Information for Faculty and Staff

Find information intended for faculty and staf to answer questions that members of the Penn State Smeal community might have regarding the college’s response to the evolving COVID-19 situation.

The following information is intended to answer questions that members of the Penn State Smeal community might have regarding the college’s response to the evolving COVID-19 situation. Updates will also be available on the Penn State Coronavirus Website.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have a student in class who told me they went and got tested because they were concerned that they may have been exposed. Will I be notified if this student needs to quarantine?

It is good news that students are getting tested if they feel they may have been exposed. Students who self-identify as contacts are not part of the formal contact tracing process and instructors will not be notified through the normal process. When students are tested through University testing processes, they are counselled as to what qualifies as a close contact and advised to quarantine for 14 days from the time of that contact irrespective of whether the test comes back positive or negative as symptoms may appear between 2-14 days after the last contact with a positive individual. If a student lives in the residence hall and identifies themself as a contact, they should speak with their RA or Residence Life Coordinator to relocate to the designated quarantine space on campus. Students are encouraged to contact their instructors and make them aware of their situation, and instructors are encouraged to provide the same support they would for those identified through the formal process. Students who believe they are a close contact can report this to the University using the Student COVID-19 Self-Referral Form at

What is Penn State’s COVID-19 surveillance testing program for employees?

As part of Penn State’s multi-pronged COVID-19 testing program, surveillance testing of approximately 1% of the population — including employees — will be conducted each day throughout the semester.

Asymptomatic cases require isolation and assessment of the level of any potential spread of the virus in the employee population. By testing as many people as possible, Penn State hopes to minimize the risk of infection on each campus and in local communities.

For answers to employee questions about this testing program, please visit and select “Surveillance Testing for Employees” on the left side of the page.

Faculty who were employed by Penn State as of Spring 2020 were given a one-year extension to their provisional tenure period. Will this extension apply to faculty hired since Spring 2020?

In March 2020, Penn State extended the provisional tenure period for all faculty in their pre-tenure probationary period as defined in University policy AC23. In recognition of the impact the pandemic has had on faculty members in the probationary period, the extension is now being offered to all tenure-line faculty in their probationary period during the calendar year 2020. This means that any faculty member in probationary status during calendar year 2020 can request a one-year extension by completing the online Confirmation of Extension of the Probationary Period Due to COVID-19 form.

When confirmation of the tenure clock extension is received, the faculty member’s probationary period will be adjusted, and the dates of all formal reviews will move forward one year. This extension is not a stay but a response to the negative impacts that COVID-19 may have on a faculty member’s research, teaching, and service.

A faculty member must confirm acceptance of the extension no later than April 1 of the penultimate year of the probationary period by completing the aforementioned form. Confirmation of the extension may be submitted at any time up until April 1 of the penultimate year of the probationary period. Once confirmed, the extension may be relinquished once.

Details are available here and an FAQ about the extension is available here.

As a faculty member, if I have potential symptoms of COVID-19, what should I be telling my students while I am awaiting testing? What should I tell my students if I am diagnosed?

Faculty and staff have the same rights to privacy of their health information as everyone else (see AD22 and AD53). Employees, including faculty, do not have an obligation to share their protected health information or testing status with students.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive or have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, you should leave work if you are at work, notify your academic administrator (department head/school director/CAO/DAA), contact Occupational Medicine at 814-863-8492, and contact your personal healthcare provider. Do not hold classes or meet with students in-person if you have symptoms or have been told to quarantine or isolate. You may hold your class remotely as you are able. If you are ill and not able to have class, work with your academic administrator to plan an alternative. You do not need to share the reason why you are ill with your academic administrator. Some colleges/campuses have class cancellation policies that will need to be followed.

You do not need to share with your class that you are absent due to a COVID diagnosis or symptoms or that you are in quarantine or isolation. As explained in an FAQ in this Digest on Friday, September 11, if you test positive for COVID-19, then contact tracers will work with you to identify your close contacts. Generally speaking, in traditional classroom settings with proper masking and physical distancing, instructors and students will not be considered close contacts of each other.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19 or have been exposed to COVID-19? 

Please stay home and contact Occupational Medicine at or 814-863-8492 if, in the past 14 days, you:  have a new cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, or muscle aches. The CDC recently added symptoms to watch for that may come with the disease: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell.  When you call, please inform Occupational Medicine of your symptoms and recent travel or potential exposure. Learn more here.

What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19?

If you test positive or are diagnosed with COVID-19 by your care provider, stay home and follow their instructions for isolation, inform Occupational Medicine at or 814-863-8492 , your supervisor or department of the diagnosis, as well as any of your close contacts. (Close contacts are people you have been within six feet of for at least 15 minutes while you were sick, or in the 48 hours before you were sick.) Close contacts should then self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor their health. Learn more here.

What should I do if I am feeling unwell?

Please stay home and contact Occupational Medicine at or 814-863-8492 if in the past 14 days, you:  have a new cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, or muscle aches. The CDC recently added symptoms to watch for that may come with the disease: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell.  When you call, please inform Occupational Medicine of your symptoms and recent travel or potential exposure.

What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?

Both isolation and quarantine are public health practices used to stop or limit the spread of disease but they are distinctly different measures.  Isolation is used to separate ill persons who have a communicable disease from those who are healthy. Isolation restricts the movement of ill persons to help stop the spread of certain diseases.  Quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease to see if they become ill. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms. Quarantine can also help limit the spread of communicable disease.  Isolation and quarantine are used to protect the public by preventing exposure to infected persons or to persons who may be infected.

What is the difference between a close contact, shared contact, and area contact?

Close contacts are people you have been within six feet of for at least 15 minutes.  Shared contacts are people that you share equipment and/or workstations with.  Area contacts are people in the same building but not in close or shared contact with.  

I am an employee of the Smeal College of Business and I have questions about Penn State policies related to COVID-19.  What are my resources?

Penn State Human Resources contains information on policies related to COVID-19. 

What should I do to protect myself when entering buildings – touching door handles, light switches, handrails, elevator buttons, faucets, etc.?  

High-traffic areas within buildings are having frequently touched surfaces like restrooms, handrails and door handles disinfected routinely, using an EPA-approved disinfectant, following enhanced cleaning protocols that are in place.  The best preventive measure for on-campus employees remains frequent handwashing. After entering a building to perform the necessary tasks, do not touch your face, and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds periodically while working in the building.  

Should I be wearing a cloth/general mask while on campus?

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, all should be using some type of covering. The University will provide cloth masks to employees whose responsibilities necessitate working on campus in accordance with the guidance issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. In addition, please refer to the University’s cloth mask guidance document for proper use and care.  If you have access to cloth masks from home, they must meet the guidance outlined by the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health for cloth face coverings.

How do I know if a co-worker might be infected even if they are not expressing signs of being sick?

According to the CDC, people may be able to spread the virus even if they are not showing any symptoms, therefore, please follow the preventive measures recommended by the University at all times while on campus. These include maintaining social distancing, washing your hands often, wearing a cloth mask, and establishing cleaning procedures for common touch points with your supervisor.

How will I know if someone on campus has been infected with the COVID-19 virus?

Penn State Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), in coordination with University Health Services and Human Resources, has developed reporting protocols related to COVID-19 cases (suspected or confirmed) on Penn State campuses. Supervisors working with facility coordinators will identify and restrict access to affected locations based on a risk assessment approach. Those areas deemed restricted entry will be marked with signage alerting employees. Supervisors will need to assess if other employees in the area came into “close contact” or “shared contact" with the suspected COVID-19 case. If employees have come into “close contact” or “shared contact” with the ill individual, those employees will be notified, per the instructions for supervisors who are responding to reported COVID-19 cases.

Do I need gloves to perform my daily tasks?

If your daily tasks did not previously require the use of gloves as protection during your routine work or were not defined by unit procedures, then you do not need them. The best preventive measure for on-campus employees remains frequent hand-washing. After performing the necessary work tasks, do not touch your face and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

Do I need an N95 respirator to perform my daily tasks?

If your daily tasks did not previously require the use of a N95 respirator as protection for your routine work, then you do not need one.

Can I chat with my colleagues in the hallway of the Business Building?

Yes, as long as you are practicing social distancing and mask wearing.

News for Faculty

This twice-weekly email is designed to provide faculty with Penn State’s pandemic-related news and updates. Watch for these emails on Tuesdays and Fridays, with additional “special editions” delivered periodically. Previous faculty news digests are archived here.

How is the University working with the Borough of State College and officials in other campus communities to encourage adherence to the Governor’s order to wear face coverings when six feet of social distance cannot be maintained?

Several cooperative initiatives are underway. The Office of Government and Community Relations, Student Affairs, and Strategic Communications are actively working with local government leaders, businesses, landlords, and community leaders to collaborate on communications and enforcement. We understand that the Borough of State College is in the process of drafting a new ordinance that would give them more tools to enforce the Governor’s mask-wearing order, which they are targeting for passage in early August.  

At the Commonwealth Campuses, Chancellors and their staffs have been reaching out to their local government and community leaders on a regular basis since March to share news and receive feedback. In addition, the University’s social marketing campaign to promote responsible behavior is being developed so it can be shared with local partners in government and business, and local leaders have been involved in the development of the campaign.

We fully understand that the University and the community must work together to address the many challenges ahead, and we have been committed to doing so since the start of this pandemic. For more on these efforts, read this Penn State News article.


What are the “Start from Home” and “Continue from Home” flexible options that have been announced for students?

Students will be enrolled but will not be required to be on campus. Start from Home is for first-year students, while Continue from Home is for upperclass students. Learn more about Start from Home and Continue from Home. Also, you are invited to attend a special webinar on this topic from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Monday, July 20. Contact Judy Wills for Zoom log-in information. 

Answers to more Fall 2020 FAQs geared toward Penn State faculty are available on the “Keep Teaching” website.

Latest News of Importance to Faculty

Key Reminders for Faculty

For More Information

To obtain comprehensive, updated information at any time, please review:

Classroom Information

Will we ask students to sign a document releasing the university from responsibility if they contract COVID while with us?

We are not aware of such a requirement currently. The only such requirement of which we are aware relates to the adherence to certain behavioral norms, which is addressed within the Code of Conduct.

Can we install plexiglass in the front of classrooms so that the instructor can move around near the podium and still have protection?

The Office of Physical Plant (OPP) has indicated that such barriers would not provide much additional safety if everyone wears a mask and that the barriers would provide very little protection if masks are not worn.

Are portable/temporary classrooms in the Meadow a possibility?

We have investigated the use of a tent that would be placed in the meadow for “meet and greet” sessions, but such a tent would only accommodate 50 people. We don’t view this as a viable option for classes. Space limitations associated with temporary classrooms (for example, a single-wide trailer) would not allow for necessary social distancing.

If a faculty member wants to teach in person and requests a bigger classroom, will they lose their current classroom if their request can’t be accommodated?

We are making provisions for faculty members to retain classrooms in such situations.

Is there clarity on how many students can fit in a classroom at the same time? Will this information be available in LionPath?

General purpose classrooms were loaded into CollegeNET earlier this week, and information on departmental rooms, conference rooms, and others will be coming soon. It is believed that LionPath will pull from CollegeNET, so this information should be included there.

It is possible to obtain a layout file of the classroom so that a seating chart for the classroom can be created and maintained?

Maps are available, but not for seating, given the new capacity changes.

Are the classrooms expected to be modified beyond spacing including strategically placed plexiglass?

We have not yet received any information that such modifications will be made.

Future Planning

When will the decision be made about spring 2021 semester?

We do not know when the University will decide about spring semester. Plans for the fall semester continue to evolve, and it is reasonable to expect that our learnings will shape the plans for spring. The pandemic will likely still be with us in the spring, though treatments and vaccines may be available. Recent events illustrate how rapidly conditions are changing and the disease is spreading.

Is there an update on August graduation?

At this time, we have received no update, but we will inquire.

Business Building

Would it be possible to designate entrance-only and exit-only doors to the building?

Yes, the OPP and our Pandemic Officer are working on plans to outfit the Business Building with directional arrows and highlighted pathways.

Do you have any updates on air circulation or recirculation (inside vs outside) in the building and any changes/adjustments/updates?

Filters will be upgraded, and window opening will be encouraged.

Student Support

The University announced that students have until June 30th to opt out of their 2020/2021 dorm contract. This seems to be counter to Nick Jones' comments that the class delivery methods would be settled in mid-July which would be in time for students/families to make decisions.  Could we get clarification on how to respond to student's inquiries on this issue?

We will seek clarification on this question.

Many domestic and international students are not able to return to campus. How can we help them make progress or graduate in the fall?

We are committed to helping to meet the needs of our remote learners. The eLDIG team can help faculty members design a mode to accommodate these situations.

Teaching Information

Is the college supportive of mixed-mode instruction? For example, if faculty are willing to be creative and incorporate some sort of in-person component to their class, are you supportive of such creativity?


Are we able to provide new faculty members a tentative office assignment?

The complex process of rearranging and allocating offices is underway.

What options will we have to administer exams if we are holding in person classes?

Examity, an electronic remote assessment option, will be available in the fall. This will employ Artificial Intelligence (AI) rather than live proctoring. The cost of this option is still being determined.

Some have inquired about using larger classrooms for exams. While this is a possibility, accommodating all the requests will likely be a challenge. It might be possible to conduct assessments in class prior to November 20. Perhaps rather than assessing half the class one day and other half the next day, perhaps assign half the class to take even-numbered assessments, and the other half the odd ones.

For those classes that involve significant student involvement (debriefing exercises, etc.), is there any possible way to have cameras and microphones on the students? 

Historically, University policy precluded us from requiring students to turn on video/microphones for routine classes but did permit such a requirement for assessments.

This may change in light of the current situation. If it does, we will be sure to notify community members.

For faculty with concerns about live teaching in the fall, what is the process to submit a request to teach in synchronous remote format?

A process for decision making is being developed. We expect greater clarity in the coming week.

Will all PSU 6 classes (40+ sections) operate the same?

Additional provisions for social distancing will likely be necessary for many classes.

There is a solid version of an online PSU6. Employing it for all sections might be the best solution.

How do we teach the students who are remote on certain days?

With some online capabilities (recorded modules, etc.), it may be possible to engage students in chats, threaded discussions, or via Zoom. Recordings can also be made.

Will we be asked to teach the same lesson twice - once face to face and once remotely?

We will need to be creative to accommodate remote students, but solutions that fall short of an outright repeat should be possible.

Will students be given the option to fully participate remotely if they have concerns, underlying health issues?

Yes, all courses will need to accommodate students who opt for remote or asynchronous learning.

Will instructors be permitted to wear clear plastic face shields in the classroom instead of face masks?

The science and guidance are very clear that the best-case scenario is a mask and a face shield, with the mask significantly more beneficial than the shield.  A shield alone does not provide much benefit.

COVID Information

Will the re-opening plan provide for a rapid response to the discovery of a new case of COVID-19, including identification of those who have been exposed?

There is a task group working on this, led by co-chairs Kevin Black, dean, College of Medicine, and Steve Tracey, executive director of the Center for Supply Chain Research.

Penn State Resources

Working Remotely

Will employees continue to work remotely through the summer?

In light of Gov. Tom Wolf's phased reopening plan for Pennsylvania, which calls for telework to continue when feasible even where other activities are set to resume, Penn State faculty and staff at all campuses who are currently working remotely should plan on continuing to do so through at least the end of May unless otherwise advised by their supervisor or unit leadership.

Where can I find information about telecommuting?

Teaching Resources

Where can I find information about teaching and learning with technology?

    • Please click here for the most up-to-date information strategies, resources, and solutions to ensure that students receive the instruction they need during this time.
    • If you need teaching with technology support, please email
    • Cengage is providing students and instructors the option to use its online platforms at no charge for the rest of the term by providing students complimentary access to Cengage Unlimited, and therefore, access to all courseware and eTexts during this time. Cengage’s entire catalog is available for students if you are looking for an online solution in any course. Please take advantage of this offer and inform your students at your discretion.

Student Support

If you are aware of a student who is experiencing emotional distress, financial hardship, difficulty accessing food, or a similar challenge, please consider the following:

 Updated Thursday, September 24