Resources for classroom management this fall

Dear Twin Cities faculty and instructors:

As you work to finalize your plans for teaching, I want to express how much I appreciate all that you have been doing, and all that you continue to do, to provide the high quality education our students expect from our world-class University. You are pivotal to the impactful and transformative educational experiences that our students value.

This year will be different than previous years, and I know some questions remain about both safety and about classroom management. We continue to adjust our processes and procedures in response to pandemic-related changes. We also continue to rely on a layered approach to safety, which includes:

  • The recent announcement of an updated Face Covering Protocol, including the availability of N95 masks for any community member who would like one,
  • The Get the Vax 2.0 protocol, which includes a vaccine requirement for students and a vaccine certification for faculty and staff,
  • Daily cleaning of classrooms and the provision of disinfectant wipes for students to clean their seating surfaces,
  • Updates to our HVAC systems so that all our classrooms are compliant with CDC and OSHA guidelines,
  • Continued communications campaign regarding hygiene, testing, and staying home when ill.

As the start of classes nears, below are some additional resources and links that I hope will be helpful as we look forward to beginning classes next week.

Face covering protocol. Our current face covering protocol requires masks to be worn indoors, regardless of vaccination status. This excellent guide provides step-by-step instructions on what to do if a student in your class violates the face covering protocol. Accommodations for approved alternative face coverings will be included in students’ disability accommodation letters or discussed with instructors. Cloth masks to be worn anytime and transparent face shields that may be worn only when lecturing if you desire are available through the department or college; N-95 and other protective masks are available through the Department of Health and Safety.

Stable seating. We recommend “stable seating” in the classroom to enhance contact tracing should it be necessary. In some classes, this may take the form of assigned seats. In others, instructors may simply recommend that students sit in the same seat throughout the course, and/or are able to identify those surrounding them in case it is needed. For performance, labs and similar classes, assigning and identifying stable partners would be an appropriate parallel.

Missing class. Instructors are strongly encouraged to adopt and communicate educational practices that enable students to stay home when they are sick. These practices must be consistent with the policy on Makeup Work for Legitimate Absences, but do not necessarily require hy-flex or simultaneous modes of instruction.

If an instructor must miss class due to illness, we rely on our existing procedures for coverage. Instructors who will need to miss class should inform their Head/Chair to arrange for appropriate adjustments. Depending on your situation, you may also be eligible for emergency paid leave.

Accommodations. The Disability Resource Center, as in any year, consults with instructors if students in their classes require accommodations for health or other reasons, including testing accommodations. Resources are available through the DRC to help you create more inclusive classes which may reduce the need for individual accommodations; Teaching with Access & Inclusion provides an overview and many useful links.

Vaccination status. As was the case prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, instructors or supervisors should not inquire about or otherwise solicit a student’s immunization status or medical test results, either individually or anonymously. Policy and privacy considerations prevent instructors from treating vaccinated and unvaccinated students differently. Instructors should avoid any communication that may be perceived as pressuring, forcing, or coercing any student to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination, but, of course, can provide information on how students can meet the University's vaccination requirement when appropriate.

Health status. Students may tell you that they have tested positive for COVID-19, or may appear to be sick. This document provides guidance on how to respond and describes what will happen.

Food and drink: As before the pandemic, instructors can permit or restrict eating and drinking in their classes (subject to any posted restrictions of particular buildings/classrooms). Such policies should be stated on the syllabus.

Finally, it is important that you communicate these important aspects of your class to your students. The Faculty Consultative Committee of the Senate has helped develop some suggested syllabus language that reflects the current University policy on face coverings and staying home when ill, and will soon be updated for the student vaccine requirement,that you can use to explain expectations to your students. You may want to consider incorporating some language from the Syllabus Supplement from the Student Conflict Resolution Center; it includes information on topics such as disability accommodations, scholastic misconduct, and Title IX concerns. A new website provides resources and sample language around academic integrity. You can also find syllabus language reflecting various University policies in the policy library.

If you have a concern that isn’t addressed here, I encourage you to explore the FAQs on the Safe Campus website. A section on Faculty and Teaching Considerations includes questions and answers in more detail than could be conveyed in this message. If you don’t find your question answered there (or in the links above) please feel free to submit it to [email protected].

We continue to monitor the development of the pandemic and the guidance of public health officials and our own local experts, and to evaluate our processes as we consider the need for additional pivots or adjustments.

Thank you, again, for your continuing dedication to your colleagues, your intellectual communities, and to our students, and for your ongoing engagement as we work to ensure a successful semester that protects the well being of our campus community.

Sincerely yours,

Rachel T.A. Croson
Executive Vice President and Provost

email sent on August 30, 2021 to all Twin Cities faculty and all instructors scheduled to teach on the Twin Cities campus in fall 2021