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COVID-19 Related Guidelines for University Offices 

Penn State’s Office of Student Conduct (OSC) supports University personnel as they seek to provide positive and safe learning environments for all students. In light of this and of COVID-19 requirements, these guidelines have been created for office environments and have been adapted from previous guidance addressing classroom-related behavior.

Importantly, the University recognizes that race, ethnicity, gender expression, disabilities, and other visible and invisible social identities play a role in how University personnel experience environments and how they might intervene. Please consult Educational Equity’s parallel guidelines which, although targeted to the classroom environment, recommend protocols to address behaviors that may disrupt inclusive environments and disparately impact members of marginalized populations, in particular.

Related to COVID-19 requirements for Fall 2021, personnel should

  • Post requirements on the office’s website, if applicable, and through signage communicating specific behavioral expectations in the environment. These requirements should include masking. Depending on the office layout and the nature of the work, personnel may add other requirements (e.g., directional guidance or remaining behind Plexiglas partitions).
  • If possible, communicate the requirements in any email outreach or prior communication the office may have with students or other visitors1.

If a student fails to adhere to the requirements, personnel should take the following steps, in quick succession: 

  • Remind the student, in a firm yet kind manner, of the requirements and the reason for them: safety. Ask the student to comply. If the student has forgotten a mask, offer one to the student, if available.
  • Remind the student that non-compliance is a violation of University requirements and of the Student Code of Conduct and ask that the student comply.
  • Ask the student to either comply or to leave the environment and the building immediately. You may consider providing the student with alternative methods of interacting with your office, if available and appropriate.
  • If the student fails to leave the environment, follow typical protocols related to managing disruptive students or those who are not adhering to office expectations (e.g., involve supervisor, ask the student to move to another space to converse).
  • Should an emergency situation develop that you feel cannot be otherwise resolved, please consider calling 911 for assistance.

Personnel should: 

  • For students who failed to comply: File a report with the OSC in a timely manner. If the student’s identity is known or can be determined, the OSC will alert the student that they will not be allowed to return to that office until the matter is addressed through Penn State’s conduct process3. At the office’s discretion, the student may be given alternative options to interact or receive services remotely as the conduct process transpires.
  • For students who initially violated the requirement, but who chose to comply (by either leaving or masking) when addressed: Consider an email or other communication to remind the student of the requirement for interactions, but also to allow the student to explain the action in a way that might help mitigate it in the future. 
  • For students who have forgotten their mask: Remind them to carry one with them at all times while on campus and to wear it in any campus facility. Also offer one to the student, if available.
  • Immediately communicate any referrals to the Office of Student Conduct to your supervisor.

University personnel 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 requirements. 

Additional Resources and References

1 Sample Statement: “In accordance with PA Department of Health regulations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pennsylvania State University has determined that everyone will be required to wear a face mask covering both their mouth and nose in university buildings. Students who choose not to wear a mask may not access University buildings. Anyone entering [INSERT OFFICE NAME] office without a mask will be asked to put one on or leave. Students should stay at least six feet away from other persons in the space.  Students who refuse to wear masks appropriately or adhere to other stated requirements may face disciplinary action for Code of Conduct violations.

On a case-by-case basis, students may consult with Student Disability Resources for accommodations if they cannot wear a mask. Students requiring such accommodations may be advised to engage with the office’s services remotely, if available.

Finally, students who are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms must not visit or enter any University buildings. They are encouraged to contact a health care provider.

2 Penn State’s Code of Conduct defines failure to comply as “Failing to comply with reasonable directives from University or other officials when directed to do so. This includes, but is not limited to failure to provide identification, to report to an administrative office, to complete sanctions assigned as part of the conduct process or, when reasonable cause exists, failure to leave University-controlled premises (both physical and virtual) or dangerous situations when directed to do so by properly authorized persons, including police and/or University faculty and staff” University Code of Conduct, 2021.

Disruptive behavior is defined as “Obstruction or disruption of classes, research projects, conduct processes and/or investigations (University or police), University governance proceedings, or other activities or programs of the University; or obstructing access to University facilities, property, or programs. An action or combination of actions by one or more individuals that unreasonably interferes with, hinders, obstructs, or prevents the operation of the University or infringes on the rights of others to freely participate in its programs and services. (Also see policy AD-57)” University Code of Conduct, 20121.

3 Referrals to the Office of Student Conduct for noncompliance will result in the student being immediately informed they may not return to the office until the matter is addressed through the University’s conduct process. An Office of Student Conduct case manager will meet with the student to address the behavior and gather relevant information. The case manager may also connect with the reporter to gather information and communicate next steps in the conduct process. If it is determined through the conduct process that the student violated the Code of Conduct, sanctions will be assigned designed to hold the student accountable for the violation and to set clear expectations regarding future behavior and adherence to stated requirements. However, if appropriate and warranted (e.g., in cases of significant disruption, repeated non-compliance, or threatening behavior), the student may be limited in the manner in which they seek assistance from the office in the future. In any case, conduct outcomes relevant to the office environment will be communicated to the office supervisor prior to the student being allowed to return. 

This guidance is current as of August 20, 2021  and is subject to change or as additional information becomes available.