This page offers a set of frequently asked questions related to the  Fall 2023 semester. The Office of the Provost will maintain and update this page with additional information.  Please feel free to send additional questions to [email protected].

How should classes be taught this semester?

All instructors, including teaching assistants, are expected to hold classes in the modes that were originally listed in Courses@Brown — meaning that classes previously planned for online or hybrid instruction for pedagogical reasons will proceed in those modalities, and all other classes will be taught in-person from the start of the semester, including during shopping period. Brown requires that courses be offered in the approved and advertised modality both for the benefit of students and to ensure the University remains in compliance with our accreditation and federal reporting obligations.


How should student absences from class be managed?

Instructors and students should plan for the possibility that students may be absent from class for a variety of health and personal reasons, especially during the shopping period when we anticipate seeing some students test positive for COVID-19 after completing recommended pre-arrival tests.

  • If students are unable to attend class, they should proactively contact their instructors.
  • Instructors should be flexible and support students with excused absences. However, instructors should not ask students about underlying health or personal circumstances.
  • Deans in both the College and Student Support Services may provide deans' notes on behalf of undergraduate students with specific personal or health circumstances that hinder their ability to complete academic work.
  • Graduate students are encouraged to contact their instructors to request flexibility. They can also seek additional support from the associate deans in their respective school.
  • For medical students, deans in the Warren Alpert Medical School have communicated guidance directly.

Please note: Instructors may also provide support for student absences without deans’ notes.

While instructors are not expected to teach additional hybrid or online sections to accommodate individual student absences, we ask that instructors develop plans for student absences and communicate those plans to students at the beginning of the semester.

Instructors can find remote-accessible teaching options and guidance on the Digital Learning and Design website. Additional strategies based on feedback from Brown faculty and students can be found on the Sheridan Center website. Instructors are encouraged to contact [email protected] for additional support with remote-accessible approaches.


How should instructor absences from class for personal or family situations be managed?

We recognize that instructors may have to be absent in order to deal with personal or family situations over the course of the semester, including if they or their dependents test positive for COVID-19. We are asking instructors to exercise their best judgment and follow the advice of their health care provider, even if that means staying home for a period of time. Additional guidance is provided on the Healthy Brown website.

Instructors are expected to develop plans for possible absence and share their plans with students at the beginning of the semester. These may involve the following options:

  • Identifying a substitute instructor (note that an instructor’s request for support from teaching assistants should remain within the guidelines for their roles);
  • Temporarily transitioning class sessions to be remote (instructors may review the guidelines for Remote-Accessible Teaching);
  • Developing course materials and online activities in advance that allow students to progress in their absence (see the guidelines for creating course videos and asynchronous teaching strategies); and
  • Potentially rescheduling a class to a later date in urgent situations where the above options are not possible.


How should classroom density during shopping period be managed?

As is usually the case, more students will attend classes during the Shopping Period than will ultimately be enrolled, resulting in higher density in some classrooms.

Instructors and students must work together to manage density in classrooms. Instructors should explain their attendance policy in their syllabus, post their syllabus on Courses@Brown (via, and publish Canvas websites in advance of the first class so students know how instructors will manage attendance before the first day of class.

Students should adhere to requests from instructors, who may manage the density in classrooms by:

  • Asking students not yet registered for the course to leave the classroom if the density in the classroom exceeds the designated capacity.   
  • Telling students that seats will be reserved for those who register for the course first and that remaining seats may be taken by wait-listed and/or other students to the extent possible.
  • Recording their first lecture(s) if feasible and posting on Canvas.


What are Brown's requirements for mask wearing?

The University is not currently requiring the use of face masks on campus, regardless of vaccination status. However, instructors — including both faculty and graduate students — may require masks in the classroom at their discretion. Such requirements should apply to all community members in the classroom, and instructors should not ask about the vaccination status of anyone in their classes.


Should our office hold events and gatherings?

Given Brown’s vaccination requirements, departments and offices are allowed to host gatherings and events indoors but should use their best judgment on the size and location of gatherings.