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COVID-19 Safety Policies in the Classroom

Guidance for Graduate Students Serving as Instructors of Record or TAs

COVID-19 Safety Policies in the Classroom

Purpose

This document clarifies expectations of graduate students serving as “Instructors-of-Record” or Teaching Assistants (TAs) for wearing face masks and enforcing the wearing of masks in instructional spaces; describes the process for reviewing allegations of failure to abide by expectations; describes sanctions that may be imposed; and delineates the appeals process.

Background

As of July 1, 2020, Penn State requires all faculty, staff and students to wear face masks and other approved PPE, and practice physical distancing in classrooms, labs, offices, and campus buildings.

Faculty, Instructors, and Teaching Assistants (TAs) will have the support of the University in enforcing these requirements and upholding a safe learning and teaching environment.  To support you the University has extensive guidance for the use of PPE in instructional spaces, a video to provide a realistic preview of what campus and classrooms will be like this semester, recommended syllabus language designed to acknowledge the influence of the pandemic on instruction, and countless FAQs on the keepteaching.psu.edu site and virusinfo.psu.edu websites. Instructional support for enforcement of mask wearing in instructional spaces is also available in the instructor guide and flexible instruction teaching guide

Expectations

Overwhelmingly, graduate students are committed to the health and safety of members of the University community. Nevertheless, in preparation for those rare circumstances, when a graduate student may willfully refuse or choose to not wear a face mask or to not enforce the wearing of face masks in instructional settings under their control or may encourage other students to not follow face mask wearing requirements in an instructional setting under their control, the following expectations apply:  

Through multiple communications, the University has informed and continues to inform everyone who returns to campus of the COVID-19 safety requirements for return to on-campus instruction. Graduate students have been provided the opportunity to remove themselves from in-person modes of instruction if they choose. By choosing to accept a teaching assistantship, graduate students agree to follow and enforce safety requirements in all instructional settings. 

Because of current public health concerns, a first violation of requirements will be deemed sufficient to impose the sanctions described further below. These guidelines are not intended to be applied to graduate students who genuinely forget to wear a face mask on an isolated occasion.   

With this in mind, all graduate students serving as an Instructor-of-Record or a TA are expected to:

  1. Wear a face mask or other approved PPE (e.g., for skills-focused courses such as laboratories or studio settings) when participating in face-to-face instruction;
  2. Enforce the wearing of face masks and physical distancing by students in their classrooms.

Process 

Anyone who witnesses a graduate student serving as Instructor-of-Record or TA in a University instructional setting who is not wearing a face mask, or not enforcing the wearing of face masks and physical distancing as appropriate, or who encourages students to not wear face masks may report the offense to the associate dean or academic administrator responsible for graduate education in the college offering the course. The academic administrator responsible for graduate education will work with the unit leader responsible for the course to investigate the allegation within 24 hours of receipt of the allegation.  

If the allegation is found to be credible, the academic administrator responsible for graduate education will impose an appropriate sanction in consultation with the Vice Provost for Graduate Education. Sanctions for offenses may include:

  1. A warning letter; 
  2. A one-level reduction in stipend grade; 
  3. Termination of the assistantship for the remainder of the semester;

Appeal Process 

The imposition of any sanction under this guidance can be appealed following the procedures in Graduate Council Policy GCAC-804 Section 5.  

Graduate Students Serving as TA’s or Instructors Not Supported on an Assistantship

Students enrolled in SUBJ 602 SUPERVISED EXPERIENCE IN COLLEGE TEACHING

Graduate students enrolled in SUBJECT 602 who fail to wear a mask or enforce wearing a mask and physical distancing as appropriate in a University instructional setting, or who encourage students to not wear face masks in an instructional setting will be handled as for any student enrolled in a class who is not following this requirement and can become a Student Conduct issue. 

Graduate students enrolled in SUBJECT 602 and simultaneously appointed on a teaching assistantship who fail to wear a mask or enforce wearing a mask and physical distancing as appropriate, or who encourage students to not wear face masks in a University instructional setting will be addressed as described above for other students appointed on a teaching assistantship.

Graduate Students Serving in Teaching Roles But Not Appointed as Teaching Assistants or Enrolled in SUBJ 602

Students NOT enrolled in SUBJECT 602 and on a fellowship or not on any support but serving as a volunteer teaching assistant (e.g., to obtain teaching experience) who fail to wear a mask or enforce wearing a mask and physical distancing as appropriate, or who encourage students to not wear face masks in a University instructional setting will be removed from the instructional space by the academic administrator of the unit responsible for the course and will not be able to get the teaching experience they desired. 

Question about this guidance should be directed to:

Michael Verderame
Senior Associate Dean
The Graduate School
mxv8@psu.edu  

This page was generated on December 3, 2020 at 2:16 AM Eastern Time. This may not be the most recent version. Check the website for updates.