resolutions 140/2020/CUn and 146/2020/CUn. From now on, the Program´s Council that need to offer practical courses will be able to define and plan the activities. The requests must be forwarded to the Undergraduate Council, which will evaluate the requests through a committee that includes, in addition to representatives of the programs, members of the teams from the Department of Health Care (DAS), from the Prorectorate for Personnel Management and Development (Prodegesp).
“With this we hope to reduce the dammed demands, especially in the health care programs. And allow students who have prerequisites for these courses to advance in their education. Everything is done with the most rigorous care,” reinforces the rector.
New Biosafety Guide
The changes in the Biosafety Guide are being edited in view of the beginning of the immunization of the university community against Covid-19, since contractors, professors, and technical-administrative staff have already received at least the first dose of the vaccine.
“As of 26 May, other members of our university community have been included. We will have, after the application of the second dose of the vaccine, the entire community of workers effectively immunized and it will be possible to adopt new routines. However, it is important to remember that UFSC will move on to Phase 2 and Phase 3 of our contingency planning only when the pandemic numbers are safer for everyone,” says the rector.
On 1 April 2021, the Central Administration issued the Normative Ordinance 390/2021/GR, which extended the remote activities until 2 October, when the epidemiological scenario must be evaluated again. In addition, the University Council approved the remote modality of classes for the two semesters of 2021.
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Another semester that starts remotely
The first semester of 2021 begins with a different welcome to students, who, as in 2020.2, will be welcomed in a virtual way. For the first time in the institution, the incoming students were also selected in a virtual basis.
This work, as detailed by the president of the Permanent Commission of the Vestibular (Coperve), Maria José Baldessar, demanded an intense adaptation, and with exhaustive work, including on some weekends. Besides the Selection Process 2020.2, Coperve held six other selection processes for 2021 – the Selection Process 2021.1; SiSU; SiSU Complementary; Black Supplementary; Indigenous and Quilombola Supplementary; and Field Education. “It was challenging, as we had to rethink all the selective processes, while maintaining credibility, confidentiality, and equity in all of them,” he said.
The validation of the documentation of new students who entered the pandemic through the Affirmative Action Policies also underwent adaptations. Since the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Office of Affirmative Action and Diversities (Saad) has been using non-in-person methods to validate the self-declarations issued by the candidates. Currently, all validations required for enrollment by candidates on all campuses are performed through Sisvalida, an online system created by the Saad teams, through the Digital Inclusion Coordination (Coid), Entrepreneurship and Innovation Laboratory (Lempi/UFSC) to validate the applications.
Positive balance, despite the difficulties
The 2020 academic year had several adaptations and difficulties, but there were also advances and achievements. The series of reports “One year later”, from the UFSC Communication Agency (Agecom) portrays some of these situations reported by the university community.
In Undergraduate Education, UFSC evaluated its results, compared to the academic years in which the activities occurred in person, and found that there were 65% fewer leave of absences in the pandemic months. Adding up the numbers for 2020.1 and 2020.2, UFSC had 2,715 leave of absences at students’ request. In 2019, that number, adding the two semesters, was 4,143.
By Normative Resolution 140/2020, students have, in addition to the more flexible leave of absence deadline, the possibility of enrolling in the course ZZD-2020. The enrollment in this subject is automatically done by the academic control system for those students who need to cancel courses in which they were enrolled before and during the pandemic, keeping their academic ties active.
Support for students and faculty members in order for teaching to continue despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic came in the form of training, events, permanence programs, and institutional investment, both for Undergraduate and Graduate studies.
Faculty members and technical-administrative staff have participated in several training actions offered by the Continued Education Program (Profor/Prograd), by the Prorectorate for Outreach and Extension (Proex), and by the Office of Distance Education (Sead). Thus they were able to improve their knowledge about educational technologies and active methodologies for remote teaching, as well as the use of Moodle.
The support to students has also been fundamental. During the 2020 school year, the Institutional Program of Pedagogical Support for Students (Piape) carried out actions – workshops, lectures, individual and group support services, and pedagogical guidance – that reached more than 14 thousand participations in several knowledge areas.
According to the program’s coordinator, Janaina Santos, “Piape, during this period of remote pedagogical activities, has further consolidated itself as a fundamental strategy to support the learning and activities of all UFSC undergraduate students, contributing to student permanence, as well as to a better academic performance.
Another important resource was to gather information and listen to course coordinators and students. In December 2020, Prograd held the Forum for the Evaluation of Off-Campus Activities, and in May 2021 the 1st Prograd Seminar, occasions in which it was possible to present data and seek solutions. Other prorectorates and offices have also been investing in research and holding lives to discuss the difficulties that arise in this model of emergency education.
As an example, last semester PROPG organized live events to discuss the students’ well-being, especially mental health care, and is preparing a conversation circle for 18 June, Friday, at 3:30 pm, with the theme: “What can UFSC graduate school do to be more welcoming?”. The prorectorate asks students to share their ideas and suggestions through the link.
New affirmative actions and the challenge of permanence
In 2020, the graduate level received a breakthrough in equity actions, with the approval of Normative Resolution 145/2020, which created the Affirmative Action Program. One of the challenges presented with the regulation was student permanence, since UFSC did not offer scholarships funded by the institution, only through the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes/MEC).
“PROPG was proactive, we sought UFSC’s own funding for semester scholarships. We faced more cuts in the Capes scholarships, including seriously damaging the new programs, which now cannot count on scholarships for their students. We managed to increase the number of scholarships in the programs, directing the resources to affirmative action students. The amount we managed is enough for 15 scholarships in this first semester of 2021 and, in order for us to be able to continue in the next semesters, we have already taken steps with the Board of Trustees to triple the amounts currently paid for the revalidation of foreign diplomas. These resources will go directly to fund post-graduate scholarships”, explains prorector Cristiane Derani.
Ten master’s scholarships and five doctoral scholarships will be offered in 2021.1, worth a total of R$ 300,000. The amount paid will be the same as the Capes graduate scholarships, i.e. R$ 1.5 thousand for master’s degrees and R$ 2.2 thousand for doctorates. UFSC has two new graduate programs starting their activities in 2021.1 – the master’s degree in Speech Therapy and the master’s degree in Conventional and Integrative Veterinary Medicine.
Suelen Matos, a graduate student in Agroecosystems at UFSC, withdrew her computer at the beginning of the first remote semester of 2020, at CCA. Photo: Aline Cardoso/CCA/UFSC)
The pandemic, with remote teaching, brought daily challenges to the students, who needed to organize their studies, and, without the support of structures such as computer labs and the University Restaurant, the actions of the Prorectorate for Students Affairs (Prae) were even more necessary.
In 2020, Prae assisted more than 13,700 beneficiaries with regular and temporary assistance programs, which represented an investment of more than R$2.4 million per month. Among the regular programs are the Student Scholarship, the Housing Aid, the language course exemptions, among others. The temporary programs include digital inclusion actions, such as equipment loans, Internet aid and the supply of SIM cards for Internet access (MEC’s Connected Students Program). The Emergency Support, worth R$200 a month, and the supply of food kits were also created.
Another initiative was the acquisition of computers through the Office of Planning and Budget (Seplan) and the Academic Schools, and the loan of this equipment for students to participate in non-on-campus classes. For the entire 2020 school year, 1,950 computers were distributed. For 2021.1, 638 computers are already available for distribution by the Academic Schools.
Research and Extension supporting Education.
Investments in scholarships and extension initiatives were also significant. The Prorectorate for Outreach and Extension (Proex) developed projects to support teaching during the 2020 academic year, and also in 2021. In 2020, Proex invested about R$1.7 million in projects for the curricularization of extension, and in the Extension School with Summer Courses and Digital Production Centers. The Centers were an initiative created shortly before the return of teaching activities, in a non-in-person format, and counted with more than 8,900 participants and 93 scholarship holders.
Since January more than R$ 1.2 million in extension resources were invested in initiatives that comprise 90 proposals, with 155 scholarships for undergraduate students and 40 scholarships for professors. Among these initiatives are the trainings promoted by the University Library (BU), the activities of the Center for the Study of the Third Age (Neti), activities to combat Covid-19 and for the vaccination of the population of Florianópolis. A partnership between Proex and the Offices of Planning and Budget (Seplan), of Distance Learning (Sead) and of the Office of International Relations (Sinter), resulted in the project Online Extension Courses, which already has more than 900 people enrolled in 10 courses in several languages.
Teaching is also supported with the maintenance of research programs, mainly by encouraging students and professors through scholarships. The UFSC maintained, even with the budgetary uncertainties and difficulties caused by the pandemic, all existing programs, and managed to expand some projects. One of them is the Institutional Program for Scientific Initiation Scholarships (Pibic), which in 2020 had its number of scholarships increased, in addition to calls launched in partnership with funding agencies such as the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa e Inovação do Estado de Santa Catarina (Fapesc). “The research projects have a direct impact on teaching, because they involve students and professors, and encourage them to stay in the academy, to stay in Brazil and develop our science,” points out the prorector of Research Sebastião Soares.
Management seeks ways to meet main needs
Support for teaching is the task of many of the institutional structures at UFSC. For example, the Prorectorate for Personnel Management and Development (Prodegesp), in addition to the training of staff, health care, among others, is also the gateway for new professors and technical-administrative staff who reinforced the UFSC staff, even during the pandemic.
The appointment of new civil servents was resumed in November 2020 with investitures made in a virtual way. Since then, 118 workers have been sworn in, being 50 technical-administrative staff, 17 effective professors of the Higher Education Department, three professors of the EBTT career (Colégio de Aplicação and NDI), besides 48 new substitute and temporary professors.
Significant efforts were also made by the Office of Sports, with the Athletics, student athletes and with physical activities to be done at home; Innovation, with mentoring for entrepreneurial initiatives; Culture and Art, with online events to bring art to the community’s daily life and support artists during a moment of crisis for the sector. SeCArte is preparing a Music Festival for this semester.
The Office of Works, Maintenance and Environment (Seoma) was responsible for a series of improvements in the physical space of UFSC during the period in which most of the activities take place remotely. Acting in person, the highlights were the Office of Institutional Security (SSI) and the Prorectorate for Administration (Proad), which kept their teams focused on the maintenance of contracts, partnerships, and protecting the physical and patrimonial structures of UFSC.
Translated by SINTER/UFSC
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