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August 12, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

The StAAR Center, Undergraduate Advising Team, the Graduate School of Arts and Science, and the School of Engineering's Graduate Programs Team are grateful for your commitment to excellence in remote teaching last Spring, your creativity as you plan for the Fall semester, and the compassion you continue to show for our undergraduate and graduate students.

This fall, we anticipate that a significant number of students will require flexibility in class policies due to illness, quarantine requirements, or mental health issues. To help guide you through this unprecedented time, we offer the suggestions below for incorporating fair but flexible policies into your syllabus.

Absence and Notifications:

1.       If a student in your class has been placed into isolation, is asked to self-isolate, or is asked to quarantine, you will receive an automatic email notification to alert you that your student will not be attending class in person. You will also receive an automatic email notification when your student is able to resume in-person attendance. No other health details will be disclosed due to privacy concerns.

2.       Students will be responsible for adhering to policies about missed and/or late work and should continue to participate remotely if they are well enough to do so. Once they are able to return to class, they will be expected to check in with you on missed work to form a plan for academic recovery.

3.       If you have been in close contact with someone who tests positive, you will be notified by contact tracers. 


It is likely that, at some point, one or more of your students will be unable to attend class in person but may be healthy enough to participate online. 

Options to facilitate participation for these students include:

  • Livestream your class
  • Record your class using Zoom or Echo360 and upload the recording and slides to Canvas
  • Have a volunteer notetaker or a rotation of notetakers upload notes on Canvas within 24 hours

Please be detailed and transparent in your syllabus about your grading policies, and consider flexibility in assessing quarantined students, such as:

  • Flexibility in grading for participation
  • Allowing quarantined students to take exams or give presentations online
  • Offering flexible deadlines or alternatives for course components that are hands-on or require access to public spaces


COVID-19 testing and COVID-like symptoms may require faculty or students to move to online modality suddenly, which could impact student participation in the course. Given the circumstances, students will not be able to provide a doctor’s note for every missed exam due to illness. We encourage you to:

  • Proactively communicate policies for students who miss exams. For example, you can reweight the point values of missed exams to avoid scheduling numerous make-ups.
  • Offer multiple forms of assessment for students to demonstrate their knowledge, such as quizzes, short papers, or video projects. 

Anxiety, Grief, and Trauma:

Many students may feel overwhelmed due to significant traumas. With this in mind, some examples of firm but flexible policies for all students include:

  • A late-paper policy with a mild step-down in points or grade for lateness.
  • A “one-time, no-questions asked” extension policy.
  • A choice among assignments, such as two of four writing assignments with different due dates. 

If a student discloses significant mental distress, please notify the undergraduate student advising dean or the graduate student’s Director of Graduate Studies so we can coordinate support and options across the student’s courses.

Tufts has partnered with Kognito to help faculty, staff, and students build skills around mental health and suicide prevention, and to support academic performance and student retention. You can find the online program here. Additional resources on trauma-informed pedagogy can be found here.

Academic Misconduct Reminder:

As a reminder, our policy on academic misconduct has not changed. Per a vote of the faculty, instructors are required to report suspicions of plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty to the Dean of Student Affairs Office.

Exam Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: 

The StAAR Center is operating virtually this fall. The Lincoln Filene Testing Center will be closed. The StAAR Center will be open for limited exam proctoring only, with just 6 individual testing rooms and limited time throughout the day for proctoring.

Only students with the “Distraction reduced testing” accommodation are permitted to take their exams in Dowling Hall. The availability of those testing rooms will be on a first come, first served basis. Students who receive “Extended Testing Time” as an accommodation should make arrangements with you to utilize their accommodation. 

This year in particular, the StAAR Center strongly encourages faculty to proctor their own exams, whether in-person or remotely. For information on how to provide exam accommodations remotely, please visit the StAAR Center website

Some Key Contacts:

  • If you have concerns about accommodating a student with a disability, contact the StAAR Center.
  • If you have a student who may need support in time management, writing, or tutoring for a specific course, please refer them to the StAAR Center
  • If you have concerns about an undergraduate student’s academic performance, please contact the student’s Advising Dean:
  • If you have concerns about a graduate student’s academic performance, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies in your department. Sarah Herchel (Associate Dean, GSAS) or Professor Karen Panetta (Dean of Graduate Education, School of Engineering) are also available for consultation.
  • For more ideas for planning your course, see the Teaching@Tufts website
  • For more information on mental health issues, contact the Tufts Wellness Center

Once again, we would like to thank you for your adaptability and ingenuity as we continue to navigate through this unsettled time. If you have any questions or if you are looking for teaching resources, please visit our AS&E Teaching Resource page.


Carmen Lowe, Dean of Academic Advising and Undergraduate Studies, School of Arts and Sciences

Jennifer Stephan, Dean of Academic Advising and Undergraduate Studies, School of Engineering
Kirsten Behling, Associate Dean, Student Accessibility and Academic Resources
Robert G. Cook, Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Karen A. Panetta, Dean of Graduate Education, School of Engineering