Dear WVU Faculty and Instructors:
The fall semester is finally underway, and campus is once again bustling with the excitement of a new academic year. It’s wonderful to have our students back on campus and to return to a more typical semester, even while we continue to manage the impacts of COVID-19.
I don’t have to tell you how vital you are to the success of our students and University, but I will gladly remind you how much the University’s leadership appreciates your commitment, resiliency and strength. Your efforts in teaching, research and service are the underpinnings of this great institution, and our students look to you – not just for their education – but also for guidance, mentorship and support.
As we dig in to the 2021-2022 academic year, I wanted to reiterate some of the policies and procedures that should help to manage your classrooms in the current environment.
Following are some quick reminders, as well as more detailed updates around classroom policies and procedures that have been developed as a result of the pandemic, including:
- Mandatory fall COVID-19 testing
- Classroom mask mandate and faculty responsibilities
- COVID-19 notification process, assigned seating and attendance tracking
- Syllabus statements and attendance policy
- Course modality
- International students and GTAs
- Resources for faculty and instructors
I encourage each of you to visit the WVU Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage and the WVU Teaching and Learning Commons website for additional information, resources and support. And remember, each of these messages is archived on the Office of the Provost website for future reference.
Mandatory Fall COVID-19 Testing
While students who have not verified their vaccination status with WVU are required to submit COVID-19 test results, they are only directed to refrain from attending class when the test returns a positive result. At that point, the academic notification and contact tracing processes will begin. Students (and employees) should continue to follow safety protocols while awaiting their results.
As a reminder, instructors are not permitted to ask students if they have completed their testing or about their vaccination status.
Details about the mandatory testing, along with testing sites and locations to submit results, are outlined on the Return to Campus website.
Random weekly sample testing is set to begin next week for those who are on campus and have either not been vaccinated or have not verified their vaccination status.
Classroom Mask Mandate and Faculty Responsibilities
As was announced earlier this week, everyone (regardless of vaccination status) is required to wear a mask:
- in classrooms, teaching and research labs
- on campus transportation, including buses and the PRT
Unvaccinated people are also expected to wear a mask inside all University facilities, as well as outdoors when they are around other people.
It is the instructor or lab manager’s responsibility to ensure students are complying with the mask mandate in our classrooms and labs. To report a student not following protocols, please submit a complaint to Student Conduct.
Failure to follow COVID-19 requirements puts you, your students, the Universityand the greater community at additional risk for COVID-19 exposure and infection. The health and safety requirements set forth by the University include but are not limited to complying with reentry testing, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), isolating/quarantiningwhen appropriate, completing the COVID-19 educational module and ensuringa safe classroom environment.
Instructors are encouraged to review the COVID-19 Guidelines for Ensuring Safe Classroom Behavior on how to identify and respond appropriately to disruptive or non-compliant behavior that could endanger the health of others. Those guidelines are available on the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage. Remember, too, that students have the right to a safe learning environment and that they will likely report non-compliant classrooms.
COVID-19 Notification Process, Assigned Seating and Attendance Tracking
While some of you may be familiar with the COVID-19 academic notification process, many of our instructors are new to this process, having taught mostly online or hybrid classes last year. In order to conduct complete and effective contact tracing efforts and ensure students are quarantining when necessary, we are again requiring all instructors of in-person courses to maintain assigned seating and take attendance for every course session.
When a student is identified as having a “COVID-related event,” Amanda DeBastiani will send each of that student’s in-person instructors a letter of notification outlining next steps and expectations. Complete details are outlined on the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage, along with the process for instructors who are directed to quarantine.
Details regarding the submission of seating charts and options for tracking attendance are included on the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage. Please note that seating charts are due by September 1, 2021.
Syllabus Statements and Attendance Policy
As a reminder, there are two statements instructors may choose to include in their course syllabi again this semester. The COVID-19 Syllabus Statement is no longer required, but instructors may include it if they choose to do so. Additionally, instructors may choose to include either the long or short version of the Optional Mental Health Statement. Links to both statements are available on the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage.
This semester we have returned to the standard University Attendance Policy. COVID-related absences between one and three weeks fall under the Short Term Leave category of the Emergency Leave portion of the Attendance Policy. Instructors may use their discretion when deciding how to reasonably accommodate students who fall ill or are required to quarantine. In most cases, documentation will be provided by Amanda DeBastiani in the Provost’s Office, but official documentation may not be readily available in cases of self-quarantine or some other circumstances. Instructors are asked not to specifically request medical documentation, but it can be accepted if offered.
Some examples of reasonable accommodations are:
- Giving students notes or presentation slides for missed classes
- Allowing make-up assignments, homework and exams
- Providing substitute assignments
- Dropping the lowest quiz and/or exam score(s)
- Make-up quiz or exam day at the end of the semester
In general, we support faculty and instructors being stricter with attendance this year. At the same time, we also don’t want to encourage students who may be sick or contagious to come to class and potentially expose others. As there have been breakthrough cases among vaccinated individuals, we urge instructors to work with all students in quarantine to help them meet the learning outcomes of the course.
While the majority of our students are thrilled to be attending classes in person, we’ve had some students ask for changes in modality. Our response is always that the student is expected to participate in the course modality for which they registered. They may choose to work with their academic adviser to find course alternatives or to explore WVU’s Online Programs if they want a completely online schedule.
The same holds true for our faculty and instructors. While we know there are last-minute adjustments and potential late accommodations to be implemented, instructors whose courses are listed on the course schedule as on-campus delivery are expected to teach in that modality. Any changes to modality different from the course schedule should be approved by the department chair and dean’s office and reported to the Office of the Provost.
It is important that we continue to deliver on our promises and fulfill students’ expectations. My office will work with your academic units to address unique issues or concerns that may arise.
International Students and GTAs
Please note that some of our student workers and graduate assistants who are assigned to work may not be eligible to work yet because they have not received their Social Security number. These students must go through our local Social Security Administration office and cannot be seen until they have quarantined at least 14 days after coming to the U.S. There may be an additional delay because of the backlog that is impacting SSA offices around the country.
We understand that this can impact faculty teaching and research efforts, but students who are not yet eligible to work may not be assigned to work duties until they have been officially processed. Specific questions can be directed to email@example.com.
Resources for Faculty and Instructors
The Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage continues to be a go-to resource for COVID-related academic, teaching and classroom management resources. It also includes resources for professional development, personal wellbeing, dependent care and student wellness.
Be sure to watch for upcoming professional and leadership development opportunities from the Office of the Provost. Those opportunities are included on the WVU Faculty and Leadership Development website and promoted in ENEWS and through email listservs.
In addition, the WVU Teaching and Learning Commons will continue to offer workshops, classroom technology support, learning communities and select on-demand resources to assist instructors throughout the semester. Consultations are available by request. Visit the TLC website for updates and opportunities.
Again, I want to thank each of you for your dedication to our students’ success and your continued resilience and patience as we navigate a new school year with the COVID-19 pandemic not quite in our rearview mirror as we had originally hoped. The good news is that our students are back, and we are moving forward as a University.
We will continue to adapt to the situation as it evolves, as we have done through the entire pandemic. But please know that we are entirely focused on maintaining the in-person classroom experience this year and are not planning to switch to remote instruction. The number of people getting vaccinated continues to rise, and we anticipate that booster shots will be available this fall for fully vaccinated WVU employees and students who are at least eight months past receiving the second dose.
Our goal is to keep our WVU community as safe as possible while providing our students a high-quality academic experience, growing our research enterpriseand engaging in impactful outreach that improves the lives of the citizens of our state.