‘I didn’t see that email’: Some Students Unaware of University COVID-19 Absence Protocol, Accommodations

Faculty have been flexible with students who have tested for COVID-19, but some confusion remains on the university’s protocol



Students who test positive for COVID-19 may not know that they should fill out a form for excused absences.


When Maria Akosta Gkalinto and Sheridan Tyson, both Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’23, tested positive for COVID-19 in late January, they were worried about missing class. Unsure about what to do next or who to contact, Gkalinto and Tyson went straight to their professors, most of whom were willing to accommodate them virtually via Zoom. 

“I was extremely fortunate; most of my professors sent out a Zoom link,” Gkalinto said.

Gkalinto was concerned about missing class only one week into the semester, on top of other factors in her personal life like sorting out housing for the semester. Even with the Zoom accommodation, Gkalinto was still concerned about her ability to participate in class. 

Tyson also wasn’t aware she was supposed to fill out an excused absence form.

She explained that after she tested positive at an off-campus testing site, she was not informed of what steps to take until a professor told her that she needed to fill out an excused absence form indicating she had tested positive for COVID-19. She did not receive any communication from Fordham’s University Health Services (UHS) or Public Safety regarding her positive result. 

Gkalinto said her academic dean reached out to tell her to reach out to all of her professors and asked if she needed any additional help, but provided no more information or resources on the protocol. 

Tyson also wasn’t aware she was supposed to fill out an excused absence form. When Tyson called UHS to inquire about an exemption from the negative COVID-19 requirement for the period between Jan. 27 and Feb. 13, she was surprised they didn’t ask her any questions about her positive test result. 

“The instructor should make every effort to allow a sick student to keep up with their course work.” Marco Valera, COVID-19 coordinator

Marco Valera, Fordham’s COVID-19 coordinator, clarified that students who test positive through an on-campus testing location are notified by UHS about their results. Students who have tested positive at an off-campus location should notify UHS themselves. 

Valera noted that UHS will direct students to Contact Tracing Services for an interview, and that the university provides medical follow-up, isolation locations, food and daily check-ins with school nurses. He said deans, academic departments and faculty provide access to the material on accommodating for class absences. 

“Provided that the length of the student’s absence doesn’t make it impossible for them to complete the work of the course, the instructor should make every effort to allow a sick student to keep up with their course work,” Valera said. 

He cited Zoom as one option, although holding class on Zoom for a COVID-19 positive student is not required. 

For Tyson, there was a variety of accommodations: one of her classes had been canceled, another had a Zoom option available, and a third did not accommodate her via Zoom. 

Tyson believes Fordham could improve communications. “Maybe that’s on me, but I didn’t see that email or something like that,” she said.

On Jan. 15, the university shared an announcement on gaining access to campus that specified students should contact UHS if they develop COVID-19 “signs and symptoms”. Emails regarding required PCR tests ask students who have tested positive to submit their test result to VitalCheck. There have since been no additional official email announcements directing students to UHS if they have tested positive. 

Gkalinto suggested that implementing a constant hybrid option would help students and faculty manage the necessary accommodations to access their classes. She said that when someone is sick, it is essential for the student to know that they do have an option where they can still be present in class. 

“Everyone I had to speak with was compassionate.” Grace Call, FCRH ’24

“There should be a clear ‘plan-B’ to attend classes when you are sick, not subjective to each professor, but something that is an objective path for each one of us,” Gkalinto said. “Fordham must offer options and reach out to students who test positive. Most people stay with other roommates; the faculty can provide information about quarantine centers in cases where quarantining at your home isn’t an option.”

When Grace Call, Fordham College at Rose Hill ’24, was contact traced through one of her classes, she went to Fordham’s testing center, where her test was administered. Call was contacted by Fordham Contact Tracing, UHS and the Office of Residential Life within a day and received quarantine accommodations within seven hours. 

“Everyone I had to speak with was compassionate,” Call said.

Fortunately for Call, her professors were lenient or already conducting class via Zoom. When she wasn’t on Zoom, Call was completing readings and assignments online. She said she was worried about staying on top of work but was relieved it worked out. 

Joshua C., FCLC ’23, said he received a COVID-19-positive result from a rapid antigen test on Feb. 11. Joshua C. only informed his professors and understood the university provided resources for students who tested positive for the virus but didn’t utilize them because he is a commuter and was fine with his own resources. Joshua C. said he gets tested often and was surprised to find out he tested positive. He had mild symptoms. 

Joshua C. said his professors did not have a Zoom option but were understanding of his situation. Fortunately, he did not receive any assignments during his five days of quarantine.

“Overall, Fordham, I think they’re doing a good job,” Joshua C. said, referring to the contact tracing emails he’s received in the past. 

“Every effort should be made to allow students to keep up with their coursework.” Laura Auricchio, dean of FCLC

Valera noted that the dean of students, dean of student services, vice president for administration/COVID coordinator, UHS and Fordham’s COVID-19 FAQ webpage all have resources for students who test positive for COVID-19 off campus. 

Laura Auricchio, dean of FCLC, said that all undergraduate students with official excused absences under COVID-19 quarantine or isolation might require special accommodations to be arranged by their instructors. However, similar to Tyson, Joshua C. did not know he was supposed to fill out an excused absence form.

“Every effort should be made to allow students to keep up with their coursework,” Auricchio said. “Although it is not expected that instructors will routinely record their in-person classes, instructors may choose to live stream or record a class session for the benefit of students who have excused absences.”