Fall 2021 COVID-19 FAQS for Instructors
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This page provides information about academic issues and resources for instructors related to the COVID-19 pandemic for the Fall 2021 semester.
For the latest public health guidance and more information, visit coronavirus.upenn.edu.
The University continues to monitor the evolving public health situation and this guidance will be updated as needed.
Last updated: September 17, 2021
As of August 5, 2021, masks are required indoors in public and shared spaces for all individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated. This includes classrooms. See the latest Public Health Guidance for more information.
Penn Environmental Health and Radiation Safety provides guidance on Universal Mask and Cloth Face Covering Precautions.
All such requests for exceptions must be initiated by contacting your department/program/undergraduate/graduate group chair. Please consult your Chair for the full recommendations, including the process to request an exemption. Requests are subject to approval by the school, Office of the Provost, and Penn Wellness.
No. Students must keep their mask on for the entirety of the class period.
Often a simple reminder to mask can be an effective way to address this situation. If the student still will not comply with the requirement, instructors should report the incident on the Masking Violations page. They may also ask the non-compliant student to leave the classroom, and if necessary for the health and safety of the class members, stop the class if the student will not leave.
Students are expected to obtain their own masks and are provided them by their College Houses and many other groups on campus. Students who need a mask or forget to bring one with them may contact the building administrator for the classroom building. The contact information for building administrators is generally posted in classrooms along with contact information for technology support. Instructors may also contact their department administrator for help reaching out to the appropriate building administrator.
Penn First Plus, located on the ground floor of College Hall, also has a stock of masks for students who need one.
The Center for Teaching and Learning has developed guidance on Teaching with a Mask.
There are also various techniques instructors can consider:
- Lapel microphones have been found effective in projecting voices in a full range of pitches even when the speaker wears a mask.
- Consider content delivery methods that permit pauses in lecturing to ease difficulties associated with prolonged lecturing.
- Consider using technology solutions like PowerPoint captioning or additional technology (note these are not supported in all classrooms)
For more information about technology options, talk to your local IT support provider.
Classrooms and Attendance
Faculty should not come to campus if they are ill or experiencing symptoms (including flu and other illnesses). Faculty are expected to follow all the guidelines set out by HR for working safely on campus as noted in the Return to Campus Guide and the current Public Health Guidance, such as wearing a mask in indoor public and shared spaces, complying with the vaccine requirement, using PennOpen Pass, and all other public health guidance.
Policies and procedures to support faculty who become ill or unable to teach during the semester remain in effect. Faculty should discuss their individual circumstances with their Dean or Department Chair. In certain cases, faculty may be given an exception to teach remotely for a limited period of time if necessary.
Refer to the Classroom Exposure FAQ for more information about contact tracing and the risk of exposure in classrooms.
The Center for Teaching and Learning has developed guidelines for how to support students who may need to quarantine or isolate.
The University is requiring all students, faculty, staff, postdocs, and other campus partners to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for the Fall 2021 semester. See more information at coronavirus.upenn.edu.
No, instructors are not allowed to ask students about medical information. The University maintains all such information securely, with access limited to those individuals engaged in health and safety functions for Penn on a need-to-know basis.
It is up to the discretion of the instructor if they will check the status of PennOpen Pass for their class. However, if instructors decide to check students’ PennOpen Pass status, they should check all students and not single out a particular student.
Individuals can receive a Red Pass for a variety of reasons as described in the PennOpen Pass FAQ. Individuals who receive a Red Pass will be provided instructions on what they need to do next. Instructors should direct students to follow up with the directions they are given on the pass and return to class when their pass is Green. Instructors should also provide information for the student on how they can make up any material they miss. The Center for Teaching and Learning has developed guidelines for how to support students who must miss class.
Individuals should not come to work or class in-person if they are sick or feel unwell, even if they have a Green Pass. Students should contact their health care provider for further guidance and complete PennOpen Pass. The Center for Teaching and Learning has developed guidelines for how to support students who must miss class.
Instructors who are concerned about a possible exposure risk but have not been contacted by our contact tracing team may identify this exposure through PennOpen Pass or schedule a COVID test through the Penn Cares testing site.
Undergraduate instruction for the Fall 2021 semester is in-person with very limited exceptions , as announced in the April 22, 2021 message to the University community. For information about graduate and professional programs, contact the program or school.
Instructors are permitted to hold class meetings outdoors at their discretion. However, please note the following:
- Tent spaces are not able to be reserved and are intended for informal use by the Penn community
- Per the latest public health guidelines, face coverings are still required
No, the University is not mandating that classes be recorded. Check with your department or school for additional information.
The University does not recommend dual-delivery of in-person courses from a pedagogical standpoint. CTL has developed guidance on how to support students who may need to miss class due to quarantine or isolation.
Technology needs and capabilities vary across classrooms. For more information about technology options, talk to your local IT support provider. Instructional technology support can work with instructors to address individual concerns about amplification depending on the classroom.
Please also note that the Center for Teaching and Learning has developed guidance on teaching with a mask which includes non-technological solutions.
Each building at Penn has specific heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Facilities and Real Estate Services and Environmental Health and Radiation Safety have conducted building-by-building HVAC systems condition and performance reviews. All occupied on-campus buildings are in compliance with the prevailing International Building Code and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers standards for ventilation. More information on your HVAC systems and other facilities resources can be found on the Facilities and Real Estate Services website.
Wherever possible, guest lectures should be conducted virtually.
Additional requirements are in place for any Penn-sponsored event that includes visitors (such as guest speakers in classrooms). Attendees must attest to having been vaccinated and register their contact information in the case that follow-up from contact tracers is needed, in addition to wearing a mask. For more information, view the latest public health guidelines.
The Center for Teaching and Learning offers support for instructors making the transition to in-person teaching this Fall, including guidance on teaching with a mask and workshops. If you need help using technology in the classroom, contact instructional technology support for your school.
Academic policies regarding grading will return to their pre-COVID standards. The special grading policies surrounding pass/fail from the Spring 2021 term are no longer in effect. Information about grading policies is available from the program or school.
Instructors may choose to hold office hours in person or virtually. Masks are required indoors in public and shared spaces for all individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated. See the latest Public Health Guidance for more information, including guidance on events and other non-course gatherings.
There are no changes to the final exam period (December 15-22, 2021). Synchronous final exams will be delivered in person. View Final Exam Information.
Students wishing to request an accommodation should contact Student Disability Services.
For the Fall 2021 semester only, graduate students who are fulfilling TA or teaching roles as part of their academic requirements and have medical concerns about participating in in-person classes as a TA or an instructor should contact Student Disabilities Services (SDS). Graduate groups should not ask students for details about their medical conditions. SDS will handle the evaluation process and work on a plan for accommodation with the graduate group that aligns with the University’s commitment to in-person, undergraduate course delivery.
When possible, graduate groups should also provide accommodations to students with medical concerns who are taking on TA and/or lecturer responsibilities independent of their academic requirements.
Special events and large gatherings are strongly recommended to be held outside and with precautions in place. Additional requirements apply to any Penn-sponsored event with visitors, which require attendees to attest to being fully vaccinated and to register their contact information in case follow-up is needed. Further information on events and gatherings is available on the Penn Coronavirus website.
Faculty seeking a medical accommodation should contact the Office of Affirmative Action (OAA) and Equal Opportunity Programs either by calling 215-898-6993 or emailing email@example.com.
Once received by OAA, the medical information provided is treated as sensitive and confidential and only shared as necessary with those who have a need to know in order to review the request for the accommodation. OAA serves as the facilitator between the faculty member and their department/school to determine if the accommodation can be granted. Any accommodation must be aligned with the University’s commitment to in-person undergraduate teaching.
Of note, a request for accommodations under the ADA requires reviewing medical information so it is best to centralize the intake.
Faculty should discuss other concerns and questions about their individual circumstances with their dean or department chair.
Penn has a comprehensive website on wellness and work-life with programs, resources, and information for faculty and staff. For information about COVID-19 related resources, courses, events, and more available to faculty and staff, visit the Return to Campus Well-being Resources page. Penn’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides eligible faculty and staff and their families access to free, confidential, 24/7 counseling and referral services for personal and professional life issues from any location.