Presented by the Social Differences, Social Justice faculty cluster and sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, Renée Crown University Honors Program and Whitman School of Management, campus community members are invited to participate in the first annual Social…
Managing COVID in the Classroom
As a follow-up to Chancellor Syverud’s most recent message, I am writing to address a handful of questions I have received from some of you in recent days regarding masking—inside and outside of the classroom—and faculty teaching space.
But first, I want to emphasize the dynamic and fluid nature of current pandemic conditions. I also want to extend my gratitude to the 96% of students, faculty and staff who have complied with our vaccine requirement as first announced in April and reiterated throughout the summer months on multiple occasions. As a reminder, only vaccinated individuals, and those with religious or medical exemptions, will have access to our campus this year. Because of this, our campus community is among the most highly vaccinated in the country. This, combined with our rigorous public health response strategy, has positioned us to fulfill our commitment to keeping our community safe while also delivering a robust student experience.
I appreciate that for many of you, masking is an important tool in protecting your health and the well-being of your loved ones. Today, I will address:
- Masks in the classroom
- Office hours and 1:1 meetings
- Wearing a mask while lecturing
Masks in the Classroom
As announced last week, we have implemented a four-tiered COVID Alert Framework for masking. The alert levels will follow the most up-to-date public health information on campus and in our community. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will be led by the science and will be responsive to local conditions. It is critical that we ALL follow the Universitywide guidelines for mask-wearing, as appropriate for the published COVID alert level. Currently, we are at level BLUE. This means, everyone—vaccinated and unvaccinated—is required to wear masks during academic instruction. Masking in other indoor space is mandatory for unvaccinated persons and recommended for vaccinated persons in the current BLUE level.
We expect our masking guidance may change in the coming weeks and months as public health conditions warrant. If so, the alert level will be communicated to the entire campus via campus email, text message, Twitter (@SUCampus and @SyracuseUNews), Facebook (@SUCampus and @SyracuseUniversityNews) and on news.syr.edu. The alert level will also be displayed at the top of the Stay Safe webpage.
The guidelines for mask-wearing in the COVID Alert Framework, and the science-based decision making that leads to the review and determination of the appropriate color level, represent the University’s assessment of the current risk and the necessary mitigation of that risk. To reduce confusion and ensure universal observance of our public health policies, instructional staff are not permitted to deviate from the classroom masking guidelines that accompany the color level that is in place at any given time.
Office Hours and 1:1 Meetings
We know that many of you spend a significant amount of time in office hours, 1:1 meetings, mentoring sessions and so on. Recognizing that your office is your personal space, faculty may require masks during these kinds of engagements or elect to hold required office hours online. Please use your best judgement and discretion when making these decisions.
Wearing a Mask While Lecturing
The masking guidelines in the COVID Alert Framework apply to both students and instructional staff. Therefore, in BLUE and RED conditions, instructors are expected to wear masks in the classroom. We understand, however, that there are certain types of courses in which there is a firm pedagogical reason for an instructor to be unmasked. In these instances, we ask that you communicate your plan to your department chair. If you are in a large lecture space with a designated teaching area (i.e., a lectern or a smart teaching station), you may remove your mask. Please use your best judgement, however, if you intend to move about the space and come into close proximity to students.
You will continue to receive frequent updates from the Office of Academic Affairs and we will do our best to answer frequently asked questions in a timely manner.
Despite the ongoing uncertainty created by the pandemic, I remain grateful to work alongside such a dedicated and talented faculty and look forward to a very positive fall semester for our students.
Please continue to stay well.
Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost