Fall 2021 Message to Faculty and GEs

Sept. 17, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

It goes without saying that this is a fall term like no other. As President Schill and Provost Phillips shared in their message this week, the university has a suite of health and safety regulations and tools to help us return to campus with confidence -- including vaccination and testing requirements, masking mandates, and improved ventilation in buildings, among other tools.

The purpose of this message is to provide more detailed information to help you feel safe and prepared for the academic year.

Academic Council Guidance

The Academic Council has approved expectations and guidance for Fall 2021. You can find the complete document here. A few points to note:

  • Given the possibility that some students will miss class at some point during the term for COVID-related reasons, the Council encourages faculty to exercise their judgment and empathy in providing appropriate flexibility.
  • Expectations for attendance and makeups are largely unchanged from previous terms during the pandemic. Instructors are expected to provide flexibility around attendance and makeups within reasonable boundaries.
  • It is now standard university policy that instructors provide syllabi and use Canvas for most courses. See the Office of the Provost’s new Academic Policy library for these and other policies related to instruction and working with students.
  • Instructors are encouraged to plan class sessions a few weeks in advance where possible, to be ready for any disruption to campus operations. 
  • Students who are directed to quarantine or isolate should be held harmless by any course attendance or participation policies. Instructors may ask for verification of quarantine or isolation requirements from students. Instructors will need to provide equitable access to course materials for these students, which may include recorded lectures/class sessions, live access to course via Zoom, lecture slides and notes, or other means deemed appropriate by the instructor. See notes under Teaching Support for more information on technology options and training.
  • Instructors of in-person courses are not required to accommodate students who request online access to the course for the entire term unless the student provides an AEC notification of accommodation letter that calls for that. Students without AEC accommodations who ask for such access should be advised of the course modality and expectations and encouraged to work with Advising to find alternatives if they cannot meet those expectations.
  • The Academic Council Fall Guidance document includes required syllabi or Canvas language to provide critical information to students. 

Teaching Support

UO Online is hosting workshops and drop-in office hours during zero week. Help is available in a variety of formats. See the full range of support options here. I want to draw your attention to the updated Syllabus Starter and Fall 2021 Policy and Planning resource as you prepare for the term.

Information Services is hosting 45-minute one-on-one classroom support trainings to help you get familiar with your classroom technology. Schedule these using the Microsoft Bookings link.  

It is possible to record class sessions without any special technology. However, the new HyFlex technology in some UO classrooms can enhance your remote capabilities, such as recording live sessions or having students join using Zoom in. For more information on rooms that have this technology, please visit classrooms.uoregon.edu. If you have additional questions, please create a service request.

The Teaching Engagement Program will host a GE Day of Teaching September 22 and will co-host with the deans a slate of faculty Fall Teaching Overview workshops between September 16 and 24. Details will be shared directly from your schools and colleges. Sessions will be held on Zoom to allow the greatest number of colleagues to participate. 

Mask Requirement in Classes

Guidance for enforcing the mask requirement in classes can be found here. This guidance includes three steps: remind, ask, provide resources.

  • From a safe distance (more than six feet), remind the student that UO policy requires campus community members to wear face coverings indoors.
  • Then ask the student to put on a face covering. 
  • If they do not have a face covering, provide one from the supply of masks that have been stocked in all classrooms that will have in-person instruction. 

If a student still refuses to wear a mask, they can be asked to leave. If they refuse to leave, inform the student they are in violation of university policy and will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. If the student still does not leave, you can cancel class for the day and report the student.

COVID Classroom Containment

We strongly encourage instructors to use assigned seating or seating charts where possible. This will assist with contact tracing and identifying those students who need to quarantine. For larger classes, instructors might consider creating seating zones that students could commit to sitting in for the term. If these zones are separated by a row or an aisle, and students know what zone they are in (by a letter or number), it will help the contact tracing team zero in on which students to contact.

The Corona Corps Classroom Containment team has developed protocols and a communication toolkit to use if a student in your class tests positive for COVID-19. The toolkit contains syllabi language (which can also be found in Academic Council expectations) and slides that can be shown at beginning of classes. These tools are vital to help everyone in our community engage in practices to reduce exposure. The approach to classroom containment focuses on three primary areas:

  • Prevention – focuses on vaccination policy, mask policy, hand washing, symptom self-checks, and staying home if symptoms present
  • Containment – outlines how class participants will be notified and what they should do if someone from the class tests positive
  • Support – identifies pertinent resources for affected individuals

In addition, the toolkit identifies good classroom citizenship:

  • Wear your mask and make sure it fits you well
  • Stay home if you’re sic
  • Get to know your neighbors in class, and let them know if you test positiv
  • Get tested regularly if you are not vaccinate
  • Watch for signs and symptoms with the daily symptom self-chec
  • Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitize
  • Complete the UO COVID-19 case and contact reporting form if you test positive or are a close contact of someone who tests positive. 

As your classes begin, you may want to take some time to build community within the classroom. It is a great time to talk about the COVID protocols and that wearing a mask is one of the important ways can keep each other safe. You may also want to highlight that public health guidance suggests that a fully vaccinated public speaker (including instructor) may remove their mask while speaking if they can remain 6 feet from others. All others in the classroom should be masked at all times. You can find other suggestions about building community in the classroom here.

Guest Speakers

Guest speakers for courses and other programs who are not UO employees will be asked to complete the Conditions of Volunteer Service form, which must be signed by both the volunteer and supervisor, and the Volunteer COVID-19 Vaccination Reporting and Exemption Request form, which must be uploaded by the volunteer. More information can be found on the Safety and Risk Servicespage.

Ventilation in Classrooms

A number of questions have arisen about ventilation systems. Ventilation is part of a layered strategy to provide a safe classroom experience. The university is following all CDC and Oregon OSHA requirements and recommendations regarding air circulation. We have implemented a comprehensive strategy that includes maximizing air exchange rates, optimizing air filtration, increasing hours of system operation, and reducing the re-entrainment of contaminants in our buildings. In classrooms with no central mechanical ventilation, we are installing portable HEPA air filtration. The location of classrooms with mobile HEPA filters is posted on the Classroom Local Filtration map. Facilities Services will continue to proactively monitor the performance of ventilation and filtration systems and work with Environmental Health and Safety to respond to problems or concerns reported using the Indoor Air Quality Issue Reporting tool.

What Are We Telling Students?

We often hear from faculty that they’d like to know what information students are getting. The Division of Student life handles most communication to students. During the academic year they send weekly Quick Quacks, which can be accessed on this page.

Instructor Absences and Accommodations

Instructors who need to miss one to a few classes due to illness or other reasons should follow normal departmental policies and procedures for covering missed classes. We realize these vary across the university and encourage departments to manage absences that typically occur during the term as they have in the past.

If an instructor is absent from class due to a directive to quarantine or isolate, or who has a child under 13 who was directed to quarantine or isolate, units should first attempt to cover the class using normal procedures. If unable to meet the needs of the course through those procedures, units may authorize the instructor to teach synchronously online during the quarantine or isolation period. To receive authorization, instructors will need to present official documentation to their unit head or supervisor verifying they or their dependent has been directed to quarantine or isolate. Instructors who have tested positive and are experiencing symptoms are able to use sick leave for these absences.

Instructors who believe they need accommodations for teaching in-person due to their own ongoing medical condition should pursue those through HR under the ADA. Accommodations will be made on an individual basis and will not necessarily result in synchronous online teaching.

Instructors seeking an accommodation for teaching in-person because someone in their household has a medical condition that makes them high risk for serious illness due to COVID exposure should begin by requesting a meeting with their department head to discuss their situation. The department head will work with the instructor to assess the situation and explore solutions, which might include adjustments to course delivery or modality. If it is ultimately determined that there are no viable solutions to keep the course in-person, and the dean agrees that synchronous web instruction is suitable, the instructor will need to provide documentation from a medical professional that a person in their household has a medical condition that makes them high risk for serious illness from COVID-19. The documentation does not need to disclose specific medical information.

You may find answers to additional questions in this FAQ.

While I am excited and optimistic about coming back together to provide world-class in-person instruction once again, I acknowledge that these are stressful times. I hope that the information provided in this message and in the various links addresses your concerns and questions and helps you to focus more fully on the university mission of exceptional teaching, discovery, and service. I remain grateful to all of you for your extraordinary work during these challenging times.

Sincerely,

Janet Woodruff-Borden
Executive Vice Provost