Faculty Guidance During COVID-19

A student watching an online lecture

Faculty Guidance for Teaching and Advising, Spring 2021

The information below is designed to answer questions regarding teaching and learning for the Spring 2021 semester. Updates and additional topics will be added, so please check back often.

Guiding Principles for Faculty on Campus, Spring 2021

CWRU recognizes that the health situation associated with the pandemic is evolving, and that faculty members will be making personal decisions regarding their physical presence on campus for the Spring 2021 semester. CWRU can mitigate the risks to faculty members present on campus, but it cannot completely eliminate them. Guiding principles and options for faculty members who are not able to be physically present on campus are presented in this document. These principles are also intended to help chairs, deans, and the provost determine the best support strategy that is appropriate for not only the individual faculty member, but also the unit, our students, and CWRU as a whole.

(Updated December 22, 2020) These principles are organized around the three domains of faculty activity: research and scholarship, teaching, and service. In the event that a faculty member cannot perform any on-campus responsibilities because of a COVID-19 related issue, and if a solution cannot be met at the dean’s-office level, then such faculty member shall be directed to contact the Provost’s Office to determine the available options, including options available under the CWRU and/or Faculty Handbook such as the FMLA, ADA, and/or leave policies. The Provost's Office will work confidentially with a group of advisors on the final decisions.


As was the case in the Fall, the majority of federal agencies require the continuation of research activities if the sponsored research agreement is to remain in effect and if costs are reimbursed. Faculty may perform their research remotely to the extent they can continue to advance their research objectives and to the extent consistent with any sponsored research requirements. However, if a physical presence on campus is required under the research agreement, but the faculty member is unable to be on campus, then it will be critical to discuss options with the program officer and/or research sponsor, as well as with the research officers within the schools or College.


The Deans (and the department chairs, if applicable) are responsible for executing the academic plans being developed at their respective schools/college. For the case of a faculty member unable to perform on-campus teaching, the schools or College will attempt to assign that faculty member to courses which can be taught remotely. However, when a faculty member's campus presence is required for courses to be taught using in-person or blended modalities, and CWRU determines that it is safe for such classes to be held, faculty assigned to those courses are expected to be on campus to perform those teaching responsibilities.

In the event a faculty member anticipates being unable to perform their on-campus teaching duties because of a COVID-19 related issue that does not otherwise qualify for a leave or accommodation under the Faculty Handbook or other related University policy, the department chairs and deans are authorized to make substitutions to the degree consistent with curricular goals and the resources available, after consultation with the faculty member. The range of options for this substitution includes the faculty member's accepting a temporary reduction in compensation in exchange for a temporary reduction in teaching responsibilities, thus allowing for the hiring of additional instructional support. How this is operationalized at the College- and school-level is left to the discretion of the dean.

Regarding student mentoring, an in-person presence may be needed to adequately support the student. In those instances, the faculty member should endeavor to provide the needed support in person so long as it can be done in a safe manner.


It is expected that most service-related activities (including committee work) should be conducted using remote technologies.

Faculty Guidance for Teaching and Advising, Spring 2021

The information below is designed to answer questions regarding teaching and learning for the Spring 2021 semester. 

With the health and safety of the campus community in mind, Case Western Reserve University has instituted special policies for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters.

See the Policies

General Guidance

Extension of Pretenure Period Due to Extraordinary Circumstances

(Updated January 27, 2021) In March 2020, in consultation with the Faculty Senate, Provost Vinson exercised his authority under the provisions of the Faculty Handbook to offer a one-year extension to the pretenure period to faculty members whose appointment at CWRU began prior to January 1, 2020, and within calendar year 2020. Since the pandemic continues to affect academic life, this offer of a one-year extension of the pretenure period has been extended to faculty members who have started (or will start) their appointment at CWRU between January 1, 2021, and June 30, 2021. Faculty members starting during the above time period who wish to accept this one-year extension of their pretenure period shall provide confirmation of their acceptance via the Google form available at this link at least one month after their start date. Those eligible faculty members who accept the extension are not precluded from seeking an early tenure review. Any questions should be directed to academicaffairs@case.edu.

Expanded Childcare Support for Faculty & Staff

(Updated January 6, 2021) Select benefits-eligible employees will be eligible for a one-time child care subsidy of up to $800, while all faculty and staff can request to reduce their workloads and/or reserve up to nine hours of drop-in care each day at One to One Fitness. See the initiatives here.

Modified Calendar for Spring 2021 Semester

(Updated January 23, 2020) The university will utilize a modified academic calendar for the Spring 2021 semester. Note that there will be no Spring Break.  You can find the full academic calendar on the University Registrar’s website.

Teaching Students in Different Time Zones

(Updated October 30, 2020) You may be teaching students in a classroom, in their dorms, across the US, and all across the globe— all in the same course! Accommodating the needs of all of these students is difficult, with local students perhaps wanting face-to-face time, students in their dorms and the EST desiring synchronous sessions, and students 12-13 hours ahead having a difficult time participating in synchronous sessions. This guide is designed to help you think specifically about ways to ensure that students across different time zones can be successful in your course.

Spring 2021 and Students in Distant Time Zones

(Updated October 10, 2020) During the Spring 2021 semester, faculty may not require students to take any graded assessments outside of the hours from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. in the time zones where they live. Instead, they should work with students to identify alternate approaches—in terms of timing and/or nature of the assessment—to accommodate remote students in such circumstances. See the guidance here

Rights and Recorded Lectures

(Updated October 13, 2020) CWRU recognizes that with the delivery of whole or parts of courses via remote means necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, many faculty members may have questions concerning their intellectual property rights with respect to recorded lectures. Rights to underlying course materials used in the production of the recorded lectures are not affected by the transition to remote delivery, and remain governed by the University’s Intellectual Property Policy, the University's Copyright Policy, and additional provisions in the Faculty Handbook.  The University will not use course recordings for any purpose other than course delivery in the semester in which they were produced without the faculty member's consent.  Additional uses of course recordings also require assessment of other university policies (for example, if identifiable students were in the recordings, the use would need to align with the requirements of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)). Should you have any questions, please contact the Office of General Counsel.   

Student Focused Space Management Initiatives

(Updated August 27, 2020) In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all rooms on campus have reduced capacities. The university has developed several new initiatives to ensure students have space available for either academic or social purposes. View the initiatives now.

Find Socially Distant Classroom Spaces

(Updated August 18) The Spartan Reservation System can be used by students, faculty and staff to request rooms and services in a vast majority of buildings at CWRU. The system has been updated to reflect adjusted room capacities to allow for social distancing. Users will find several request forms because each building has different booking rules and processes. Download our reference guide for more information and step-by-step instructions on how to process a reservation using the Spartan Reservation System.

Guidance for Local Travel/Transportation During the Pandemic

(Updated August 10, 2020) As with every other activity at Case Western Reserve University, those taking transportation must remember the “Rules of the Road." Additionally, specific protocols and guidance for unique transportation modes are provided. View the guidance here.

Remember Digital Accessibility

(Updated July 17, 2020) At CWRU, we strive to make our digital content usable by all. Visit this Quick Tip Guide, specifically designed for faculty, as a resource to assist faculty in making courses more accessible to all learners. For additional resources, visit case.edu/accessibility.

HVAC and Air Handling Management

(Updated June 1, 2020) Please review the HVAC Management recommendations. Central air and other HVAC filters have been upgraded to MERV-13 (ASHRAE 2017b) or the highest level achievable, particularly for recirculated air filters. If you have additional questions that are not addressed by the management document, please contact Steve Campbell, Vice President for Campus Planning and Facilities Management at stephen.campbell@case.edu or 216.368.5779; or Graham Binnig, Interim Director, Facilities Services at graham.binnig@case.edu or 216.368.5890

Spring Semester Calendar

(Updated January 23, 2021) The Faculty Senate approved several changes to the spring semester calendar in order to postpone the start of the regular portion of the semester and limit travel by students living on or near campus.  Please take note of these key dates which may impact undergraduate students particularly. See more about the Spring Semester Calendar here. 

Course Workloads and Credit Hours

(Updated January 23, 2021) Those serving as academic advisors to undergraduates may want to encourage advisees to take fewer credit-hours this spring than they might otherwise do in a more normal spring semester. See more about Course Workloads and Credit Hours here.

Local Students, Remote Students, and Time Zones

(Updated January 23, 2021) This spring, some classes will be offered in person and others offered remotely, either synchronously or asynchronously.  These different modes of instruction raise different issues with regard to delivery. See more about Local Students, Remote Students, and Time Zones.

No Class Days and Mid-semester Grades

(Updated January 23, 2021) As noted above, we will have two “no class days” in place of spring break this semester.  As such, these days should be seen as the equivalent of fall and spring break and should not have class activities or assignments due.  Also, so that these can truly be days for students to take a breather, faculty are urged not to plan exams or due dates for other assignments on Wednesday, March 17 or Thursday, March 25, the days following the “no class days.”  More generally, it will be good to build some periods of lower stress and lighter work into your courses. As a reminder, mid-semester grades are due on Monday, March 22. See more about No Class Days and Mid-semester Grades here.

Course Enrollment Deadlines and the P/NP Grading Option

(Updated January 23, 2021) The dates for dropping and adding classes, for withdrawing from classes, and for choosing the P/NP grading option are noted in the detailed Spring Semester Calendar here, though there are several footnotes to these dates. See more about Course Enrollment Deadlines and the P/NP Grading Option here.

Absences from Class or Exams During the Semester

(Updated January 23, 2021) Faculty may establish their own procedures for handling absences from class meetings or exams that occur before the final exam period, being sure to treat all students equitably and to maintain the integrity of the course while responding to legitimate extenuating circumstances that interfere with a student’s ability to attend.  Under the present circumstances, this may include students who cannot attend in-person class meetings because University Health Services has directed them to quarantine for a period of time because of possible COVID-19 exposure or to isolate because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19.  Please keep in mind, however, that health information is private, and just because someone is excused via UHS does not mean they have COVID-19. See more about Absences from Class or Exams During the Semester here.

Final Exams

(Updated January 23, 2021) Faculty may not change the date of a final exam without approval by the Dean of Undergraduate Studies. Unlike the Fall 2020 semester when all final exams were conducted remotely, faculty teaching in-person courses should plan to give in-person final exams. Faculty teaching remotely may choose alternatives to traditional synchronous “in-class” final exams, perhaps substituting a take-home exam for an extended period of time or giving a timed exam spread through a 12- or 24-hour period to address students living in different time zones (note again the Provost’s directive that students not be required to take graded assessments outside of the period 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. where they are). See more about Final Exams here.

Academic Integrity

(Updated January 23, 2021) While students will be taking exams and completing various assessments remotely, our academic integrity standards remain unchanged: Students are expected to complete their own work, citing the work of others, as appropriate, and collaborating with others and using resources only as permitted by the course instructor.  Please review the academic integrity policy for undergraduates with your students, highlighting its application to your course. See more about Academic Integrity here.

Concerns about a Student

(Updated January 23, 2021) The navigators are always interested in hearing any concerns  you have about a student’s general well-being or ability to perform academically.  As a course instructor, you can identify each student’s navigator on your course roster in SIS. In an immediate crisis situation, you should contact the CWRU Police and Security at 216.368.3333. The Office of Undergraduate Studies continues to be responsible for issues related to academic standing at the end of the semester and degree certification, so questions on these topics should be referred to them. See more about Concerns about a Student here. 


(Updated April 22) Graduate Studies will entertain petitions for extensions on degree completion and other milestones, with the support of advisors/departments.  You can find the petition form on the Graduate Studies website. If a student's petition for extension is approved, they will only need to register for one (1) hour each semester through the spring 2021 term. If you have any questions, please contact gradstudies@case.edu

“Zoombombing” Prevention during your defense

(Updated April 7) The news has been full of stories about malicious individuals entering Zoom sessions to spread racist and misogynistic speech and, in some instances, pornographic content. While university classes have been a frequent target, businesses and influencers also have been victims. To prevent such intrusions in your thesis and dissertation defenses, you should follow the prevention information UTech offers.

Post-Grad Planning and Experiential Education (Career Center) 

(Updated April 7) As to be expected, there may be anxiety about post graduation employment, internships and other work related experiences.   The staff in the Post-Grad Planning and Experiential Education office are conducting advising  appointments and virtual events such as workshops, information sessions and career fairs.  Individual appointments via Zoom or telephone may be requested via Journey.  A list of workshops and events can be found on the events tab in Handshake.

Contacting Grad Studies

Staff in the School of Graduate Studies will be working so that questions can be answered and petitions approved. Electronic signatures of students and faculty will be accepted as well as email confirmations of approvals. We will be responding to voicemails (216.368.4390) and emails gradstudies@case.edu.