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Instructors

Updated 10/7/2021

School-Specific Questions and Resources

In addition to the broader academic questions listed below, many of Northwestern's schools have developed specific ​resources for their communities. Please visit the School and Unit Websites resource page for more information. 

Syllabus Statements

Are there university policies that instructors should communicate to students?

All instructors are asked to review the syllabus statements posted here and follow the instructions for including the statements provided on course syllabi.

Covid Testing, Vaccination

What are the COVID testing requirements for students, faculty and staff?

Unvaccinated students, faculty and staff are required to complete two University-administered tests every week. Asymptomatic testing is available for all students, faculty, staff and visitors.

What testing requirements are in place for students’ arrival to campus?

All students, regardless of vaccination status, are required to complete arrival testing as they return to campus for the Fall. This also applies to students who were in Evanston and Chicago over the summer for research or other purposes. Students who arrive outside of the typical window should test twice in their first week on campus. 

Can instructors ask students in their class if they are vaccinated?

An individual’s vaccination status is confidential. Instructors should not inquire about their students’ vaccination status. Instructors may, if they wish, use the Symptom Tracker to verify that students may participate in in-person classes. Instructors who do so should ask all members of the class to show their Symptom Tracker badge rather than individual students.

What should instructors do if they learn that a student in their class is unvaccinated?

Though a student may share health information with you at times, this is confidential and must not be shared with others, including other members of the class or other instructors.

Illness, Quarantine & Isolation, Contact Tracing

What happens if a student tests positive for COVID?

See the protocol for contact tracing. A member of the contract tracing team will work with the student to determine their close contacts, including who they were in proximity to in their classes for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Instructors can facilitate this effort by having assigned seating and posting the seating chart on Canvas so that students can access it if requested by the contact tracing team. Vaccinated individuals identified as close contacts do not need to quarantine. However, they need to obtain a COVID-19 PCR test 3-5 days after their initial exposure. Additionally, they need to mask indoors for 14 days after their initial exposure (which is already part of Northwestern’s mask mandate). Unvaccinated individuals are required to quarantine.

If I learn that one of my students has tested positive for COVID-19, should I inform the class?

While a student may choose to share their health information with you, this information is confidential and must not be shared with others, including members of the class. Northwestern has robust contact tracing procedures in place, and those identified as close contacts, including classmates, are contacted promptly by the contact tracing team. Note that when vaccinated individuals, who comprise the vast majority of our Northwestern community, are identified as close contacts, they do not need to quarantine. (However, they need obtain a COVID-19 PCR test 3-5 days after their initial exposure.)

To assist with contact tracing, please arrange for assigned seating or keep a record of student seating and post the seating chart on Canvas so that students may access it when asked by the contact tracing team. We ask that you facilitate continued engagement in your course for students who must quarantine or isolate. Please see Supporting Excused Student Absences Due to COVID for additional information and suggestions.

How will instructors be notified if a student in their class is required to isolate or quarantine?

Students are not required to share confidential health information with their instructors, and Northwestern’s contact tracing team will not automatically notify you if a student in your class tests positive or must quarantine. Rather, they will reach out to you if you are personally identified as a close contact (within six feet for more than 15 minutes over a 24-hour period, regardless of masking). They also will reach out to others, including other students in your class, who are close contacts. Should a vaccinated student be exposed through a close contact, they will be tested, but they are not required to isolate and may still attend class. When a student has a positive COVID test or must quarantine due to contact tracing, they will be provided with language that they can use to notify their instructors and school advisor. Students who do not follow quarantine or isolation procedures are referred to the Office of Community Standards for follow-up, and the consequences may include removal from campus.

What should instructors do if a student comes to class and appears to show symptoms of COVID (e.g., coughing) or other illness?

Instructors and students are asked to stay home from class if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID. Instructors are encouraged to remind students of this expectation on the first day of class. Because students may be concerned about their academic progress should they need to miss class, instructors should include a clear policy on excused absences in their syllabus. Instructors should share how and when they expect students to communicate with them about absences as well as policies for making up missed work. Students who are experiencing symptoms of COVID should follow the procedures outlined here.

What should I do if a student tells me they think they might have been exposed to COVID and therefore will be absent from class?

Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home from class. If a student is identified as a close contact through a process other than Northwestern’s contact tracing, they should answer “Yes” in Symptom Tracker to initiate a case. This turns the badge red and alerts case management to contact the student. The case management team will switch the badge back to green for vaccinated students and provide instructions on required testing 3-5 days after their initial exposure. Vaccinated students can continue to come to class even if they have been identified as a close contact as long as they have no symptoms. Unvaccinated students are required to quarantine for at least 10 days and obtain a COVID-19 PCR test 3-5 days after their initial exposure. If a student tests positive, they are required to isolate for 10 days even if they are asymptomatic, regardless of their vaccination status. Please see Supporting Excused Student Absences Due to COVID for additional information and suggestions.

What should I do if I learn that a student in my class is in quarantine or isolation?

Though a student may share health information with you at times, this is confidential and must not be shared with others, including other members of the class. Instructors should identify in their syllabus how they will facilitate continued course engagement for students who are absent because they have symptoms of COVID or are in quarantine or isolation. See Supporting Students with Excused Absences due to COVID. Instructors may choose to record class sessions. See also Policy on Class Recordings and Guidelines for Recording Classes.

How long are students required to quarantine or isolate?

Vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals who test positive need to isolate for 10 days. Unvaccinated students who are identified as a close contact are required to quarantine for 14 days. Vaccinated individuals identified via contract tracing are not required to quarantine. However, they need to obtain a COVID-19 PCR test 3-5 days after their initial exposure. Additionally, they need to mask indoors for 14 days after their initial exposure (which already is part of Northwestern’s mask mandate). Detailed information is here.

What should instructors do if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID or need to isolate or quarantine?

Instructors who are experiencing COVID symptoms should follow the processes outlined here. Please note that instructors teaching an in-person class may teach up to 10% of their class sessions remotely. Should exceptional circumstances arise that require additional remote class sessions, the instructor should contact their department or dean’s office.

What happens if an instructor tests positive for COVID?

See the protocol for contact tracing. A member of the contract tracing team will work with the instructor to determine their close contacts, including any students they were in proximity to in their classes for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Instructors can facilitate this effort by having assigned seating. Vaccinated individuals identified as close contacts do not need to quarantine. However, they need to obtain a COVID-19 PCR test 3-5 days after their initial exposure. Additionally, they need to mask indoors for 14 days after their initial exposure (which is already part of Northwestern’s mask mandate). Unvaccinated individuals are required to quarantine.

How can instructors prepare for a class which may have students in quarantine or isolation?

Instructors should identify in their syllabi how they will facilitate continued course engagement for students who are absent because they have symptoms of COVID or are in quarantine or isolation. See Supporting Students with Excused Absences due to COVID. Instructors may choose to record class sessions. See also Policy on Class Recordings and Guidelines for Recording Classes.

Instructional Spaces

Are masks required in classrooms?

In accordance with guidance from the CDC, state and local agencies, Northwestern requires community members to wear masks, regardless of vaccine status, in all shared indoor campus environments (e.g., classrooms, hallways, offices, etc.), even if they can socially distance, except when in a private office, personal residence or residence hall room, or when eating or drinking. Eating is not permitted in classrooms and drinking is permitted only with a straw to facilitate continued mask wearing.

Instructors who are fully vaccinated and who are teaching in-person may do so without a mask, provided they maintain appropriate distancing from students and others in the room. At this time, 6-foot distancing is required. Instructors who teach without a mask are encouraged to engage in regular COVID testing, preferably the morning of or evening before teaching. Instructors can test in person at the Jacobs Center in Evanston or at 345 E. Superior Street in Chicago, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, or use rapid at-home testing kits that can be picked up at either testing location.

Is social distancing required in classrooms?

In accordance with guidance from the CDC, state and local agencies, Northwestern does not require social distancing in indoor spaces including classrooms. Mask wearing is required in all shared indoor campus spaces.

Should instructors open the windows of their classroom for ventilation?

In line with federal and state-recommended industry guidance, Facilities is performing consistent preventative maintenance updates on the University’s ventilation systems, while simultaneously operating those systems as close as possible to their operating specifications. This best ensures proper air filtration, appropriate outdoor air quantities, sufficient ventilation, and specified air flow. In buildings with HVAC systems, Facilities does not recommend opening windows. In buildings without HVAC systems, measures can be taken to increase outside air and air circulation. Please view the Space Modifications webpage for more information about classroom ventilation.

Is eating or drinking allowed in classrooms?

Eating is not allowed during classes. Drinking is permitted, but with a straw. Masks are still required.

Are instructors required to maintain a seating chart?

Instructors are asked to have assigned seating or to keep a record of student seating if at all possible to help with contact tracing if needed. Please post the seating chart on Canvas so that students can access it if requested by the contact tracing team.

Are students allowed to remove their masks while making a presentation in class if they are socially distant from others in the class?

Students are required to wear masks in all indoor classroom spaces at all times.

What should an instructor do if a student comes to class without a mask on?

First, remind the student of the masking requirement. Next, ask the student to comply and direct the student to a location in the building where they can obtain a mask, likely near the entrance to the building. If the student fails to comply, ask the student to leave the classroom. If the student fails to comply, dismiss the class. If an instructor has to dismiss the class, the instructor should file a General Concern Report with the Office of Community Standards. The Office of Community Standards will determine if there is need for interim action, including restricting a student’s ability to return to class. The instructor should also notify their department chair or program director that the class was dismissed.

May I hold office hours over Zoom?

Instructors may hold in-person office hours following the mask mandate for inside spaces and/or host Zoom office hours.

Student Requests for Accommodations

How should instructors respond if a student asks if they can participate remotely in an in-person class for the entire term?

Instructors should not provide remote access to in-person classes for individual students for the term. Students seeking a disability-related accommodation should reach out to Accessible NU. Students who have an excused absence due to COVID should follow class policy stated in the syllabus during this limited time.

What happens if a student in my class requests a disability-related accommodation with Accessible NU?

If a student is determined to be eligible for a disability-related accommodation(s) from AccessibleNU, the instructor will receive an accommodation notification email from an AccessibleNU advisor. The accommodation notification email will list the approved accommodations for your course. More information, including access to the ANU Faculty Portal that lists accommodations for your course, can be found here.

Student Engagement and Mental Health

A student in my class is struggling academically. Are there resources I can recommend to the student?

Academic Support and Learning Advancement offers a variety of resources to support students academically including peer-led study groups and individual academic coaching. The Writing Place offers both in-person and remote peer writing consultations.

Who should an instructor contact if they need assistance with a student who has not engaged in class for over a week and is unresponsive to emails?

Instructors who have concerns about a student’s academic progress in their class should reach out to the Key Advisor Contact for the student’s school.

What can instructors do to support students’ mental health?

Instructors can indicate their support for student mental health by including the syllabus statement on student wellness. Instructors can also provide a link on their syllabus to these student health and wellness resources. Instructors who want to share a concern about individual students who may be experiencing unforeseen life events, unexpected illness or personal or family crises should reach out the Key Advisor Contact for the student’s school.

Faculty Resources

How is Northwestern supporting instructors during the coming year?

Northwestern has developed a new webpage detailing information about Northwestern’s actions and supports for faculty and staff. Faculty can find information on Work/Life Resources and the Faculty Work/Life and Family Resources brochure.

What options are available if I need to temporarily care for a dependent for COVID-19 quarantine-related reasons? (E.g. school, classroom or care center closure, dependent caregiver tests positive, child required to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure, etc.)

Staff employees may use personal floating holidays and vacation time to care for dependents during this temporary quarantine period. Effective Oct. 1, 2021 and until further notice, staff members also may use Incidental Sick Time for this reason. 

If the work responsibilities can be sufficiently performed from home, the employee may seek permission from their manager to work fully remote during the temporary quarantine period. If approval is granted, it may be rescinded by the manager at any time.

Instructors who are teaching an in-person class may teach up to 10% of their class sessions remotely. Should exceptional circumstances arise that require additional remote class sessions, the instructor should contact their department or dean’s office.

All employees, both faculty and staff members, are expected to immediately and consistently stay in communication with their managers or department chair or dean’s office regarding their expected return to work or their regular on-site schedule.

Northwestern may require documentation to verify school/care center closures. Managers and school leaders are encouraged to provide flexibility for these instances; however, for staff absences the Staff Handbook polices related to attendance, unscheduled absences and pattern absences and Incidental Sick Time use still apply.

Contact Information

For questions related to the University’s caregiving resources and options, contact HR’s Well-being team.

Continuity Planning

Will Northwestern shift to remote instruction?

With its exceedingly high vaccination rates and indoor mask requirements, we believe it is very unlikely that the University would need to shift broadly to remote instruction. These sentiments have been echoed by the local public health department. The University will continue to monitor COVID positivity rates within our campuses, programs and local communities and work with school leaders, medical advisors and state and local public health departments to react to any concerning trends on campus. Prior to shifting the entire institution to remote teaching and learning other options would be considered including:       
  • Implementing increased surveillance or mitigation testing for a specific school, program, or cohort of students
  • Implementing increased surveillance or mitigation testing for the entire campus
  • Reducing certain extracurricular in-person activities 
  • Reducing density or capacity in certain settings 
  • Shifting individual classes, schools, or programs to remote for a limited time to mitigate any transmission concerns 
  • Other measures as recommended by public health experts

Risk Management and the Office of the Provost will continue to collaborate with schools and units on plans to respond to positivity in their areas. We may also implement other measures as recommended by public health experts.  Instructors should consider some “what if” planning scenarios in the unlikely event that a sudden temporary shift to remote instruction affects their class(es).