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Office of the Provost

Faculty Guidance for Fall 2021 and Spring 2022

It is our mission to provide faculty with guidance needed to promote a safer and more successful learning environment. We will update our guidelines as changes occur.

How can I promote safety in the classroom?

UofSC Facilities will continue its cleaning and infection prevention protocols on campus for Fall 2021. Classrooms will continue to be outfitted with extra cleaning materials and disposable face coverings in case individuals forget their face covering and would like one. Classroom capacities are set at pre-pandemic seating density. Here are some tips for instructors to encourage safety by students:

  • Set an expectation for use of face coverings in your classroom both verbally and in your syllabus. Following the Dr. Pastides’ communication on August 17, 2021, students, faculty and staff are required to wear face covering in all UofSC buildings including classrooms with the exception of personal offices and residence hall spaces and when eating inside campus dining facilities.
  • If a faculty member can maintain at least 10 ft from any student, they may remove their face covering while teaching. Faculty should explain to the students that this is an exception based on the ability to keep a 10 ft social distance from everyone in the class.
  • Encourage students to be vaccinated. Promote UofSC's Garnet and Vaxxed campaign.
  • Note that neither vaccinations nor wearing face coverings should be used for extra credit in a class.
  • Develop a seating chart or another way to know who is sitting within 6 ft of whom for your class on a daily basis. The contact tracing team at University Health Services (UHS) may need your assistance to identify students seating on specific dates.
  • If feasible, encourage students to physically spread out using the available seating.

Can I require vaccination?

State law prohibits requiring COVID-19 vaccinations of students, faculty, and staff at UofSC (unless required by an entity other than UofSC such as a health care setting or an education abroad provider).  The University of South Carolina and all members of the UofSC community must follow these regulations.  As noted above, we strongly encourage vaccination, and ask all students, faculty and staff to upload their vaccine record to the secure MyHealthSpace. In addition, we consider the student’s medical record to be part of their student record.  You therefore may not inquire about vaccination status in the classroom.

Can I require face coverings in the classroom?

Yes.  Face coverings protect you and your classmates in case that the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Faculty, students, and staff are required to wear an appropriate face covering in all classrooms and in other designated areas on campus. Face coverings should cover your nose and mouth in a community setting. For details, about how to manage your class with respect to face coverings, please see the document on Guidance on face coverings in the classroom 08-18-21. 

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.

Do I need a seating chart for the classroom?

Instructors are requested to establish a way in which to help the contact tracers from the University Health Services establish who was sitting within 6 ft of whom in a class on a particular day. Suggestions are to establish a seating chart in the class and take attendance, have students track who was sitting close to them in class on each class day, or take a picture of your class for each session.  Know that seating chart information may be shared with contact tracers based on FERPA regulation but should be protected in the same as other non-directory information such as grades are protected.

To help faculty with this request, seating charts are being made available on the Office of the Provost Keep Teaching website for classrooms scheduled by the Office of the Registrar (referred to as 110-coded classrooms). The seating charts can only be downloaded with a UofSC login and duo authentication.  Note that if classrooms do not have fixed seating, the seating chart may not be completely accurate and not all classrooms have seat and row numbers.  Academic units with classrooms that they scheduled on their own (coded as 210) may consider developing and providing seating charts for those classrooms.  

The University Health Services pursues contact tracing as part of our OSHA requirement to do a reasonable and good faith inquiry to determine workplace transmission and to limit the spread on campus and to the community. Faculty members, as campus community members, are strongly encouraged by senior leaders to cooperate with tracing protocols.

What is the classroom attendance policy?

The Faculty Senate passed a new undergraduate attendance policy which is in effect this fall, 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 which include (but are not limited to) being in quarantine or isolation, religious holidays, medical conditions related to pregnancy, and military duty.  Excused absences may be at the discretion of the faculty member but 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?

COVID-19 related absences must be document through the Student Ombudsman.  Students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been exposed and require quarantining should complete the COVID-19 Student Report Form and instructors should request this form in order to excuse the absence.  The Student Ombudsman will verify documentation of a positive COVID-19 test or verification from UofSC contact tracers that they should be absent.

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 or if they are determined to be at risk by the contact tracers.

Can I change my in-person class to online?

Students have now registered for classes and 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.
  • Since students are registered in classes and have an 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. These requests should be sent to the academic unit head, dean, and Office of Provost provost@mailbox.sc.edu included as part of the communication chain. 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 fall, 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.

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 Spring 2022 courses?

The course scheduling for the Spring 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 spring 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.

As we enter Fall 2021, all faculty, staff and students are required to wear face coverings indoors at the University of South Carolina except in private offices, private residence hall room, or eating inside campus dining facilities.  This requirement includes all classrooms.  This requirement will be in place for an unknown period of time but there are hopes that the requirement will be lifted later in the semester as more people are fully vaccinated and the danger of COVID-19 wanes.  This face covering requirement is in accordance with UNIV 3.04 Communicable Disease Outbreak Mitigation Measures.  

Face coverings protect you and your classmates in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Face coverings should cover your nose and mouth.

Students with conditions that prohibit them from wearing a face covering must register with the Student Disabilities Resource Center (SDRC); appropriate accommodations will be approved by the SDRC.  

Since face coverings are required in their class, instructors of record are expected to either wear a face covering, be behind a barrier (e.g., sneeze guard), or be physically distanced from the students (at least 10 feet). In many cases, these options will address the needs of any instructor of record (faculty, staff and graduate students) who has a condition that prohibits them from wearing a face covering.  If not, the instructor should work with their supervisor/academic unit for accommodations. Note that the academic unit may request documentation for accommodations beyond those described herein; such documentation would be submitted to the Division of Human Resources.

What to do if a student shows up for class without a face covering.

If a student attempts to enter a classroom without a face covering, the following steps may be followed depending on the situation:

  • Ask the student if they have a face covering on their person (in a pocket or backpack), and if so, ask them to put it on. If not, instructors may ask the student if he/she has a mask in their possession (in a car, in their apartment, etc.), and if so, ask him/her to retrieve it and return to class.
  • If the student has no face covering or cannot retrieve one in a timely manner, offer the student a disposable mask should one be immediately available.
  • If the student has no options to retrieve a face covering, the instructor may tell the student to leave and come to the next class wearing a face covering or ask the student to sit apart from the rest of the class in an area where physical distancing is possible (if there is space in the classroom).
  • If the student refuses to wear a face covering, the instructor may tell the student to leave or a referral to the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity will be made resulting in disciplinary sanctions that could include removal from the course.
  • If the student refuses to leave the classroom as requested, instructors may also ask the student to sit apart from the rest of the class in an area where physical distancing is possible (if there is space in the classroom) and continue to teach the class and submit a referral to the Office of Student Conduct; or dismiss the class and submit a referral to the Office of Student Conduct.
  • If the student causes disruption (e.g., yelling, using profanity, interrupting an instructor’s ability to teach or conduct the class) UofSC police may be called to address the situation.

*Note that guidance is subject to change as the University of South Carolina adapts to the conditions imposed by the pandemic.

What should I expect if a student in my class is isolated because of COVID-19 infection?

This student will not be reporting to class for at least 10 days from their first symptom or positive test if they are asymptomatic.  Each student who discloses COVID-19 infection to UHS will be contacted by contact tracers to determine where they had been during the period 48 hours before their symptoms started and since they’ve been sick. If this includes coming in-person to any class, the contact tracing team will work with the student to examine whether there are individuals in the class who were within 6 feet of the infected individual for 15 minutes or more. If we are unable to determine close contacts via the student interview or have questions about classroom activities, the tracing team may reach out to your directly. The larger the class and the newer the student, the less likely they will be to give us the necessary information which is why faculty are requested to keep a seating chart particularly in large classes and tie it to your attendance taking.

Among those qualifying as close contact, individuals who are not vaccinated will need to be quarantined for 7-14 days from their last contact with the infected individuals. Those individuals who are vaccinated will not need to quarantine but will be requested to monitor themselves for symptoms.  

What should I expect if a student in my class is quarantined due to close contact with COVID-19?

This student will not be reporting to class for 7-14 days from their last contact with the infected individual. It is not required for you or the other students in the class to quarantine unless the student who is quarantined becomes symptomatic.

What should I tell the rest of the class?

Do not share the identity or any health information about individual students.

If the student who is in isolation or quarantine has been to class, you can tell the class that there has been an infected class member and/or some individuals will be absent for a period of time for the safety of the group; those students who are absent will be provided make-up work to keep up with the class. You can assure them that the students who meet the criteria to be quarantined have been contacted.

If an individual student has questions about whether they should quarantine or believe that they have been in close contact, have them reach out to the COVID Phone Bank (803-576-8511). Do not tell individuals to quarantine without further guidance.

Will I get a formal letter regarding student absences?

There is a form available to students to ask for formal letters of notification to be sent to their faculty via the Ombuds offices. Students initiate this process via the COVID-19 student report form and upload supporting documentation. Some students may notify you directly; you have the right to ask them for formal notification via the Ombuds COVID-19 student report form process and are encouraged to do so as this will notify each of the student’s instructors. Appropriately documented class absence due to COVID-19 isolation or quarantine would be considered an excused absence under the newly revised undergraduate class attendance policy. Instructors must provide make-up work for excused absences but are not obligated to record or live stream their class for those missing class. 

Per CDC guidelines, a vaccinated individual will not need to quarantine if exposed to an infected individual.  Students who may have been in close contact but have been fully vaccinated will receive a letter in their MyHealthSpace portal identifying that they may have been exposed but are not required to quarantine due to their vaccination status.  These students will not receive a direct link to the COVID-19 student report form via the Ombudsman office.  If students are experiencing any symptoms, faculty can recommend that students schedule an appointment at University Health Services.  UHS will encourage testing and the student may be considered a person under investigation (PUI) and only then would they receive information to the COVID-19 student report form.

I received a letter from the Ombuds about a student infection, but I was not contacted by the contact tracing team.

Faculty members will be contacted by the tracing team only if they were determined to meet the close contact criteria or if further information is required to complete a successful contact tracing interview. It’s also worth noting that your class will only be examined if the student attend in the 48-hour prior to their first symptom or positive test.

If you have questions or concerns that there is a risk, please contact us at the COVID-10 Phone Bank (803-576-8511) to discuss the concern further.

How long will students who are isolated or quarantined be out of class?

Isolation: Students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are released from isolation when a medical professional has determined, based on the current CDC and DHEC guidelines, that they have recovered. Currently, these guidelines include being fever-free for at least 24 hours and at least 10 days from their first symptom or positive test if they are asymptomatic. Therefore, most students will be in isolation for 10 days. However, if they remain ill, their isolation period may be longer. Re-testing is no longer recommended for individuals at the end of isolation; do not request students to provide a negative test result as a condition to return to class. Note that isolation standards are the same, regardless of the student’s vaccination status.

Quarantine: Unvaccinated students who are deemed a close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case will be quarantined for 7-14 days from their last contact with the infected individual. More specifically, students who test negative on day 5, 6, or 7 can leave quarantine after 7 full days; individuals who did not test but remain asymptomatic can leave after 10 full days. Individuals who are symptomatic or have other health concerns may be advised to remain under quarantine for 14 days. Some students may also be placed on a short-term quarantine due to close contact with a person suspected to have COVID-19. These individuals will be released from short-term quarantine if the individual in question is determined not to be infected. Vaccinated students in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case will not be required to quarantine but will be asked to monitor themselves closely for symptoms.

What should I do if I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been deemed a close contact who needs to quarantine?

If you have tested positive via on-campus SAFE testing, the contact tracing team at UHS will conduct contact tracing and issue you an isolation letter. If you have been diagnosed off-campus, you will be traced by SC DHEC; you are welcome to call the phone bank at 803-576-8511 for assistance as well. If you believe that you were exposed through on-campus activities, please also contact Environmental Health & Safety at 803-528-8191. If you are an unvaccinated close contact who needs to quarantine, the tracing organization will provide you with appropriate documentation. Please work with your departmental leadership to address any instruction or attendance needs during your quarantine or isolation period.

 

*Note that guidance is subject to change as the University of South Carolina adapts to the conditions imposed by the pandemic.

 

 


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