While the chances of you becoming the victim of a crime during your time at Syracuse are low, it is still important to know what steps you can take to keep yourself and your belongings safe. We have teamed up…
Important Reminders for Faculty
I very much hope that you had an enjoyable winter break, with some time spent with loved ones and friends. The end of the fall semester wound up being a race against the omicron variant, and I know that many of you had to scramble to administer your final exams. Thank you for your flexibility and your good work in helping our students complete their classes.
This message highlights a few things you should be aware of as you plan your spring classes. These include:
- Classroom instruction, including public health matters
- Student mental health
- Additional resources
As always, the Important Syllabus Reminders page contains details on the topics covered in this message, as well as many other topics. It also includes suggested language for several sections of your syllabi.
The University remains committed to offering in-person instruction to our students. While the omicron variant presents a challenge, the fact that nearly 100% of our students, faculty and staff have been vaccinated and boosted should give us all confidence that we can once again have a successful semester.
As we begin the spring semester, masks continue to be required indoors at all times (and outdoors while in the presence of others). This includes in classrooms, academic spaces and hallways. Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York State Department of Health and Onondaga County Health Department guidelines, the COVID-19 Response Checklists for students, faculty and staff have been updated to reflect the latest guidance on isolation and quarantine periods. For many students who test positive, the period of isolation may be shorter than in past semesters. As in the fall semester, fully vaccinated persons who are in close contact with someone who tests positive do not have to quarantine but do have to wear a mask for 10 days. As a rule, anyone exposed to a COVID-positive individual should get tested five days following exposure and watch for symptoms for a period of 10 days.
As in past semesters, you will receive an absence notification from the staff in Student Outreach and Retention for students who have to miss class for more than 48 hours. For privacy reasons, those notifications will not include the medical diagnosis. You may hear from the student before you receive the absence notification. The University’s on-campus PCR testing is now considered confirmatory, so students who test positive no longer have to submit a second sample for diagnostic testing.
Faculty are required to provide students who are in isolation or quarantine with the means to keep up with the rest of the class so that they can successfully resume their participation when their isolation/quarantine period is over. You are free to decide how you do this in the manner most fitting for your classes. Many faculty choose to livestream or record their classes for students in isolation and quarantine. Our students have indicated clearly that this is their preferred option and I encourage you to give it serious consideration. Nearly all of our teaching spaces are equipped for both streaming and recording classes. Contact your school or college’s IT team if you need help setting this up.
It is worth pausing here to note that the big difference between our students in COVID isolation and students who have suffered extended illnesses in the past is that most of the students in isolation do not feel sick. They are asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms. They are ready to engage and do coursework. Helping them to stay engaged with their classes not only helps them succeed when their isolation is over, it is also helps them combat the sense of loneliness that accompanies isolation. Please keep this in mind as you determine how best to work with your isolated students.
If you test positive for COVID, you should notify your department chair and HR Shared Services by phone at 315.443.4042. If your school does not have departments, please notify your dean. If you are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and you want to continue teaching your classes online, you may do so. Otherwise, you should work with your department chair or dean to arrange for alternate instruction. Departments are encouraged to adopt “teaching buddy” arrangements where possible.
As a reminder, the most up-to-date information and frequently asked questions are always available on the Stay Safe website.
Student Mental Health
During the pandemic, students across the country have reported elevated levels of stress, anxiety and depression. In some cases, students bring these concerns directly to their instructors, perhaps in the context of a missed assignment or poor performance in the course. The Barnes Center wellness team has developed a toolkit for faculty to help them navigate this challenging situation. The following text has been provided by the Barnes Center and may be included in your syllabus at your discretion:
“Mental health and overall well-being are significant predictors of academic success. As such it is essential that during your college experience you develop the skills and resources effectively to navigate stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. Please familiarize yourself with the range of resources the Barnes Center provides (https://ese.syr.edu/bewell/) and seek out support for mental health concerns as needed. Counseling services are available 24/7, 365 days, at 315-443-8000. I encourage you to explore the resources available through the Wellness Leadership Institute, https://ese.syr.edu/bewell/wellness-leadership-institute/”
Educators across the country have reported that the frequency of impolite, confrontational and entitled behavior has increased in students at all grade levels. This is not unlike what we are seeing in airplanes, retail stores, restaurants and other public spaces. If you experience any of these behaviors, I can only ask that you handle the situation with the same grace that you have brought to your classes throughout the pandemic.
As mentioned above, please consult the Important Syllabus Reminders page for more detailed information and suggested syllabus language on a wide range of topics. I note only a few below:
- All faculty are obliged to follow the University’s policies and federal law related to serving students with disabilities; the Center for Disability Resources (CDR) is your partner in these processes. The Disability Faculty Portal, located in the Faculty Services field in MySlice, can be used to view accommodation letters for your students, upload exams and assignments, and provide feedback to CDR.
- Our Religious Observances Policy recognizes the right of students to be absent from class for faith-based observances. Students must register their expected absences on MySlice (Student Services/Enrollment/My Religious Observances/Add a Notification). The deadline for notification is Feb. 14, coinciding with the drop deadline. Faculty are encouraged to plan proactively the dates of exams, group presentations and other significant class events to avoid major religious holidays. Hendricks Chapel maintains a list of holy days and holidays for many world religions. In addition, many Indigenous students participate in important religious observances on dates that are only determined by their community leaders a few weeks or days in advance. This frequently makes it impossible for the student to enter the observance in MySlice by the specified deadline. I ask that you work with these students to help them participate in these observances while continuing to make academic progress in your classes.
- Last semester, we introduced a new system for reporting incomplete grades. Incomplete grades must now be accompanied by a letter grade that reflects the final grade to be assigned if the student does not resolve the incomplete. More information and guidance on how to record incomplete grades is available on Answers (NetID login is required).
- Please consider using some form of mid-semester assessment in your classes. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment can help you design and implement a brief survey of your students to gather feedback. This sort of interim assessment can be very informative, and students really appreciate the opportunity to provide their instructors with their thoughts on how the course is going. If you would like some help to do this, please contact IEA at email@example.com.
I wish you the best for this semester, and I thank you for your efforts to help our students reach their academic goals.
Associate Provost for Academic Affairs