Academic Update for Instructors - 1/12/22

January 12, 2022

As we move forward into the spring semester, here are some updates and reminders to help with a successful start of classes.

Make sure to regularly review the Spring 2022 COVID-19 Digest for the most recent information on re-entry testing, vaccine/booster clinics, updated isolation guidance, and more. You can also check Information for Instructors/Researchers, as well as @UNLacademics on Twitter, for updates.

Included in this email:

  • Faculty Senate Class Attendance Policy for Spring – update
  • Academic Flexibility for COVID-19 – reminder
  • When Students Miss Tests and Project Deadlines – reminder
  • KN95 Masks Available for Instructors – new
  • Syllabus Language for Face Coverings in Instructional Spaces (in the absence of a face covering requirement) – update
  • When Students Forget Masks – reminder
  • Faculty Senate Syllabus Policy – reminder
  • Instructional Continuity Added to Inclement Weather Policy – reminder

Faculty Senate Class Attendance Policy for Spring

Faculty Senate has updated its class attendance policy for the spring 2022 semester to include the following preamble:

Although the attendance policy of the institution remains in effect, faculty are encouraged to not create course policies that incentivize students’ attendance while ill. Students are advised that some learning cannot be easily moved online or reconstructed outside of the in-person classroom, or that an instructor is required to do so. Students are still responsible for completing the course objectives, content, and assessments. In the event that absences are accumulating and/or the student feels unable to learn the material, they should consult with their academic adviser or the instructor as soon as possible to determine the best course of action, which may include withdrawing from the course.

Academic Flexibility for COVID-19

Students who have medical documentation of a health risk that cannot be mitigated through vaccination should submit a COVID-19 Academic Flexibility Request. Those with a disability and/or chronic health condition that makes them high risk for the virus should seek support via Services for Students with Disabilities. International students should contact the International Student and Scholar Office to discuss their options.

When Students Miss Tests and Project Deadlines

To discourage students from coming to class when they are actively ill or potentially infected, offer students who are in quarantine/isolation opportunities to make up exams (in-person or remotely) or turn in projects.

KN95 Masks Available for Instructors 

Health experts are recommending upgraded face coverings for indoor public settings during the Omicron surge. UNL is not requiring individuals use a certain type of face covering. However, the university is making two KN95 masks available for in-person classroom instructors (including graduate assistants). A limited inventory of KN95 masks will be available for other employees, prioritized for those faculty and staff who primarily have in-person interactions with students or the public. Contact your dean's office or the EVC Office for more information.

Alternatives to fabric face coverings are readily available online. As the demand for them has increased with Omicron, orders should be placed soon, if desired. KN95s, while disposable, may be worn multiple times safely: go.unl.edu/kn95.

Syllabus Language for Face Coverings in Instructional Spaces (in the absence of a face covering requirement)

The university currently requires face coverings indoors, including at UNL events, until further notice. Should that requirement expire, there will still be some instances where face coverings may be required or requested in classrooms given the current transmission level of COVID-19 in the community.

  • Pre-approved courses that include substantial work in close physical proximity to one another for extended periods of times.
  • Instructors may receive approval to require face coverings for a documented instructor or student need after submitting a Request to Require Face Covering Form.
  • Instructors may request that students join them in wearing face coverings.

Syllabus language for these scenarios was developed in consultation with Faculty Senate for use by instructors to communicate about face covering expectations with their students. This language is unchanged from Fall 2021. For courses that have been approved by the university to require face coverings, instructors must include language on the course syllabus informing students of the requirement and the reason for it. You will receive a notification from your college dean’s office if your course or section has been approved for required face coverings; this notification will include the required syllabus language.

Beyond the particular situations in which a face covering requirement may be approved, an individual instructor may have a preference that face coverings be worn in their class. Instructors may ask, but not require, that students do so. The language below may be used on the syllabus in these instances:

Given the current transmission level of COVID-19 in our community, I respectfully request that you join me in wearing a face covering during our classes.

When Students Forget Masks

Disposable masks are available for students who need or want them for class. Instructors can direct students to the following locations for a disposable mask at no cost:

  • City Campus – a self-service wall dispenser in the hall by the west doors of the Nebraska Union or the Nebraska Union Welcome Desk located on the first floor near the north entrance
  • East Campus – the Nebraska East Union Welcome Desk located on the first floor near the north entrance
  • Innovation Campus – at Food Innovation Center, 1901 N 21st Street, Room 232
  • Peter Kiewit Institute – at the reception desk in Room 107

Faculty Senate Syllabus Policy

In October 2021, the Faculty Senate approved a syllabus policy, allowing instructors to direct students to a website containing the required university-wide policies. Instructors have the option to include the required university-wide information by providing the link: go.unl.edu/coursepolicies. Faculty Senate also approved an optional fillable syllabus template containing all course-specific syllabus elements.

Instructional Continuity Added to Inclement Weather Policy

Beginning Jan. 3, UNL's inclement weather policy was updated to reflect the implementation of instructional continuity into the campus’ closing options. All instructors should include a statement on syllabi to explain the mode of communication they will use (e.g., @huskers.unl.edu email or Canvas) if in-person classes are canceled and the campus follows instructional continuity plans.