Guidance for Faculty and Instructors: Enforcement of Face Coverings and Social Distancing Policies For Fall 2020

Aug. 18, 2020

 

Dear Colleagues,

When we return to campus from working remotely, we’ll bring with us new perspectives and anxieties about being together again. It can be stressful to work through these feelings while adapting to new university policies, such as wearing a mask or cloth face covering and maintaining a six-foot minimum social distance from others at all times.

Here are some suggestions for navigating challenging classroom interactions with patience, respect, and an open mind. Guidance on enforcement and de-escalation is featured in this UNLV video. We also have a video that illustrates the new campus norms.

Take initiative to prevent conflict

If you are a faculty member teaching in the classroom, and you have a student in your class who is not wearing a mask or observing safe social distancing of six feet from others, please take the initiative to speak with that student about coming into compliance. You will find additional information on how to effectively navigate these situations below. 

Managing emotions

Acknowledging and managing your emotions will help you remain calm and defuse situations effectively. In doing so, keep in mind that listening and empathy are key to de-escalating a tense situation.

Facing difficult situations in the faculty-student environment

When interacting with students, faculty members are uniquely positioned to set the tone and expectations in the classroom. When facing a tough situation, do not allow yourself to get pulled into debates. Here are some suggestions for how to do this.

First, establish your expectation on Day 1 of class that students will communicate with each other and with you respectfully and professionally.

  • Consider devoting the first 15 seconds of each class to remind students that wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing are required at all times on campus, per university policy and the governor’s mandates.
  • If you use slides in your lectures, the first slide of every lecture could be this statement from the academic year memo:

Public Health Directives
Face coverings are mandatory for all faculty and students in the classroom. Students must follow all active UNLV public health directives while enrolled in this class. UNLV public health directives are found on the webpage: Health Requirements for Returning to Campus. Students who do not comply with these directives may be asked to leave the classroom. Refusal to follow the guidelines may result in further disciplinary action according to the UNLV Code of Student Conduct, including being administratively withdrawn from the course.

Second, don’t take the bait.

  • If needed, let the student know that their noncompliant behavior is inappropriate.
  • If one or more students won’t comply or can’t calm down, ask them to leave.
  • Don’t take the bait outside of the classroom either. Please do not debate with students on social media.

Third, if you are in the classroom and the discussion continues to escalate to the point where you need to ask a student to leave, consider the following:

  • Establish a next step (“You have left me no option but to ask you to please leave the class now. Let’s please talk about this situation privately before our next class.”)
  • Document the situation and notify your department chair/director and the Office of Student Conduct.
  • Report threats of any kind to your chair or director and to University Police Services.
  • If you need help or you are not comfortable dealing with the situation by yourself, there is support available to you. Talk with your chair or director or dean or with the Office of Student Conduct. They will help you to identify ways to address the situation.
  • If the student does not leave the classroom after being asked to do so, you may dismiss class.

Fourth, consider a remote one-on-one meeting with the student if you think it may help defuse the situation.

  • Make sure you have reviewed the Student Handbook, so that you are familiar with UNLV’s current behavior and civility codes.
  • In talking with the student, calmly state the facts:
    • An important part of my job is to make the classroom environment safe and comfortable for everyone. Following the state mandates and university COVID-19 policies makes our classroom safer. This is why I asked each student to wear a face covering and maintain social distance in class.
  • I appreciate having you in class. This is a hard time for us all.

A student who for a second time during the course fails to comply with the requirement to wear face covering or maintain social distancing may be administratively withdrawn from the course, per the Public Health Directives listed above and included in the course syllabus. Administrative withdrawals must be approved by the department chair and dean. Being withdrawn from the class may negatively impact the student’s financial aid, as well as academic progression.

We are living in difficult and strange times. Thank you for leaning into the challenges we are facing, and for contributing to ensuring a healthy and safe campus. We will continue working together to have a successful academic year.

Warm Wishes,

Chris Heavey, Ph.D.
Interim Executive Vice President and Provost