Dear Twin Cities faculty and instructors,
It’s hard to believe that the start of the Fall semester is just over one month away. I want to offer my deepest appreciation for your extraordinary efforts over this past academic year, and I hope that you found some time for rejuvenation over the summer months.
We all share the goal of keeping our University community safe and healthy, and we are aware of how rapidly the situation continues to change. I hear and understand the anxiety related to the pandemic and its continued evolution, and especially how we care for our families and vulnerable community members. I’m writing to provide clarity and additional information about our current planning for Fall 2021.
As we have throughout this pandemic, the University continues to consult with and seek the guidance of our public health organizations like the CDC and MDH, as well as our own internationally recognized public health officials and experts.
As you have undoubtedly seen in a number of communications, the University’s current policy is to strongly encourage vaccines, and to require everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks indoors. We are grateful that we are in a state and a University community with above average vaccination rates. Our position is consistent with current CDC guidelines and will be revisited as needed.
The University’s guidance on Work. With Flexibility. envisions that many of us will be returning to working on campus, including delivering in-person instruction. We have heard concerns from some instructors about risks that this might impose. For any instructor who is concerned, we have a number of resources available to you:
- Vaccinations are free, easily available, safe and effective against COVID-19 in all its variants. Breakthrough infections are rare, and significantly less serious than the disease in an unvaccinated individual.
- If you have an underlying health condition that prevents you from receiving a vaccine, or makes a vaccine less effective, please reach out to the Disabilities Resource Center for a confidential discussion of appropriate accommodations or adjustments.
- The University will provide you with facial coverings, and facial coverings are currently required while indoors. The University is also prepared to provide individuals in our community who wish one an N95 mask (or alternative) and fitting services, based on DRC recommendation or in response to any other concerns (see the “Face Coverings” section on the Health & Safety FAQs or email [email protected] for more information). As in 2020-2021, you may wear a transparent face shield while teaching in person, but should switch to a mask during other times. If you don’t have a mask or a transparent face shield, you can get one from your unit.
- We support your setting up your workspace to enable physical distancing between yourself and your students if you wish. If your assigned classroom will not allow this distance and you wish it, you can contact the Office of Classroom Management at [email protected] or your local classroom scheduling unit for assistance. If your office does not permit distancing, you may, if you wish, choose to hold your office hours in a different location or, if needed, hold them remotely.
- Health and Safety can provide information about the HVAC system in your classroom. If you're uncomfortable with their findings, again, please contact the Office of Classroom Management at [email protected] or your local classroom scheduling unit for assistance in exploring alternative classrooms.
- The Center for Educational Innovation can help you to structure your class so that students are enabled and encouraged to stay home if they are sick. These mechanisms can ensure that students who miss class because of illness aren't penalized, consistent with the policy on Makeup Work for Legitimate Absences and can enable and encourage individuals who are sick to stay home.
- We encourage you to take a COVID test whenever you wish, and can support testing with our M-Test program.
- The Faculty Consultative Committee of the Senate and Senate Committee on Educational Policy has helped develop recommended syllabus language that reflects the current University policy. You may wish to include the language itself or link to it in your syllabus.
These protections, individually and in combination, are designed to combine to enhance your safety during this fall semester.
While much progress has been made, we know that this pandemic remains with us, and will for some time to come. We continue to monitor this quickly changing situation and are prepared to adjust our guidance as conditions change.
Your health and wellness, including your mental health, is critically important. Please continue to seek any supportive services you may need, including those available through the Employment Assistance Program and the Center for Spirituality and Healing.
Rachel T.A. Croson
Executive Vice President and Provost
email sent August 3, 2021 to all Twin Cities faculty and all instructors scheduled to teach on the Twin Cities campus for Fall 2021 semester