August 17, 2021
Provost Richard M. Locke
Tags Faculty and Staff

To Faculty: Clarifying Expectations for Teaching this Fall


[Note: Aligned with CDC guidance, social distancing protocols referenced in this message have been updated to “6 feet” in place of “3 feet” as had been included in this communication as originally distributed.]
Dear Colleagues,
I am writing to provide additional guidance on instruction and social gatherings for the upcoming fall semester. The pandemic and the recent resurgence of COVID-19 due to the Delta variant have been immensely challenging for all of us. As President Paxson and I have stated repeatedly since the very early days of the pandemic, the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff are our top priority.
This letter addresses some specific questions we have received over the past week from faculty. As you know, we are requiring all faculty, staff, and students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have an approved medical or religious exemption. Our community has reached a 95% vaccination rate across all populations, and we expect that number to continue increasing as we approach the start of classes. We are also requiring all individuals on campus to wear masks indoors and test regularly at least through the end of September. These requirements, along with our COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy, are based on the most up-to-date science of the novel coronavirus, guidance from governmental authorities, and advice from our own faculty experts. In several ways, our current policies go further than guidance from the Rhode Island Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help ensure the health and safety of our community.
As more students and faculty return to campus, we are looking forward to coming together as a community. In light of our high vaccination rates, very low numbers of positive cases, and scientific evidence that suggests a low risk of transmission among vaccinated individuals, we have a high degree of confidence at this time that we can safely return to in-person instruction in assigned classrooms and pre-pandemic density levels.
We recognize that the public health situation continues to evolve. The guidance provided below in response to faculty questions about teaching and instruction and department gatherings is based on current health guidelines and advice from public health and medical professionals. This guidance is consistent with protocols for teaching and instruction recently established by our peer higher education institutions as well. More information on these topics is provided on the Provost’s Office website. We will continue to provide updates as additional information and guidance becomes available.
Teaching and Instruction
  1. Arrival Time Frame: Instructors should return to work in person at a time of their choosing that allows them sufficient time to prepare to teach their courses, advise students, and continue their research. Please remember that you must participate in COVID-19 testing at the OMAC or One Davol testing sites in your first few days on campus. Please visit Verily’s web application to schedule a test.
  2. Instructional Modalities: Instructors, including teaching assistants, should proceed with their planned instructional modalities as originally proposed and  listed in [email protected]. Instructors who previously proposed and planned online or hybrid instruction for pedagogical reasons may proceed with their instructional methods, and all other instructors who have planned to teach in-person should also continue with their plans for in-person instruction from the start of the semester, including shopping period. You may contact my office at [email protected] if your situation has changed in a way that affects your ability to teach a class in the currently planned modality.
  3. Mask wearing: While Brown continues to require all members of the community to wear masks indoors, fully vaccinated instructors may choose to remove their masks when they are speaking during the course of instruction (though they are not required to do so). Instructors who are teaching classes that require individual students or even groups of students to be unmasked (performing arts or music, for example) should complete this survey, and my office will respond with guidance. Instructors can also reference the FAQ on the Provost’s Office website, which will be updated periodically with additional guidance.
  4. Student attendance policies: Instructors are encouraged to be flexible with their attendance policies for classes to accommodate the effect of public health protocols on student attendance. Some students may not be able to attend individual classes for a variety of reasons — including if they are not feeling well and have symptoms, are in isolation, or are quarantined due to their arrival date or vaccination status. The University continues to encourage students to use their best judgment to help keep themselves, their classmates, and their instructors safe and healthy and to contact University Health Services if they are experiencing symptoms.
  5. Instructors with symptoms: We recognize that instructors may experience cold or flu-like symptoms over the course of the semester. Brown’s policies for symptomatic faculty and graduate student teaching assistants remain the same as they were last year. Faculty should contact their health care provider for guidance and, if advised, seek symptomatic testing for COVID-19 at a convenient testing site. Graduate students should contact University Health Services (401-863-1330, [email protected]) if they are experiencing symptoms to obtain their guidance. Ultimately, instructors must exercise their best judgment, follow their health care providers’ advice, and not come to campus if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, even if that means rescheduling a class, transitioning an individual class session to be remote, or asking a colleague to help with instruction.
  6. Instructors who have been exposed: Given current CDC guidance, vaccinated individuals who have been exposed to individuals with COVID-19 and are not symptomatic do not need to quarantine. Instructors who are asymptomatic and have been exposed should not alter their instructional plans unless advised to do so by their health care provider.

Department Gatherings

For social gatherings with colleagues and/or students this fall, such as start-of-year receptions or departmental retreats, rules similar to the guidelines for instruction also apply. Given our requirements for vaccination, routine testing, and mask wearing, such gatherings are allowed for our community to hold indoors or outdoors, either on campus or off campus. Instructors and leaders across campus must comply with the COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy and mask wearing requirements when hosting gatherings, and we ask that they use their best judgment on the size and location of gatherings and consider the following:

  1. Setting: Individuals and departments may hold gatherings indoors so long as the participants comply with the University’s mask wearing requirement and COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy. However, if possible, we encourage beginning-of-the-year gatherings to be held outside. Outdoor events may make some members of the community more comfortable and willing to participate. Attendees at outdoor events are also not required to wear masks (though they may if they choose to do so), unless they are unvaccinated and social distancing of 6 feet is not possible.
  2. Attendees: Gatherings must comply with the COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy and the guidance for visitors and guests that was recently announced by Russell Carey, Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy. Family members, for example, can be invited and likely will be considered limited-duration visitors, assuming they only visit campus three days or less each month. Limited-duration visitors do not need to report their vaccinations to the University and do not need to be a part of the routine testing program, but do need to follow the COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy and, if they are unvaccinated, wear masks at all times.

We will continue to monitor the public health situation and communicate any changes in policy or expectations. We have prepared a set of FAQs on the Provost’s Office website, and we encourage all faculty to send additional questions to [email protected].

I want to conclude by expressing my sincere gratitude to all Brown faculty and our community as a whole. I am incredibly proud of the resilience, fortitude and compliance that you all have shown over the past year and a half. I am looking forward to reconnecting on campus in the weeks ahead.

Thank you for your continued efforts and commitment.


Richard M. Locke