Graduate School

Returning Safely to Campus: Guidelines

Dear Graduate Students,

We are delighted to see so many more students, faculty, and staff returning to campus. Since the very early days of the pandemic, the Brown community’s health and safety has been our top priority. Now, in service to this commitment, we are sharing the latest guidance on instruction and social gatherings for the fall semester. 

First, to recap some basic expectations: 

Vaccinations: As you know, we are requiring all faculty, staff, and students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have an approved medical or religious exemption. To date, our community has reached a 95% vaccination rate across all populations, and we expect this rate to increase as we approach the start of classes. As stated in the University’s COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy, we continue to monitor evolving public guidance on booster shots and are prepared to take appropriate action.

Masks: Subject to narrow instructional exceptions, set forth below, all individuals on campus must wear masks indoors unless in a private, non-shared space (e.g., office or dorm room) or when actively eating. 

Testing: All individuals on campus this semester must follow Brown’s current testing protocols. Specifically, Brown requires that vaccinated individuals be tested every seven days and unvaccinated individuals be tested every four days. (For further details, see President Paxson’s August 3 community message.) 

These requirements, along with our COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy, are based on the most up-to-date science of the novel coronavirus, guidance from governmental authorities, and advice from our own faculty experts. In several ways, our current policies go further than guidance from the Rhode Island Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help ensure the health and safety of our community.

For those of you who will be teaching and/or participating in departmental events, we have established the following guidelines, which have also been shared with our faculty: 


In light of our high vaccination rates, very low numbers of positive cases (the vast majority of which are asymptomatic), and scientific evidence that suggests a low risk of transmission among vaccinated individuals, we have a high degree of confidence at this time that we can safely return to in-person instruction in assigned classrooms and pre-pandemic density levels. 

(1) Arrival Time Frame: Instructors who have been away from campus should return in time to prepare for their courses. Again, please remember that you must participate in COVID-19 testing at the OMAC or One Davol testing sites in your first few days on campus. 

--Please visit Verily’s web application to schedule a test: 

(2) Instructional Modalities: Instructors, including teaching assistants, should proceed with their courses’ planned instructional modalities as originally proposed and listed in Courses@Brown. Courses that were previously proposed and planned with online or hybrid instruction for pedagogical reasons may proceed with their instructional methods. All other courses should proceed in-person from the start of the semester, including shopping period.

(3) Mask Wearing: While Brown continues to require all members of the community to wear masks indoors, fully vaccinated instructors may choose to remove their masks when they are speaking during the course of instruction (though they are not required to do so). Instructors who are teaching classes that require individual students or even groups of students to be unmasked (performing arts or music, for example) should complete the Fall 2021 Instructional Concerns survey, and the Provost’s Office will respond with guidance. Instructors can also reference the FAQ on the Provost’s Office website, which will be updated periodically with additional guidance.

(4) Student Attendance Policies: Instructors are encouraged to be flexible with their attendance policies for classes to accommodate the effect of public health protocols on student attendance. Some students may not be able to attend individual classes for a variety of reasons—including if they are not feeling well and have symptoms, are in isolation, or are quarantined due to their arrival date or vaccination status. The University continues to encourage students to use their best judgment to help keep themselves, their classmates and their instructors safe and healthy and to contact University Health Services if they are experiencing symptoms.

(5) Instructors with Symptoms: We recognize that instructors may experience cold or flu-like symptoms over the course of the semester. Brown’s policies for symptomatic instructors remain the same as they were last year. Graduate students should contact University Health Services (401-863-1330, if they are experiencing symptoms to obtain their guidance. Ultimately, instructors must exercise their best judgment, follow the advice of University Health Services, and not come to campus if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, even if that means rescheduling a class, transitioning an individual class session to be remote, or asking a colleague to help with instruction.

6) Instructors Who Have Been Exposed: Given current CDC guidance, vaccinated individuals who have been exposed to individuals with COVID-19 and are not symptomatic do not need to quarantine. Instructors who are asymptomatic and have been exposed should not alter their instructional plans unless advised to do so by their health care provider.


For social gatherings with colleagues and/or students this fall, such as start-of-year receptions or departmental retreats, rules similar to the guidelines for instruction also apply. Given our requirements for vaccination, routine testing, and mask wearing, such gatherings are allowed for our community to hold indoors or outdoors, either on campus or off campus. Instructors and leaders across campus must comply with the COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy and mask wearing requirements when hosting gatherings, and we ask that they use their best judgment on the size and location of gatherings and consider the following:

(1) Setting: Individuals and departments may hold gatherings indoors so long as the participants comply with the University’s mask wearing requirement and COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy. However, if possible, we suggest that beginning-of-the-year gatherings be held outside. Outdoor events may make some members of the community more comfortable and willing to participate. Attendees at outdoor events are also not required to wear masks (though they may if they choose to do so), unless they are unvaccinated and social distancing of six feet is not possible.

(2) Attendees: Gatherings must comply with the COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy and the guidance for visitors and guests that was recently announced by Russell Carey, Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy. Family members, for example, can be invited and likely will be considered limited-duration visitors, assuming they only visit campus three days or less each month. Limited-duration visitors do not need to report their vaccinations to the University and do not need to be a part of the routine testing program but do need to follow the COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy and, if they are unvaccinated, wear masks at all times.

The guidance set forth above is based on current health guidelines and advice from public health and medical professionals and is also consistent with protocols for teaching and instruction recently established by our peer higher education institutions. We will continue to monitor the public health situation and communicate any changes in policy or expectations. 

We have prepared a related set of FAQs on the Provost’s Office website, and we encourage all instructors  to send additional questions to As always, we will continue to provide updates as additional information and guidance becomes available.

In closing, we want to express our sincere gratitude for all you have done to get us to where we are today. We are incredibly proud of the resilience, fortitude and compliance that you all have shown and look forward to reconnecting on campus in the weeks ahead.

Thank you for your continued efforts and commitment.


Richard M. Locke

Andrew G. Campbell
Dean of the Graduate School

Related Links: 
President Paxson’s Aug. 3 community message