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COVID-19 Guidance for Faculty & Staff

Published on Thu 08/26/21
Welcome back to Texas A&M University and the beginning of another semester. I appreciate all that you have done under very challenging pandemic conditions, and want you to know how important your work is to Texas A&M. As we prepare for the start of the fall semester next week, I would like to take this opportunity to address specific issues that may need clarification or additional information:
 
  • Under no circumstances can persons be asked about their vaccination status or required to wear a mask.
  • If you have not already done so, please be sure to take your COVID test prior to September 10, 2021. Information about testing locations can be found at tx.ag/GetTested.
  • The Texas A&M COVID-19 Contingency Council is chaired by Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President Greg Hartman. This committee meets regularly and reviews international, national, state, and local data along with guidance from the CDC, various governmental levels, and the Texas A&M University System to provide the best possible guidance for behavior and operations under current conditions. It considers many metrics from these sources, no one of which will automatically trigger a change in operations. If COVID-19 conditions require actions to be taken, the COVID-19 Contingency Council will communicate that need to the campus community.
  • The Faculty Senate has provided an optional statement that can be included on syllabi to encourage masks and vaccinations.
  • As a reminder, vaccines are readily available on campus through Student Health Services or through your health care provider and pharmacies in the community. Texas A&M encourages you to take advantage of these opportunities and become vaccinated. If you are vaccinated and can provide proof, you become eligible for a random drawing that will provide the winners with one of a number of prizes. More details will follow regarding drawing rules. For more information on the incentive program, please see this fall 2021 update.
  • Close contact for COVID-19 continues to be defined as being within 6 feet of an infected individual for a cumulative 15 minutes, with or without a mask, within a 24-hour period.
  • If a faculty member has been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, they must use the COVID-19 report form. They should work with their department head and should consider these options to cover instructional obligations:
    • Find a suitable substitute (another faculty member or a graduate student) to teach in their classes for the period of isolation recommended for the individual case of the faculty (see: https://www.tamu.edu/coronavirus/sick-campus-members/exposed.html); or
    • Teach remotely into the classroom, with students in attendance, where a support instructor (e.g. TA) helps monitor the room; or
    • Teach remotely for the period of isolation.
  • Permission to offer instruction remotely (choice “c” above) will require approval by the department head and notice of the authorization, including name of the faculty member, course number (and section), and end of the period of isolation (and thus remote teaching) be sent to academicservices@tamu.edu with a copy to the dean. This link explains what employees and students should do if they are sick or exposed to someone with the virus.
  • Students requesting an excused absence must provide documentation consistent with Student Rule 7. Students may use positive test notifications generated by the COVID-19 report form for documentation purposes. Students must understand that falsification of these reports constitutes a violation of Student Rule 24.4.1 and the Aggie Honor Code.
    • Students requesting an excused absence must provide appropriate documentation per Student Rule 7 and will be allowed to recover from the illness before making up missed work.
    • Students quarantining for exposure should not attend in-person classes but are expected to keep up with course work in collaboration with the instructor of record.
  • COVID-19 testing is required for all employees and students, with multiple sites available for testing. Exemptions from testing will be managed by Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness.
  • Students who will not be on campus for the entirety of the semester (studying abroad, participating in off-campus internships, enrolled in fully online programs, etc.) are not required to complete COVID-19 testing at their local campus. Students are to follow local testing guidelines.
  • Instructors may not require individuals to wear a mask. Instructors may request – in the syllabus or in a group email to all students in the class – that students wear a mask while also acknowledging individuals’ right to choose to do otherwise (i.e., not to wear a mask) without academic consequences.
  • Instructors may provide an incentive for students to wear a mask that is similar to extra credit opportunities they may have provided in the past for other reasons. Such incentives should be reasonable in terms of other work required for the class. Consideration should also be given to provide reasonable and equitable alternatives to students who elect not to wear a mask to avoid having a situation where students are treated differently academically based on mask wearing.
  • Plexiglass barriers should be available to use in your classroom. I recommend that you look for one this week in your instructional space and contact the building proctor if you cannot locate one.

While we had all hoped that the pandemic would not be an issue this fall, it is still a major factor, influencing how we live, work, and study. I am heartened that university management of COVID-19 over the last 1 ½ years has kept the campus community safe and not resulted in widespread transmission of the virus. We will be able to keep the campus community safe only if we all continue to do our part. Thank you for your leadership and commitment to the education of our students and to providing a safe environment for them.


Sincerely,

Mark H. Weichold ’78
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President