COVID-19 protocols should be included in the syllabus

Professors need to clearly communicate their expectations

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Not knowing a professor’s specific COVID-19 policies can lead to anxiety and confusion. PHOTO: Fusion Medical Animation / Unsplash

by Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer

As part of the fall safety plan, SFU has outlined procedures and required documentation for staff who contracted COVID-19. However, the expectations for students who contracted COVID-19 are not as clear. The return to campus plan focuses on self-assessment tools, diagnosis, and quarantine, but there should be more information on academic concessions (extensions, deferrals, or re-weighting the amount each assignment is worth) for students who catch COVID-19. 

While SFU student services outline the guidelines for academic concessions, instructor-granted concessions vary for each professor. Without a return to campus plan outlining steps for students who get COVID-19, many students can feel anxious or confused about what to do next. This is why professors should be clearly communicating their COVID-19 protocols to their students in the syllabus.

Fall 2021 was the first in-person semester for many students. As a student who transferred to SFU during the pandemic, I still consider myself a new student. So I know how confusing it can be for us to figure out what options and resources are available. Professors offering clear guidelines on COVID-19 protocols for students like myself would help ease the transition to SFU and alleviate some of the anxiety they may be feeling.

Since each professor has their own expectations for instructor-granted concessions, students have the right to be aware of what these expectations are. The syllabus should include details on these protocols for an academic concession such as what kind of documentation students should provide to get a concession. This could be a positive COVID-19 test result or the academic concession self-declaration form

Additionally, professors should offer accommodations for students who are sick, such as hybrid lectures where students can dial in from home. If students are in classes that don’t record lectures or post slides, they especially need accommodations or else they may fall behind. Without clear guidelines, student access to important resources may be delayed. 

It is possible to get accommodations through the Centre of Accessible Learning (CAL), but they have deadlines for students to submit documentation and it may take time to get these accommodations. While students collect their documentation and wait for their application’s status, it would be helpful for students to be aware of what they can do in the meantime.

Clear guidelines would also help guide students who are ineligible for CAL. For example, while students with a “minor illness of 1–5 days,” should be eligible for concession — CAL has a minimum one-week processing time for applications. If the syllabus clearly outlines what documentation the professor requires, students may quickly start acquiring it. 

The reality is, students could contract COVID-19, especially during the transition to in-person classes. Clearly stated alternatives to in-person class participation would provide students with options to protect their health without compromising their grades.