COVID-19 Safety: Additional FAQs for Faculty

September 2, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

In recent weeks, you have received a number of messages regarding policies and practices for in-person teaching and learning. We’ve received some questions in response and answered several of them below. (These will be added to the Teaching in the Fall of 2021 FAQ page on the Provost Office website.) 

These Q&A additions are intended to clarify policies regarding masking, vaccination, testing, and other related protocols, all of which remain in full effect. For more details, see previous messages relating to in-person teaching and learning this fall and Brown’s COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy

Q:  Am I committed to teaching in the modality (fully online, in-person, or in-person and remotely accessible) that I previously submitted?

A:  Yes. Instructors should teach in the modality that was submitted to the Registrar earlier this year. The only exception would be for instructors whose situation has changed in a way that affects their ability to teach a class in the planned modality. In planning the fall semester, we identified a sample of courses in each department that could be remotely accessible to students who, for various reasons (e.g., health, immigration visas), cannot participate in in-person courses this fall. However, those courses have already been identified, and if you were slated to teach in-person, then we expect you to do so. You may contact my office at [email protected] if you have any questions on your teaching modality for the fall semester.

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Q:  If I am teaching an in-person-only course, what should I do if students are unable to attend class in-person? 

A:  We expect that throughout the semester, as in any normal academic year, students may be absent from class for a variety of health and personal reasons, COVID-19-related or otherwise. Instructors teaching in-person-only courses should be flexible and support students with excused absences as they normally would. Students are expected to contact their instructors if they are unable to attend class, and deans in both the College and Student Support Services may provide deans' notes on behalf of students with specific personal or health circumstances that hinder their ability to complete academic work. Instructors may provide support for student absences without deans’ notes but should not ask about underlying health or personal circumstances. 

Instructors are not expected to teach additional hybrid or online sections to accommodate individual student absences. Instructors may consider recording lectures, if feasible, or other online learning tools to help students catch up on materials and assignments.

Instructors whose courses were designated to be remotely accessible should teach in a format that supports students studying remotely outside of the Providence area. These formats may also enhance accessibility and support for students in the Providence area who are unable to attend in person. However, notwithstanding the above, instructors may establish reasonable class attendance policies for their courses, including online attendance policies for students studying remotely, and should publish such policies on course websites and syllabi. 

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Q:  Is social distancing required for vaccinated students or faculty when they are indoors? 

A:  No. Vaccinated individuals do not need to practice social distancing indoors if they are wearing masks. Unvaccinated students or employees must wear masks and maintain a six-foot distance from others when they are indoors. (Note that these unvaccinated individuals will either have approved exemptions or be in the process of getting vaccinated. They are responsible for abiding by all applicable requirements, including masking and social distancing. Faculty should not ask about the vaccination status of anyone in their classes).

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Q:  How should I manage a higher than normal density of students during shopping period? 

A:  Shopping period should look very similar to how it did before the pandemic. Rooms have been assigned based on projected or capped enrollment numbers, and classroom density will be similar to pre-pandemic levels. As a reminder, vaccinated individuals do not need to practice social distancing indoors if they are wearing masks. All students must be masked indoors, and over 97% of our students are fully vaccinated. We recognize that more students will attend classes during shopping period than will be enrolled, resulting in overflow and high density in some classrooms. If appropriate, instructors should manage attendance for courses as they did before the pandemic. It would be advisable to explain your attendance policy in your syllabus, post your syllabus on Courses@Brown (via, and publish Canvas websites in advance of the first class so students know how you will manage attendance before the first day of class. Instructors may also manage the density in classrooms by: 

  • Recording their first lecture(s) if feasible and posting on Canvas;
  • Asking students on the waitlist to leave the classroom if the density in the classroom exceeds the designated capacity; and
  • Telling students that seats will be reserved for those who register for the course first and that leftover seats may be taken by waitlisted and/or other students to the extent possible.

Instructors should also delay enrollment confirmation until the first class session during the week of September 13th to support students who may be unable to attend classes in the first week due to limited seating, travel-related quarantine, or observation of Rosh Hashanah.

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Q:  What should I do if I have a personal or family situation that temporarily impacts my ability to teach in-person, like the need to care for a sick or quarantined child at home?

A:  We recognize that instructors may have to handle personal or family situations over the course of the semester. Instructors should exercise their best judgment, even if that means staying home for a short period of time.  In the case of a personal or family situation, instructors may consider rescheduling a class, transitioning an individual class session to be remote, or asking a colleague to help with instruction.

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Q:  How can I request support or access to classroom technology? 

A:  Any course designated as “Remote Accessible” has been assigned a hybrid classroom by the University Scheduling Office. If you would like to review your hybrid room, please schedule a Classroom Orientation with Media Services or email [email protected]. Information about hybrid teaching is available here

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Q:  Are classrooms still being cleaned through enhanced cleaning protocols?

A:  Yes. Enhanced custodial cleaning will continue in classrooms and common areas during the day and evening. Scheduled custodial cleaning will continue on the overnight shift. You will find containers of disinfection wipes in classrooms and common areas so that individuals using these areas can disinfect before and after use.

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As a reminder, Brown continues to require all members of the community to wear masks indoors. Fully vaccinated instructors may choose to remove their masks when they are speaking during the course of instruction (though they are not required to do so). Instructors who are teaching classes that require individual students or even groups of students to be unmasked (performing arts or music, for example) should complete this survey, and the Office of the Provost will respond with guidance.

Thank you for all you are doing to ensure that our return to campus is as safe and exciting as it promises to be. I look forward to the start of classes next week. 


Richard M. Locke