August 31, 2021
We are almost there. In just a few days we will begin the 2021-22 academic year. Even more importantly, we will be in-person for the first time in 17 months. As we prepare for our return, I remind everyone to check the Guide to Returning to Rutgers for updated information.
We know that this is a time of many emotions. We are anxious, exhausted, excited, and hopeful. Many people are asking if it is safe to return. As a community we are deciding to return thoughtfully and with guidance from public health authorities. Over the past several months most of us have begun to venture out. We routinely go out to grocery stores. Many of us have begun to go out to restaurants. We have resumed travel, and have begun to visit with family and friends. Each new step has come with some mixture of anxiety, hope, anticipation, and delight in our renewed connections with loved ones and with the world. The good news is that we have reasons for optimism. Many members of our community have worked on-site to keep the campus going throughout the pandemic, and many of our colleagues at peer institutions (e.g., University of Michigan, Tufts University) have been teaching in-person for several months. They have done so safely. And, the great news is that 99% of students and 87% of staff and faculty have uploaded proof of vaccination. So, in this regard, we can be assured that RU-N is safer than many public contexts (e.g., grocery stores, restaurants) where we have no way of knowing whether our neighbors are vaccinated.
As we balance concerns with excitement, we expect to have a productive and rejuvenating academic year.
In anticipation of our return, I want to take a moment to answer questions that have been raised by members of our community:
Questions related to work and accommodations
Where do we go if we need accommodations? Faculty who believe they are in need of an accommodation for a disability (broadly defined) should contact the Office of Academic Labor Relations. Staff seeking accommodations are encouraged to contact the office of Human Resources.
Can staff work from home in the Fall? Supervisors are encouraged to exercise flexibility in staff schedules in the months ahead. It is critical that supervisors ensure that units are appropriately staffed. However, where possible, allowing staff who are able to work productively from home to do so 1 or 2 days per week through the end of December can help to create a compassionate workplace and improve morale.
Questions related to teaching
Can I change my in-person class to an online class for the Fall? Fall courses will be taught as listed in the schedule. It is also important to note that courses taught online must be reviewed and approved by both the relevant department Chair, and the Courses of Study Committee.
I am teaching an online or hybrid course in the Fall, can I require students to take their exams in person? Faculty who are teaching hybrid courses may require students to come to campus for in-person exams. The dates/times of these exams should be listed in the syllabus, and students should be made aware that exams will be in-person as soon as possible in the semester. For courses being taught online, all assignments and exams should be delivered online.
Should I relax my attendance policies for the Fall/Spring? Students and or their family members will likely experience illness or other challenges in the months ahead. Faculty are encouraged to take attendance in class since attendance concerns can provide early warning that a student may be in crisis. However, it will be helpful to consider relaxing policies on attendance/participations where possible (e.g., decreasing the percent of course grade that is dependent on attendance) in order to provide flexibility to students struggling with health or family concerns.
Is there a statement that faculty can add to our syllabi regarding adherence to mask guidelines? The following statement has been recommended by the Office of the Senior Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs.
Sample syllabus statement
In order to protect the health and well-being of all members of the Rutgers-Newark community, masks must be worn by all persons inside campus buildings when in the presence of others, and in buildings in non-private enclosed settings (e.g., common workspaces, workstations, meeting rooms, classrooms, etc.). Masks should securely cover the nose and mouth. Masks must be worn during class meetings. Each day before you arrive on campus or leave your residence hall, you must complete the brief survey on the My Campus Pass symptom checker self-screening app found at: myRutgers Portal.
Where should I send students for advisement in the Fall and Spring? OAS will continue to have daily virtual drop-in hours (Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm) in the Fall. No appointment is needed. Students can access the link to the Zoom room via the main OAS webpage. We ask that students be referred to the virtual advising versus rather than to the physical location in Hill Hall.
What should I do if a family member who lives with me has to quarantine at home, or if my child’s school reverts to online/hybrid instruction? Emergencies will happen. Personal, family and sick days can be used to manage emergency needs. Staff members should consult with their supervisor and faculty should work with their Chair(s) to construct a plan for the emergency. If the emergency situation will last for more than 1-2 weeks, Chairs will work with the faculty member and Dean’s Office to develop a plan.
Questions related to instructional technology
How do I request a microphone or find out what technology is available in my classroom? The Office of Academic Technology (OAT) can address questions about technology available in classrooms on campus. OIT has a limited supply of USB microphones that can be loaned for the semester to faculty who may be using Zoom and/or recording lectures. Microphones will be loaned through the RU-N IT Service Center (formerly known as the RU-N IT Help Desk). You can reach the Service Center at: 833-OIT-HELP (648-4357), (973) 353-5083 (local number), or email@example.com. Faculty interested in requesting equipment including microphones can also complete the Forms to request microphones and other equipment.
Do classrooms have microphones and cameras? Podium mics as well as tracking cameras have been installed in a number of larger classrooms. Those rooms are identified as InstructorCam rooms. All auditoriums are equipped with wireless mics. These mics are in the podium drawer. Volume levels can be set through the classroom control panel. Updated documentation (including screenshots) on how to use classroom mics and cameras will be available by the start of the semester at: http://atstechdocs.rutgers.edu/m/36726.
Will there be training on how to use classroom technology? Yes. Two in-person training sessions for the classroom technology have been scheduled:
- Friday, August 27, 2021, 10:00am to 11:00am
- Tuesday, August 31, 2021, 1:00pm to 2:00pm
The trainings are divided into two 30-minute sessions so instructors can attend multiple sessions each day for the various classroom types. Sessions will be held in the following classrooms: • Conklin 100: A 286 seat Auditorium with multiple displays, microphones, electronic whiteboards, and InstructorCam • Conklin 203: A 40 seat Agile Classroom with wireless/wired projection capability from the instructor’s laptop • Conklin 424: A 50 seat Digital Classroom with a podium, computer, and projector.
Questions related to public health protocols
Do we still have to complete MyCampus Pass everyday? Yes. All students, faculty and staff should complete My Campus Pass every day before entering campus buildings. My Campus Pass is available on your dashboard at myRutgers Portal.
Will there be social distancing in classrooms? There will be no requirement for social distancing in classrooms. Updates to social distancing guidelines can be found in the Guide to Returning to Rutgers.
Is everyone required to wear a mask? Yes. All Rutgers students, staff and faculty will be required to wear masks when in public areas in RU-N buildings (e.g., classrooms, hallways). Masks, including ADA compliant clear masks, will be available in departments across campus.
What do I do if I see someone who is not wearing a mask or who refuses to wear a mask? Ideally, mask violations will be resolved by respectfully asking colleagues and students to wear their mask (or to wear their mask appropriately). It is important not to escalate confrontations about mask-wearing and other COVID violations. An anonymous reporting tool, the COVID Observation Reporting Form, is available for anyone wishing to report non-emergency COVID concerns including inappropriate mask or face covering usage. RUPD should not be called to respond to COVID violations.
What do I do if a student in my class refuses to wear a mask? One way to limit the likelihood of COVID violations including mask-wearing is to have an explicit discussion of mask-wearing guidelines and expectations in the first week of class, and to reinforce those discussions throughout the term. If a student refuses to wear a mask take the student aside and ask whether the student has a mask available. If they do not, ask them to go take a moment to go to any department on campus to get a mask. It will help if faculty carry a few extra masks to provide to students who do not have masks on. If a student continues not to comply, remind the student that failure to wear a mask is a violation of university policy. You can ask the student to leave the classroom for that session. You can also complete the COVID Observation Reporting Form to report the violation. Managing these conversations in private with students is ideal. It is important to avoid publicly shaming students or recruiting other students to confront their peers.
What do I do if a faculty member refuses to wear a mask? You can use the steps above as a guideline. You can also complete the COVID Observation Reporting Form to report the violation. Who will handle COVID violations? Student violations will be handled by the Student Conduct Committee. Faculty violations will be handled by the Dean’s Office, the Provost’s Office, and ALR. Staff violations will be handled by Human Resources (HR).
Where can students eat while they are on campus? It is expected that students will need to eat while on campus and that they will want to do that in class or while they are in public spaces in buildings. Faculty can establish guidelines for eating in their classrooms, and can explore options including designating a break time in class when students can leave class to eat then return to class. Students eating in public spaces should take care to social distance while eating, and should return to wearing their masks after they have eaten. Departments can also designate eating spaces in buildings/units.
Questions related to what faculty should do if they or students test positive for COVID
Where should faculty, staff and students go to report a positive COVID diagnosis if they receive one? Faculty and staff should report the positive test result to Rutgers Occupational Health (848-932-8254). Students should report positive test results to Student Health. More information on where to report a positive diagnosis and how to respond if someone discloses a positive diagnosis can be found here (https://coronavirus.rutgers.edu/faqs/).
What happens if a student, staff or faculty member who has been in class or in a building tests positive for COVID? In accordance with the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, the offices of Occupational Health and Student Health will initiate contact tracing, evaluate potential exposures to the virus, and will reach out to individuals deemed to have been in close contact with the individual who tested positive. Individuals who have been at-risk for exposure will be contacted. Individuals who are not contacted will have been determined to not be at-risk.
Should faculty pivot to remote instruction if they have tested positive for COVID? Faculty who test positive for COVID should not return to the classroom until medically cleared to return to work. Faculty should work with their Chair(s) to make appropriate teaching arrangements. Faculty/Chairs may make any of an array of temporary arrangements during periods of quarantine or illness including arranging for visiting lecturers, a brief transition to remote teaching, or out of class assignments. Faculty who have questions about how to respond should contact their Chair(s) or Senior Associate Dean, Karen Caplan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Associate Dean for Instructional Programs, Betsy Rowe (email@example.com).
Should faculty pivot to remote instruction if they learn that a student has tested positive? No. If faculty or students in a class are identified as “at-risk” they will be contacted by Occupational Health or Student Health. Others who do not meet risk criteria will not be contacted and are safe to return to class. Faculty who have questions about how to respond should contact their Chair(s) or Senior Associate Dean, Karen Caplan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Associate Dean for Instructional Programs, Betsy Rowe (email@example.com).
What can departments do to support a seamless return for students? Departments should keep a supply of masks handy for faculty, staff, and students. It also will be critical for departments to update their homepage to reflect a) the best way for students to contact them/obtain advisement during the Fall semester, and b) their office hours. Departments can also ensure that students receive timely responses to questions that may emerge throughout the semester.
Can faculty resume work-related travel? Updated guidance on travel restrictions and on quarantining in relation to travel are available here.
Questions related to departmental and unit gatherings
Can our department schedule a welcome back celebration for students, staff, and faculty? Although we are returning to in-person instruction, it is important to consider continuing to use virtual platforms for gatherings that are not essential (e.g., social gatherings). Where groups do gather, it is important to adhere to guidelines regarding mask-wearing, and (since we cannot wear masks while we eat) we urge groups to avoid serving food and drinks at indoor gatherings unless appropriate social distancing guidelines can be observed.
Questions related to resources
Where can we find mental health resources on campus? Faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to make use of the MyWellness app which can be accessed under the link for mental health resources. Faculty and staff may also contact University Human Resources/Faculty Staff and Assistance Program at 848-932-3956 for additional mental health supports.
Where can we find updated information about Rutgers’ COVID response? Updated information can be found in the Guide to Returning to Rutgers and at the following sites: https://www.newark.rutgers.edu/covid-19-operating-status https://coronavirus.rutgers.edu/. Where can students find resources including resources for financial aid and emergency personal and family needs? Students can go to the myRUN site (https://myrun.newark.rutgers.edu) for help with financial aid, student accounting, registrar and ID services. Faculty and staff can also contact the Care Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get support for any student needing mental health, financial, housing or any other form of assistance. Please also remember that the Dean’s Office is here to support you and to address any questions or concerns.
Please reach out to us.