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Classroom and Syllabus Guidelines for Instructors Related to COVID-19

Penn State’s Office of Student Conduct (OSC) supports instructors as they seek to provide a positive learning environment for all students. The University Faculty Senate has existing guidelines for managing classroom disruptions, which allow instructors to draw on University support in quickly and effectively addressing disruptions.   The University’s Return to Campus Task Group has adapted these guidelines to help instructors maintain a safe classroom environment incorporating COVID-19 requirements. The University recognizes that race, ethnicity, gender expression, disabilities, and other visible social identities play a role in how instructors experience the classroom environment. Thus, all instructors are strongly encouraged to consult Educational Equity’s parallel guidelines which recommend protocols to address classroom behaviors that may disrupt inclusive learning environments and disparately impact members of marginalized populations, in particular.

Related to COVID-19 requirements for Fall 2020, instructors should: 

  • Include a University statement of classroom behavioral requirements in all course syllabi1 and posted in all classrooms. COVID-19 related requirements include masking and social distancing. Depending on the classroom and the nature of the course, instructors may add other requirements (e.g., directional guidance in laboratories). Instructors may consider including adherence to these requirements as part of the overall participation grade in the course2 and send an email or post a note on Canvas to remind students about the requirements before the semester begins.
  • Orally review classroom requirements at the beginning of the semester and spend a few minutes on these requirements for the first several class periods, before the end of drop/add.

If a student fails to adhere to the requirements during a particular class, instructors should take the following steps, in quick succession: 

  • Remind the student, in a firm yet kind manner, of the requirement and the reason for it: safety. Provide a University provided mask to the student, if available. Ask the student to comply.
  • Remind the student that their non-compliance is a violation of class requirements and of the Student Code of Conduct (See notes below regarding “failure to comply” and disruptive behavior4.) and ask that the student comply.
  • Ask the student to either comply or to leave the classroom immediately.
  • If the student fails to comply or leave, assess the situation and dismiss class.
  • Should an emergency situation develop that you feel cannot be resolved by classroom dismissal, please consider calling 911 for assistance.

After class, instructors should: 

  • For students who failed to comply: Immediately file a report with the OSC. The OSC will alert the student that they will not be allowed to return to class until the matter is addressed through Penn State’s conduct process.
  • For students who initially violated the requirement, but who chose to comply when addressed: Consider an email or other communication to remind the student of the requirement for future classes, but also to allow the student to explain their action in a way that might help mitigate it in the future.
  • Immediately communicate a class dismissal to your academic unit leader (i.e., that is, department head, director of academic affairs, or director) and, as soon as possible, produce a written record of the facts.

Instructors should be confident that referrals to the OSC will be addressed and they will have the University’s support as they reinforce Penn State’s classroom requirements. 

Additional Resources and References

To access the full list of resources and reference for this document, or to print, you may download the full text.

This guidance is current as of July 22, 2020  and is subject to change or as additional information becomes available.