Guidance for Spring 2022 Instruction

 

Date:          January 6, 2022

To:              Iowa State University Faculty

From:         Jonathan Wickert                        
                   Senior Vice President and Provost

Subject:    Guidance for Spring 2022 Instruction

I am writing as a follow-up to the university-wide communication regarding Spring 2022 operations and public health measures, and to reaffirm guidance previously provided during the Spring and Fall 2021 semesters for academic activities.  Some of those policies were developed and communicated over an extended period of time, and I believe that all instructors –particularly those newly-hired – may find it helpful to have the information available in a single location.

As was the case during the Fall semester, in-person instruction is the default course modality for Spring 2022.  While online options will continue to be available in many cases, courses and sections that were typically taught in-person pre-pandemic will be taught in-person this Spring.  Exceptions will be very limited and subject to special review using our established process.  Student-facing academic activities – such as in-person office hours, team-based projects, supervision of graduate assistants, and participation in thesis committee meetings – which were conducted in-person before the pandemic will be conducted this Spring in a substantially similar manner.  Additional guidance includes:

  • Virtual meetings.  Faculty continue to have discretion for conducting activities such as research collaboration meetings or seminars, graduate student oral exams, and departmental and committee meetings using a range of in-person, online, and hybrid formats, with an eye toward balancing engagement, productivity, and work-life considerations.
  • Sick leave.  Instructors with symptoms or who are otherwise not feeling well should follow the absence processes of their college or department and use available leave options, including Board of Regents COVID-19 Sick Time Off.  Instructors should use that or standard leave options if a child must remain home for isolation or quarantine.
  • Instructors testing positive.  Instructors who test positive for COVID-19 may, if they are feeling well enough and at their discretion, move a class online during their isolation period using established process to minimized disruption to student learning.
  • Student absenteeism.  Temporary course modality changes may be available in the case of problematic, unusual, and substantial student absenteeism, and faculty should discuss the specific situation and options with their department chair using established process.
  • Attendance policies. Class attendance is an individual student responsibility, and students are responsible for working with instructors to notify them of illness related to COVID-19, and determine how best to complete missed coursework. This information has also been communicated to students. I encourage instructors to provide reasonable flexibility for students who are not feeling well. 
  • Posting lectures online.  Instructors may choose, but are not required to, make lectures available online to support student learning or to enable students to catch-up on material they may have missed. 
  • Office hours.  Instructors may offer virtual options as a supplement to, but not as a replacement for, in-person office hours, as well as move in-person opportunities to larger spaces to enable greater physical distancing. Meetings among colleagues or research groups may be moved to virtual formats as appropriate.
  • Graduate student exams.  Oral exams, both preliminary and final, may be held in-person, virtually, or in a hybrid modality. The Graduate College Handbook (4.4.2 and 7.1.2) provides specific guidance. 
  • Pass-through mask and vaccination requirements.  In cases where the university collaborates with an external organization to provide students with experiential learning opportunities, and that organization has a mask or vaccination requirement, special guidelines are available for student participation.
  • Immunocompromisation.  The university program offering workplace modifications for immunocompromised faculty and staff, or those with immunocompromised household members, will continue through the Spring semester. Additional information is available through the UHR Service Portal.
  • International travel.  Travel during the pandemic continues to be complex and unpredictable, and travelers should be prepared for the possibility of additional restrictions and disruptions. It is recommended that international travelers be vaccinated before travel, including booster doses, especially for extended travel.
    • Students: At this time, all planned study abroad programming for the spring term is scheduled to proceed.  Students traveling abroad are covered by robust international health and emergency assistance insurance.  Students who have questions should reach out to their study abroad advisor.  Graduate students whose major professors endorse their travel abroad for scholarship should consult with the Graduate College and/or the International Students and Scholars Office for guidance specific to individual circumstances. 
    • Employees: Faculty and staff traveling abroad should consult the Office of Risk Management and complete the required travel registration process.
  • Extension of the tenure clock.  The Faculty Handbook policy on extension of the tenure clock (5.2.1.4) is available to any faculty member for whom special circumstances, such as the pandemic, have interfered significantly with their ability to develop the qualifications necessary for tenure in their designated timeframe. Faculty are advised to consult with their department chair regarding this option. 
  • COVID-19 statements.  Our policy on annual performance reviews provides faculty members with the option to include a statement articulating the ongoing impact of the pandemic on their position responsibilities.
  • Student evaluation of teaching.  We will continue to utilize a modified survey instrument to collect student feedback on teaching. 

Even after nearly two years, the pandemic continues to challenge us with new variants and other unexpected developments, which are likely to persist throughout the year. As before, we will remain vigilant and ready to respond, managing risk while continuing our academic mission, and sharing new information as it becomes available.

Separately, I draw your attention to Iowa State’s Free Expression Syllabus Statement, and the requirement that it be used verbatim in every course.  The Board of Regents will soon be implementing online training about free expression for all students, faculty and staff at the three public universities.

I want close by thanking you for your significant efforts during the fall semester to continue Iowa State’s mission under challenging pressures.  Our students and their families appreciate the opportunity to be back on campus and in the classroom, to learn from you, and to engage in the many activities and traditions that are the hallmark of the Iowa State experience.  That Cyclone spirit was certainly on full display at December’s undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies held in Hilton Coliseum.  You also demonstrated remarkable flexibility and adaptation when we had to reschedule, on the fly, many examinations as a result of the derecho during finals week.

As with previous communications, I ask that department chairs share this memo with graduate student instructors, teaching assistants, and academic advisors and staff engaged in instruction and student success.