Frequently Asked Questions
Updated: March 16, 2022
May instructors choose to require masks in their classrooms?
Instructors are not permitted to require or request that students wear masks in classrooms. The only exceptions to this are courses that
- historically (i.e., pre-pandemic) required face masks as part of the safety protocols for the course, and/or
- clinical practicum courses where wearing PPE will simulate real-world requirements (i.e. healthcare)
WSU is applying this policy system-wide to promote a successful learning environment and ease confusion for our students, faculty, and staff. Any instructors who would like to discuss accommodation options may reach out to HRS Disability Services.
Is it permissible to ask students attending office hours in person to wear a mask (even if they cannot be required to wear a mask)?
Individuals may require masks in private offices, however, they must also be willing to provide alternative meeting formats (i.e. Zoom) for anyone who would like to meet without wearing a mask. Additionally, WSU recommends that individuals who would like masks to be worn in their offices have a supply available for those in need.
Is it permissible to ask students to maintain 6 feet of social distance, if they choose to be unmasked in the classroom?
No. Social distancing is no longer required in classrooms, and many classrooms cannot accommodate distancing.
May faculty/graduate students offer only Zoom office hours (i.e., no in person)?
Instructors may choose to offer only Zoom office hours, however, we encourage them to offer multiple formats to ensure accessibility for all students.
What happens when a student reports a positive COVID-19 test to an instructor?
- If a student reports a COVID positive to an instructor, the instructor should encourage the student to stay home and fill out WSU’s Quarantine and Isolation Guidance tool for additional instructions.
- The instructor should not make any announcement to the class about the presence of a COVID positive individual in the classroom.
- Even if they are exposed, individuals who are vaccinated and boosted are currently not required to quarantine according to CDC guidelines (here) unless they themselves become symptomatic.
Can I ask for a student to provide proof of a quarantine or isolation order?
Because new CDC and DOH guidance has shortened the quarantine and isolation period to five (5) days, EH&S will no longer be providing quarantine/isolation orders for students. Supervisors and instructors—please practice understanding and offer flexibility for students and employees who are ill.
How can faculty support students who are sequestered?
Faculty should exercise understanding and generosity in responding to students’ requests to keep up with the coursework or make up missed work due to illness. We expect instructors to reasonably accommodate students who are absent. However, how absences and missed work is handled is at the discretion of the respective instructor.
It is recommended that instructors in General University Classrooms take advantage of the Cougar Lecture Capture technology in their classroom to record and make available class sessions for students who are ill or quarantining. Instructors can also *repurpose materials from the 2020-2021 academic year that they created (Zoom recordings, Panopto lecture recordings, VoiceStream recordings, etc.) and make them available to students during the spring 2022 semester. Alternatively, audio recordings of class sessions on a personal recording device may also be shared through the Canvas course space.
*NOTE: Instructors should be cautious if they want to repurpose course materials (e.g. prior Zoom or Panopto recordings) that contain student identifiable information (names, ID, etc.) so that there is not a violation of FERPA. Prior materials should only be used if either; 1) all students with identifiable information have consented to their use, or 2) all student identifying information has been removed.
Do instructors need to wear a face covering/mask while lecturing?
No. Face coverings are no longer required in most indoor spaces in the state of Washington. Exceptions include health care, long-term care, and correctional facilities and public transit. Instructors are welcome to wear masks if they choose.
Are students required to wear masks?
No. Unless in a location (e.g., health care) where masks are required, students are not required to wear masks in most indoor locations, including classrooms. Students are welcome to wear masks if they choose.
Can instructors ask to see proof of vaccination from a student?
No, instructors cannot ask to see proof of vaccination from a student in their classroom.
Will instructors have a list of who’s vaccinated? Do instructors have to track student vaccinations?
No, instructors will not have a list of vaccinated students and should not track vaccination status. Instructors are not permitted to ask for proof of vaccination.
Should I ask unvaccinated students to sit together?
No, concentrating unvaccinated students in the same location contradicts the public health concept of herd immunity; social distancing in classrooms is not required, regardless of the students’ vaccination status.
Am I responsible for sanitizing my classroom?
No, facility and custodial services will maintain classrooms.
What if someone in my class gets COVID?
Any student who receives a positive diagnosis will be required to isolate. Instructors will need to have contingency plans and be flexible with due dates, tests dates, providing notes, etc., for students who are required to isolate or quarantine.
If there is a conflict between students about mask wearing, what do I do?
If students are being disruptive and demonstrating repetitive, egregious, and reckless behavior, the student(s) can be asked to leave the classroom and referred to the Center for Community Standards. Please include as much detail as possible in the Community Standards report.
If the situation elevates and the student is demonstrating egregious and reckless behavior, and will not leave the classroom, the instructor is encouraged to call:
- WSU Pullman Police’s non-emergency dispatch at 509-335-8548;
- WSU Vancouver Campus non-emergency assistance at 360-546-9001;
- Campus Security on the WSU Spokane Campus at 509-358-7995;
- or Campus Security on the WSU Tri-Cities Campus at 509-372-7234.
In all situations, the student may need additional support or access to resources. You can reach out to the Office of the Dean of Students through the Student Care Network or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If a student is unvaccinated, can I ask them to wear a mask?
No. Effective March 12, 2022, masks are optional in most indoor WSU facilities, regardless of vaccination status.
Can I give a student points toward their grade for being vaccinated?
What systems are in place to verify students’ vaccination status?
Students must submit proof of vaccination. The process for students to submit proof of vaccination, or file an exemption is available on the Cougar Health Services website.
Is it still WSU policy that proof of vaccination (i.e., documentation) will be a condition for Spring 2022 registration?
To be considered compliant with WSU’s vaccination requirement, students must have provided proof of vaccination or filed an exemption prior to September 10, 2021. Any current student who did not provide proof of vaccination or file an exemption was unable to register for the spring 2022 semester. The process to provide proof of vaccination or file an exemption is available on the Cougar Health website.
What is the university’s policy regarding gatherings outside of the classroom?
Current COVID guidance for the university, including events, is available on the Environmental Health and Safety website.
Will COVID-19 related serious illnesses and fatalities related to WSU campus be reported to national oversight?
WSU must report COVID cases and fatalities to the Department of Health. WSU must also report workplace infections affecting 10 or more employees in a 2-week period to L&I.
Will the capacity limits for each classroom be posted?
Previous COVID classroom capacities were based upon the 6 feet distancing requirement. Given that distancing is no longer required for institutions of higher education with a vaccination requirement, classroom capacities are now based upon fire codes, and posted in most classrooms. If not posted, the capacity defaults to the number of seats or work areas within the classroom.
What are the recommended spacing/social distancing rules?
Per Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-12.4, institutions of higher education with a vaccination requirement do not have social distancing requirements.
Are instructors setting assigned seating so there is a system in place for identifying close contacts?
Instructors may assign seating if they prefer.
What is WSU doing to reduce exposure of staff who may interact with students in poorly ventilated office spaces?
WSU requires vaccination for all faculty, staff, and students. If WSU personnel have reason to suspect their vaccination to be less effective, based upon a health condition affecting their immune system, they may contact HRS Disability Services for an accommodation.
Will WSU identify and improve ventilation in buildings/offices/classrooms and other spaces that might present greater exposure risk to staff and students?
WSU increased the outdoor air contribution in buildings with forced air ventilation systems that could accommodate the demand. WSU evaluated HVAC performance against CDC recommendations and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidance for airborne contaminant containment efficiency. Based upon those evaluations and anticipated COVID sources WSU anticipates sufficient ventilation to assist in mitigating infection. Not all WSU buildings and locations have forced air ventilation.
How can we make sure that the probability of an outbreak is minimized (close to zero)?
Get vaccinated and boosted.
When will the University put out a recommendation that on-campus meetings should go back to in-person?
WSU presently encourages in-person meetings, while allowing for a virtual meeting component to accommodate those that cannot attend in person.
If a student is unvaccinated, can I ask them to meet with me remotely instead of meeting in my office?
Instructors may elect to hold office hours virtually but should provide access to all students equitably.
If we don’t have a list of non-vaccinated students, what protections are there for instructors, especially for those with young unvaccinated children at home who teach large section classes?
If WSU personnel have reason to suspect their vaccination to be less effective, based upon a health condition affecting their immune system, they may contact HRS Disability Services for an accommodation. Eligible faculty can also file a COVID-19 modified duties request.
If a student appears ill, can they be asked to leave a space (classroom, office, building etc.)?
Yes, if a student appears ill, ask them to leave. If conflict arises call WSU Police at their non-emergency dispatch number 509-335-8548 on the Pullman Campus, 360-546-9001 on the Vancouver Campus, 509-358-7995 for Campus Security on the Spokane Campus, and 509-372-7234 for Campus Security on the Tri-Cities Campus.
If a student is uncomfortable with in-person classes, where may I direct them?
If a student is not comfortable with in-person courses, they may contact their advisor to discuss enrollment in WSU Global Campus.