Fall 2021 COVID-19 FAQs for Students
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This page provides information about academic issues and resources for students 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 8, 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.
Often a simple reminder to mask can be an effective way to address this situation. If the individual still will not comply with the requirement, you may report the incident on the Mask Violations Page.
Classroom and Attendance
If you are sick and cannot participate in classes or finish assignments, notify your instructor via email or Canvas as soon as possible. Undergraduate students should use the Course Absence Report system to report absences for both online and in-person classes.
Refer to the Classroom Exposure FAQ for more information about contact tracing and the risk of exposure in classrooms.
Current public health guidelines do not require any distancing in the classroom. In person classes will be operating at 100% capacity in their assigned rooms for the Fall 2021 semester. The University will be monitoring public health guidelines and adapt accordingly. Information on what we are doing to keep our facilities safe can be found in the Facilities Resumption FAQ.
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.
As announced in the April 22, 2021 message to the University community, undergraduate instruction for the Fall 2021 semester is in-person with very limited exceptions. For information about graduate and professional programs, contact the program or school.
No, the University is not mandating that classes be recorded. Check with your department or school for additional information.
Students should contact their academic advisors and/or school-based advising offices.
Academic policies regarding grading will return to their regular, pre-COVID standards. The special grading policies surrounding pass/fail from the Spring 2021 term are no longer in effect. Information about regular grading policies is available from the program or school.
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 be referred to Student Disabilities Services. 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.
The University is currently in Phase III: Full Research Resumption. There are no restrictions on participation in research for undergraduate or graduate students in the Fall 2021 semester. Please note that schools may have specific guidance for some activities.
Special dissertation defense and deposit instructions continue to be in effect for the Fall 2021 semester. Dissertation defenses may be in-person or presented via remote conferencing. Electronic signatures will be allowed on all required forms for depositing, a printed copy of the dissertation will not be required, and the dissertation must be submitted electronically.
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.
Some restrictions remain in effect for programs for visiting students, exchange students, non-degree students, or students in non-credit programs. Not all programs may be operating in the Fall 2021 term; check with your program for more details. Visitors to Penn must comply with all University Public Health Guidance and Philadelphia health guidelines and policies.
For Penn-affiliated travel, Penn Global provides COVID-19 travel guidelines and procedures for both domestic and international travel.
Undergraduate students who anticipate arriving to campus after the start of the academic term – August 31 in Fall 2021 - should consult with their faculty or academic advisor about the feasibility of getting caught up in their courses. Students should not expect instructors to make lectures available asynchronously or to record in-person class meetings. Undergraduate students who are not able to arrive to campus by the last day to add courses - September 14 in Fall 2021 – are advised to take a leave of absence for the Fall 2021 term.
Late arriving graduate and professional students should reach out to their program advisor or director to discuss any online/virtual options that may be available. International students should also contact their ISSS immigration advisor to adjust their program start dates.