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Planning for Fall 2021 and COVID-19

Context

The State of Florida and the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) have consistently communicated the intention of the State University System (SUS) to be at full operation levels by the Fall term. There are some actions that state universities cannot take locally with regard to COVID-19. In particular, we are not authorized to mandate either mask wearing or vaccinations. However, the University expects everyone to wear a mask at all times when inside around others in any UNF facility, even if you are vaccinated.

 

Changes to our published course schedule modalities could have a drastic impact on our student enrollment numbers and students’ financial aid, military or scholarship benefits, and progression towards graduation.

 

We all want a safe, healthy, and comfortable environment for our students, faculty, and staff. Thus, we embrace the philosophy of shared responsibility for the safety of students, faculty, and staff.

 

Faculty retain the same flexibility and freedom to deal with student situations in their classes as they did before the pandemic. However, we do recommend some pre-planning and consideration of possible scenarios so that you and your students know what your options are.

 

Please remember that every syllabus should contain a Continuity of Instruction plan. Your plan need not be too detailed but should indicate how you will communicate changes to your students.

 

Academic and Student Affairs (A&SA) has established a special email address: Fall2021return@unf.edu, where faculty can submit questions directly to us. As we receive more questions, we will add to the FAQs below. 

Masking Expectation (as of 9/29/2021)  

 

We expect everyone to wear a mask at all times when inside and around others in any UNF facility, even if you are vaccinated. This includes our students, faculty, staff, vendors, and visitors. This is not a mandate, but a strong expectation. Recent guidance from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html accessed 09/29/2021) states that even if you have been fully vaccinated that you can “reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, [by] wear[ing] a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.” The CDC also states that “You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

NEW -- A student in my class has tested positive for COVID-19. Can I ask them for a negative COVID test before I allow them to return to class? (added 9/22/2021)

You should not ask the student for proof of negative COVID test or any other medical information. You may, however, ask them for a note from a medical provider excusing their absence and indicating when it is safe for them to return to class. A student who has tested positive should also be directed to complete the SHS self-reporting form so that Student Health Services can record the incident. SHS will also provide the student with documentation for their faculty.

NEW -- I have a student who did not attend class for several weeks. They now claim they had COVID-19 during that period and want me to provide make-up assignments for them. Do I have to acquiesce to this request? (added 9/22/2021)

In this case, you should follow the assignment make-up policy you have established for your class and detailed in your syllabus. If you require a doctor’s note to document the absence, then you may ask for documentation of the medical excuse. That medical excuse should have dates indicating how long the student should be excused from class (but it need not provide information regarding the students’ medical condition). We do recommend you encourage students to self-report to UNF’s Student Health Services. SHS will provide students with appropriate documentation for their faculty. However, SHS will not provide such documentation retroactively, so students should self-report immediately.

NEW -- I’ve heard that UNF is now testing for influenza as well as COVID-19. Is this true? (added 9/22/2021)

Yes, at the testing center (more information below) UNF is testing for COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). COVID-19, flu, and RSV are all respiratory viruses. While the flu and COVID-19 have very similar symptoms, RSV symptoms are similar to the common cold. It’s important for us to be able to distinguish these various viral infections.

NEW -- How many students, faculty, and staff have been tested for COVID-19, flu, and RSV over the past few weeks?  (added 9/22/2021)

8/20/2021-8/26/2021: 422 students, 63 staff, 0 faculty.
8/27/2021-9/2/2021: 316 students, 102 staff, 25 faculty.
9/3/2021-9/9/2021: 405 students, 57 staff, 14 faculty.
9/10/2021-9/16/2021: 314 students, 58 staff, 15 faculty.

NEW -- Does UNF have data on how many people they have tested were positive for COVID-19, flu, and RSV? (added 9/22/2021)

Yes, we do.
For week 8/20/2021-8/26/2021: 14 COVID-19 positive, 0 flu positive, 1 RSV positive.
For week 8/27/2021-9/2/2021: 26 COVID-19 positive, 0 flu positive, 3 RSV positive.
For week 9/3/2021-9/9/2021: 18 COVID-19 positive, 0 flu positive, 0 RSV positive.
For week 9/10/2021-9/16/2021: 13 COVID-19 positive, 0 flu positive, 2 RSV positive.
Please note that these positive numbers are just for those members of the UNF community who were tested by UNF.

NEW -- What kind of COVID testing is currently being offered at UNF? (added 9/22/2021)

Testing is available at the Housing and Maintenance Building #62 in Lot 17 - Monday to Friday from 1pm to 4pm each week. Both PCR (molecular) and rapid (antigen) testing are administered. UNF health officials will determine the appropriate test administered based on each individual’s specific circumstance. If you get a PCR test, you will receive a call from the COVID-19 health team in approximately 48 hours with your result. If you get a rapid test, you will receive your results on-site in approximately 15 minutes.

NEW -- Will UNF be offering booster vaccine shots? If so, when and what kind? (added 9/22/2021)

UNF has already partnered with Walgreens to host an on-campus COVID-19 Pfizer Vaccination Clinic for UNF students, faculty, staff and their families on Wednesday, September 22nd. We are currently considering partnering with Walgreens and other providers to offer booster vaccine shots when and if they are released and become available. The type of booster shots will be determined by availability. 

Does the university have any data on vaccination rates among our students? (added 8/30/2021)

Yes, we do! During housing check-in during the week of August 16-20, we checked in 2,955 students. Of those, 1,926 or 65% presented proof of vaccination. (Students who had received only one dose of a two-dose regiment or who hadn’t passed two weeks since their second dose were not counted as fully vaccinated.) 822 or 80% of those who did not present evidence of vaccination, consented to testing. Of those tested, 8 students or <1% tested positive. Those who tested positive were not allowed to check in to the dorms. Additionally, on August 23, the University’s vaccination incentive went live and over 600 forms have been submitted.

 

Of course, the sample of students discussed above is not a perfect representation of all our students as it does not include those students who live off campus. But the data do suggest that the vaccination rate among our students is higher than current Duval County rates. The positive test rate among our students intending to live in our dorms is also much lower than the current Duval County rate.

As a faculty member, how should I respond or guide my students with various COVID-related questions such as if they should come to class and/or how long they should wait to come to class if they were exposed or have symptoms or test positive? (added 8/30/2021) 

Faculty should not in any way attempt to guide any student on medical issues. The faculty can tell a student to contact Student Health and to self-report if they have a COVID positive lab result, symptoms, or an exposure. Student Health will guide the student on whether they need to isolate or quarantine, to include guidance on testing options. 


If a student emails and writes that they need to miss class due to illness (COVID-related or not), the faculty can ask for a medical excuse as documentation. That medical excuse will have dates on how long the student will be excused from class. After those dates, the student can go back to class. If the student needs to extend their absence due to medical reasons, Student Health will provide an updated medical excuse. 

How will I know the status of a student who reports to Student Health Services? (added 8/30/2021)

You will receive excuse notes from any students who Student Health Services has assessed and placed into quarantine or isolation.

How do I know when it’s safe to have a COVID-positive student back in my classroom? (added 8/30/2021)

If a student has been directed by Student Health Services (SHS) to isolate because of a positive COVID-19 test, SHS will first issue an "excuse note" outlining the timeline for the student’s isolation, which is intended to be shared with the student’s professors. SHS also assesses the student for return from isolation and issues the student a Release from Isolation note, which the student can share with their professors if the student chooses. Please note, however, that Florida Statute Section 381.00316 prohibits the University and faculty from requiring documentation certifying post-infection recovery for class attendance, including the Release from Isolation document. Faculty should instead refer to the dates on the student's original medical excuse.

If faculty suspect that a student did not/does not intend to self-report COVID (exposure or positive), should faculty report them? (added 8/30/2021)

Please report any student who you suspect did not or does not intend to self-report their COVID exposure or positive status to Dr. Valerie Morrison, Director for Student Health Services (904-620-1569, v.morrison@unf.edu).

I am exhibiting COVID-like symptoms. What should I do? (added 8/30/2021)

Faculty who are symptomatic are encouraged to stay home if sick and get tested if they have COVID-like symptoms. If you test positive, you should report your status to Human Resources via the HR Self-Reporting Form and isolate for 10 days. The registered nurse who is working with Human Resources will guide you on requirements. If you are not COVID positive but still sick, you should use common sense regarding viral illnesses/common colds and stay home while actively sick (or at least 24 hours without a fever and symptoms resolving).

If you are vaccinated against COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine. Please monitor yourself for 14 days the following symptoms: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, nasal congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

If you are not vaccinated against COVID-19, you may need to quarantine depending on your individual circumstances. If you do not wear a mask and observe physical distancing you may be at higher risk of spreading the virus through a close contact exposure, please begin wearing a mask and observing physical distance from others to prevent potential transmission of the virus, monitor yourself for symptoms, and be prepared to quarantine at the onset of symptoms. If you do wear a mask and observe physical distancing, you are at lower risk for spreading the virus through a close contact exposure, please monitor yourself for 14 days for the following symptoms: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, nasal congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

If you begin to experience any symptoms over the next 14 days (vaccinated or not vaccinated), please contact your health care provider for further evaluation and seek testing from your provider of choice. The University will continue to offer COVID-19 testing for those employees who are experiencing symptoms. Availability of testing should be verified through Student Health Services. Employees who receive a positive test result from on-campus or off-campus testing should submit an HR Self Reporting Form found on the Safe Ospreys app. Employees who self-report positive results will be assessed and guided on COVID-19 isolation requirements.

Please also see the answer to the “What happens if I test positive and/or become sick and I need to avoid my face-to-face courses for two weeks? (8/6/2021)” question below. 

I've heard that the University has purchased masks for distribution in our classes if needed. Where can I get some? (added 8/23/2021)

Yes, the University has masks for you to take to your classrooms. They have been distributed to various departments and colleges. Please ask your department chair about obtaining a supply.

Can faculty ask or require a student to leave a classroom in the event that the faculty perceives them to pose a health risk to the class? (added 8/23/2021)

Some faculty might perceive a student with a persistent cough as posing a health risk to the class. If that student has COVID or even just a regular cold, they would indeed be a health risk to the class (though of different magnitudes). However, what if the student is suffering from seasonal allergies? We recommend that if you have a student who seems ill, you treat them just like you would have treated them pre-pandemic. Ask them if they are well enough to be in class and encourage them to seek medical attention. We also encourage you to add to your syllabus a statement such as, “Please do not come to class if you are unwell. This is especially true if you are experiencing COVID-19 or other communicable diseases. I urge all sick students to call Student Health Services (SHS) or their health care provider for an appointment and guidance. Getting vaccinated and wearing a mask indoors in public spaces is highly recommended.” A gentle reminder at the beginning of class is also encouraged. Faculty can also compassionately reach out to the student and share SHS’s phone number (620-2900) and web address (https://www.unf.edu/shs/), where they can easily arrange a telehealth or in-person appointment.

My plan to accommodate students missing class is, upon request, to show the class synchronously on Zoom. This may not be perfect but will be better than nothing. I do not plan to record this Zoom session, to encourage attendance by students who are well. I have two questions about this. (1) I use the chalkboard a lot. Will there be tablets in major lecture halls, so I can write on the tablet (which Zooming students will be able to see) instead of the chalkboard (which will not be visible to Zooming students)? and (2) Students are now allowed to record classes. Does this apply to Zoom feeds? Again, if these are recordable by students, I’m sure my attendance will plummet, minimizing student engagement and discussion. (added 8/23/2021)

Synchronously streaming your class via Zoom is an excellent way to be flexible for students who might have to miss class. There is no plan to provision classrooms with tablets. However, in those classrooms with upgraded audio-visual systems, it would be possible to aim the ceiling-mounted camera at the chalkboard to capture your writing for distance students. You can do this even if you are showing slides on the projector screen (just make sure you are sharing your slide presentation in Zoom as well).

As for whether students may record your class if you put it on Zoom, the answer depends on whether House Bill 233 applies. For a detailed description, please see the legislation update emailed to faculty by the Provost on July 14, 2021. If the class session is recordable, it is recordable regardless of whether presented face-to-face or via Zoom.

Does the "mask expectation" mean we can require students to wear masks in our classrooms? If so, what is the protocol for students who will not wear a mask? (added 8/23/2021)

Faculty may not mandate masking in classrooms, except for specific clinical or lab settings that require face protection or vaccination. They may, however, remind students regarding the University’s expectation to wear masks and to become vaccinated. They are also free to discuss the importance of vaccinations and masks in protecting the vulnerable members of our community.

What about labs, where we have high contact and exposure? There are majors where students need the lab exposure to learn important skills related to their chosen field of study. We can't safely teach that in person if we can't have a mask mandate at minimum. (added 8/23/2021)

For specific clinical or lab settings that require face protection, masks can be required. So, for example, if your lab setting is working with materials where masking is a normal and appropriate safety precaution or protocol, then yes, masks can be required.

I understand that faculty cannot require students to wear masks in the classroom, but could I include language in my syllabus, under 'classroom decorum' perhaps, that students must meet all University expectations? For many years now, my syllabi have included possible grade deductions or expulsion from the classroom for not meeting decorum standards, so I'm wondering if I can just add mask wearing to this, since this is now a university expectation. (added 8/23/2021)

A faculty member who disciplined students who do not wear masks by expulsion from the classroom or a grade penalty would violate the policy that masks cannot be mandated. We encourage faculty to take every opportunity to discuss the value and purpose of masking (and vaccinations) with their students. While masks and vaccinations protect the individual, they also, and equally importantly, protect others. We think explaining to students how getting vaccinated and wearing a mask will help keep the vulnerable loved ones of their peers and faculty safer will resonate with most students.

Tension is rising in my classroom between students because some are masked and some are not, and I’m worried that this will lead to a confrontation. What are appropriate actions that a faculty member should take in this situation? (added 8/23/2021)

Faculty should feel comfortable handling pandemic-related disputes just as they did pre-pandemic, e.g., for political or philosophical debates leading to heightened tensions. Encouraging and modelling civil discourse and the free expression of ideas is something all UNF faculty regularly do. You are still empowered to tell students to be respectful to one another and to ask students who have become disruptive to the educational purpose and functioning of the class to leave the room. Examples might include students who will not stay on topic despite attempts to guide them back or are having emotional outbursts. Students who don’t comply with faculty instructions should be reminded that they are obligated to follow the Student Code of Conduct. Faculty may utilize the Student Conduct Referral Report Form when students fail to comply with their directive or are substantially disruptive within the classroom (see the Office of Student Accountability and Resolution (OSAR) referral page). If the behavior falls within the scope of prohibited conduct at UNF (e.g., disruptive behavior), then the conduct process would move forward to address the incident with the student(s). The OSAR is happy to accept incident reports which will be reviewed to determine if the behavior can be addressed under our Code of Conduct, and OSAR may need to follow-up with faculty for additional details. UPD is also available to help de-escalate situations (Emergencies: 911, Non-emergencies: 904-620-2800).

I chose to teach face-to-face in the Fall thinking that people would take up the vaccine that was offered and that our infection numbers would be lower. That has proven to be a significant error in judgment. I wish to return to remote instruction. Can I exercise that option? (added 8/23/2021)

You cannot unilaterally change the delivery modality of your class and remote instruction is not a currently available modality. Switching a course from face-to-face to Distance Learning is a systematically disruptive process that requires UNF to drop all enrollment in the course, cancel the course, and then create a new section. There is no guarantee that dropped students will re-register for that course. Furthermore, we don’t have a process to do this after the term starts. Students have registered for the modality in which the course is offered. If a modality change happens after add/drop and a student does not prefer this modality shift, they have no current recourse to recoup their money via withdraw or drop. You should speak with your department chair about your concerns.

I have been vaccinated but I also have an 11-year-old who is unable to be vaccinated. A move to a larger classroom than I’m in could be a reasonable solution. Would this be possible? (added 8/23/2021)

You should speak with your department chair and college/department course scheduler about this possibility. There is no guarantee that a room large enough is available on the days and times that your class meets. If you have a class of 175 students, we simply don’t have rooms on campus to accommodate that number of students in a socially distanced way. However, if there is a suitable room available, then yes, a room change might be possible. 

Does the administration have sample/template language about masking that faculty can use in our syllabi? (added 8/16/2021)

Yes, we do! Here’s some language you can use:


“Given the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNF expects everyone to wear a mask at all times when inside around others in any UNF facility, even if you are vaccinated. Recent studies and guidance from the CDC state that both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals can transmit the current COVID-19 variant to unvaccinated persons. The best way to protect against serious illness is to be fully vaccinated and UNF encourages everyone to become vaccinated. However, vaccines are not yet available to those under 12 years old and not everyone can be vaccinated. These unvaccinated members of our community need our help staying safe. Because the Delta variant can infect even vaccinated individuals and can be spread by them to others, it poses a special threat to members of the community with underlying health conditions and children at home who are too young for vaccination. Therefore, I expect everyone to wear a proper, well-fitting mask during our face-to-face class meetings. I also expect everyone to wear a mask during office hours if we are having in-person office hours instead of remote office hours (such as through Zoom). While this is not a mandate, it is a strong expectation. By wearing a mask, you are doing your part to help keep our UNF community and our loved ones as safe as possible.”

I've heard that faculty must meet with students in their office for office hours and that we can't require students who are meeting with us to mask up. Is this true? (added 8/16/2021)

While it is true that you may not require students to wear a mask, you may certainly ask them to do so. Indeed, the university’s expectation is that all students, faculty, and staff wear masks while indoors. However, because of issues related to COVID, you do not need to hold your office hours in your office, nor do you have to hold office hours in person. You may hold your office hours remotely (via Zoom, for example). You can also hold your office hours outside or in spaces on campus that you feel provide enough social distancing for you and your students to be safe and comfortable. The administration does encourage you to hold office hours that are easily accessible by your students and that you take into consideration FERPA and other privacy issues. If you are holding office hours outside, please consider who besides your student can hear you if you are discussing their grades. 

A student in my face-to-face class has informed me that they tested positive for COVID, and they want me to broadcast (or record) my class via Zoom so that they can continue to attend virtually. Do I have to grant this request? **and/or** Are classroom faculty expected or required to offer bimodal instruction, i.e., teaching via in-person pedagogy while also offering, for instance, Zoom-based video instruction? (8/6/2021)

No, you do not have to record or broadcast your classes via Zoom for a student who is in isolation or quarantine due to a COVID infection or exposure (or any other reason for absence). You should feel free to treat this situation just like you would for a student who indicated that they were going to have to miss class due to any other medical emergency. The decision to grant the request is up to you and there is no requirement to provide remote access to your face-to-face class. However, if you would like to grant this request, and the technology needed to do so is available, then you may by all means do so.

 

We also urge faculty to consider their absentee policy and what sorts of options for make-up work they feel are academically appropriate, and clearly outline both in their syllabi. Faculty should also be prepared to have students missing multiple classes because of COVID and it is also likely that multiple students will be absent at the same time. Needing to miss class is not a new thing, but we believe the scale we could see this Fall may well be new; in both the number of students out and the fact that they may be be missing all their classes for several weeks, not just a single lecture for one course. Recording or Zoom-ing your lectures would certainly be one way to accommodate many students who will have to miss multiple classes. We encourage you to be empathetic to and flexible with your students during these challenging times. However, we are not asking you to be flexible in ways that compromise your academic standards or are pedagogically inappropriate for your course.

I am vaccinated, but I have health concerns. Can I mandate that my students wear masks in class and office hours? (8/6/2021)

No, you may not compel or mandate that a student wear a mask in academic settings. You can encourage and request that students wear masks in class and while meeting with you. You can also hold your office hours via Zoom or outside if that makes you more comfortable. If your health concerns put you at unique risk, then you can request an accommodation, including a transition to remote instruction, with the University’s ADA Compliance office (phone  904-620-2870).

Can I offer extra credit to students who wear masks or who get vaccinated? (8/6/2021)

No, you may not use academic incentives to promote students to wear masks or get vaccinated. If you did, a student who could not be vaccinated or who chose not to wear a mask would be academically disadvantaged. It also creates an issue with privacy of medical information. Additionally, this could potentially stigmatize students in a course, when a student may have a religious, medical or other reason for remaining unvaccinated or simply does not wish to disclose their vaccination status. We do, however, encourage you to speak to your students about the availability of vaccinations and the comparative risks of being vaccinated and unvaccinated and wearing and not wearing masks.

Can I offer non-academic incentives to students who wear masks or get vaccinated, like donuts, candy, or money? (8/6/2021)

No, for similar reasons. We do encourage you to discuss the latest science regarding COVID-19, masks, and vaccines, and encourage responsible actions. It might be useful to explore the reasons why some students might hesitate to get vaccinated and compare the relative risks associated with the vaccines versus the risk of a COVID infection. 

 

On Monday, August 9, 2021, the University's COVID-19 Task Force Coordinator, Bob Greenlaw, announced a new vaccine incentive program for students. Please see the Coronavirus Updates webpage.

Can I ask all my non-masked and/or non-vaccinated students to sit in the back of the classroom away from me? (8/6/2021)

As Provost Patterson indicated in her July 29, 2021 email to faculty, you may not ask students about their vaccination status. Asking students to sit in the back if they are not vaccinated is asking them to self-identify vaccination status. Once again, this could potentially stigmatize students in a course, when a student may have a religious, medical or other reason for remaining unvaccinated or simply does not wish to disclose their vaccination status. You may, however, encourage students to wear masks and to become vaccinated, and of course you can strongly encourage them to protect themselves and (just as importantly) protect others with masks and vaccinations.

Can I encourage social distancing in my class? (8/6/2021)

Yes, if your classroom has enough space and it is conducive to your class activities, you can encourage your students to socially distance. Faculty still have the freedom to arrange their classroom to meet their needs.

Can faculty ask or require a student to leave a classroom in the event that the faculty perceives them to pose a health risk to the class? (8/6/2021)

Some faculty might perceive a student with a persistent cough as posing a health risk to the class. If that student has COVID or even just a regular cold, they would indeed be a health risk to the class (though of different magnitudes). However, what if the student is suffering from seasonal allergies? We recommend that if you have a student who seems ill, that you treat them just like you would have treated them pre-pandemic. Ask them if they are well enough to be in class and encourage them to seek medical attention. We also encourage you to add to your syllabus a statement such as “Please do not come to class if you are unwell. This is especially true if you are experiencing COVID-19 or other communicable diseases. I urge all sick students to call Student Health Services or their health care provider for an appointment and guidance. Getting vaccinated and wearing a mask indoors in public spaces is highly recommended.”

Can I (anonymously) survey students as to vaccination status? (8/6/2021)

No, you may not ask students about their vaccination status even in an anonymous survey. If you need an estimate of how many of your students are probably vaccinated, we suggest you use publicly reported numbers from reputable sources.

Can I (anonymously) survey students as to their preferences for in-class masking? (8/6/2021)

Yes, you may anonymously poll your students about their preference for in-class masking. However, regardless of the results, you may not mandate mask wearing in your class or for office hours. You may use your poll results as a springboard to a discussion about the value of masking and other information about preventing the spread of COVID-19.

What happens if I test positive and/or become sick and I need to avoid my face-to-face courses for two weeks? (8/6/2021)

If you become sick, or experience COVID-19 like symptoms at any time, stay at home and contact a health care provider for further evaluation. Free, walk-in COVID-19 testing is available on campus in Osprey Landing, Building W on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1:00 to 3:30 pm. Persons with COVID-19 like symptoms will be tested with a COVID-19 Rapid Antigen test. Those who have a positive test result for COVID-19 should submit a self-report to HR and will receive further quarantine guidance.

 

As for your classes, this would be like other situations that might take you out of the classroom for two weeks (e.g., a professional trip or a minor medical procedure). So, you should probably notify your Department Chair of the need to be absent for a set period of time, but you should not feel compelled to disclose medical information to them. Depending on your health status, available technology, and approval from your Chair, it might be possible to take your class remote for the two-week period. Alternatively, it may require a fellow faculty member stepping in and guiding your course till you can return. We suggest you contact your Department Chair to discuss options. Should you require time away from your job to care for yourself or a family member (spouse, son, daughter, or parent) due to COVID, please reach out to benefits.retirement@unf.edu or call (904)-620-2903 to discuss FMLA eligibility with a member of the Benefits and Retirement Team.

I have (or someone in my home has) come down with COVID, and we're quarantining. What are the preferred steps for suddenly converting a course to distance learning/remote instruction? (8/6/2021)

First, if you are experiencing symptoms, you should seek further evaluation/get tested on campus or through a provider of your choice, then submit a self-report to HR. Then you should contact your Department Chair to discuss options for continuity of instruction.

What support and services are available for faculty who shift to all-remote instruction? What office/point of contact can help faculty make that shift? (8/6/2021)

If you and your Chair determine that temporarily switching to a remote instruction (RI) modality is appropriate, there are a variety of support teams who can help. The Center for Instruction and Research Technology (CIRT) and Information Technology Services (ITS) can provide a range of support, both technology-based and otherwise, for this sort of transition. Additionally, the Office of Faculty Excellence (OFE) can advise you on pedagogical matters. We also encourage you to talk with your departmental colleagues who know your courses, students, and the normal challenges and possibilities inherent in your discipline. You are not alone! Please reach out to one of the above units. If they cannot directly help you, they can point you in the right direction.

A student has informed me that their parent (or another loved one) tested positive for COVID and they are asking for me to adjust some of their coursework to accommodate them. (8/6/2021)

We recommend you imagine an analogous non-COVID situation and think about how you would treat a student in a similar situation. So, if you had a student whose parent was diagnosed with a medical condition, how would you treat that student? Typically, faculty speak with the student and work with them to determine what sorts of adjustments to coursework would be needed so that the student could support their loved one and yet still complete the class. In some cases, this might not be possible, and an incomplete or withdrawal from the class might be the best option. You and the student should consult with the academic advisor for your program about options. In other cases, a student’s request might be granted with a little flexibility on due dates or assignment format. This is the sort of flexibility the Provost mentioned in her email dated July 29, 2021. We encourage you to be empathetic to and flexible with your students during these challenging times. However, we are not asking you to be flexible in ways that compromise your academic standards or are pedagogically inappropriate for your course.

A student has informed me that they tested positive for COVID and they have to stay out of class. Can I ask the student for proof of COVID infection? (8/6/2021)

You should not ask the student for proof of COVID infection; you may, however, ask them for a note from a medical provider excusing their absence without detailing the underlying condition, as you might with any other situation where a student claims to need to miss class (e.g., illness, court date, death in the family, etc.). You might also consider granting the request without proof, because there is a possibility that a student would not go through the effort of getting a note and attend class instead. We encourage you to indicate your policy regarding proof of rationale and the modifications you deem appropriate in your syllabi. A student who has tested positive should also be directed to complete the SHS self-reporting form so that Student Health Services can record the incident.

It’s the third week of the semester and two of my students have already informed me that they have tested positive for COVID. Can I take my course remote for the rest of the semester? (8/6/2021)

We suggest you treat this situation as if those students informed you that they had some other communicable disease (e.g., measles or smallpox). Work with the students to provide them with course options that you deem are academically and pedagogically appropriate for completing course content for the period they will need to be absent. Many faculty describe the adjustments they will offer in such situations in their syllabi and we urge you to do this so that students know what to expect. If the numbers increase, it is best to work with your Department Chair who can then work with Academic Affairs to assess the situation.

It’s the thirteenth week of the semester and 75% of my students are out with COVID. Can I take my course remote for the rest of the semester? (8/6/2021)

Each situation will be carefully reviewed on a case-by-case basis in light of all the circumstances. In this situation, moving to a remote modality might be warranted. You should speak with your Department Chair (indeed, we would encourage speaking with them earlier if this increase occurred over a period of time). Your Chair will be able to coordinate with Academic and Student Affairs for appropriate adjustments.

What if I, as a faculty member, have decided to go to remote instruction in my class. Is this a personal choice or something I should speak to my Chair about? (8/6/2021)

You cannot unilaterally change the delivery modality of your class. You should speak with your Department Chair about your concerns.

I’m teaching a large lecture course (ca. 200 students), face-to-face, three times a week, in a remote instruction-enabled classroom. I was thinking that to maximize social distancing during periods of high COVID rates on campus, I would split the class into thirds with each third attending in person one day per week and the other two thirds attending via Zoom on their off days. Can I do that? (8/6/2021)

As long as your students are able to come in person for the percentage of their instruction that defines a face-to-face course then the course would still be considered “traditional” face-to-face. You should work with your Department Chair to determine precisely how much of this shifted attendance is both possible and desirable. Please don’t forget that your students signed up for a face-to-face class and will be expecting it.

Does the University have any boilerplate syllabus language to help faculty explain to students the available adaptions and purview faculty have to change a course to ensure course integrity and safety? (8/6/2021)

No, we don’t have any set syllabus language for faculty regarding course integrity and safety. Faculty are free to add such information to their syllabi. Indeed, some of that information may be part of syllabus sections on accommodations for students and/or your continuity of instruction plan. We think including information about what steps students can take to be safe and keep their peers and faculty and staff safe in your syllabus is a wonderful idea. We also think it is worth all faculty thinking about how they might adjust their course should a change in teaching modality be necessary.

I want to hold my classes outside...great for social distancing and air flow. Can I do that? (8/6/2021)

Of course. There are many lovely areas on campus. As long as your course is amenable to an outside setting and the weather cooperates (it can be hot and rainy in early fall here in Jacksonville). Keep in mind that informally holding a class outside will not give the class any preferential treatment over anyone else utilizing the outdoor space. You will also want to consider any student accommodations and if an outdoor setting is conducive to the academic activities of your class. Please make sure to let your students know where class will be held and be prepared to adjust in case a colleague has snagged that beautiful bamboo grove before you!

I want to talk to the students in my classes about COVID-19. Can I do that? (8/6/2021)

Yes! As Faculty Association President John White indicated in his July 30, 2021 email, faculty can engage students in conversations about the pandemic. You might simply want to remind your students about the University’s health initiatives (like our Counseling Center, available vaccinations, and testing, etc.). Moreover, just as you would regarding possible disruption by hurricanes, you may wish to speak with your students about current case rates, contingency plans, and the potential impacts of risky behavior. Indeed, we encourage you to express concern for your students’ well-being in these ways. If it fits with your course structure and material, you can infuse your course with COVID-related content. For example, a transportation and logistics course might include a discussion of issues related to vaccine distribution and deployment, a computer science course may include an assignment involving the development of a COVID-related app, and a history course might explore similarities and differences between our current situation and historic pandemics.

I am sick and tired of 24/7 COVID! I don’t want to talk to my students in my classes about COVID-19. Do I have to talk about the coronavirus in my class? (8/6/2021)

Of course not! If you want to make your class a weekly respite from the pandemic for you and your students, you may.

When can I activate my Continuity of Instruction plan? (8/6/2021)

This is a decision about which you should speak with your Department Chair. Obviously, a major change in the pandemic or a hurricane impacting the campus may result in a University-wide decision to implement continuity of instruction plans. Before you implement any major change in your instructional plan (e.g., a change in delivery modality), you must discuss your plans with your Chair and obtain approval.

Will the University be informing faculty and classmates if a student tests positive for COVID so that they can pursue personal testing? (8/6/2021)

Yes, the University will continue the contact tracing and notification process it implemented at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What programs are in place for students moving into the dorms? (8/6/2021)

All dorm students will be required to meet with University officials prior to moving into their room. Medical personnel will be on hand to discuss COVID safety protocols and invite individuals who have not been vaccinated to take a voluntary COVID test and become vaccinated.

The Provost and President keep encouraging faculty to be “flexible” with students. This is just coded language encouraging us to lower our academic standards and water down our courses to improve our Performance Based Funding Metrics, right? (8/6/2021)

No, lowering academic standards is not encouraged. We trust faculty to maintain the rigor and intellectual challenge of their courses. What the administration is encouraging is that you be empathetic to students who, like faculty, are juggling many things during this difficult time. Most of our students have families, jobs, and other responsibilities just like the faculty and staff of the University. We all face similar challenges, and we believe that shared experience allows you to relate to what your students are going through. If being flexible on a due date, assignment format, or other course activity can help your students without compromising your academic standards, then you should know that the administration supports your academic freedom to offer it.

All this flexibility and accommodation of students’ needs takes time and effort. How will this impact my annual evaluation? (8/6/2021)

We understand your concern. The University will continue to actively monitor the COVID situation and adjust as necessary. However, there are direct actions you can take to make sure you document your efforts. We recommend that you make note of any changes you make to your courses during the pandemic. For example, you can compare your current syllabus with a pre-pandemic version to identify all the changes in your course structure and policies that you have made. When you offer a modification to a student or adjust your course to deal with a new situation or add another component to your class due to the pandemic, make note of it. These actions and adjustments can be described in your annual self-evaluation and teaching portfolio and would constitute efforts to improve or augment your teaching. This sort of documentation would also help support any argument you wish to make regarding how added teaching efforts due to the pandemic impacted your scholarship or service duties. We also encourage you to discuss your concerns about impacts with your Chair as they develop.

What is the administration’s threshold for when the University will go remote for a class or classes? (8/6/2021)

As you can imagine, the decision to go remote is a difficult one that cannot be made in a vacuum and needs to take into consideration multiple factors, including local conditions, availability of mitigation measures, state-level guidance, and many more factors. Neither the UNF administration nor the BOG has a set case rate, test positive rate, or other threshold set a priori that would trigger remote instruction. The University will continue to analyze and assess these factors during its regular COVID-19 Taskforce meetings.

On its Coronavirus webpage, the University writes, “We will protect ourselves. We will protect others. We will protect our UNF community.” One question: how are we doing this? What power do individual faculty or academic programs have to protect ourselves, to protect one another, and our community? **and** Within the BOG guidelines, what proactive steps is the University taking to protect faculty, staff, and students during this latest, largest COVID surge? (8/6/2021)

UNF’s COVID Task Force meets multiple times each week to review conditions in northeast Florida, and we will implement new measures as necessary. It should be remembered that UNF is part of the State University System (SUS), so along with the resources and support that system provides, there exist certain protocols and state-wide policies to which UNF must adhere.

 

Here are examples of steps the University is taking to protect the UNF community: 

  • The University continues to encourage those feeling ill to stay at home and not return for work, study, or to access University resources if medical advice, COVID-19 test results, and/or presence of symptoms indicate that they should self-isolate.
  • Faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to be tested and self-report using the Safe Ospreys mobile app or via the HR Self-Reporting Form (for faculty/staff) and the SHS Self-Reporting Form (for students).
  • We continue to recommend both getting vaccinated and wearing of face coverings on campus. Signage on campus has been updated to promote vaccination and other COVID-19 protocols.
  • Student Health Services continues to provide on-campus COVID-19 testing for the campus community.
  • UNF works with the county health department on contact tracing and notification of those exposed to the virus.
  • UNF is partnering with health providers to provide vaccinations to the campus community at the start of the Fall semester.
  • UNF is providing a UF Health vaccine hesitancy program that will educate participants about COVID-19 while encouraging on-site vaccination.
  • A large supply of masks will be distributed to departments/schools so that faculty can make them available in their classrooms.
  • UNF will continue to stock hand-sanitizing stations, maintain increased ventilation in buildings, and sanitize classrooms nightly.
  • UNF is working closely with student clubs, Greek organizations, and other groups to educate leaders on the importance of protecting their members from COVID-19 to ensure a safe and open Fall semester. Student groups are helping to promote vaccination and distribute masks to their peers.
  • On August 30, 2021, the University is planning an event consisting of health experts discussing vaccination hesitancy and answering questions in the Student Union Ballroom. There will be three 45 minute sessions which will include presentations from our nursing students as peers. During and after these sessions a vaccination bus will be available on the Student Union Plaza to administer vaccinations. Also, information tables will be set-up in the Plaza. This is in conjunction will a student government event which will take place in the Plaza the same day. In addition, we will have four tables spread out around campus staffed by students handing out masks and vaccination literature. The University is encouraging peers to encourage cooperation from their fellow students.
  • The University is exploring vaccination incentive programs for students. 

If you have any questions about COVID-19 healthcare, please address them directly to UNF Student Health Services at (904) 620-2900 or studenthealth@unf.edu

 

Individual faculty and academic programs can encourage members of their community (faculty, staff, and students) to get vaccinated, wear masks, get tested when appropriate, and be vigilant about any changes in their health that might indicate COVID infection. Dispelling myths and misinformation about vaccinations can help us increase the percentage of our community that get vaccinated. We also urge you to consider the possible mental health impacts to every member of our community and approach each other with empathy, care, and flexibility.

What mental health resources is the University offering to faculty? (8/6/2021)

There are a number of resources of which faculty can avail themselves. For example, the University’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a 24-hour help line for faculty, staff, and their families who may need assistance with life, family and financial challenges.

 

You can also find a list of faculty self-care resources on the presentation slides from a Faculty Self-Care event hosted by the Office of Faculty Excellence (OFE) in January of 2021. 

 

Finally, faculty who wish to speak with an impartial fellow faculty member can also reach out to the Faculty Ombudspersons who can provide support and advice regarding University resources and policies and procedures.

We’re at the start of the Atlantic hurricane season. The new Delta variant of COVID is running rampant. Vaccination rates in Duval County are low and infection rates are high. And the fall term is about to start. I’m freaking out! I’m nervous, confused, and I don’t know how to prepare. What do I do? (8/6/2021)

We hear you! It’s a daunting situation we’re in. And we’ve been on the same emotional rollercoaster ride with you. The new Delta variant is shaking up the hopeful outlook that had been building since vaccinations were widely available. We all are doing the very best that we can and hoping for the best. We know you are too. We encourage you to reach out. Speak with your colleagues and Chair, ask questions, spit-ball scenarios, and consider options. If anyone in Academic and Student Affairs (A&SA) can help, don’t hesitate to contact us. If you don’t know who to contact, that’s OK. Ask anyone in A&SA and we’ll point you in the right direction. Or you can submit questions directly to us via: Fall2021return@unf.edu

 

The worst thing you could do is suffer in silence. The University also offers the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for helping in difficult circumstances, and we encourage you to utilize this resource.