How can I promote safety in the classroom?
UofSC Facilities will continue its cleaning and infection prevention protocols on campus for Spring 2022. Classrooms will continue to be outfitted with extra cleaning materials. Classroom capacities are set at pre-pandemic seating density. Here are some tips for instructors to encourage safety by students:
- Encourage students to be vaccinated and to get their boosters.
- Note that neither vaccinations, booster shots, nor wearing face coverings should be used for extra credit in a class.
- If feasible, encourage students to physically spread out using the available seating.
Can I require face coverings in the classroom?
No. Mask wearing is optional in all campus instructional and research spaces at the university and cannot be required of students in classrooms. However, please note: masks will still be required in medical facilities, including VA School of Medicine campus, at testing sites, and public transportation, and we continue to encourage mask wearing for people in the following situations:
- If you are at high risk for illness – those who are elderly, immunocompromised, pregnant or who have certain medical conditions
- If you live or regularly interact with someone at high risk for illness
- If you have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19
Can physical distancing be provided in the classroom?
Classes have been scheduled in classrooms at full capacity to be able to accommodate face-to-face classes that approximate pre-pandemic levels and to meet the back-to-work order by the Governor. However, if feasible, you can encourage students to physically spread out using the available seating.
What is the classroom attendance policy?
The Faculty Senate passed an undergraduate attendance policy which is currently in effect and all are encouraged to be familiar with it. Although this policy is officially applicable only to undergraduate students, instructors of graduate and professional courses are expected to provide similar measures.
In brief, faculty must provide make-up course work — including content and assignments — when students have excused absences required by law and the university which include (but are not limited to) being in quarantine or isolation, religious holidays, medical conditions related to pregnancy, and military duty. Other excused absences may be at the discretion of the faculty member. It is strongly recommended that documentation be requested for most excused absences. Make-up work can be in a variety of forms and is determined by the faculty member; the make-up work does not have to be in the form of recorded lectures. To limit the potential for make-up work, assessments may be structured such that all students may miss a certain number or drop a certain number of low scores.
If a student is ill, they should not attend class and they should contact the University Health Services to arrange testing for COVID-19 and medical documentation for an excused absence. If a student is ill but tests negative for COVID-19, faculty are encouraged to still view this absence as an excused absence.
How will I know if a student is absent because of quarantine or isolation?
Undergraduate Students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been exposed and require quarantining should complete the COVID-19 Student Report Form. The Undergraduate Ombuds will verify documentation and send a letter to instructors confirming the dates of the excused absence. Instructors should not excuse the absence without this letter. The Graduate Ombuds will provide notification to instructors for graduate students. Professional programs (Law School, Medical School, PharmD) have established individual internal processes for verifying and providing notification to instructors.
Can I share information about COVID-19 infections or vaccination status for students in the classroom?
Faculty should not share medical information about a student or students with others and should not inquire about vaccination status of students. These are health issues and the information is protected by state and federal law.
Faculty will only be contacted about COVID-19 cases in their classroom if the student grants permission.
Can I change my in-person class to online?
Classes in the spring of 2022 have more than half way completed and there should be no modality changes without approval as outline below. Similarly, once students start to register for classes offered in the summer and fall of 2022, the modality of teaching should not be changed except under very rare circumstances. These are:
- When 30% or more of the students in a class have documented excused absences, the faculty member may choose to move the class online for a limited amount of time until those documented absences are less than 30%. In such instances, there must be communication to the class both about where they may access lectures or course materials and when the class will go back to the original teaching method, as documented in Self-Service Carolina.
- Students taking classes or are registered for classes have the expectation that the class will be taught in the method that is specified in Self-Service Carolina. Permanent changes in teaching method can only occur when there is a documented health issue or disability making online teaching a necessity. The decision of a change in modality should be made at the level of the dean and every effort should be made to not change the modality of a course with registered students in it. These efforts could include a change of classroom assignment to allow more social distancing, a switch in instructors, assignment of a new instructor, etc. Temporary changes and changes to hybrid instruction with less than 50% online are preferred over permanent changes to 100% online instruction; changes to synchronous online courses are preferred over changes to asynchronous online courses. In the case of an approved change in teaching modality of a course in the spring, the faculty member should notify the students in the class of the change. The academic unit should make every effort to provide the same course in the modality that most of the students prefer either in the fall or in the spring. Academic units are still expected to have their face-to-face offerings within approximately 5% of pre-pandemic levels.
How do I request a permanent change in teaching method?
Individual faculty members may make a request to change the modality of their course with required justification. There are three ways to make such requests as outlined below:
- For non-medical reasons and for medical conditions for which the chair or dean do not require documentation, the faculty member can request change of teaching modality or modified duties (ACAF 1.60 Modified Duties for Faculty) to adjust or alter teaching load by agreement with the chair or dean for additional non-teaching responsibilities. These requests should be sent to the academic unit head, dean, and the Office of the Provost with firstname.lastname@example.org included as part of the communication chain.
- The faculty member can request an accommodation as allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended. Requests of this nature, with supporting medical documentation, should be submitted to the Employee Relations Department within the Division of Human Resources at USCER@mailbox.sc.edu.
- The faculty member can request an accommodation due to medical reasons that would not qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended, for either the employee themselves or under other special circumstances (e.g., the health condition of a family member for whom the employee is a primary caregiver). Please note that requests that are based on the employee’s own ADA qualifying reasons have priority over other requests. Requests of this nature, with supporting medical documentation, should be submitted to the Employee Relations Department within the Division of Human Resources at USCER@mailbox.sc.edu.
Upon receiving the faculty member’s request for either (2) or (3) above, staff within the Employee Relations Department will acknowledge the request and identify any additional documentation needed from the employee and/or their health care provider. It will be important to promptly return any additional documentation needed from the employee and/or their health care provider to the Employee Relations staff member who has requested it. Once the medical documentation has been approved by the Employee Relations Department, notice of the approval of that documentation will be sent to the appropriate Dean for further consideration of the employee’s request. The Dean’s Office will only know that the medical documentation has been approved; the employee’s medical documentation will remain confidential and will not be forwarded outside of Employee Relations. While an employee’s medical documentation may be approved by Employee Relations, the final decision on a change in modality should be made at the level of the dean. The dean will need to work with the Employee Relations Department to determine whether providing the requested accommodation will still allow the employee to perform the essential functions of their position, with or without reasonable accommodations. It is also important that the accommodations that are provided do not require the removal of essential job functions, or the creation of an undue hardship for the employee’s department. In light of these considerations, the approvals of any workplace accommodations are subject to review as necessary.
What happens if I become ill or have to quarantine?
Faculty should plan how they would manage their teaching obligations should they have to either be quarantined or become ill enough that they are unable to teach in any modality. It is important that instructional obligations to our students be met and faculty should share their plans to the head of their academic unit. A temporary shift to online instruction is allowable in this case if the instructor is capable of teaching in that format.
How do we plan for Fall 2022 courses?
The course scheduling for the Fall of 2022 is underway. It is expected that each academic unit will have as many face-to-face classes (as counted by sections of a particular course) as in pre-pandemic times plus or minus 5% for undergraduate and graduate residential students. The quantitative expectation for each unit will be shared by the Office of the Registrar in their message to the schedulers. New or existing programs that are offered exclusively online are not included in the calculation. It is strongly recommended that 100 level classes in the fall be offered face-to-face.
*Note that guidance is subject to change as the University of South Carolina adapts to the conditions imposed by the pandemic.
Please review the latest face covering guidance from Interim Provost Stephen Cutler and Interim Chief Health Officer Jason Stacy.