August 9, 2022
Provost Richard M. Locke
Tags Undergraduates Grad and Medical Students Faculty and Staff

To the Brown Community: Approach to Academic Instruction for Fall 2022


Dear Members of the Brown Community,

I hope that all is well with you and your loved ones, and that you are enjoying the summer. As we look forward to the start of a new academic year, I am excited that public health conditions are enabling us to look forward to regular, in-person activity for the Fall 2022 semester. 

I write today to provide an overview on Brown’s approach to instruction for campus-based undergraduate and graduate courses, which begin on Sept. 7.  We’ll of course be guided by the health and safety protocols outlined in yesterday’s “COVID-19 Plans and Protocols for Fall 2022” communications — and we’ve learned throughout the pandemic that we’ll need to be flexible, should public health conditions change —  but every expectation is that the semester will feel very much like those before COVID-19 arrived more than two years ago. We know that our learning community is stronger when we have the opportunity to come together, in-person, and actively engage in the intellectual life of the University. 

The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff remains our top priority, and our approach to instruction continues to be based on current health guidelines and expert guidance from public health and medical professionals. Please read this message closely for guidance on the following topics affecting teaching and instruction for undergraduate and graduate courses:

  • The importance of holding classes in the modes listed in Courses@Brown (as listed for in-person, fully online or hybrid)
  • Guidance for students and instructors related to student absences
  • Guidance for instructors to share plans with students concerning the possibility of instructor absences for personal and family situations
  • Managing shopping period classroom density
  • Guidance concerning masks in classrooms
  • Departmental events and gatherings

As noted yesterday, we are aware of the rise in cases of monkeypox in the U.S. and will communicate further about this separate public health challenge in the coming weeks.

Maintaining Instructional Modality Aligned with Courses@Brown

All instructors, including teaching assistants, are expected to hold classes in the modes that were originally listed in Courses@Brown — meaning that classes previously planned for online or hybrid instruction for pedagogical reasons will proceed in those modalities, and all other classes will be taught in-person from the start of the semester, including during shopping period. Brown requires that courses be offered in the approved and advertised modality both for the benefit of students and to ensure the University remains in compliance with our accreditation and federal reporting obligations.

Student Absences

Instructors and students should plan for the possibility that students may be absent from class for a variety of health and personal reasons, especially during the shopping period when we anticipate seeing some students test positive for COVID-19 after completing recommended pre-arrival tests. 

  • If students are unable to attend class, they should proactively contact their instructors.
  • Instructors should be flexible and support students with excused absences. However, instructors should not ask students about underlying health or personal circumstances.
  • Deans in both the College and Student Support Services may provide deans' notes on behalf of undergraduate students with specific personal or health circumstances that hinder their ability to complete academic work. 
  • Undergraduate and graduate students should contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) if they would like to request a reasonable accommodation for a disability. Medical students may contact the Warren Alpert Medical School Learning and Accommodations Specialist with any accommodations questions.
  • Graduate students are encouraged to contact their instructors to request flexibility. They can also seek additional support from the associate deans in their respective school.
  • For medical students, deans in the Warren Alpert Medical School have communicated guidance directly.

Please note: Instructors may also provide support for student absences without deans’ notes.

While instructors are not expected to teach additional hybrid or online sections to accommodate individual student absences, we ask that instructors develop plans for student absences and communicate those plans to students at the beginning of the semester. 

Instructors can find remote-accessible teaching options and guidance on the Digital Learning and Design website. Additional strategies based on feedback from Brown faculty and students can be found on the Sheridan Center website. Instructors are encouraged to contact for additional support with remote-accessible approaches.

Instructor Absences for Personal and Family Situations

We recognize that instructors may have to be absent to handle personal or family situations over the course of the semester, including if they or their dependents test positive for COVID-19. We are asking instructors to exercise their best judgment and follow the advice of their health care provider, including when that means staying home for a period of time.

Instructors are expected to develop plans for possible absence and share their plans with students at the beginning of the semester. Plans for possible instructor absence may include:

  • Identifying a substitute instructor (note that an instructor’s request for support from teaching assistants should remain within the guidelines for their roles).
  • Temporarily transitioning class sessions to be remote.
  • Developing course materials and online activities in advance that allow students to progress in their absence (see the guidelines for creating course videos and asynchronous teaching strategies).
  • Potentially rescheduling a class to a later date in urgent situations where the above options are not possible. 

Cooperation in Managing Shopping Period Classroom Density

As is usually the case, more students will attend classes during the Shopping Period than will ultimately be enrolled, resulting in higher density in some classrooms.

Instructors and students must work together to manage density in classrooms. Instructors should explain their attendance policy in their syllabus, post their syllabus on Courses@Brown (via, and publish Canvas websites in advance of the first class so students know how instructors will manage attendance before the first day of class.

Students should adhere to requests from instructors, who may manage the density in classrooms by:

  • Asking students not yet registered for the course to leave the classroom if the density in the classroom exceeds the designated capacity.    
  • Telling students that seats will be reserved for those who register for the course first and that remaining seats may be taken by waitlisted and/or other students to the extent possible.
  • Recording their first lecture(s) if feasible and posting on Canvas.

Masking in Classrooms

The University is not currently requiring the use of face masks on campus, regardless of vaccination status, with the exception of health care facilities and the Warren Alpert Medical School. However, instructors — including both faculty and graduate students — may require masks in the classroom at their discretion. Such requirements should apply to all community members in the classroom, and instructors should not ask about the vaccination status of anyone in their classes. 

Events and Gatherings for Academic and Administrative Units

Given Brown’s vaccination requirements, departments and offices are allowed to host gatherings and events indoors but should use their best judgment on the size and location of gatherings.

We will continue to monitor the public health situation and communicate any further changes in policy or expectations. We continue to maintain a set of FAQs on the Provost’s Office website to be responsive to questions about course instruction and department operations.

I want to conclude by expressing my sincere gratitude to the entire Brown community. I appreciate the dedication, flexibility and understanding that you all have shown to ensure we continue to fulfill our mission as a teaching, learning and research community while also taking measures to protect the health of all who live, work and study at Brown. Thank you for your continued efforts and commitment.


Richard M. Locke