FAQ for faculty members, librarians, part-time instructors, teaching assistants, and academic administrators: Fall 2021 and the return to campus
Last updated: September 1, 2021
This document has been prepared by the Office of the Provost & Vice-President, Academic to provide further information about plans for the Fall 2021 term and to respond to commonly asked questions we have received from faculty members and librarians.
This should be considered a living document, which will be updated regularly in the coming weeks as public health guidelines evolve and as we receive new questions from the Brock community.
Should you have additional questions that you would like to see included in this document, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. What is Brock’s approach to the Fall term?
In May, Brock announced that it was actively preparing for three potential scenarios for the Fall term:
- Course delivery with a significant return to on-campus instruction, complemented with online and hybrid delivery elements to support students who may wish to study online.
- Course delivery with some return to on-campus instruction, with significant online and hybrid delivery elements.
- Course delivery almost entirely online, as has been the case, for example, during lockdowns.
Option 1 was identified at the time as the most likely scenario for September and the one for which the University was most intently planning. On June 15, the University confirmed that it was intensifying its planning for this scenario. Ministry guidance released at the end of July confirmed that universities were expected to resume on-campus instruction in September without physical distancing requirements but with masks remaining mandatory indoors.
On August 17, the province announced that it was pausing its exit from step 3 of its re-opening framework. On August 31, the province confirmed that post-secondary institutions in Ontario can continue with on-campus delivery as planned, with physical distancing and capacity limits lifted in instructional spaces.
We will continue to monitor both public health guidelines and the broader situation in the province very closely. Brock has repeatedly committed to ensuring that all required public health measures will be in place on campus in the Fall.
Further information will be communicated via the Brock News and the Provost’s newsletter as it becomes available.
2. Do you have any advice on how to speak to students about expectations for the Fall?
The return to campus may be awkward, uncomfortable, or even scary for some – students, staff and faculty members alike. It will be important to be as understanding and accommodating as possible with each other, especially in the first weeks of the term.
The University will do its best to articulate clearly its expectations of its community and to provide everyone with the tools and support they need to take care of themselves. Instructors might consider doing the same with their students to set a positive tone.
For example, consider having a conversation with students on the first day of class or including syllabus language that provides students with clear expectations with respect to face covering requirements and other COVID-19 procedures.
Students also need to feel supported to make the right public health decisions if and when they are feeling ill. A student will be more likely to attend class sick, for example, if they are worried about failing an assignment. A student who understands the medical note policy and knows how they can make up for lost work will feel confident that they can stay home when sick.
3. Will vaccines be mandatory for students, staff and/or faculty in the Fall?
On August 12, Brock announced that it would require COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty, staff and visitors who wish to access campus this fall. In its announcement on August 17, the province also suggested that it would be requiring vaccines in the post-secondary sector.
On August 24, the University announced changes to its vaccine requirement to align it with recommendations from the Council of Medical Officers of Health. And on August 26 the University launched its vaccination tool, which allows users to upload proof of vaccination and apply for exemptions.
This is in addition to previously announced vaccine requirements for the following groups in the Fall:
Brock continues actively to encourage everyone in its community who can get vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.
Members of the Brock community can learn more about how to book a COVID vaccine here. Brock students can also register to receive their vaccine on campus through Student Health Services by completing this form.
4. Will proof of vaccination be required?
Yes. The vaccination tool requires users to upload proof of vaccination.
5. Will exemptions from the vaccine requirement be granted?
Exemptions will be granted on a case-by-case basis on medical or other grounds protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Members of the Brock community can apply for exemptions using the vaccination tool.
6. Will individuals who are not vaccinated and who do not have approved exemptions be able to access campus?
Proof of vaccination will be required for all students, staff and faculty members who wish to access campus in the fall.
7. Where can I learn more about Brock’s vaccine requirement?
Frequently asked questions are being compiled on Brock’s COVID-19 FAQ page. This page will also be updated regularly.
8. When can I learn more about Brock’s vaccine requirement?
The latest details were released on August 26.
9. Can I ask a student or staff member their vaccine status?
The University is committed to the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), including access to information. The confidential nature of vaccine status should be respected, especially if the person asking could be perceived to be in a position of power (e.g., a faculty member and a student; an employer and employee).
It is not appropriate to discriminate against someone or treat them differently because of their vaccination status.
10. Will face coverings be mandatory for students, staff, and/or faculty in the Fall?
Under current provincial and regional legislation, face coverings are required in all indoor settings, as well as outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained, unless the person qualifies for an exemption. An application process has been set up for those who believe they have a medical reason not to wear a mask. Without an approved exemption, all members of the community will be expected to mask.
The Ministry has asked universities to expect face covering requirements to continue for the Fall semester. The University will re-assess this requirement when provincial and regional requirements are updated.
11. Will staff have to wear face coverings at work?
Yes. Staff are required to wear face coverings at work in accordance with applicable legislation.
Staff members working alone in a private, enclosed space such as an office can remove their face coverings.
Face coverings can only be removed when eating or drinking in designated dining spaces.
12. Will faculty members and other instructional staff have to wear face coverings at work?
Yes. Faculty members, part-time instructors, and teaching assistants will have to wear face coverings at work unless they meet one of the exemption criteria under the legislation.
Individuals working alone in a private, enclosed space such as an office can remove their face covering.
In shared open office spaces, regardless of small desk dividers, individuals are required to wear a face covering.
13. Will faculty members have to wear face coverings while lecturing?
Under the current legislation, faculty members who are lecturing are still required to wear a face covering, even in large classrooms.
Instructional staff will be allowed to remove their mask briefly to drink during class time. The face covering should be replaced once done drinking.
Some faculty members have raised concerns about the quality of audio-visual equipment, specifically podium microphones, in large classrooms when lecturing with a face covering on. The Centre for Pedagogical Innovation and AV Services will be ordering new headset microphone units more suitable for lecturing with a face covering. Information about distribution of these units is available from CPI.
14. Will students have to wear face coverings in class?
Under the current legislation, students in class are still required to wear a face covering, even in large classrooms and even if physical distancing can be maintained.
15. Who will be enforcing the University’s face covering requirements?
We are mindful that, almost 18 months into the pandemic, most people have become accustomed to wearing face coverings in public settings. We do not expect enforcement to be a serious issue in the Fall.
With that said, the University will be clearly communicating expectations on campus in the Fall, as well as undertaking education and promotion activities.
Faculty and staff will not be expected to enforce face covering requirements.
16. A student in my class is not wearing their face covering. What should I do?
Students who have an approved medical exemption from the face covering requirement will be provided with a letter that they should share with their instructors. As a result, instructional staff should be aware of any exemption in their class.
If a student is not wearing a mask in class, the University recommends the following actions:
- Avoid confrontation, and avoid singling the student out or embarrassing them.
- Remind the class about the University’s face covering policy and that they should see Student Life staff if they believe they qualify for an exemption.
If you have ongoing concerns about a student not wearing a mask, please speak with your Dean or with Student Life.
Directing student inquiries
17. I am receiving questions from students who have medical reasons not to be on campus in the Fall. How should I direct them?
Students who have medical reasons not to attend on-campus courses should contact Student Accessibility Services, which will assess their situation and support them by putting in place accommodations if they meet the necessary criteria.
18. I am receiving questions from international students who cannot enter the country. How should I direct them?
Students with questions about travel into Canada or about facilitating mandatory quarantine requirements should be referred to Brock International.
19. Can I switch the mode of delivery for my courses to online?
The University wishes to minimize the number of changes in mode of course delivery so close to the beginning of the Fall term as students have already registered for courses and built their schedules. Contrary to last year, when mode of course delivery was affected by the pandemic emergency, the academic planning process for the 2021-22 academic year was closer to the usual process.
As a result, requests for changes will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and will only be considered if they are being made as a result of an approved accommodation.
20. Will exams take place on campus in the Fall?
Assuming the public health situation remains stable, the option for on-campus exams will exist in the Fall. Of course, instructors can ultimately choose whether they would like to hold exams online or on-campus.
Note that courses delivered online throughout the term must offer exams online as well.
21. How can we handle the concerns of international students who cannot enter the country and are trying to find online courses?
Academic advisors should be well-positioned to address the concerns of international students who cannot reach Canada and are looking for courses online.
Less than two-thirds of Brock’s courses this academic year require any on-campus attendance, meaning that over one-third of courses are fully online and are accessible to international students. Furthermore, programs with high percentages of international students were encouraged to construct their timetable in a way that would provide sufficient online offerings as to ensure the academic progression of students who might not be able to reach Canada.
Public health guidelines and on-campus safety measures
22. Will physical distancing be in place on campus in the Fall?
On August 31, the Ministry announced that post-secondary institutions in Ontario would be exemption from physical distancing requirements and capacity limits in instructional spaces, such as classrooms, labs, and libraries.
23. Is Brock upgrading the ventilation in its buildings, including the Hamilton Campus and the MIWSFPA?
The type of ventilation system in Brock’s buildings varies greatly, based in part on the construction and size of the building. As a result, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. With this in mind, Brock is taking steps to safeguard air quality in all of its spaces. More information can be found in the Brock News, and specific questions can be sent to Facilities Management.
24. Will classrooms be cleaned between classes?
Brock’s enhanced cleaning measures will remain in place in the Fall, with a deep clean of the campus conducted every day. Classrooms will be cleaned whenever possible throughout the day, such as when they are free, though not necessarily between every class. More information can be found in the Brock News.
Note that our current understanding of COVID as an illness spread by aerosol makes the cleaning of contact surfaces less critical to limiting disease spread than we believed to be the case early in the pandemic.
25. How will Brock manage any outbreaks on campus?
New self-isolation guidelines released by the Ministry of Health suggest that isolation requirements will differ for individuals who have been vaccinated, especially those who are asymptomatic following exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case, and those who have not been vaccinated.
As it has done in the past, Brock will work closely with public health officials and will follow their advice in the management of any outbreak. Brock also has a local Outbreak Management Team and Outbreak Management Plan to coordinate logistics at the university level.
26. How will campus access be managed in September? Will there still be checkpoints?
All students, staff and faculty members will be required to complete the screening form on the Brock Safety app before each time they access campus. Once completed, the individual will receive an email from the University certifying that they can safely access campus. Staff and faculty will be asked to email this message to their immediate supervisor to demonstrate that the process was completed. Students will be required to keep the message and present it on demand.
While screening desks at access points will continue, their purpose will change. Those entering campus will no longer be required to queue up, swipe their Brock card, and show the green screen on their app to access campus. The process described in the paragraph above will replace these requirements. However, the screening desks will continue to serve a purpose for guests, contractors, and other visitors to campus, who will be required to show proof of vaccination at the screening desk.
27. Will the resumption of activities form and the campus access form still be in place in September?
Under current planning, Brock’s campus would be fully open in September. As a result, these forms would no longer be necessary. Any activity scheduled after the beginning of the term will not be required to submit these forms and can proceed as they typically would have pre-pandemic.
28. Will faculty members be able to travel in the Fall?
29. A student in my class has to self-isolate and needs to miss class. What should I do?
Students who need to miss class due to self-isolation should be treated much like students who get ill or who otherwise need to miss an extended period of class time. In these cases, the instructor should discuss the situation with the student to reach an appropriate arrangement.
30. A faculty member or other instructional staff member has to self-isolate and needs to miss class. What should they do?
A variety of situations might arise causing a faculty member to miss class (e.g., illness, family emergency, etc.). Self-isolation requirements should be treated in much the same way. Typically, the faculty member or part-time instructor would discuss with their Chair to reach an appropriate arrangement. A TA would discuss with their course instructor.