Sept. 7, 2021

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

Following our previous message, we write to you today to provide additional information regarding our face mask recommendation in all indoor spaces. In particular, we would like to share and emphasize the attached set of recommendations designed to encourage mask-wearing on campus. Chancellor Hicswa sent these recommendations to all university students and employees, and you are welcome to share them with students in your classes. The recommendation to wear face masks indoors is based on the continuing rise in the number of active COVID-19 cases in Yellowstone County. MSU Billings strongly recommends that all campus community members, regardless of vaccination status, wear face masks indoors on University and City College campuses. This recommendation is aligned with guidelines from our local public health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We continue to monitor this situation closely and will provide appropriate guidance if the situation deteriorates.

To ensure the safety of everyone on campus and in the community, and to reduce the likelihood of additional COVID-related restrictions, we ask you to do the following:

  • Consult the COVID-19 Central Faculty FAQs, which address important issues related to classes. As appropriate, please feel free to use materials from these FAQs in your syllabi, including the following language about mask-wearing in class:
    • MSU Billings recommends that everyone wear a face mask indoors to protect the health and safety of our campus community. Due to the continuing rise in the number of active COVID-19 cases in Yellowstone Country, local public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a face mask indoors to keep our campus community safe. Collective partnership and collaboration are needed to keep our case numbers low so that we can continue engaging in high-quality, in-person teaching and learning. According to the CDC, vaccination offers the best protection against COVID-19 severe disease symptoms, hospitalization, and fatality.
  • Set an example for your students by wearing a face mask in your instructional space and inside all campus buildings. The most effective way of ensuring that your students wear a face mask is by modeling the desired behavior.
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, at the start of every class session, respectfully and politely ask your students to join you and their classmates in wearing a face mask. Ask for their partnership.
  • Always have spare face masks available for those who have forgotten to bring theirs. Your department can request disposable masks and make them available to you.
  • Please remember that the campus has recommended that we all wear face masks within indoor spaces. There is no requirement to do so. Noncompliant students shall not be singled out or shamed. There shall be no consequence for noncompliance. No academic reward shall be based on a student wearing a face mask. No punitive measure shall be based on a student not wearing a face mask. Likewise, there shall be no disparate treatment of students based on their vaccination status.

We believe the simple actions mentioned above will encourage more individuals to wear a face mask within our instructional spaces. While participation may not be 100%, we believe the collective goodwill expressed by the majority of individuals will significantly increase safety in our classrooms.

We continue to monitor this situation daily, including the number of positive cases in Yellowstone County and on our campus. If we start experiencing a high rate of COVID-19 infections on campus, we will revisit our health and safety approach and make appropriate recommendations.

We thank you for your tireless and never-ending care for our students, and for always providing the highest quality learning experiences to ensure our students continue to grow personally, academically, and professionally. Please do not hesitate to contact any one of us if you have any questions or if you require additional information.

Sincerely,

Joy Honea, President, Faculty Association, Professor, Social Sciences & Cultural Studies
Jen Lynn, Chair, Academic Senate, Associate Professor, History
Vern Gagnon, Vice President, Montana Two-Year College Faculty Association, Chair, Nursing, Health, and Public Safety
Sep Eskandari, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Sept. 1, 2021

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

Welcome to the 2021-22 academic year! We hope your summer was restful as well as intellectually productive. You, the faculty, play a pivotal role in supporting our students and advancing our academic mission, and we express our gratitude to you for the heroic work done last year under challenging conditions.

As we prepare for the start of classes and for welcoming our students back to campus, we would like to share some information related to COVID-19 and our campus readiness for the fall semester. The safety of our students, faculty, and staff, and ensuring that our faculty and students remain engaged in high-quality teaching and learning experiences remain our top priorities.

Due to the recent rise in the number of active COVID-19 cases in Yellowstone County, MSU Billings recommends that all campus community members, regardless of vaccination status, wear face masks indoors on University and City College campuses. This recommendation is aligned with guidelines from our local public health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We recognize that you have many questions on how to conduct your classes this fall. Our COVID-19 Central page provides answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) for students, faculty, and staff. Because the situation changes frequently, please check this page regularly for the latest updates. Please work with your Department Chair and College Dean to address any issues not covered in the FAQs. And, of course, send any questions you may have to covidquestions@msubillings.edu.

As you finalize your course syllabi for the fall semester, it may be useful to adopt standard syllabus language provided by our future Center for Teaching and Learning, found under eLearning (see Syllabus Resources under the Policy Resources tab). It may also be helpful to your students to provide a link in your syllabi to the Student Resources A-Z page. This is a very useful one-stop resource page for your students.

Thank you for all that you do in support of our students and our academic mission. We wish you a fulfilling, productive, and safe fall semester and academic year. Please do not hesitate to contact any one of us if you have any questions or if you require additional information.

Sincerely,

Joy Honea, President, Faculty Association, Professor, Social Sciences & Cultural Studies
Jen Lynn, Chair, Academic Senate, Associate Professor, History
Vern Gagnon, Vice President, Montana Two-Year College Faculty Association, Chair, Nursing, Health, and Public Safety
Sep Eskandari, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs