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Frequently Asked Questions for Faculty and Staff

Masks and Face Coverings

Syracuse University will require face masks or face coverings for all students, faculty, staff and visitors while on campus, in the presence of others, and in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. In some instances, there are legitimate medical reasons that an individual cannot wear a mask for an extended period. There also may be a limited number of unique situations where wearing a mask during certain activities is not possible, appropriate or even hazardous to those with certain preexisting conditions. Efforts are underway to develop appropriate accommodations in such instances.

Yes. Syracuse University will provide all faculty, staff and students with an initial supply of reusable (washable) cloth masks, upon return to campus. These masks will be provided at no cost.

Yes. Any individual accessing our campus—including visitors and contractors—is required to wear a mask or face covering while in the presence of others and in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. In addition, the University plans to limit campus visitors during the fall semester. According to health experts, visitors to campus from outside Central New York pose a risk of virus transmission to the University community (given that those individuals would not be subject to the ongoing testing and monitoring procedures in place for the residential campus community and CNY residents). For this reason, visitors and guests from outside Central New York will generally be restricted from accessing residence halls and other campus facilities.

It is a shared responsibility. We must all do our part to protect ourselves and each other. During the COVID-19 health emergency, wearing a mask is not only an action designed to protect you from exposure to the virus, but it is also a visible sign that each member of our campus community is doing our part to safeguard the health and wellness of others.

COVID Testing, Screening and Surveillance

All students will be tested when they return to campus and again two weeks after their return to campus. Syracuse University will use pooled saliva testing for this purpose, with subsequent rapid testing of all individuals in a pooled sample that indicates a positive result. Testing of symptomatic students will be performed by health professionals from the Barnes Center at The Arch (under the supervision of Syracuse University’s medical director) and in partnership with outside laboratories. More specific details about how these tests will be administered will be shared prior to our students’ return to campus.

We will implement two primary approaches for ongoing monitoring, including random testing and a wastewater surveillance program developed by public health faculty from Falk College. The wastewater surveillance program allows us to monitor for the potential of asymptomatic cases in our residence halls, athletic facilities, etc. and subsequently initiate individual testing of residents in response to virus detected in the wastewater originating from a given complex.

Wastewater surveillance will serve as an early warning system that will allow us to focus resources (e.g. testing, isolation, contact tracing) on groups of people who are more likely to have been exposed and take appropriate steps. Specifically, positive wastewater surveillance tests will prompt individual-level testing to residents/occupants of the given facility.

If a student tests positive, the University will deploy its response protocol, which prioritizes the health of the student as well as the safety and well-being of the community. The student will be immediately moved via a Syracuse University medical transport to isolation housing. These rooms will be physically separated from other residential student rooms, have a private bathroom, and be stocked with a thermometer, sanitizing wipes, tissues, soap, hand sanitizer and toiletries. Students who test positive will remain in isolation until a negative test is achieved. While isolated, the student will be assigned a case manager to support all academic, health, housing and dining needs. For those students who are ill or asymptomatically positive, to the degree reasonably feasible, these isolated students will be encouraged to continue academic activities remotely or be provided with academic accommodations due to illness.

Working closely with the Onondaga County Department of Health, Syracuse University is prepared to hire and train our own contact tracing team. Acknowledging the personal nature of this task, the unique attributes of an academic environment, and also the broad diversity represented across our campus community, we believe that it’s important that the duties and responsibilities associated with contact tracing be performed by culturally competent individuals who themselves represent our community.

Yes, but importantly, the data will be shared within the limits of what is permissible by the Onondaga County Department of Health. The Department of Health will allow us to make announcements in the aggregate but will (on occasion) constrain the specificity of those announcements in the interest of personal privacy. It is also important to note that, by law, any positive test at Syracuse University is automatically reported to the Onondaga County Department of Health (we will use a shared reporting system). Thus, the Onondaga County Department of Health will also be making public positive tests at Syracuse University.  

Facilities Considerations and Revisions

Please see answer under Faculty Course Development and Academic Considerations below. 

The University is undertaking ongoing, multi-faceted efforts to configure facilities and spaces—to the maximum extent practical—to reduce the risk associated with virus transmission. This work is ongoing right now.

Examples of these changes include, but are not limited to: deploying new signage in all buildings to promote social distancing; placing appropriate wayfinding signage at building entrances to limit flow through constrained spaces; configuring work and public spaces to allow for least 6 feet between individuals; assessing the need for barriers in workspaces where people must face each other or are unable to be 6 feet apart; removing chairs and desks to ensure proper physical distancing in conference and waiting rooms. In addition, in the fall we plan to limit access to academic and student-focused facilities for outside visitors and ask building coordinators to develop a plan to coordinate arrival and departure times of faculty and staff to reduce congestion. Finally, we will also limit in-person meetings to not exceed 50 percent of a room’s capacity, assuming individuals can still maintain 6 feet of social distancing.

Yes. Since the early days of the COVID-19 health emergency, the University has implemented a robust cleaning and sanitation process. This includes enhanced cleaning and sanitation of classrooms, laboratories, studios, performance venues, libraries, residence halls, dining halls, recreation spaces, gathering spaces and other high-traffic areas. The University will utilize disinfectants that have been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as appropriate to eliminate the SARS-CoV-2 virus (cause of COVID-19). For information on cleaning and disinfecting efforts in work areas, please visit ehss.syr.edu/about/covid-19-information/work-area-cleaning-and-disinfecting/.

Specific requests will be evaluated based on several criteria related to campus reopening plans and best available health guidance. You can learn about the space modification process and request an evaluation at bfas.syr.edu/facilities/service-requests/.

Health Promotion and Prevention

As students, faculty and staff return to campus, they will notice robust new signage promoting social distancing and other public health measures. For example, floor decals placed in campus buildings to remind people of the importance of social distancing. New signage aimed at promoting and protecting the health of our community will be placed in building entryways; outside elevators; and in dining centers, breakrooms, kitchen areas, meeting spaces and other locations frequented by students, faculty and staff. Our signage strategy will continue to ramp up throughout the summer as we look to welcome students in August.

Additionally, when students, faculty and staff return, they will also notice increased access to hand sanitizer stations; classrooms, gathering spaces and other areas will have reduced chairs, tables and desks; and in lecture halls, chairs will be taped off to ensure social distancing. These are just some of the immediate changes you will notice on campus, but by no means do they represent the full scope of efforts underway.

Students will participate in an educational program prior to their return to campus focused on health and wellness issues and actions most appropriate during and beyond the COVID-19 health emergency. Further, as a condition of returning to campus, students will be required to affirmatively commit to a social compact statement (that is currently being finalized) that defines expectations related to behaviors and actions appropriate to protect their health and the health of those around them.

The University is establishing protocols for social distancing on all University-owned and University-sponsored means of group transportation—and we are coordinating with CENTRO. As an example, these new protocols include: establishing maximum passenger counts for the SU Trolley and other means of University-sponsored group transportation to allow for appropriate social distancing; requiring all operators and passengers to wear a mask on every vehicle provided or sponsored by the University (including the SU Trolley); installing hand sanitizer stations on such vehicles; and disinfecting vehicles on an enhanced schedule.

First, it is important for all members of our community to understand that enforcing social distancing standards and other measures of prevention is everyone’s responsibility. It should be a shared expectation that all students, faculty and staff will not only themselves adhere to the directives and policies in place to safeguard public health—but also remind others to do the same when necessary. For students specifically, the Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience is currently taking steps to communicate expectations to students and families. As previously described, as a condition of returning to campus, students will be required to affirmatively commit to a social compact statement that sets expectations related to behaviors and actions appropriate to protect their health and the health of those around them. Students who are identified to have acted with disregard for their health and the health of those around them will be referred to the student judicial process for a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.

Teaching and Learning

No. We are in the process of assessing the needs and requirements of all departments and programs to determine how to best facilitate labs, studios and other hands-on or experiential learning programs. In some cases, it may simply mean finding much larger spaces to conduct these types of experiential courses. In other cases, it means we must “think differently” and identify creative ways to safely and meaningfully deliver classes like dance, vocal or woodwind instruction or field work in the natural world.

This question represents a good opportunity to illustrate the “think differently” imperative inherent in resuming campus life in the face of the COVID-19 health emergency. While it is true that the University will be installing plexiglass barriers in some high-traffic service centers across campus, doing so in faculty offices is not contemplated at this time. It is important, however, to understand why. Specifically, it is because—as a rule—faculty should be discouraged from meeting with students in confined spaces. Instead, faculty should consider holding office hours outside of their office—for example on the Shaw Quad or in a classroom or conference room (where 6 feet of distance can be maintained)—or by leveraging a technology solution like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Your health and safety are our chief priority; Syracuse University will not ask you to do anything that will jeopardize your well-being or the well-being of an at-risk family member. Nor will the University penalize you in any way for making the decision that is best for you and your family. 

The general expectation is that we will provide the majority of our instruction with an in-person component, of course with the right public health and safety protocols in place. 

However, each of you has your own unique circumstances and thus the decision to teach in-person in the fall is yours and yours alone. We defer to you to use your best judgment and make the right call for you. All we ask is that you communicate with your department chair about your fall teaching plans. As you know, there are many resources available to help you transition to the various teaching modalities available to you. Once you’ve made the decision about how you will teach your course load in the fall, please leverage those resources, particularly those available to you through ITS and the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. 

Based on feedback we have received, we are looking at weekend instruction only for Fridays before sundown and, potentially, Sunday afternoons.

The University’s expectation, and our students’ expectation, is that the vast majority of classes have an in-person component. Given physical distancing and physical density constraints, classroom space is our greatest challenge in delivering in-person instruction. Applying a physical distance requirement of 6 feet reduces the capacity of our classrooms considerably. For classrooms with moveable seating, capacity reductions are in the range of 50-60 percent. For classrooms with fixed seating, reductions are greater—in some cases more than 80 percent. Therefore, we recommend that most of our classes adopt a hybrid and flexible (Hy-Flex) instructional model, in which a portion of the students enrolled in a given section attend in the classroom, while others enrolled in that same section participate remotely from other locations on campus. The expectation for these classes is that an alternate-day attendance format will allow all residential students to experience a portion of the class in person. There will, of course, be cases where circumstances will require us to consider formats involving less frequent attendance.

We anticipate that there will be some students who, for myriad reasons, will not participate in in-person classes at all. This group includes international students who are unable to travel to Syracuse and some domestic students whose medical conditions make it unwise for them to attend in-person classes. Because many, if not most, classes will include students who are unable to attend in-person classes, courses must be made fully accessible to such students, including—to the extent possible—synchronous learning opportunities. Importantly however, if a student opts for an online semester and to remain in a location other than Syracuse, New York, for public health reasons, their access to campus will be limited (given that those individuals would not be part of the ongoing testing and monitoring procedures in place for the residential student population).

We are working with ITS to get as many classrooms equipped with the cameras and equipment as possible.  This is integral to the hy-flex model that we shared last week.  In the majority of classrooms it should be relatively seamless to make this work.

Faculty Course Development and Academic Considerations

The following guidelines, developed with input from the academic deans, have been provided: 

As discussed, the University’s decision to resume in-person residential instruction for the fall 2020 semester, subject to continued guidance from government and health officials, envisions that the vast majority of our classes be done via in-person instruction. We want our faculty in the classroom with our students, but the health, safety and well-being of our faculty (and their families) remains our chief priority. As such, we have developed guidelines for returning our faculty to the classroom based on current guidance from public health officials as well as the framework created by Public Health and Emergency Management Subcommittee of the Fall 2020 Open Working Group. 

The guidelines listed below will inform policies related to the size of classes and the layout of classrooms, studios, performance venues, and laboratories; necessitate the mandatory wearing of masks/face coverings; and require testing and temperature checks, a community social compact, and many other measures designed to help keep our community safe and healthy. Our goal is to maximize the student learning experience while minimizing health and safety risks to faculty, staff and students. To that end, we provide the following guidelines: 

  1. Exceptions for those at greater risk: The general expectation is that most faculty members will provide in-person classroom instruction. A faculty member may request to teach exclusively online for fall 2020 if they or someone with whom they cohabitate has conditions that put them at greater risk for illness due to exposure to COVID-19. Faculty members requesting such consideration should communicate with their department chair, program director or dean to discuss the matter and agree to a work plan no later than June 17. Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs (or designee) will review appeal requests.
  2. Defining expectations: Faculty members who deliver their course load entirely online will be expected to meet all teaching, service and research expectations either in person or remotely, as appropriate.  
  1. Accommodations unrelated to COVID-19: If a faculty member requires accommodations regarding other matters, they should contact their department chair, program director, or dean by June 17 to coordinate appropriately.
  1. Evolving situation: We understand that many of us will continue to adapt as things evolves and that faculty may need to make requests after the June 17 deadline due to new circumstances, such as childcare availability and the status of reopening for PK-12 schools. We ask that you address those situations on a case-by-case basis and work with your faculty to provide them the support and flexibility they need to balance their many responsibilities.
  1. Fall 2020 course scheduling: Deans will work with department chairs and program directors to finalize fall 2020 course scheduling to ensure that the majority of the courses in the school/college will include in-person instruction. Deans will provide a list of courses that should be converted to a fully online format to Meg Cortese (mfcortes@syr.edu) and Chris Johnson (cejohns@syr.edu) no later than June 19, 2020. 
  1. Teaching format reporting: Deans also will report to Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs LaVonda Reed (lareed@syr.edu) by July 15, 2020 a final list of each member of their faculty indicating which teaching format each will employ in Fall 2020.

With social distancing constraints, classroom space is our greatest challenge in delivering in-person instruction. Therefore, we are recommending that most of our classes adopt a hybrid and flexible (hy-flex) instructional model, in which a portion of enrolled students attends the class in person and others participate remotely.

The expectation for these classes is that an alternate-day attendance format will allow all residential students to experience a portion of the class in person. There will, of course, be cases where circumstances will require us to consider formats involving less frequent attendance.

The nature of the course and the size of the class will dictate the format for in-person instruction:

  • Fully in-person classes. A small number of classes can be conducted exclusively in the traditional in-person format with no online instructional elements. These will be courses with small enrollments, in which all of the students are on campus, and for which an appropriately sized room is available. However, even in these instances, instructors must be prepared to pivot to online instruction should public health guidance make it necessary.
  • “hy-flex” classes that combine in-person and online instructional elements. Most of our main campus classes will combine in-person and online learning elements. How these elements are combined will depend on the size of the class meetings:
    • 60 Students or Fewer: Most courses of this size should be able to conduct all class sessions (lectures, recitations and labs) in an alternating-day format, in which half of the class attends in person while the other half participate remotely. The two halves switch for the next class meeting, and then alternate through the semester.
    • 61-150 Students: The format for courses enrolling 61-150 students will vary. With the capacity of auditorium-style classrooms being severely impacted by six-foot social distance requirements, we have only a few rooms that can accommodate 31-75 students (half of 61-150, under the alternate-day format). We plan to prioritize scarce classroom resources for classes that enroll large percentages of first-year students. These courses will be able to offer lecture and recitations sessions using the alternate-day approach described above for classes of 60 or less. The remaining courses in this group will not have rooms for lectures. However, recitation/discussion sections can be conducted face-to-face, offering an opportunity for in-person instruction in these classes.
    • 150 Students or More: Courses enrolling more than 150 students will not be able to have large-group sessions, even in an alternating attendance format. However, nearly all of these courses have recitation or discussion sections, which can be done using in-person instruction or employing the alternate-day approach. Lecture material will need to be delivered completely online. Some large classes have one large group session and two small group sessions per week and can be transitioned relatively directly under these guidelines. Other large classes have two or three large-group sessions per week with only one recitation or discussion meeting. Resources permitting, deans and department chairs should consider adding additional recitation/discussion sections for these courses and requiring attendance.
  • Models for mixed in-person and online teaching: For classes that combine in-person and online teaching, there are several ways to organize the remote component of the course. Of course, faculty know content and their classes best, so they can be creative in finding approaches that work best for them and their students. Definitions of some models and other resources are available on Answers (a NetID is required for login). Faculty who wish to design their courses using these and/or other approaches are encouraged to engage with the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (CTLE) to explore their ideas.

Finally, as you’re preparing for your fall courses, we encourage you to keep a few things in mind:

  • In large courses where in-person instruction takes place in recitations, discussion sections and labs, faculty are encouraged to consider making attendance in those meetings mandatory, while making exceptions for students with accommodations.
  • We anticipate that there will be some students who, for myriad reasons, will not participate in in-person classes at all. This group includes international students who are unable to travel to Syracuse and some domestic students whose medical conditions make it unwise for them to attend in-person classes. Because many, if not most, classes will include students who are unable to attend in-person classes, courses must be made fully accessible to such students including, to the extent possible, synchronous learning opportunities.

For classes that combine in-person and online teaching, several ways to organize the remote component of the course can be employed. Of course, faculty know themselves and their classes best, so they can be creative in finding approaches that work best for the content and their students. Definitions of some models and other resources are available on Answers (a NetID is required for login).

Faculty who wish to design their courses using these and/or other approaches are encouraged to engage with the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (CTLE) to explore their ideas.

There are numerous resources being offered.

  • Course design and course building support services will be coordinated by the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (CTLE), Information Technology Services’ Online Learning Services (OLS) and University College’s Center for Digital Online Learning.
  • Faculty can also request support services to digitize content, evaluate online instruction and assessment options, request video production training and support, and engage in technology-enhanced instruction and online pedagogy workshops.
  • We encourage all faculty to fill out theFall Course Development Form to request support or to submit questions about specific aspects of online instruction and preparation.
  • Faculty are also encouraged to bring questions to virtual “office hours” where they can meet with instructional designers and course builders every Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET and every Thursday at 10 a.m. ET. Join the sessions here.

 Q:  How is faculty input being taken into account in developing these recommendations and guidelines?

The Fall 2020 Open Working Group has involved more than 120 faculty, staff and administrators.  The Academic Strategy/Contingency Subcommittee included 27 members and was guided by the shared goals of maximizing the student experience, protecting the health and safety of faculty, staff and teaching assistance and safeguarding our campus community.  The recommendations related to fall-semester instruction were shaped by extensive faculty feedback that spanned a broad range of themes. To read feedback received from faculty thus far, I urge you to visit: https://www.syracuse.edu/fall2020/faculty-and-staff-information/academic-strategy-input/

More than 50 faculty from all schools and colleges participated in discussion groups, and more than a dozen faculty members of the Subcommittee made suggestions that inform the committee’s recommendations, many of which are well into implementation.

 Opportunities for faculty engagement with academic leadership, including the Chancellor and Provost, are being scheduled for each school and college. If you haven’t already, you will be receiving notice from your dean’s office regarding specific dates and times. Recognizing that additional issues may arise that need to be addressed and that key details need to be readily accessible to inform decision-making, additional communication opportunities include:

  • A University Senate Open Forum to be held via Zoom on Wednesday, June 24 at 4:00 p.m.
  • dedicated landing page for faculty and staff that consolidates current messages and resources regarding Fall 2020. This page also includes a link to a feedback form for questions, suggestions and ideas. Incoming messages are being routed to the people and working groups/subcommittees most appropriate to the topic.

We know that you still have unanswered questions and we are moving quickly and thoughtfully to be in a position to answer all of them. We will continue to seek your input as we work to create clear guidelines and policies and devise creative solutions to some of the challenges we know we will face this fall.

Survey data collected from Syracuse University students (56 percent response rate, n=10,706) indicates that they faced a number of challenges with remote learning including time zone differences, challenges with access to technology and tools, lack of access to campus resources and facilities, challenges with group work, motivation and focus and personal and family circumstances. Results from the faculty survey (52 percent response rate, n=830) indicated that 49.9 percent of faculty felt that students were less engaged after their courses transitioned online. Another 43.8 percent responded that engagement was about the same. Only 6.3 percent felt that student engagement increased. While the abrupt transition to online instruction that happened this spring is not the same as intentionally online instruction, for many of our students this spring was their only experience with online learning. Hence, their perception of online learning is their perception of their spring experience.

A recent large study by the consulting firm Accenture reviewed social media posts from more than 25 million unique authors to understand student, parent and faculty attitudes toward higher education during the pandemic.  Their analysis indicated that only 8 percent of students prefer online to in-person instruction and 24 percent “hated” the online format.

Interim Travel Policy for Faculty and Staff

The University’s existing prohibition on University-sponsored travel to any CDC Level-3 international destination remains in place. We recognize that in some extraordinary circumstances, it may be highly problematic for some faculty to cancel or postpone travel to an otherwise prohibited international destination. For that reason, faculty may pursue case-by-case appeals to this prohibition, in coordination with the relevant dean, directly to the Interim Vice President for Research. The VPR will make a recommendation to the Provost, who is responsible to make the final determination and notify both the traveler and the relevant dean. Any individual whose travel is approved under this policy, is required to register that travel on the University travel registry system.

The University’s existing prohibition on non-essential, University-sponsored travel remains in place. We continue to encourage faculty and staff to cancel or postpone any planned or proposed non-essential travel. Until further notice, travel to attend professional or educational conferences is defined as non-essential.

    •  Effective immediately, we will ease existing restrictions on travel deemed essential to an academic or business purpose of the University. Specifically,

      • For faculty, researchers, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students: Essential travel is defined as travel required to 1) preserve the safety of a research subject and cannot be postponed; or preserve the continuity and results of a research activity and cannot be postponed.
        • For faculty, researchers, postdoctoral scholars and graduate students, travel to attend professional or educational conferences is defined as non-essential. Faculty, researchers, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students with questions about whether specific proposed travel is essential, or for those seeking approval to engage in essential travel, should confer first with their department chairs. Deans (or department chairs, if designated by the dean) will make a recommendation as to the essential nature of the travel request and forward that recommendation to the Vice President for Research. The VPR will make the final determination and notify both the traveler and the dean or department chair making the request. Any faculty member, researcher, postdoctoral scholar, or graduate student whose essential travel is approved, is required to register that travel on the University travel registry system.

      • For Staff: Essential travel is defined as travel that, if not accomplished, will cause significant harm to the general financial, academic, or business operations of the university.
        • Staff travel to attend professional or educational conferences is defined as non-essential. Staff with questions about whether specific proposed travel is essential, or for those seeking approval to engage in essential travel, should confer with their supervisors. Deans or unit leaders will make a recommendation as to the essential nature of the travel request and forward that recommendation to the relevant division head or Vice President, who will make the final determination and notify the notify both the traveler and the unit leader making the request. Any staff member whose essential travel is approved, is required to register that travel on the University travel registry system.