August 26, 2021 (updated August 31, 2021)

As an additional mitigation effort against the spread of COVID-19, Montana State University now requires face coverings in all indoor spaces on campus. The information below is to provide guidance on managing courses in light of current Covid-19 mitigation procedures. The Center has provided some syllabus language that you can use to let your students know about these guidelines.


This page will be updated as new information is available. If you have suggestions or comments, email us at [email protected]



Appropriate face coverings are those that cover the mouth and nose of the wearer. Following Centers for Disease Control guidance, effective face coverings include paper and cloth masks, scarves, or bandanas.

Following CDC guidance, face coverings should:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face;
  • be secured with ties or ear loops;
  • include multiple layers of fabric;
  • allow for breathing without restriction; and
  • be able to be laundered and machine-dried without damaging them or changing their shape.
  • Cannot have an “exhale valve,” as those allow droplets to escape the mask

Disposable, single use paper masks are also acceptable.

Plastic face shields may be used in instances where an individual can consistently and reliably maintain appropriate social distancing or where a cloth mask is otherwise impracticable. Such instances may include, but not be limited to, ADA and other medical accommodations. If an individual chooses to use a plastic face shield the shield should cover from above the eyes to below the chin and wrap around the side of the wearer’s face to reduce the risk of the spread of respiratory particles. However, it is important to note that face masks are preferred. The CDC notes: It is not known if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings. Disposable face shields should only be worn for a single use. Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Plastic face shields for newborns and infants are NOT recommended.


While face masks are preferred, faculty and GTAs are permitted to wear face shields when teaching, providing the shield meets the requirements described above. Faculty and GTAs do not need to go through an ADA or HR process to gain permission to wear a face shield for teaching.


Compliance with the face-covering protocol is expected. Our first preference is to address non-compliance through a conversation and a social enforcement, educational approach.  Instructors should allow the student to explain their action in a way that might help mitigate future problems and without public shaming.  They should explain the university’s policy and reasons why the policy is in place.

In cases of repeat offenders, instructors should document the incident of disruptive behavior, even though they may appear to be minor at the time. Include the name of the student(s) involved, date and location of occurrence, and steps taken to address it.   GTA’s should email this documentation to their supervisor same day.

If student’s disruptive behavior is extreme to the point of interrupting instruction, instructors or GTA supervisors may dismiss students from a course. The procedure for an instructor to permanently dismiss a disruptive student is as follows:

  1. The instructor must prepare a Statement of Facts (SOF) that includes:
    • The name of the individual student engaging in disruptive behavior;
    • The factual details of the disruptive behavior or incident that justify the proposed dismissal;
    • The names of any witnesses to the disruptive behavior;
    • Any applicable dates, times, and locations.
  2. Prior to the next class period following the disruptive incident, the SOF must be submitted to the instructor’s Department Head and the student. The student will have five days to respond to the SOF in writing to explain the disruptive behavior and the student’s position on dismissal from the course. The department head will review all evidence provided by the student and instructor, and at the department head’s discretion may interview either or both parties. The department head will then approve or deny the permanent dismissal, with a copy of the SOF, the student’s written response, and the decision sent to the Office of the Dean of Students. The Department Head’s decision must be communicated to the instructor and the student within two business days of receiving the student’s written response to the SOF.
  3. A student dismissed from a course by an instructor may not continue to attend the course while awaiting a final determination from the Department Head or a final determination of any appeals; however, the student shall be permitted to submit assignments, tests, and other work as appropriate so long as the student does not engage in any disruptive behavior during such submissions. The instructor will facilitate access to necessary materials for homework and tests.

The Information for Faculty and Staff section of the MSU Code of Student Conduct webpage contains links to report a conduct code violation and to report academic misconduct.


Take steps to ensure the student’s privacy by not discussing their health in the presence of others. If a student appears ill in this time of COVID-19, you are advised to discuss sympathetically yet directly – “You look like you’re feeling ill. Given the concerns about COVID-19 right now, I’d like you to step out of class and call the student health service at 406 994 2311 to discuss with them.”


The city-county health department is responsible for notifying close contacts and managing contact tracing, quarantine requirements and isolation for positive test cases. The health department will make the determination when a person can return to class or work, not the faculty member nor the GTA. There are possible scenarios in which a student could be tested positive and MSU not be informed, and the faculty may not be informed if city-county does not think it is necessary.

If someone tests positive for COVID19


Instructors should establish course policies for making up work and classes missed in the event of illness or quarantine. Instructors may allow students to participate remotely and/or video record lectures, though they are not obligated or required to do so.

Instructors should also work with their departments to make contingency plans in case they are ill or need to quarantine. Backup plans should attempt to maintain the same educational experience that students would have without the instructors’ absence.  Preferred options include: finding a substitute in-person instructor, resequencing course topics or activities, joining class remotely with a teaching assistant in the classroom to run the technology and help facilitate. Simply “going online” would be the option of last resort in most scenarios.

Updated August 31, 2021