Faculty Toolkit

Faculty FAQ

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Frequently Asked Questions

This is a rapidly evolving situation; we ask that you please check the USF coronavirus (COVID-19) site frequently for updates, and refer to the Faculty Guidelines for detailed current information.

Fall 2021 Return to Campus Plans

Where can I find updated information on Summer Session B and the Fall 2021 semester?

President Currall sent a letter to the USF community on March 3 with anticipated plans for Summer B and the Fall 2021 semester. You can find that letter here.

**This is a very fluid, dynamic situation, so please understand that the university’s circumstances could change at any time. We deeply appreciate your patience and adaptability as we work to respond to this evolving situation.

Does this mean I am required to teach in-person?

University leadership continues to make decisions guided by the scientific advice of public health and infectious disease experts at USF, along with government agencies. Based on that guidance, the university expects to resume full in-person course delivery on our campuses in Fall 2021. Faculty are encouraged to discuss any concerns they have with the assigning authority (department chairs and/or college dean) toward a resolution consistent with the goal of offering a full array of in person classes. 

Is the university going to require proof of vaccination before students, faculty, and staff are allowed in classrooms and other on-campus locations?

No decision has been made at this time. Discussions are occurring at the state level and within the university regarding whether or not proof of vaccination will be required for students, faculty, and staff to attend class or to be on campus. Vaccines would have to be widely available before such a requirement could be considered. The decision and guidance around it will be shared with the entire university community as soon as possible.

Will the university help me get vaccinated?

USF continues to work in close partnership with our colleagues at the Florida Department of Health to administer vaccines to as many people in our university community as possible. We are limited by the Governor’s orders and by the supply of vaccines we are given. We encourage members of our community, once they are eligible, to seek out vaccinations in their local communities. 

Are you planning for full room capacity or COVID capacity or something in-between?

We are planning on full room capacity in Fall 2021 with the option to return to COVID capacity should local conditions require that physical distancing be maintained.

Dr. Fauci says we will be wearing face coverings and should be maintaining social distancing well into 2022. Is the University going to provide N95 or similar quality masks to all faculty?

The university is sourcing KN95 masks for faculty and staff working on campus in situations that could present a risk. N95s remain reserved for health care providers and first responders. 

Will people still be issued Daily Campus Passes? Are we expected to ask to see them?

Yes, the Daily Symptom Checker system will remain in operation, and all persons on campus will be expected to display the CampusPass when asked. Classroom instructors are always advised to ask to see the CampusPass and excuse anyone unable to produce a valid pass. 

Will the same systems be in place to monitor infection and exposure, and should we be prepared to shift to remote instruction at any point during the semester?

Yes, because it is possible that infections may still be occurring in the community, we will continue our system of working with instructors whenever they or we learn of a positive case. We will continue to carefully assess potential exposures and work with instructors to determine whether a class needs to shift to remote instruction. We expect instructors to continue to be flexible with their students. 

Return to Campus

For questions pertaining to testing and symptom tracking, please visit COVID-19 Virus Testing 

Will I be required to wear a face covering when returning to campus?

The University of South Florida requires students, faculty, staff and visitors to wear face coverings inside university facilities on campus including, but not limited to, classrooms, conference rooms, shared work spaces, academic and administrative buildings, lobbies and lounge areas, research facilities, residence halls, student unions, performance spaces, retail spaces, museums, libraries and dining facilities. Anyone using a dining facility should cover their face until they sit down to eat and then put the face covering back on immediately after.

Face coverings are required when moving through shared spaces (lobbies, elevators, stairwells, lounges, etc.), when using campus public transportation and while inside university vehicles or golf carts if more than one person is present.

Face coverings may be removed when inside of a private building space, such as a single use, completely enclosed office or residence hall room. Based on the latest research that suggests the coronavirus can travel through the air and transfer from person to person, face coverings should be worn in cubicles even if they are spaced at least six feet apart and have vertical barriers in place between workstations.

USF recommends wearing face coverings in outdoor public spaces on campus when six feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Will the university provide any PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for my use?

USF will provide cloth face masks to those who may need them. Cloth neck buffs (also known as neck gaiters) will no longer be distributed. You can find information on how to request face coverings and other supplies on the Administrative Services website.

I have been approved to return to work.  Do I still need my critical infrastructure employee letter, or to acquire one?

We are no longer producing critical infrastructure employee letters.  At this time, you will need to complete the Daily Symptom Checker in order to return to work. Refer to your supervisor regarding staggered times for staff to physically be in the office space.

When can we resume research activities?

Critical research efforts have continued throughout the duration of the COVID-19 response with modified operations to promote physical distancing and enhanced cleaning and sanitization protocols. Remote work was encouraged as much as possible and occupancy thresholds were established in laboratory spaces. As we progress through the phases, operations will be modified to meet the current health and operational environment. As we enter the fall semester, faculty PIs, laboratory, and facility managers should continue to monitor laboratory personnel to maintain six feet physical distancing within all laboratories and associated research spaces, when possible. Personnel may engage in laboratory research provided COVID-19 health and safety measures are observed, to include physical distancing and frequent hand washing and sanitizer use. Frequently used surfaces, equipment, etc., should be wiped down with disinfectant wipes or sprays and cloths often and always between uses by different persons. Personnel should continue to rotate through research labs on an established schedule and only personnel conducting active experiments should be present within the labs.

What if a student is coughing in my classroom?

Anyone exhibiting COVID-19-like-symptoms should not attend in-person classes and instead should contact Student Health Services to be assessed. Everyone should wear a face covering in a classroom and sit six feet apart from everyone else. It’s possible the cough is unrelated to COVID-19. If a student coughs, the instructor can ask questions about potential COVID-19-like-symptoms or if the person is feeling well. If the answer is unrelated to COVID-19, such as “no, I just swallowed wrong” or “I have allergies,” the student can stay in the room. If they don’t feel well, they should be sent to Student Health Services. 

What if a student refuses to wear a face covering?

Students will be made aware of enforcement measures around the wearing of face coverings, physical distancing guidance and other risk mitigation strategies. We are confident that students will take an active role in protecting the USF community. However, if they refuse to comply with risk mitigation strategies, students may be removed from the class and face further consequences. Please see the Faculty Guidelines for more information.

What if a student refuses to physically distance themselves?

Students will be made aware of enforcement measures around physical distancing guidance, the wearing of face coverings and other risk mitigation strategies. We are confident that students will take an active role in protecting the USF community. However, if they refuse to comply with risk mitigation strategies, students may be removed from specific activities or courses and face further consequences. Please see the Faculty Guidelines for more information.

Who will be responsible for cleaning the classroom before and after each class?

The university has developed enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols for all resumption phases that align with CDC guidelines and public health recommendations. Custodial Services will conduct enhanced cleaning & disinfection in areas traditionally serviced, including conference and teaching areas. In addition, educational and learning spaces will be supplied with sanitizer in order for occupants to supplement custodial services between classes. Students should sanitize their workspaces before and after class. Faculty are responsible for sanitizing their lecture spaces.

Will I be able to maintain office hours for students? What is protocol for those coming to my office?

Yes, office hours and face-to-face meetings with students will be allowed to resume, however face coverings and physical distancing requirements will still be expected to be maintained. Where possible, virtual meetings will remain the preferred method.

Student Assistance

What should instructors do if a student is not responsive to communication related to class?

There could be a variety of reasons why students are not responsive to email. Remember to be empathetic and clear about your expectations and requirements. Be sure to have your virtual office hours prominently displayed on your Canvas site and encourage students to use this as an alternative way of communicating with you. In the event, an undergraduate student continues to be unresponsive, consider sending a referral via the Canvas Referral Button (video directions) or via Canvas (PDF directions). This one-way communication tool allows faculty to directly notify student services about attendance, academic progress, or health/wellness (SOCAT) concerns. For graduate student concerns, please contact gradliaison@grad.usf.edu for academic issues or wellness, or use this online form.

I have a student I’m concerned about in one of my classes. What can I do to help in a remote learning environment?

With USF transitioned to remote instruction in response to COVID-19, faculty teaching in this new environment may have questions about how to recognize students of concern.  Depending on the nature of the course, the number of students enrolled, and the extent of contact faculty had with students in their physical classroom, recognizing students of concern may not be markedly different.  Here are some FAQs to help guide faculty in determining when students may need extra attention or referral to campus resources.

Additional questions and answers: 

What if a student demonstrates more adjustment problems than I might expect? 

This is a crucial concern.  If, particularly after an initial period of adjustment, a student seems overly frustrated, overwhelmed, or distressed, take note.  Encourage the student to speak with you during online office hours, or seek assistance from other campus resources (see Current Student Toolkit) to resolve technology concerns or frustrations with the online environment.  If concerns appear to be more personal (i.e., difficulty setting up an appropriate learning environment from home, personal and financial struggles), suggest the student check in with Student Outreach and Support, or the Counseling Center on their campus (see Current Student Toolkit).

What support services are available to students in online, classroom and hybrid learning environments?

All support services are being provided to students virtually while many services are also offered in-person through our offices. The most up-to-date information for essential student support services can be found on the Current Student Toolkit.

How is recognizing a student of concern different in an online environment?

In many respects, the same behaviors that concern you in a classroom environment continue to be concerning when learning remotely. Be particularly attuned to changes in behavior during this transition. Is a typically highly engaged student now seemingly disengaged? Are assignments late? Maybe the student has stopped showing up for instruction and is not attempting to engage you during office hours. Do they seem overly tired and now not interested in the course material? All of these changes may suggest that concerns are present or may be looming.

If a student demonstrates inappropriate classroom behavior during an online learning session, what are my options?

Reach out to the student first and invite them to meet with you during online office hours.  Talk with them to try to uncover the issues possibly behind the behaviors so you can have a better idea of an appropriate referral. Refer classroom disruptions to the office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, emotional or mental health concerns to the Counseling Center, and need for other services (on or off-campus) to Student Outreach and Support for their coordination. A referral to SOCAT (Students of Concern and Assistance Team) is always a good idea if there is a general concern about student well-being or if you are uncertain about where the student may be best served.

What student behaviors are most concerning and may warrant an immediate SOCAT referral?

Increasingly withdrawn behaviors, expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness, loss of interest in previously important activities, drop in academic performance, abrupt changes in mood, indications of increased aggressiveness, and talk (even in a seemingly joking manner) of harming oneself could all be indicators of deeper, more serious concerns. The more behaviors present, the greater the risk to the student. If you have concerns, particularly if the student is unresponsive to outreach attempts from you, complete a SOCAT referral.

What is the easiest way to make a SOCAT referral?

You can make a referral right from the left panel in a Canvas course. Click on “Refer Student,” drop down the class list and choose the student you want to refer. Indicate that it is a wellness/distress (SOCAT) referral. For further instruction see the video and PDF listed below:

Canvas Referral Button Video
Referrals in Canvas PDF

A student in my class has indicated they do not have access to internet connections, how can I assist them?

We acknowledge that technology gaps exist in our student population. For those students who lack access to technology that is necessary for remote learning, we are identifying computer labs that can be accessible for academic assignments. Students who do not have reliable Internet access are asked to contact their professors, directly and immediately, to find alternate opportunities for learning and completion of assignments.

What if a student needs accommodation?

Transitioning to online instruction may introduce unique questions about course accommodations and accessibility. Student Accessibility Services is available to discuss accommodations for individual students. Please contact Deborah McCarthy at dmccarthy@usf.edu. For general questions concerning on-line accessibility tools, see the Student Accessibility Services Accessibility Guide or visit https://www.usf.edu/student-affairs/student-accessibility.


Is my online material HIPAA and FERPA compliant?

When creating online content, please do not include personally identifiable information.  As a general rule, under the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), personally identifiable information may not be released from a student’s education records without his or her prior written consent. Faculty should be mindful that recordings that include a student’s voice and any reference to student records is subject to FERPA and is considered a student record and protected under FERPA.

HIPAA Compliance. When creating online content – please do not include Protected Health Information. In general, the Privacy Rule prohibits health care providers and health plans from using or disclosing an individual’s protected health information (PHI) without written authorization from the individual except for treatment, payment and health care operations. This is especially important for recordings, as they are viewable by anyone with a link.


How can I promote academic integrity within my course?

Please click here for an overview of tools and strategies on optimizing academic integrity.

How can I learn more about online proctoring solutions?

Please note that Proctorio is a sophisticated solution and we therefore recommend that prior to deploying it faculty:

What are the most common Canvas pitfalls?

Because items are “unpublished” when first created, do not forget to “publish” them when ready so that students can see the material. Another important suggestion is to hide the tools/buttons on the left side navigation that you do not need.


I’ve been using Microsoft Teams frequently to conduct meetings while working from home. What are some best practices I should consider when using Teams?

USF Information Technology has prepared Microsoft Teams Meetings: Best Practices and Etiquette document. Please refer to this for learning more about being safe online; tips for setting up your audio, video, and environment; joining a meeting; and attending and participating in a meeting.

Because of COVID-19, I’m using new software, receiving an influx of emails, and accessing the internet frequently to conduct my remote work. Should I be cautious of cyber threats? How do I protect myself?

According to Cyber Florida, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to significantly increased online activity with the bulk of business, government, and academic activities having to be conducted online. The resulting increase in online activity presents a significantly larger “attack surface” for cybercriminals and nation-states to exploit. Cyber Florida recommends taking these actions:

  • Update your computer operating system (such as Windows) and anti-virus regularly. Microsoft and anti-virus vendors are monitoring for COVID-19 malware and threats to release patches and updates to keep your computer safe. you should also set software applications, such as Microsoft Office (that’s different than your operating system), to auto-update whenever possible. Windows users can learn how to turn on auto-updates here: https://support.microsoft.com/enus/help/12373/windowsupdatefaq and Mac users can find out here: https://support.apple.com/guide/machelp/getmacosupdates-mchlpx1065/mac.
  • Be cautious of phishing emails, text messages, and phone calls asking for personal information, payment or some type of time-sensitive action. Cyber criminals are using fake emails, phone calls and even fake COVID-19 maps to infect your computer and take advantage of the situation. Do NOT click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or emails from unknown senders, especially those related to COVID-19 that promise ‘new’ information on symptoms, testing and testing appointments, treatments, etc. Beware of innocent-looking coronavirus-related apps and social media posts, as well. Stick with your trusted sources of information. Consider using a password manager, an application that generates and remembers unique, strong passwords. A review of popular password manager applications is available here: https://www.cnet.com/how-to/best-passwordmanager-for-2020.
  • Use unique and strong passwords with multi-factor authentication. Strong, unique passwords help secure your account. Using unique passwords for each of your accounts helps protect your accounts if one of your passwords becomes compromised. A ‘strong’ password is one that contains at least 12 characters, does not use common words, is not easy to guess (no pets’ names, kids’ names or birthdays) and contains a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Do not use the same password for multiple accounts.
  • If you access the internet via your home WIFI, make sure it, too, is password protected and if possible, encrypted. 
  • Use your company’s virtual private network (VPN), if provided. Virtual private networks provide a secure connection between your computer and your company to keep your information more secure. The University of South Florida provides virtual private network (VPN) software to all those with an active NetID. A VPN encrypts data traveling from your computer to the campus network. To learn more, visit https://www.usf.edu/it/documentation/virtual-privatenetwork.aspx.

For more insight on COVID-19-related cyber threats and recommended mitigation steps, please visit Cyber Florida’s online COVID-19 Cybersecurity Advisory Center.

I don’t have a suitable computer or high-speed internet access to support the design and delivery of instruction remotely. What do I do?

If a suitable computer and high-speed internet access are not available, you should consult with your chair/director to develop a plan to use the computer in your office, consistent with appropriate social distancing as needed to safeguard your health and that of the campus community. Should you need special accommodations, please consult with your supervisor. 

Please note: Given the reduced access to USF facilities when coming on to campus to conduct work or retrieve items, USF PD asks that you please be mindful of facility security and personal safety. If you see something, say something. 

If I download the Microsoft Teams app for my smartphone, will I incur data charges/minutes for using it for work meetings?

Yes, unless your phone is connected to home/other wireless connection.


I have many questions about my research and what I must report to the USF IRB. Where can I find more information about how my research may be affected?

The USF IRB SARS-CoV-2 Guidance for the Research Community document may be viewed here. If you need to contact the USF IRB, please be advised that the staff members, chairs and vice chairs are working remotely. If you have an urgent issue on which you need guidance, please send an e-mail to RSCH-IRB@usf.edu and an IRB manager will respond as quickly as possible. Applications, including initial applications and modifications, are being processed in the order in which they are received.  

If you need to make emergency revisions to your currently-approved protocol as a result of COVID-19, please send an e-mail to RSCH-IRB@usf.edu and provide the name of the principal investigator, study title and protocol number (Pro XXX or Study XXX) and the reason you are requesting an expedited review and we will do our best to accommodate your request.  
Other USF HRPP program staff members and ARC team members are also working remotely and can be reached via the following e-mail addresses: 

Please visit USF's Research and Innovation webpage for Sponsored Research at  for more information.

Who do I contact with questions about research operations at the University of South Florida?

The Office of Research & Innovation staff are working remotely, please visit https://www.usf.edu/research-innovation/about-usfri/covid-19-notice.aspx for further guidance, and for additional research frequently asked questions.

I am on a tenure-track faculty position. Will this disruption of my research activities extend my tenure clock?

The University of South Florida recognizes that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought about major disruptions in the lives of our faculty that may temporarily prevent or interrupt their scholarly productivity and achievements. This problem is especially acute for those faculty members in their probationary period who are working towards tenure. Therefore, the university is making available an extension to the tenure-clock by one academic year, for eligible tenure-earning faculty members. Please refer to the Faculty Guidelines for more information.


How can I request custodial services?

USF uses the FAMIS system for these work requests. Please visit https://www.usf.edu/administrative-services/facilities/requests/famis.aspx for more information pertaining to all three campuses. The FAMIS system is accessed through the business systems tab on MyUSF.  

I have ongoing research experiments and need to get into my lab; what do I do?

You should be able to get into your lab to complete ongoing experiments. Please consult with your chair/director to develop a plan to accomplish your research objectives while minimizing risk to our community.

Can I come to campus for brief periods to conduct face-to-face research group meetings with my students? Or should I do this remotely, off-campus?

To the extent possible, meetings should be conducted remotely. There may be exceptional circumstances where this is not feasible, but the intent of the current directive is to reduce face-to-face contact as per CDC guidelines. Please receive approval from your department/school chairs/directors and deans prior to scheduling such face-to-face meetings. Students should never be put in the position of feeling that they must attend a face-to-face meeting during the period of the university’s change in operations.

I am expecting a research collaborator from another university to visit and run some experiments in my lab. Will I need to cancel this collaborative work?

During our current phase, we encourage all researchers to continue to work remotely if possible and we discourage travel to and from the university. If a researcher has a collaborator on a project that is considered essential research and must be completed due to deadlines (degree related, grant related etc.), then the researcher should submit a request to the Covid-19 task force explaining why the research can’t be postponed, why it is important for the collaborator to come to campus, and how they plan on mitigating the risk of spreading the virus. Please note that the situation is fluid and that travel plans could be disrupted. In addition, visitors to the campus may be asked to self-isolate for two weeks before coming to campus, depending on their travel itinerary and their point of origin.

The researcher should submit their plan to the Covid-19 task force using VEOCI.

Will office staff be available for consultation only on email, or can I call them when I need assistance? If so, can I contact office staff who are working remotely only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or at any time?

Departments/schools will determine an appropriate distribution of individuals’ telephone numbers so that contact can be maintained. Office staff will be expected to maintain regular business hours even if working remotely. Please respect your colleagues' personal time and contact them only during regular business hours.

Since I am working remotely, and I can do that anywhere, am I required to stay in town?

 Please follow all current university policies and CDC travel recommendations. Be advised that all business travel has been prohibited until further notice, and personal travel is strongly discouraged. In any remote work scenario, you should remain readily available to come into the office, and in contact with your departmental office and supervisor. 

Do I still need to hold office hours?

Yes, students need a way to ask questions and receive instant answers. The recommended tool for virtual office hours within Canvas is Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Instructions on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra are provided within the Faculty Toolkit.

Can I continue to operate my research laboratory and go to field sites?

All essential research at the University of South Florida continues without interruption. If you feel your research is essential, then please submit your request to the Covid-19 Task Force using VEOCI. If your essential research includes travel, particularly if travel reimbursement is involved, it must be approved by the Covid-19 Task Force, the dean and the senior VP for the area. These approvals must be obtained prior to starting the research. In all cases, researchers must assure that all mitigation measures to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 are in place at all research sites, and are responsible for making sure they are followed by everyone engaged in the research (faculty, staff, students and visitors) in order to promote health and safety.

Can students continue to work in laboratories, studios, and field sites?

Student assignment in research activity may continue with approval of chair or supervisor if the space is not overly crowded (<5) and social distancing guidelines (maintaining a distance between individuals of 6–10 feet) can be achieved.

In addition to classes being delivered online, are there other facilities and services that may be impacted during this time?