FAQs for GSIS
The following are frequently asked questions by Graduate Student Instructors for Fall 2021.
Will GSIs be Teaching Remotely?
Unless instructed otherwise by your department or by the University, GSIs will be teaching in person this fall. While large courses with 200 students or more will be taught remotely, GSI sections of those courses, unless otherwise indicated by your department, will be conducted in person. GSIs should bookmark and regularly check the Return-to-Campus Website for any changes in campus policies.
Can a GSI teach if they are not vaccinated or only have had one of two doses of the vaccine?
Specific guidelines for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated students can be found on the University Health Services Summer and Fall COVID 19 Guidelines for Students website. Please note that the steps you need to take may depend on whether you live on or off campus and whether you have travelled internationally or from out of state. GSIs should follow these guidelines as well.
If I have a medical condition or medical caregiving responsibilities that make me unable to teach in person, may I teach remotely?
Please consult the Remote Alternatives/Accommodations for In-Person Instruction Fall 2021 to ascertain the steps you should take. If you want to request an accommodation, you may do so through the Berkeley Accommodation Process for Academic Appointees with Disabilities. This relates only to accommodations in relation to your employment; accommodations you may need as a student should be directed to the Disabled Students’ Program.
Can GSIs receive an exception from in-person teaching because of a small child at home?
Having a child at home under 12 will not make an instructor eligible for an accommodation. The campus plans to make N95 masks available for free for instructors in that situation.
Can a position that was offered to me be rescinded if I have a medical condition or caregiving responsibilities that prevent me from teaching in person?
Article 3 of the collective bargaining agreement addresses appointment security. Please see the answer above and consult Disability Management Services for assistance with requests for accommodation that cannot be resolved by the employee and the department.
Can I hold office hours remotely?
Your supervising faculty member (the Instructor of Record) will inform you as to where you may offer office hours and address any questions you may have. As per the Graduate Council Policy on Appointments and Mentoring of GSIs, faculty members who teach with GSIs are required to meet with GSIs before the semester begins to review the course syllabus, clarify GSI responsibilities in the course, and, in the case of discussion sections and labs, describe the relationship of sections to lecture. Where you hold office hours may depend, in part, on the nature of the class.
Is distancing required in the classroom?
Unless otherwise indicated by the University, distancing is not required.
Currently, the University has a mask mandate in place. However, when such a mandate is not in place, may I still wear one in teaching?
Yes, you are free to voluntarily wear a mask even when the masking mandate is lifted. See the Instructor Guidance on the Return-to-Campus webpage.
When the University’s masking mandate is lifted, can I require students in my section to wear masks?
No, you may ask students to wear masks, but you cannot require it if the University has not mandated it. Please see the Instructor Guidance offered on the Return-to-Campus webpage, as the masking mandate may shift throughout the semester.
Are masks available to me as part of my GSI position?
UC Berkeley continues to offer free cloth face coverings to all employees. GSIs are also welcome to pick up a free box of disposable surgical masks for their classroom, department or office. Instructors will also be able to pick up a face shield with a drape once they arrive. See the cloth face coverings distribution schedule for pick up times and location.
As a GSI, I need to be able to see my students enunciate words and they need to see how I pronounce sounds. Can clear masks or shields be made available?
The university is ordering face shields with a drape to be used by instructors. GSIs may also request boxes of surgical masks they can make available to their students. Such requests may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the University has a mask requirement in place and students do not comply, am I allowed to ask the students to leave my class out of caution not only for myself but also for other students?
If the campus has an indoor mask mandate at the time, then students must follow it, in the same way that they must conform to elements of the Code of Student Conduct or other campus policies. If a student shows up to class or office hours without a mask, you may remind the student of the requirement and ask them to put on their mask. If the student refuses to put one on, you may ask the student to leave, just as you would ask a student who is being disruptive to either cease their disruptive behavior or leave. If you cannot control the situation yourself, you may end class early for the well-being of all.
Please do not call the police if a student is not wearing a mask. Please report such a student to the Center for Student Conduct (CSC). The CSC will need the students’ name, SID and other relevant information submitted via the online report form.
To head off this situation, remind your students ahead of time of whatever indoor face covering requirement is in effect at the start of the semester. You could add it to the first slide of your first presentation, write a reminder on the board, and/or put something on the syllabus that states that students must adhere to the current campus directives related to COVID-19 and refusal to do so may result in the student being asked to leave. GSIs welcome to pick up a free box of disposable surgical masks for their classroom, department or office, which they can then offer to students who may have forgotten to bring a mask. Requests for masks may be sent to: email@example.com.
How should departments respond to union inquiries about their members enforcing mandates on top of their teaching responsibilities?
Like other academic conduct policies which GSIs may be asked to monitor (e.g., cheating or plagiarism), the ultimate responsibility for enforcement lies with the faculty member who may delegate this responsibility to the GSIs. As with all other responsibilities, faculty need to convey to GSIs how any infractions of policy should be handled and by whom. Similarly, GSIs should keep the Instructor of Record apprised of any conduct matters that need attention. The time it takes for a GSI to monitor and resolve issues that may be delegated to them must be factored into the GSI workload.
Can I ask students if they are vaccinated?
No, instructors cannot inquire about the vaccination status of their students. See the Instructor Guidance webpage.
If a student tells me they are not vaccinated, can I ask them to connect with the class remotely?
All students have been asked to upload proof of vaccination. Those who may not be able to be vaccinated (for example, due to a medical condition), are required by the University to go through regular testing. Your responsibility is to provide the same degree of access to in-person instruction to all students, so you cannot make the decision to ask a student to attend your section remotely. Should a student become ill, you should speak with the Instructor of Record about how to address absences and missed work.
What happens if a GSI is assigned to a classroom without course capture capability but will have students – typically, international students having difficulty entering the United States – who will not be able to be physically present on campus?
The GSI should first work with the Instructor of Record and the departmental Classroom Scheduler to see if another room with course capture is available. If not, the GSI, after informing students in the class, may opt to record the section and make it available to the students who cannot be present in the classroom. If other sections of the course have live capture, students might also be given the opportunity to switch sections, if their schedules permit.
What responsibilities do instructors have in informing other students in the class if a student comes down with COVID?
UHS will take responsibility for contact tracing after a confirmed COVID case. The instructor should not involve themselves in notifying students or determining an appropriate response to the situation. That will be handled by the public health experts on campus.
If we need to pivot again to remote instruction, how much advance warning will we be given to make the transition?
It is difficult to know this information in advance, but the University will alert instructors as soon as possible. While the Fall 2021 default mode of instruction for the campus is in-person, we anticipate there may be occasions when a shift back to remote teaching may be required, either for specific courses or for the campus as a whole. Reasons could include additional COVID-19 related quarantines, poor air quality due to fires, power outages, etc. Instructors are encouraged to continue to plan for instructional resilience by making use of tools and trainings available from the GSI Teaching and Resource Center and Research, Teaching and Learning.
If GSIs need microphones to project their voices and those of their students while wearing masks, who will provide these microphones?
A limited number of microphones are available for instructor use through the classroom technology support office. GSIs can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the classroom AV Help Desk: 510-643-8637. GSIs should also check with their departments to ascertain whether the department has microphones available or can purchase them. GSIs should check in with their hiring unit and their Instructor of Record about microphone availability.
I am concerned that the amount of work involved this semester may take me over the number of hours stipulated in my letter of appointment. How can I address that?
The workload expectation for a GSI cannot exceed the hourly limits provided in the ASE UAW contract. GSIs should keep track of their hours. If GSIs find they are working more than allowed under the contract, they should approach their supervisor immediately so that their duties may be adjusted. Their Faculty Advisor GSI Affairs and department chair are also there to help make certain GSI workload remains within contractual parameters.
How will the University have my back if we need to pivot to remote instruction?
To prepare for this possibility, first-time GSIs will receive resources on remote instruction at the August 20th Teaching Conference for GSIs. All GSIs will have access to the resources provided in the GSI Remote Teaching Hub and one-on-one consultations with staff from the GSI Teaching & Resource Center and Digital Learning Services. The GSI Center is also arranging for Digital Learning Services to offer a special bCourse workshop tailored to the needs of GSIs. Faculty will be asked to provide guidance to GSIs and to monitor GSI workload.