Fall 2021 FAQs for Teaching Faculty

The FAQs are taken from comments, questions, town halls, and other feedback. In many cases, the information has been provided in the Faculty Information Guide, Course Planning Memo/Syllabus Template (sent to all on Friday, July 30), or the Faculty Resources page on the Provost’s website.

Class Modalities, Meetings, and COVID Testing

No, DOH is the clearing house and does the contact tracing. The College, currently, doesn’t do the contact tracing. It’s best if the DOH gets the info and students should contact that office. Students should, however, contact Student Development and indicate they need to use the Excused Absence Policy due to illness. Student Development assists with outreach to faculty. Students must also contact individual instructors for information about how to sustain continuity of learning for each particular class.

Affected individuals will be notified through contact tracing. Although this is imperfect, since it relies on honest self-report information. We have observed remarkable honesty on the part of our students, which has helped us be aware of where spreading is happening / has happened.

You don’t have to reveal that other students have tested positive and given you that information. You can simply encourage your class to go to pool testing regularly. Tell them often, in a general way.

Classes must be delivered using the method of instruction communicated to students in our Schedule of Classes.

In-person classes (listed as “On Campus” in the Schedule of Classes) will meet on campus, in assigned instructional spaces. Students do not have the choice to be online or in-person, and there is no rotation system as discussed last spring. 

In-person classes may have online engagements. (In keeping with the Fed Gov’s new distance education regulations, these must entail “regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor.” When and how these engagements take place must be specified for students on syllabi, and the online component must be less than 30% of the contact hours.

For Fall ’21 we have only 4 classes scheduled as “hybrid” classes. The Curriculum Committee must approve courses for hybrid delivery (defined by our Distance Education Policy as using both in-person and online delivery, with at least 30% but less than 100% online).

Fully online courses are listed in the Schedule of Classes as being either asynchronous online, synchronous online or combined online.

The modality of the course controls the modality/location of the corresponding office hours.

From the “Course Planning Memo/Syllabus Template” sent out to all teaching faculty (point 5):
As we rebuild our residential community, office hours take on new importance as essential opportunities for student engagement that must be, as always, specified in syllabi and honored throughout the term. Faculty are expected to establish and hold one office hour per class weekly (e.g., a 3-course load requires 3 hours of office hours weekly), in the modality of the class. In other words, in-person classes require in-person office hours, and online classes require online office hours. Faculty delivering in-person classes may choose to schedule online engagements with students seeking meetings outside of established office hours. However, faculty delivering online courses cannot require students to be on campus for meetings or any other purpose. 

SUNY has recently underscored that while on residential campuses like ours, ADA exemptions do not extend to teaching modality (in-person classes cannot be moved online), faculty with ADA exemptions may be eligible to have other professional duties, including the modality of their office hours, modified. Please see HR if you are seeking eligibility to hold online office hours for in-person classes.

Yes, meetings can be held online.

If the work unit decides to do so, online meeting options can be made available. 
However, this is not to be used for telecommuting and is not to be made available as a reasonable accommodation under any circumstances. All requests for accommodations and all telecommuting arrangements must be cleared through HR using the appropriate applications.

First, take care of yourself and monitor your own symptoms, of course, then follow protocols specific to your own vaccination status and medical / family situations—which are no one’s business but yours.

“Per CDC and New York State guidance, at this time, individuals who exposed to COVID but are fully vaccinated — meaning they have received all required doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and at least two weeks have passed since their final dose — and are not symptomatic, are not required to quarantine. Any vaccinated individual who was exposed to a positive case and has COVID-19 symptoms is required to quarantine/isolate. Additional guidance for partially vaccinated and unvaccinated students residing in residential halls or off-campus can be found on the Fall 2021 Requirements, Procedures and Plans page."

Department of Health will handle the contact tracing with the student. And if you are deemed to be a close contact, you will get a call from the county Department of Health. Were both you and the student wearing masks correctly? If so, then it’s unlikely that you will be deemed a close contact or that you will be contacted by the Department of Health. Again, monitor for symptoms, but if you are concerned, you can also contact the Department of Health to make sure you have all your bases covered. If you live in Otsego County, the number is 607-547-4230. You should contact the DOH in your county if you don’t live in Otsego County.

If you are fully vaccinated and you do not have symptoms, you can proceed with your class as planned. However, faculty do have an obligation to maintain “continuity of instruction” for students who need to use the Excused Absence Policy because they are sick or have been exposed and need to quarantine. This does not mean that faculty are required to use dual modality. It does mean that you are expected to enable the student, through alternatives to attending class, to keep up with the class. It's not just about making up work; it's also about enabling sustained or continuous learning for the student. 

Students may expect that moving fully online is an option. We are not able to change modality of a course to fully online and you are not expected to do so. Faculty have the right and responsibility to decide how best to enable students who have had to make use of the Excused Absence Policy to continue to meet the learning outcomes of the course. The TLTC has resources available on their Flexibility in Teaching Modalities, page, and they are willing to consult with faculty about options. Department chairs and Deans are also essential resources; faculty who need assistance in supporting absent students should reach out to their supervisors--but please do not share any protected personal information about students.  


The college has a masking requirement for all faculty, staff and students in all buildings.

Faculty have the right to enforce mask-wearing in the classroom. 

If a student does not comply, the faculty member should remind the student of the requirement. If the students persist in non-compliant behavior, whether through negligence or objection to the requirement, the faculty should refer the case to the Office of Student Conduct for review and appropriate disciplinary action. 

Instructors are responsible to maintain a classroom environment that promotes learning. 

See Faculty Information Guide, “Responsibility for Instruction”:

Instructors have a responsibility to maintain an effective learning situation in their classrooms and to deal promptly with any disruptions that interfere with the learning situation. The instructor is in charge of the classroom. If it is felt that a student is interfering with the right of other students to profit from attendance in that classroom or if the instructor feels unreasonably hindered in the presentation of subject matter, the instructor has every right to eject the offending student from class and/or notify the Student Development Office of the student’s behavior. Either course of action should be taken with discretion and only for reasonable cause.

Refer to the Student Code of Conduct and the general information available on the website of the Office of Community Standards for more information.

Supervisors should enforce the masking mandate.

For non-compliant employees, the supervisor should provide a verbal warning followed with a written memo confirming the verbal warning. The next step may be a formal written warning or an immediate step to discipline, depending upon the severity of the mask non-compliance.  HR will assist throughout the process. 

Yes, campus community members can ask anyone violating the mask-wearing policy to put on a mask. The most constructive approach to student noncompliance may be to engage conversationally and remind the student of the current requirement.


Full FDA approval is necessary before we can require/mandate vaccinations for all students. 

Even with 150+ million doses delivered, Emergency Use authorization means that all three vaccines are still technically “in trial.” We expect FDA approval very soon, but not soon enough to be able to communicate plans at this moment; therefore, the safety and masking requirements are in place. We hope to be able to relax once full approval leads to mandated vaccinations.

We are collecting student vaccination data through the Medicat database in the health center. 

Individuals’ vaccine status is protected and cannot be released for publication. We will release only aggregate data related to percentages of students, staff and faculty vaccinated. Once the vaccine is approved and mandated for students, we will work through the health center to confirm students who need a vaccination and the deadline.

No, faculty will not have access to students’ vaccine status and cannot ask students their vaccine status.

Vaccine status, like all health information, is protected data. The College has collected vaccination information and processed exemptions according to federal law. Students with exemptions (medical or religious) will be required to test weekly and their compliance with this requirement will be monitored carefully. All students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear masks indoors, including in in-person classes.

No, vaccination status will be held confidential by HR.

Masking is now required of both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees; supervisors will provide first line enforcement of masking rules. Only HR will know if an employee has provided proof of vaccination or is undeclared. HR will also know if the undeclared/unvaccinated employees are meeting the weekly testing requirements and will follow up with those employees each week, beginning with warnings and moving to discipline.

Each union—each bargaining unit—has its own terms and conditions of employment, negotiated at the NYS level, but implemented locally. 

We do not have the authority to mandate vaccinations for union members in UUP, PEF, CSEA, etc. However, unvaccinated individuals are required to mask, socially distance whenever possible and be tested weekly.

Exemptions will be permitted.

Students who receive exemptions (medical or religious) will have to test weekly, socially distance when possible, and wear masks (as will vaccinated individuals). SUNY Oneonta will make all best efforts to provide reasonable accommodations for those unable to vaccinate. However, unvaccinated students need to understand that not being fully vaccinated may make it impossible for them to partake in certain learning activities and classes. Consequently, not being vaccinated or fully vaccinated may impede a student’s progress to degree completion depending on the requirements of the academic program.

Faculty do not have the right to ask or otherwise seek information about the vaccine status of students.

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limits disclosure of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to identified “school officials” with a “legitimate educational interest.” Faculty, chairs, and directors have not been identified as having educational interests that would require them to know of religious and medical vaccination exemptions, or which students are partially vaccinated. We may want to know, but do not need to know, this information according to SUNY Legal.

Here are important things to keep in mind:

  • Faculty may not ask students if they have an exemption. 
  • Students are free to volunteer but the information must remain confidential. 
  • Any student with an approved exemption is responsible for being masked at all times and maintaining social distance whenever possible. 

Other resources for interacting effectively with and supporting students can be found through links to the TLTC, the Faculty Center, and the Provost’s Faculty Resources site. 


It is SUNY’s position that, with the exception of Empire, SUNY is an in-person teaching system which means that teaching in person is an essential function of the role and is therefore not subject to an accommodation to in-person teaching. 

SUNY has clarified that ADA exemptions to change the modality of a course will not be given because teaching is the essential duty of faculty on residential campuses like ours. Instead, an example of a reasonable accommodation for a teaching faculty member on a residential campus would be providing a microphone or a mobility device for a faculty member to be able to be in the classroom. By extension, courses should not be transitioned to online modality to accommodate an ADA request. Only those courses previously designated and approved through the normal academic review process as “online” should be taught online; this does not include courses taught online or in hybrid mode due to the pandemic. Please note: all Oneonta undergraduate programs are registered as in-person programs. This means that through our local shared governance process we cannot approve (nor subsequently deliver) more than 50% of the courses in each program online without submitting program re-registrations to SUNY and the State Education Department and undergoing an additional review process by our accrediting body, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

SUNY also requires ADA exemptions for modifications of other faculty responsibilities, including advisement assignments and office hours. If a faculty member requests an ADA accommodation, it may be granted for the portion of their assignment related to advising, office hours, etc. Faculty seeking ADA accommodations for modifications of their duties are encouraged to contact HR for further information and help with any questions or concerns.

There are distinctions in ADA requirements between students and employees.

Student accommodation requests are measured against what is reasonable to allow students to participate in offered educational activities – they have a different threshold.  So, for instance, an accommodation can include something as simple as a note taker or as expensive as paying for a translator (for deaf or hearing-impaired students) or installing a mobility sling in a residence hall room so the student can shower and move about the apartment. The Excused Absence Policy for students is a college-wide policy, relevant in many situations, not just a pandemic. It is vastly different from the standards applied to employment.

Yes, attending departmental meetings virtually can be considered a reasonable accommodation, depending upon the disability in question. Faculty seeking such a modification of professional obligations should contact HR. 

The ADA application/approval waiver is required since we are a residential campus.

Yes, instructors should include the sections on ADA and emergency evacuations.

The syllabus template instructs faculty to link to the Course Policies and Procedures page, and that link allows instructors to just note in their syllabus (if it is digital only) that all relevant policies, including (by name) ADA, etc., are easily available. (It also says to duplicate policies if distributing paper copies): https://suny.oneonta.edu/office-provost/course-policies-and-procedures

Of particular importance this semester as we re-engage and rebuild community is the need for discussions about expectations, policies and procedures related to your administration of the learning environment in each class. Some faculty have noted that they communicate with students before the first class to share the email, welcome them, perhaps note a few things—this semester even perhaps reminding them to bring a mask.

Yes, but some flexibility was used in planning this fall’s Schedule of Classes because of the uncertainty of re-opening conditions when the fall ‘21 schedule was finalized.

We are fully back within policy effective Spring 2022: courses and instructors both must be certified appropriately. The odd gap this fall is because we had to do scheduling--including modal instructional choice--before the Governor announced on May 10, 2021, that more normal operations would return in NYS and we were able to shift hybrid courses, etc., to in-person for this fall term. Only those already scheduled (before May 10) courses that chairs and deans certified as fully online for fall 2021 remained online, whether asynchronous or not.
Courses must be brought through the Curriculum Committee process for consideration as to mode: courses not previously approved for online delivery at the thresholds set forth in the DL Policy need to be evaluated as to best practices in online instructional design and delivery. Moreover, department consideration must be given to the appropriate modality of courses in service to programs (as well as General Education and elective courses). SUNY, State Ed Department and Middle States requirements for residential programs (vs distance education ones) must also be reviewed and heeded.

As to faculty certification, we follow the College’s Online Learning Instruction Certification Program, as you know. Current faculty must have both levels completed before teaching a hybrid or fully online course; we on-board new faculty by allowing them one year to complete both levels--DL 1, the asynchronous portion by end of fall term and DL2 certification by the end of the first full AY at the latest.

Additional Resources:

Debate Is Over: COVID Vax Doubled Protection for the Previously Infected

Why the CDC Recommends Wearing Masks Indoors Even If You Have Been Fully Vaccinated

CDC Mask Guidance Map Interactive County Map (8/4/21)—note, Otsego County “Substantial” risk

WashPost / CDC on masks and Delta Variant

New scientific proof of vaccinated individuals spreading Delta variant

The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends universal masking in school at this time for the following reasons, in part because “Research has shown that opening schools generally does not significantly increase community transmission with masking and other safety measures in place”, and because a significant portion of the student population is not eligible for vaccination.

  • protection of unvaccinated students from COVID-19 and to reduce transmission.
  • lack of a system to monitor vaccine status among students, teachers and staff.
  • potential difficulty in monitoring or enforcing mask policies for those who are not vaccinated; in the absence of schools being able to conduct this monitoring, universal masking is the best and most effective strategy to create consistent messages, expectations, enforcement, and compliance without the added burden of needing to monitor vaccination status.
  • possibility of low vaccination uptake within the surrounding school community.
  • continued concerns for variants that are more easily spread among children, adolescents, and adults.
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