Fall Semester Updates (SVPP COVID-19 Communication #17)


Date:        August 12, 2020

To:            Iowa State University Faculty

From:       Jonathan Wickert                              

                 Senior Vice President and Provost

Subject:   Fall Semester Updates (SVPP COVID-19 Communication #17)

I am writing with information on several important instruction topics, including revised syllabus language to recognize the university’s revised policy on face coverings, schedule changes, informed consent for experiential learning activities, and food and drink in the classroom.

Changes to face covering guidelines in learning spaces

As President Wintersteen announced in a communication to campus last week, cloth face coverings are required in all university classrooms, laboratories, studios, and other in-person instructional settings and learning spaces.

Instructors may use a face shield while they are teaching as long as they are able to maintain 8 feet of physical distance between themselves and students during the entire instructional period. As a reminder, classrooms have been configured to create additional separation between student seats and the instructor by eliminating seats in the front row(s) and by floor markings to demarcate the student and instructor spaces. It is important to note that some form of face covering must be worn at all times in learning spaces, regardless of the amount of physical distancing.

Individuals having a documented health or medical condition that may be exacerbated by wearing a cloth face covering, or where a cloth face covering would lead to a medical emergency or introduce significant safety concerns, should contact Student Accessibility Services in the Dean of Students Office (for students) or University Human Resources (for faculty and staff). In such cases, a face shield and/or other mitigation measures may be required; students may enroll in online classes; or students may work with their academic advisor to select and reschedule alternative courses to satisfy degree requirements. The Student Accessibility Services office will notify faculty directly if a student accommodation has been granted. 

Revised syllabus statement

The health and safety syllabus language distributed previously has been revised to reflect the change in Iowa State University’s face covering policy.

The following language supersedes the template distributed in SVPP COVID-19 Communication #15 on July 22, 2020. This language is also available on the website for the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, along with other helpful template syllabus statements.

Syllabus statement begins

COVID-19 health and safety requirements

Students are responsible for abiding by the university’s COVID-19 health and safety expectations. All students attending this class in-person are required to follow university policy regarding health, safety, and face coverings:

  • wear a cloth face covering in all university classrooms, laboratories, studios, and other in-person instructional settings and learning spaces. Cloth face coverings are additionally required to be worn indoors in all university buildings, and outdoors when other people are or may be present where physical distancing of at least 6 feet from others is not possible. Students with a documented health or medical condition that prevents them from wearing a cloth face covering should consult with Student Accessibility Services in the Dean of Students Office.
  • ensure that the cloth face covering completely covers the nose and mouth and fits snugly against the side of the face.
  • practice physical distancing to the extent possible.
  • assist in maintaining a clean and sanitary environment.
  • not attend class if you are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • not attend class if you have been told to self-isolate or quarantine by a health official.
  • follow the instructor’s guidance with respect to these requirements. Failure to comply constitutes disruptive classroom conduct. Faculty and teaching assistants have the authority to deny a non-compliant student entry into a classroom, laboratory, studio, conference room, office, or other learning space.

These requirements extend outside of scheduled class time, including coursework in laboratories, studios, and other learning spaces, and to field trips. These requirements may be revised by the university at any time during the semester.

In accordance with university policy, instructors may use a face shield while they are teaching as long as they are able to maintain 8 feet of physical distance between themselves and students during the entire instructional period. Some form of face covering must be worn at all times in learning spaces regardless of the amount of physical distancing. 

Faculty may refer matters of non-compliance to the Dean of Students Office for disciplinary action, which can include restrictions on access to, or use of, university facilities; removal from university housing; required transition to remote-only instruction; involuntary disenrollment from one or more in-person courses; and other such measures as necessary to promote the health and safety of campus.

It is important for students to recognize their responsibility in promoting the health and safety of the Iowa State University community, through actions both on- and off-campus. The university’s faculty asks that you personally demonstrate a commitment to our Cyclones Care campaign. Iowa State University’s faculty support the Cyclones Care campaign and ask you personally to demonstrate a commitment to our campaign. Your dedication and contribution to the campaign will also protect your family, classmates, and friends, as well as their friends and families. Our best opportunity for a successful fall semester with in-person learning and extramural activities requires all of us to collaborate and fully participate in the Cyclones Care campaign.

Syllabus statement ends

Program-level expectations regarding courses and student absences

I encourage faculty and leadership in academic departments and programs to have discussions within their respective units on curricular issues, including:

  • Class substitutions that can be made to appropriately meet degree requirements, for example, to accommodate a student who wishes to, or who must, take only online classes this fall.
  • Academic standards for students who may become ill and miss significant coursework during the semester, with respect to an appropriate level of remote work and when a grade of incomplete should be assigned to enable the student to complete work after the end of the semester.

Consistency at the department and program levels will ensure that students are treated equitably and given the best opportunity to maintain progress toward their degrees.

Changes to course delivery modes

The fall schedule of courses was released and communicated to students on August 3. Class times and course delivery modes were locked in the course scheduling system at the same time. Any further changes to the fall schedule should be discussed with and approved by the cognizant department chair and associate dean for academic programs.

Classroom technology

Information Technology Services is currently equipping general university classrooms with technology for live synchronous learning, asynchronous lecture capture, or both. Some classrooms will include pan/tilt/zoom cameras and integrated audio. These classrooms will enable lecture capture using Panopto with cloud storage, and/or connect with the instructor's device for videoconferencing or recording. Other classrooms will include a web camera and desktop microphone compatible with conventional software. It is likely that some general university classrooms will not have this new technology installed by August 17, and installations will continue into the first several weeks of the semester.

A presentation is available with additional information, and Information Technology Services is providing a printed sheet of in-room instructions to assist instructors in using the new technology.

Resources you may have missed

Resources for faculty about fall instruction have been archived here. In particular, I would draw your attention to the following recent communications and guidance:

  • Introductory messaging and discussion points for the first-day of face-to-face classes
  • Guidelines for supporting ill or quarantined students, and assigning incomplete grades
  • Creating designated seating charts
  • Experiential course participation agreement

Additional updates

  • Familiarize yourself with classroom configurations. As some course locations have changed recently to accommodate enrollment and safety protocols, please double-check the room assigned for your course. I recommend that you stop by your classroom this week and become familiar with the seating arrangement, signage, doors, and technology.
  • Dismiss class on time. While five minutes have been added to the passing time for classes meeting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, this time should be reserved for safely entering and exiting classrooms and buildings.
  • Food and drink in the classroom. Iowa State University’s Public Health Team does not recommend food and drink consumption in learning spaces during the fall semester. However, there are times – especially in the case of longer class periods, or for individuals with underlying health conditions – where it may not be practical to follow this recommendation. Instructors should use their judgment and discretion when establishing rules and expectations within their courses.
  • Academic building signage. The consistent deployment of signage is critical to reinforce our health and safety protocols. I have visited many academic buildings over the last week, and I continue to be impressed by the creativity that academic programs have shown in reconfiguring spaces and in posting signage in common areas, departmental classrooms and offices, and other areas where signage is not controlled by FP&M. Carver, Hoover, and Curtiss halls are great examples of this work, just to name a few, as is the Parks Library. Please continue to share your ideas with your department chair and building administrator on how best to position signage to achieve a consistent look and encourage healthy behaviors.

Thank you

As we near the end of our summer planning period, I want to thank you for your hard work and for offering helpful feedback and recommendations throughout this process, whether from conversations, emails, questions and comments during town halls, or your college’s faculty senate caucus. I wish you the best for the fall semester.