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Graduate Assistant Health and Safety Guidance

August 17, 2020

Updated 8/24/2020

The health and safety of graduate students is our highest priority, and together as a community we must take the necessary precautions to ensure the wellbeing of all students, faculty, and staff.  The purpose of this document is to highlight the guidance and resources available to the community, clarify the requirements for a physical presence on campus, and articulate the consequences of behavior that puts others at increased risk.  We expect all members of the community to comply with the University’s established health and safety protocols, and it is each of our responsibility to do so.

Campus Guidance and Resources

In collaboration with federal, state, and local experts and officials, the University has developed guidance to inform everyone of their responsibilities in adhering to health and safety expectations for returning to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:

In addition, the Division of Student Affairs has developed guidance for all students, which includes information about sanctions for failing to comply with safety measures. University Human Resources and the Office of Faculty affairs have developed parallel guidance for staff and faculty.

Graduate students should periodically review the above resources, as health and safety expectations may change over time as conditions related to the pandemic warrant.

Reporting Concerns

If you witness someone violating these health and safety protocols, we encourage graduate students to report it to the appropriate office. If it involves:

Overall Compliance Approach

The health and safety of our University community relies on community compliance with all University health and safety procedures. Each student is expected to take the Community Responsibility Pledge and adhere to the health and safety expectations and practices articulated in our published guidelines.  Campus administrators are expected to participate in all health and safety measures and explain to students the mutual safety benefits of participation.  Campus administrators should work proactively with students to identify and resolve barriers to participation, and use positive reinforcement to address deviations from the established protocols and practices.

Graduate Assistants

Graduate students who are offered a graduate assistantship (GA) that requires an on-campus presence, but who do not wish to be on campus for health reasons, should request an alternative assignment from their faculty advisor, director of graduate studies, or department chair. Programs will make best efforts to find an alternative assignment and to honor funding commitments.

Graduate students who accept an assistantship that requires an on-campus presence must comply with established University health and safety protocols, procedures, and policies.  A significant deviation from these practices and protocols may be interpreted as a violation of those requirements.  Should a GA deviate significantly from the practices and protocols set forth in the Community Responsibility Pledge, the GA’s supervisor or a unit head (typically a director, chair, or dean) should address the deviation by following the process below.

Significant Deviation from Protocols/Guidance.  For the purpose of this guidance, “significant deviation” is defined as any behavior that fails to comply with the University’s COVID-related safety practices and protocols for the workplace, which, if continued, could undermine the University’s ability to safeguard the health and safety of the University community.  Significant deviation does not include inadvertent or isolated deviations from the established safety practices and protocols.

Supervisor or Unit Head Intervention.  When a student’s supervisor or the unit head is made aware of a significant deviation from the health and safety practices and protocols, either through direct observation or a witness report, that individual, in consultation with their local academic administrators, should:

  1. Notify the GA verbally and via email (sample email below) the observed or reported deviation.

  2. Provide the GA an opportunity to verify the accuracy of the reported deviation and provide a reason for the deviation.

  3. Ask the GA if they have any questions about the relevant safety standards that they violated.

  4. Ask the GA whether the University can assist with improving future compliance. ( “How can we help you comply with the safety practice or protocol? Do you have any concerns, issues, or needs about which we should be aware?”)

  5. Remind the GA that adherence to the safety practices and protocols helps to ensure the safety of all members of the campus community, as well as their families and friends.

  6. Review the faculty member’s Community Responsibility Pledge, with particular attention paid to the language relevant to the health and safety protocols and expectations.

Subsequent Occurrences.  When a supervisor or unit head is made aware of subsequent significant deviations by the same GA, they should meet with the GA and repeat the above six steps. The supervisor or unit head should ask the GA whether there are any questions regarding the Community Responsibility Pledge and expected compliance.

The supervisor or unit head should also follow up the discussion with an email that reinforces the discussion and the need for adherence to health and safety expectations. The supervisor or unit head should copy the relevant Dean (or Deans in the case of joint appointments) and the Office of Student Conduct on the email sent to the GA.

Implementation of Corrective Action 

Intentional and Repeated Deviations. When a GA continues to demonstrate significant deviations after two attempts to achieve their voluntary compliance, the supervisor or unit head should email the relevant Dean (or Deans in the case of joint appointments), the Dean of the Graduate School (graduate-dean@umd.edu), and the Office of Student Conduct.

Egregious Occurrences.  When a supervisor or unit head is made aware of subsequent significant deviations by the same GA, or a single deviation that is intentional and egregious, they should submit a referral to the Office of Student Conduct, copying the relevant Dean and the Dean of The Graduate School (graduate-dean@umd.edu). For the purpose of this guidance, an “intentional and egregious” deviation is defined as any intentional behavior that fails to comply with the University’s COVID-related safety standards and poses a substantial and imminent danger to the health and safety of the University community.

A review of the matter by the Office of Student Conduct, Dean, and The Graduate School will determine any next steps and/or disciplinary action.  At the sole discretion of the University, the consequences or repeated or egregious deviations may result in:

  • Immediate removal of the GA from the workplace,

  • Immediate termination of the assistantship (and all associated benefits),

  • Denial of access to University resources and facilities, and/or

  • Additional sanctions as delineated in guidance from the Office of Student Conduct, including suspension and expulsion.

Disputes. Any disciplinary action taken may be reviewed through the relevant grievance procedure.  GAs with questions about these policies and procedures are encouraged to contact the Graduate Ombusperson (gradschool.umd.edu/about-us/ombuds-office). 

Reporting of Deviations.  Any member of the University community may report deviations from safety practices and protocols.  Reports should be directed to the advisor, unit head, or the Office of Student Conduct. Reports may also be submitted to the University’s compliance hotline.

No Retaliation.  There shall be no retaliation against any member of the University community for good faith reporting of perceived significant deviations by University GAs.

Any questions or concerns regarding this guidance should be directed to Steve Fetter, Dean of the Graduate School (graduate-dean@umd.edu)

Appendix - Initial Non-Compliance Sample Email

Dear [Student Name]:

Protecting the health and safety of the University community during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak is essential to stop the spread of the virus.  

As  responsible members of our University community, we all are expected to comply with the health and safety protocols instituted by the University in response to best practices and guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and state, local, and University health officials.  These protocols are detailed on the The Keep Terps Safe portal, which includes a required video that everyone must view and the Community Responsibility Pledge by which everyone must abide.

On [insert date], [insert name] observed you [insert noncompliant behavior]. The Graduate School’s Graduate Assistance Health and Safety Guidance requires that units notify a GA, verbally and via email, when a GA is observed deviating from the University’s health and safety protocols. That Graduate School’s guidance also outlines the steps for corrective actions, and any disputes.

As a GA, you are a valuable member of our community and a role model to others.  It is essential for you to comply with established health and safety protocols at all times.   Further non-compliance will lead to disciplinary action.  It is my hope and expectation that this will not be necessary.  Please contact me if you have any questions about the content of this letter or the guidance provided to you.

 

Contact Information

The Graduate School, University of Maryland

2123 Lee Building
7809 Regents Drive
College Park, MD 20742
301-405-3644
gradschool@umd.edu