Student absence and attendance policies (September 28, 2021)

[Summary: This message offers clarification on how instructors may approach student absences due to illness. Instructors may not request evidence of vaccination or documentation of COVID-19 test results from students. We encourage instructors to adopt reasonable absence policies that are adaptive to the public health situation.] 

To: FAS faculty and all instructors in Yale College and the Graduate School  
Cc: FAS Dean’s Office; GSAS Dean’s Office; Yale College Dean’s Office; FAS Department Chair’s Assistants, Operations Managers, and Lead Administrators; President’s Office; Provost’s Office; COVID-19 coordinator; Poorvu Center 

Dear colleagues, 

We are grateful for your efforts to keep our campus and community safe over the first weeks of term. As September comes to a close and as cold and flu season approaches, we have heard questions about how to manage student attendance and absences. In this message, we offer clarification on what instructors may—and may not—ask of students in these circumstances. 

Some instructors have requested that students provide evidence of vaccination or documentation of COVID-19 test results in order to attend class. You may not request this information. A student’s vaccination status or COVID-19 test result is confidential medical information. You may not request this information from your students for any purpose, including for documenting absences or as a condition for attending class, nor may you restrict access to your class on the basis of a student’s apparent medical condition.  

As a reminder, measures are in place to keep our classrooms safe: 

  • Fully-vaccinated students are required to test weekly for COVID-19. Unvaccinated students must test twice weekly and complete a daily health check. Students who miss their mandatory tests may lose access to campus. The contact tracing team will alert close contacts of any student who tests positive. There is no need for instructors to track the COVID-19 test results of students.  
  • All students are required to wear masks during class, regardless of vaccination status. If students refuse to wear masks, you may ask them to leave and/or you may report them to Melanie Boyd, Yale College Dean of Student Affairs (undergraduates) or Matthew Tanico, Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Life (graduate students). 
  • Campus vaccination rates are high: 99.4% of undergraduates, 97.8% of graduate and professional students, 95.1% of faculty, and 92.5% of staff are vaccinated. These high vaccination rates protect us all. 
  • Campus COVID-19 positivity rates are extremely low. Updated case numbers are posted here on a daily basis. 

Each instructor is responsible for determining the class absence policy, and we strongly encourage instructors to develop reasonable absence policies that are adaptive to the public health situation, and to communicate those policies clearly to students.  It is a reality that, with winter approaching, some students will become ill with colds or flu. Without reasonable absence policies, students may elect to attend class while sick, exposing others to illnesses. To avoid incentivizing attendance when students are ill, we urge flexibility. You may, for instance, allow students a designated number of undocumented absences without penalty, or, as outlined in the message sent on August 30, you may offer remote instruction to students who are ill. The Poorvu Center has developed resources that provide guidance on how to approach academic continuity in cases of student absence. Please remember that, by longstanding policy, residential college deans cannot provide excuses for class absences in cases of illness. 

Thank you for your understanding, and for all that you do for our students and for our community. 

Best wishes, 

Tamar, Marvin, and Lynn 

Tamar Szabó Gendler
Dean, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Marvin Chun
Dean of Yale College

Lynn Cooley
Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences