RIC Opening Fall 2021 - Faculty/Staff FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

RIC will return to an in-person campus this fall with several precautions in place to protect the health of the community. This is vital for the education and wellbeing of our students. 

The RIC administration, in consultation with the Commissioner of Postsecondary Edu-cation and the Chair of the Council of Postsecondary Education has moved to delay the start of classroom instruction on the RIC campus from Monday August 30, 2021 to Wednesday September 8, 2021 in order to allow additional time for students to come into compliance with RIC’s vaccination mandate. Although this will cause some disruption to the academic calendar, efforts to assure that every student on campus is in compliance with our vaccination policy are paramount to protecting the health or our community.  

RIC has a comprehensive plan to ensure the health and safety of the community, and will implement several steps to do so.
 
Risk Levels
RIC will continually monitor the incidence and severity of COVID-19 on campus and in the state to determine the risk level on campus. As the risk increases, so will the stringency of the mitigation approaches. This information will be maintained on the RIC website.
 
Vaccinations
The COVID-19 vaccinations have proven safe and effective against infection and transmission. While “breakthrough” cases do happen, they are very rarely severe. We are mandating that students are either partially or fully vaccinated or have an approved exemption, and we are exploring a similar requirement for faculty and staff. 
 
Masking
In all but the lowest risk level, RIC will implement an indoor mask mandate for everyone, regardless of vaccination status. We will start the semester with a mask mandate in place per an Executive Order of the Governor. (Note, there may be allowable exemptions due to certain health conditions.)
 
Testing
All students enrolled for the fall must have a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before coming to campus for the first time.
 
During the semester, all unvaccinated students are required to test for COVID-19 on a weekly basis. All other students will participate in a random surveillance testing as part of our efforts to monitor the incidence level on campus and respond accordingly. Staff and faculty will be encouraged to participate in the surveillance proto-col.

Distancing
If RIC is in a “moderate,” “substantial,” or “high” risk category, there will be a distancing mandate of a minimum of three (3) feet indoors. Six feet will be required if the rate of fully vaccinated participants falls below our threshold. 

Isolation and Quarantine
RIC will continue the practice of isolating positive cases and quarantining contacts according to Centers for Disease Control guidelines to protect the greater community.
 
Contact Tracing
The Rhode Island Department of Health has indicated that they will handle contact tracing for all institutions of higher education in the state. However, out of an abundance of caution, RIC will continue augmenting this with our own contact tracing efforts for students, faculty, and staff.
 
Cleaning & Sanitizing
As in previous semesters, there will be additional cleaning and sanitizing through-out the term, with increasing frequency as risk levels increase. These will be imple-mented at all risk levels and increase appropriately at higher risk levels. Note: re-search has indicated that COVID-19 does not primarily spread through surface contact.
 
Air Quality
This summer an independent entity has been testing air quality within the RIC buildings. Their results will be shared with the campus community before the start of the semester. The Office of Facilities and Operations will look to implement appropriate measures to improve air quality where indicated, including: opening windows, portable air purifiers, and window exhaust.  The results of the air quality testing and information on any necessary mitigation will be distributed to the campus prior to the start of classes.
 
Screening
In all but the lowest risk level, RIC will maintain its screening protocol via the RAVE application and staff will be required to check in daily with their supervisors. Stu-dents, faculty, and staff should stay home or in their residence hall room if they feel ill. Students should contact Student Health Services, and faculty and staff should in-form their supervisors, who will inform HR.

As of Tuesday, August 31, 5,462, or 88 percent, of currently enrolled students have met the vaccine requirement through either full or partial vaccination or an approved exemption. Of those 5,462 students, 87 percent are fully vaccinated, 6 percent are partially vaccinated and 7 percent have been approved for an ex-emption.

Only deans who are managing clinical placements will be notified of individual students with exemptions. We will inform professors of the aggregate vaccination status of students in their class (fully, partial, exempted), as this will assist with modality and space decisions. Unvaccinated students without an approved exemption will not be allowed to attend in-person or hybrid classes.

Students who have not uploaded their vaccination information indicating partial vaccination, full vaccination or an accepted exemption will be informed by Student Health Services (SHS) before the beginning of school that they have a SHS hold. This means they are not to come to campus or attend classes, and they will not receive grades or credits. Faculty will see who has these holds on their rosters.
 
If a student does not abide by this, we ask the faculty to please contact SHS, who will work with the student to get them vaccinated and report the violation to the Dean of Students for any appropriate disciplinary action.

If these students are partially vaccinated, fully vaccinated or receive an exemption by the end of the add/drop period, the hold will be removed and they may at-tend class and participate in campus activities. If they do not remove the SHS hold they may only enroll in fully remote classes and cannot patriciate in on campus activities. 
 

If a student does not abide by the mask mandate, we ask the faculty or staff member to offer a polite reminder. If the student does not fully comply, please contact Student Health Services, who will work with the student to educate them on the importance of compliance and report the violation to the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.

The Delta variant does pose a threat to the unvaccinated and persons at high-risk. It also allows vaccinated individuals to be “carriers” and possibly spread the disease while being asymptomatic.
 
Therefore, in all but the lowest risk categories, if you had originally indicated that your class is in-person, but you or someone in your household is high-risk (or you document that you are needed to care for a high-risk family member), you may change your course modality to a hybrid or remote option. 

The Office of Human Resources will be sending information to all employees with the details of this process. This option will be available to faculty and non-essential employees.

Throughout the semester, RIC will consult with the Department of Health on a regular basis to discuss COVID-19 incidence data and trends to assure that we are taking all appropriate measures to protect the health of the RIC community. 1.We understand that as a commuter campus, we have to be especially vigilant and are prepared to return to remote instruction, if needed. Additionally, the administration will regularly monitor any operational disruptions caused by COVID-19 (e.g., due to illness, isolation, and quarantine driven absences) to determine if specific campus operations need to be adjusted in order to continue operations safely.  Based upon the level of disruption, responses could range from a single class moving to remote instruction to take-out only dining to pivoting to remote instruction.  

Throughout the pandemic, RIC has benefitted from the tremendous understanding and cooperation of the entire community and we expect this will continue until we are through this difficult chapter. However, as this lingers, frustration and fatigue are to be expected.  This may lead to persons occasionally not being fully mindful of the rules we have established to assure safety, be it masking, distancing, etc. If you do encounter a person or persons not in full compliance, we would ask that, if comfortable, you offer a polite reminder of the rules. However, if you are not comfortable doing so, or your reminders are not acted upon, we ask that you please do not take any enforcement actions into your own hands. Instead, faculty and staff can contact Human Resources if there is an issue with a fellow employee and they will follow up appropriately. If there is an issue with a student, faculty, staff and students are to contact Student Health Services who will work in conjunction with Student Affairs to address non-compliance with safety protocols. If you are at an organized event, you can bring your concern to the nearest RIC event staff to ad-dress the issue. Of course if you are met with belligerence or feel threatened at any time, please contact Campus Police.

The academic calendar has been adjusted to meet Department of Education guide-lines for financial aid and NECHE standards for accreditation, both of which re-quire 15 weeks of instruction. Adjustments were made to minimize impact on the length of semester. These adjustments allowed us to make up six days while only extending the semester by two days. However, the calendar only meets requirements if the final exam week is required. Therefore, final exam week is not option-al and must include instructional time in order to meet the 15-week requirement. 

After weighing many factors, September 8 was the best date by which we could allow for more vaccinations and still meet our academic calendar requirements.  We recognize that Rosh Hashanah begins on the evening of September 6 and ends on the evening of September 8 and ask our community members to please allow for observance of the holiday in their class planning.

The provost is currently working with deans, department chairs and faculty to com-pare classroom capacity with student rosters and vaccination records to determine if  three-foot or six-foot distancing is necessary, and if a change in location or modality may be necessary. Classroom capacity will be the primary reason for changing modality; however, teaching style may also warrant consideration. We ask faculty to wait until we verify rooms, enrollments, and vaccination records before making changes to location or modality, as we will be managing this process centrally. Please understand that for Disability Services and for contact tracing, it is vitally important for us to accurately track all modalities and locations. We will work with and consult faculty about changes to location and modality, but ask that all changes go through the prescribed process. More information will be available after we verify current records.

Changing modality during the semester can have implications for ADA accommodations and may be difficult for students who do not have the technology needed to quickly change course. However, if you are ill, you should not come to class. Instead, please include in your syllabus how students can expect class to continue should you or should your class need to switch to remote instruction due to the illness, isolation, or quarantine status of you or your students. Faculty are highly encouraged to use the LMS (Blackboard or Google Classrooms) for core course components, even if teaching in-person, to allow for the flexibility. The more students know about what will happen in the event the class must go remote, the better they will be able to adapt should they need to.

As with any illness that would prevent you from teaching, you should notify your department chair and if able, your students to let them know you are not able to hold class. The chair will work with the dean to identify the best means to cover your absence. Having your course syllabi, assignments, and other course policies in the LMS will be very helpful for anyone who may need to pick up your class at the last minute. Please remember that for contact tracing purposes, positive COVID-19 cases should be reported to Human Resources.

Zoom rooms are spaces on campus that have been specifically designated as places students can use to attend synchronous online classes (remote classes). This will allow students who may have back-to-back in-person and online synchronous classes to at-tend classes seamlessly. We also recognize that many students do not have adequate space or wi-fi at home to attend Zoom classes. Zoom rooms allow students to simply bring their own headphones and personal device with them to whatever Zoom room they choose. (Students who do not have a laptop can request a loaner laptop for the semester from the ITS Help Center.) Once all classroom locations are confirmed, Zoom rooms will be designated across campus and marked for easy identification. A map will be available on the website to help students identify the many spaces on campus where they can take their online synchronous classes.

Students and faculty may request a mobile hotspot or laptop, camera, or micro-phone by contacting the ITS Help Center at helpdesk@ric.edu, or calling (401) 456-8803 to arrange for loaner equipment, subject to availability.

Due to supply chain issues, the college will not be able to supply masks, wipes and sanitizers in each classroom. Facilities is identifying central storage locations where these supplies can be obtained by faculty and staff for use within their classrooms.

Sinks and urinals have been returned to every other to allow for social distancing. With the current mask mandate and vaccination requirements, one-way traffic flow will not be required.

RINEC has been made aware of RIC’s opening plans and requirements. Administration and Finance is working with RINEC facilities to ensure compliance in RIC designated areas.

If an employee has been exposed at work, they will be entitled to paid administrative leave. All others must use sick time or other accrued time if they are out of sick time or take leave without pay.

Employees will use sick time or other accrued time as appropriate. If this is a long term illness/leave, the employee will apply for an extended leave. If the employee is able to telework during this period, they may do so. A teleworking agreement will be required.