Dear faculty and instructor colleagues:
As we enter the spring semester, I would like to remind you of a few items related to instruction and managing potential disruptions related to the pandemic. Specifically, I’d like to share information related to reducing classroom density in face-to-face classes, managing absences that are required due to your own exposure or positive COVID-19 test, and managing student absences.
As in the fall semester, our Instructor FAQ describes many aspects of the testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine processes that the university has put in place to help our community manage the pandemic. I encourage you to review the FAQ prior to the start of classes. My team, in collaboration with Dr. Julie Casani, director and medical director of Student Health Services, and Dr. Amy Orders, director of Emergency Management and Mission Continuity, has just updated the FAQ, so please re-read it even if you have reviewed it recently. They will continue to update the FAQ as needed throughout the semester.
As described in the FAQ, if your course has been designated as face-to-face, you may choose to allow students to participate remotely by their choice as a way to reduce the density of your classroom. You can also encourage a rotation of students who attend your face-to-face classes while others are remote. For example, you can ask students to consider attending every other class face-to-face. In any case, it is important that you continue convening all class meetings in person for students who are not in isolation/quarantine and who prefer that mode of engagement.
That said, I anticipate that some of you will be required to isolate or quarantine yourselves due to an exposure or a positive COVID-19 test over the course of this semester. For the period of your isolation or quarantine, if you are well enough to teach, you of course may use remote instruction strategies to help manage continuity in your courses. This could include using a variety of available options for online instructional support such as Moodle, offering class recordings via Panopto or using Zoom for class meetings during this time. Instructors do NOT need to seek an exception or approval from the university to move a class to a remote instruction format for the time that they are isolating or quarantining due to their own exposure or positive test, given the expectation that the course would return to in-person instruction when the isolation/quarantine period is over; however, you should work with your department head as you make these needed adjustments.
Finally, I would like to ask for your help regarding student absences. Evaluation of a student’s performance in a particular course or section is the prerogative of the instructor responsible for that course or section (REG 02.50.03). Similarly, instructors are given flexibility in how to manage attendance in their courses (REG 02.20.03). I want to encourage all instructors to use their prerogatives regarding student evaluation to implement flexible attendance, exam and assignment policies whenever possible. Requiring a doctor’s note or counseling center verification for absences increases the administrative burden on already burdened university services. Like many campus units, Student Health Services is experiencing staffing issues, and this semester the SHS team is doubly if not triply burdened with the convergence of cold and flu season along with the pandemic. Similarly, our counseling center clinicians are seeing unprecedented demands for care. Time spent preparing absence verification documents is time taken away from caring for ill students. Eliminating a requirement for absence verification notes would alleviate the pressure on those clinicians’ time, and would help to assure that they are available for students who are ill or in crisis. I am asking and indeed I am urging you to consider adjusting your course policies to reduce or eliminate requirements for absence verification, if only temporarily, to assist our health services teams.
This pandemic has required near-constant adaptation from us for nearly two years. Although each semester has been somewhat different in terms of what we have had to do to manage the pandemic’s changes, all of the semesters have been challenging and stressful. I know many of you are weary, and like you I am hoping for some relief soon. As always, please continue to stay up-to-date on NC State’s community standards, available at our Protect the Pack website, and continue to use the resources that are available to you through your departments and colleges, as well as those available from the Office for Faculty Excellence, DELTA, the NC State University Libraries and University Human Resources. I remain deeply impressed by and grateful for all that you have done and continue to do for our NC State community, especially our students, while also managing the stress that the pandemic has created for you personally and professionally.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost