Faculty: Starting the Spring Semester Safely

Update: This email was updated to reflect that instructors may teach without wearing a mask, provided they can maintain safe distance from their students. 

Dear Kent State University Faculty,

As we approach the beginning of our spring semester, we continue to closely monitor the ongoing surge of COVID-19. The health and safety of our community remains our top priority as we prepare to welcome you back to our campuses.

The university has several COVID-19 prevention committees that include experts from our College of Public Health. Our strategy, outlined below, for safely starting the 2022 Spring Semester is based on the input and advice from these committees and experts from our local health departments as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Ohio Department of Health. We have consistently updated the Kent State Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP-KSU) and representatives of the Faculty Senate.

As you recall, the university and AAUP-KSU had an agreement regarding remote course offerings, and that agreement was to sunset at the end of the 2021 Fall Semester. Our spring semester will begin as scheduled on Jan. 18. At this time, we do not anticipate any significant changes to university operations. We are committed to providing a vibrant learning, living and working environment for all. Please understand our COVID-19 prevention committees are continuing to monitor the pandemic and make recommendations that balance the needs of our students and our collective concerns about public health and safety.

The best way to protect our community is to continue our adherence to the Flashes Safe Eight safety principles that have been effective in deterring the spread of the virus on our campuses, including masking and vaccinations. Our indoor face covering requirement, coupled with the installation of equipment to clean and purify the air in our buildings, has proven successful at stopping the widespread transmission of the virus in our classrooms and offices. 

Additional Safety Measures

To further deter the spread of the virus on our campuses, the following additional safety measures will be put in place:

  • Staff whose jobs can be performed remotely may work remotely until the start of the semester.
  • As in previous semesters, face coverings and other personal protective equipment are available to order through FlashTrack. Please consult with your department administrator to order.
  • Through Jan. 31, our dining halls on the Kent Campus will provide only grab-and-go meals to eliminate large groups of individuals congregating without face coverings for extended periods of time.
  • If you are hosting an in-person event, please be sure your event plans include adhering to the Flashes Safe Eight. For questions or support to ensure your event is following our safety principles, please contact the University Events and Protocol team at universityevents@kent.edu

Existing Safety Principles

As you return to campus, please remember our existing safety principles, including: 

  • Wear a face covering. We remind you that face coverings are required in all indoor spaces on all our campuses. During this omicron surge good options are, a KN95 mask, a surgical mask or a face covering with two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric (preferably 50% cotton/50% polyester) that completely covers your nose and mouth, fits snugly against the sides of your face and has a pliable nose bridge that can seal around the nose. However, instructors who can maintain a safe six-foot distance from their students may elect to teach without wearing a mask. We urge you to follow the Flashes Safe Eight safety principles diligently. Thoroughly wash your hands often and monitor your health daily. 
  • Get vaccinated. For anyone who has not been vaccinated, we urge you to do so. This step is more important than ever as omicron spreads. Vaccines and boosters are available at the DeWeese Health Center on our Kent Campus and at various locations throughout the state, which are convenient to our Regional Campuses. While the vaccine may not stop you from getting the virus, it has proven strongly effective at lessening symptoms and preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and death.
  • Get a booster shot. We strongly encourage everyone who is vaccinated to get their COVID-19 booster shot as soon as they are able. Booster shots have shown to significantly increase the effectiveness of the vaccine against the omicron variant.
  • Get tested. If you are symptomatic or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, get tested to determine your status. A variety of testing locations and options are available on our campuses. If you test positive, report your status to the COVID Response Team and isolate according to the current guidelines from the CDC.
  • Don’t come to work sick. Monitor your health daily. Don’t come to work if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, even mild ones. COVID-19 symptoms may appear as very mild, but that does not mean you are less contagious. Get tested to know for certain. 

If You Become Ill

Please remember, in the unfortunate event that you become ill, we ask that you:

  1. Notify your chair/unit administrator that you are not able to hold class at the regularly scheduled time and discuss options for the course delivery.
  2. Notify the students of the cancellation or alternative teaching option.
  3. Develop, communicate and execute a strategy to mitigate the modification to the course or cancellation.

After nearly two years of battling this pandemic, we have learned that it takes all of us remaining vigilant and working together in our Flashes Take Care of Flashes spirit to keep our campus community healthy.

The situation with COVID-19 is ever-changing, and our prevention measures must be fluid and allow us the flexibility to respond as conditions warrant. Please check your email and university notifications regularly to stay abreast of any changes.

We remind you that there will be a town hall meeting for all faculty on Thursday to offer information on the spring semester. We hope that you will join us. 

We look forward to your cooperation so that we may all enjoy a safe spring semester.

Sincerely,

Melody Tankersley, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President and Provost 

Pamela Grimm, Ph.D.
Chair, Faculty Senate 
Professor, Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship

Deborah Smith, Ph.D.
President, AAUP-KSU Tenured and Tenure-Track Unit
Professor, Department of Philosophy 

Tracy Laux
President, AAUP-KSU, Full-Time Non-Tenure Track Unit
Senior Lecturer, Department of Mathematical Sciences

POSTED: Monday, January 10, 2022 - 11:36am
UPDATED: Wednesday, January 19, 2022 - 3:27pm