Under normal operations, the University places a high value on in-person interactions between faculty and students, and among scholars on campus. Penn State expects its full-time faculty to be present on campus at least a majority of the workweek. Current health and safety concerns will temporarily alter these normal expectations. As we move from a closed campus to a residential instruction, we recommend the following:
- During the current pandemic, faculty members who are part of vulnerable populations or who have family members who are part of vulnerable populations may have concerns about returning to the workplace. Faculty requests to work remotely due to such concerns should be allowed if feasible for the unit operations.
- Faculty members should make specific requests to alter the nature of their work to the chancellor/dean or a designee.
- Unless colleges and campuses have an existing advisory group or committee that could provide unit executives with pedagogical options that may facilitate alternate work arrangements, units may wish to form a group which would serve in this capacity. This could entail the creation of a Faculty Resource Committee (FRC) or consultation with an existing committee or administrative structure in the unit. Such committees would serve not as decision-makers regarding individual faculty requests, but as resources for the campus or college as they plan the most effective way to deliver educational content consistent with the unit’s educational goals.
- Unit executives should develop a consistent, fair, and transparent process for screening and handling the work adjustment requests of faculty. To the extent the unit is offering in-person instruction, unit executives should consult with the designated committee to determine a fair approach to assigning in-person courses.
- Where the percentage of faculty members with concerns about in-person instruction in a particular unit is high, the unit executive may wish to consult with the designated committee for suggestions and options, such as:
- Team teaching, including in larger units to allow some faculty to spend a greater percentage of their time working remotely in exchange for fewer or no in-person functions.
- Alternative scheduling, including evenings and weekends to allow for fewer students in larger classroom spaces for maximum distancing.
- Specially equipped classroom space with plexiglass and other barriers between instructors and students.
- Hybrid course instruction to include remote sessions and in-person sessions.
- Where the faculty member indicates that they have a disability that necessitates a reasonable accommodation or leave, they should be referred to the AAO or Absence Management, as appropriate.
- Each unit should have a designated group meet routinely (virtually if possible) to assess workplace safety and any needed adjustments as well as all suspected/confirmed COVID-19 cases. This group should include the unit’s Pandemic Safety Officer.