August 11, 2021
With the start of the academic year approaching, you can expect to hear from us more regularly with guidance and resources to help you prepare for the semester ahead. As you know, Fall 2021 represents a moment of transition for our community. Although there is substantial excitement around the return of face-to-face classes for residential programs and the shift to hybrid work arrangements for most faculty and staff, uncertainties about COVID-19 remain. We are grateful for your ongoing partnership and flexibility as we navigate this new normal together.
We hope you have had an opportunity to review President Burwell’s comprehensive communication regarding AU’s Fall 2021 Health and Safety Plan, which you should have received on Friday, August 6. WCL faculty should also reference the Modality Memo previously distributed and made available via the MyWCL Portal. We are writing to give you a few additional updates and clarifications directly related to Academic Affairs.
As a reminder, everyone inside university buildings will be required to wear masks in most instances, including students in face-to-face classes. Fully vaccinated faculty have the option of wearing a mask or teaching from a suitable distance without a mask to support the learning environment. For further details, see the Fall 2021 Health and Safety Plan.
Managing Student Requests for Virtual Versions of Courses
We all know how important face-to-face engagement is to our learning mission. But it is also understandable that there are concerns from both faculty and students about participating in person. Some students have individually approached their faculty or advisors to ask for virtual versions of face-to-face courses. Should you receive requests of this nature, please encourage your students to consider one of the online offerings already listed in the schedule of classes. Faculty teaching in person are not expected to make course content for the semester available asynchronously online or to offer options for simulcasting.
While we appreciate your wanting to work with students and accommodate their needs, you should consult with your unit’s associate dean before allowing any students to take in-person classes in an online modality. We want to ensure that we are treating students equitably in their access to the different modalities.
Student Absences for Quarantine and/or Health Reasons
Quarantine. A number of students will need to quarantine upon arrival in Washington, DC based on guidelines from the DC Department of Health for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals traveling to the area. If you are a faculty member with affected students in your class, we ask you to work with them on a short-term basis to allow them to complete coursework while quarantining. Students in this situation should notify you directly of their circumstances.
Health absences. Similarly, students may need to miss classes throughout the semester for health reasons. Per our usual policy, faculty should not ask for medical documentation from students. Given that we want any student who is experiencing symptoms of illness to refrain from attending in-person classes, we ask that you be flexible in granting short-term excused absences (i.e., one to two classes) and not require documentation from the Dean of Students for any short-term absence. The Office of the Dean of Students will provide notice of absence for those students who need to take more prolonged absences or undergo quarantine/isolation. Please note that information on parallel processes for WCL will be forthcoming.
We ask that you support your students who become ill during the semester as you normally would. For faculty members, this may include sharing PowerPoints or other in-class materials electronically, allowing for extensions on assignments, and ensuring that students’ participation grades are not negatively impacted. Students should be expected to make up any missed work.
Contact Tracing. The university will continue to test and contact trace for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 within our community and will notify instructors, support staff, and classmates if an individual was in their presence while potentially infectious. If a faculty or staff member hears that an individual with whom they’ve interacted tested positive but does not receive official notification, they should assume that contact tracing has determined that the interaction took place outside that person’s infectious period. Faculty and staff should direct questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or x7950.
Faculty and Staff Absences
Absences. As detailed in the recently distributed Health and Safety Plan, faculty and staff experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not come to work and should get tested immediately. Testing options for symptomatic faculty and staff will be available through AU beginning on August 16.
Canceling class or shifting modality. As they would during a typical academic year, faculty may need to cancel or move an in-person class online periodically (due to an illness, conference travel, etc.). Faculty should communicate temporary changes in modality (for one or two class periods) to their students with as much lead time as possible.
Long-term modality shift. Decisions to make longer-term or permanent changes to modality will be made on a university-wide basis in accordance with guidance from the DC Department of Health. Faculty should not change the established modality of their courses for longer than one week of instruction without permission from their dean.
Changes to staff schedules or modalities. Staff members should work with their supervisors, with the assistance of HR as needed, on any leave or changes to established work schedules or modalities.
As a reminder, it was announced in a June 30, 2021 memo that the university has implemented an interim travel approval process that will be continued through the end of the calendar year. Business travel within the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) region and personal travel do not require approval through this process.
AU Library. As of August 9, AU’s Bender Library has reopened on the main campus with hours as noted on its website. Initially, only members of the AU community will be able to swipe in. While we will begin to welcome those who are not AU faculty, staff, and students to the library on August 30, all outside visitors will be required to make a reservation, show proof of vaccination, and wear masks in order to access the building.
Pence Law Library. The Pence Law Library will welcome new and returning WCL students, faculty, and staff on its normal semester schedule, including 24/7 access, beginning August 16. Entrance to the law library will be by card swipe. WCL alumni may use the library on a reservation basis, Monday to Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. Members of the public will not be able to physically use the law library until at least October 1 but may obtain research assistance by emailing email@example.com. Additional information about fall law library access and policies is posted on its website.
Events and Guest Policies
In-person events will be limited at the start of the semester in support of our health and safety efforts. Sponsors of select approved in-person external events (i.e., events with non-AU participants) will be required to keep a log that records the name, email, and phone number of each participant and must retain that log for at least one semester or three months (whichever is longer). All university-mandated health and safety measures should be shared with event participants and guests in advance and applicable requirements enforced. Individual visitors for guest lectures, clinics, research, admissions, or development will also follow all university health and safety protocols. Most internal meetings requiring university space will remain virtual throughout the fall semester.
Return to Research Protocol
The return to campus also marks the resumption of campus-based research. Effective immediately, researchers are no longer required to complete the Restart Research Checklist. Research-related visitors (including externally affiliated research collaborators) are subject to the same guidelines as all campus visitors.
At this time, researchers wishing to engage in human subjects research should continue to request exemption from the suspension of human subjects research. Updates will be communicated through the Office of Research as they become available.
Learning opportunities. Faculty and staff are encouraged to take advantage of upcoming opportunities for learning and discussion. Don’t forget to register for the August Faculty Workshops hosted by CTRL (August 18, 19, and 25). You can sign up for additional events offered throughout the semester and locate ongoing teaching and research support on the CTRL website.
FAQs. Please visit the FAQ section on the AU Coronavirus Community Resources website for further information. Do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have remaining questions to be addressed moving forward.
Upcoming message. Before the start of the semester, you will receive another message from Jessica Waters and Wendy Boland focused on academic resources and policy updates, including details on course rosters, academic accommodations, Title IX regulations, the Student Technology Task Force, and the academic calendar.
We hope that you have found time to relax and recharge this summer. Thank you, as always, for your many efforts to support our students and advance AU’s mission!
All the best,
Acting Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Monica C. Jackson
Deputy Provost and Dean of Faculty
Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies
Dean of Undergraduate Education and Vice Provost for Academic Student Services
Vice Provost for Academic Administration