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Faculty and Staff: Welcome to Spring Quarter

Dear faculty and staff,

Today marks the beginning of Spring Quarter for most Northwestern students, and with the new term comes increased optimism about the trajectory of a pandemic that has drastically altered our regular operations for more than a year. 

As we return from spring break, Northwestern requires students to participate in Wildcat Wellness, the modified quarantine that runs through April 5 for most programs, including Kellogg. Faculty and staff should not plan in-person activities until in-person classes commence April 6. 

Meanwhile, there are promising signs that the state will significantly lift restrictions on meetings and events in the coming months as vaccines are administered more widely. While we must continue to adhere to the health practices that have served us well so far, school and unit leads have been encouraged to look for opportunities to safely and gradually increase our in-person activities. Please check with your supervisor or unit lead for specifics on returning to campus. The University continues to plan for the long term and is currently considering lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and implications for future work policies. As a reminder, the COVID-19 Alternative Work Arrangements Policy is expected to remain in effect through June 20, 2021. 

If you are teaching synchronous or asynchronous classes in Spring Quarter, you are welcome to mirror remote class activities with in-person offerings for students as public health guidance permits. For example, one could hold a synchronous online class discussion and an in-person discussion focused on the same material, with students choosing which they prefer to attend. Instructors also may wish to complement their remote office hours with in-person office hours. Because some students are studying remotely this term, in-person activities must be optional for synchronous and asynchronous classes. Any in-person opportunities should be communicated to students clearly and with as much advance notification as possible.

In support of this effort, the Canvas app NU Worldwide shows the time zone of students in each class, which instructors can use as one tool to help determine whether their students are local. Instructors also are welcome to simply ask students about interest in meeting in person. If you choose to add in-person sessions, faculty and department staff should work together to reserve a suitable classroom and update class schedules accordingly. Anyone wishing to reserve general-use University classrooms can do so online.

Below please find additional details about vaccines, testing compliance, health guidance and current expectations for Fall Quarter. As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will share what we know as we know it.

Vaccines and testing

Last week, we shared an update on Northwestern’s approach to the evolving vaccination rollout. With that in mind, managers and supervisors are expected to extend flexibility and to allow time off for staff to receive the first and second vaccinations. Staff members who wish to get the vaccine and face difficulty doing so outside of work hours should use sick, vacation or personal floating holiday time. 

Any faculty or staff member who becomes fully vaccinated through a location other than Northwestern University is encouraged to disclose to the University (1) the type of vaccine received (e.g. Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson) and (2) the date(s) of vaccination. Faculty and staff can complete their disclosures here. These disclosures are entirely voluntary. This information will be securely maintained and accessible only to those who need access to it due to their role and responsibilities at Northwestern. At this time, we expect to use this information to support our continued management of the pandemic.

Faculty and staff who work on campus most days are encouraged to participate in regular testing, even if they have been vaccinated. Students who have been vaccinated must continue to participate in testing.

Updated health guidance 

The University aligns its guidance with public health recommendations on matters such as visitor safety protocols, gatherings and events. Please continue to use the University’s COVID-19 website as a resource for our most current policies and guidelines and review the Spring Quarter Summary for updated information.

Our entire Northwestern community of faculty, students and staff—including those who have been vaccinated—must follow established safety protocols, including:

  • Masking in campus public and shared environments, including outdoor spaces and instructional spaces
  • Maintaining social distance
  • Adhering to maximum capacity limits
  • Handwashing
  • Monitoring symptoms and avoiding campus if experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms

Planning for Fall

We are actively planning for Fall Quarter and working to define how it will take shape in the coming months. Our aim, as we have stated, is to have as many in-person classes, co-curricular opportunities and social experiences as possible as local and national guidance evolves and pandemic restrictions begin to ease. Faculty and staff should plan to be on campus on a regular basis before the start of their fall terms. At the same time, we will identify opportunities to be flexible and examine the potential evolution of how we teach, learn, research and work to reflect the lessons we have learned through the pandemic.

Thank you for your continued diligence as we safely navigate the Spring Quarter. 



Kathleen Hagerty
Provost and Professor

Manuel Cuevas-Trisán
Vice President for Human Resources