There are necessary precautions we recommend when considering how to approach activities and programs during the fall semester. These guidelines will be revisited for spring 2021 based upon state, local and University recommendations as the status of the pandemic continues to evolve.
Reducing the spread of COVID-19 is the main reason for limits on in-person gatherings at this time. Health and safety, as well as local city orders, require us to avoid large gatherings and reduce the numbers of people in close proximity to one another. The result is significant limits on in-person activities including:
- Reducing the number of people participating in indoor, in-person social gatherings
- Requiring individuals to wear masks and remain at least six feet apart while with others
- Reducing the number of in-person meetings and events taking place on campus this semester.
In practical terms, the safeguards we have put in place for the fall, as well as recommendations and orders from local, state and federal health officials, mean we simply do not have as much available space for in-person activities as we typically do. We have limited indoor space this fall due to reduced room occupancies (with social distancing), the need to hold classes in event spaces, and the need for as much unscheduled, drop-in space across campus as possible (where students can study, eat, and participate in online classes). For instance, the requirement to maintain social distancing in classrooms has greatly impacted available space on campus, which is why the University adopted the Interim Classroom Space Prioritization policy.
Similarly, social distancing requirements in the dining halls and the library mean we need to make other indoor spaces available to students for eating, studying and participating in online classes. We have designated many classrooms and other spaces that are not being used for classroom instruction this fall as drop-in space for students to use for these activities.
These spaces will have new occupancies posted to assure that social distancing is maintained. In order to assure these spaces are available for all students this semester, they may not be reserved.
Finally, it’s also important to remember that all of the changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have put a strain on campus resources, including personnel (like custodial services and facilities staff) and material resources (like the availability of tables and other items that would be required for large gatherings).
The University’s Interim Meetings and Events Policy states that meetings and events should not take place in person this fall. For student groups, meetings may take place outdoors. Events for students may be offered as approved exceptions to the policy, if developed in coordination with the Student Involvement Center and meeting the criteria specified in the policy. We've developed more detailed guidance to help students understand what they can and cannot do in person this semester.
Classes and social gatherings fall under different categories of interaction, so they have different rules for engagement. Classes are essential to the educational business of the University. While social gatherings are important to community-building and student connection, they are not essential business in the ways in-person learning is.
Additionally, there are structures and mechanisms in place to ensure all safeguards are followed in classrooms that are typically not available for social gatherings. Unlike social gatherings, classes have an instructor who can enforce restrictions as well as policies to allow those who are non-compliant to be dismissed from the class. Additionally, there may be serious consequences for a student’s grades if repeated non-compliance results in their being asked to leave the class multiple times.
While it won’t look the same as it usually does, students can still connect and build community. Student groups are continuing to find ways to connect outdoors, and students are gathering in small groups, informally, indoors and out. RAs are working to build community among floormates, and the Student Involvement Center is working with the Student Activities Board on virtual programming. To learn more about things you can do this semester, consult the Guidance for Student Activities, Meetings and Events.
All of our public health safeguards must be followed at all times. Key safeguards for in-person activities are:
- Wearing a mask at all times
- Maintaining six feet of distance between individuals at all times
- Practicing good hand hygiene
- Submitting the Campus Clear daily symptom report
- Cleaning/sanitizing surfaces (as applicable).
Other key behaviors include: respecting residence hall and apartment guest policies, respecting COVID-19 occupancy limits for common or shared spaces and being able to identify the individuals near you in group gatherings (in case contact tracing should be needed).
Individuals who fail to comply with public health safeguards risk one or more community standards violations. Depending on the situation and potential harm to the community, possible sanctions include:
- Revocation of housing contract
If individuals and groups repeatedly fail to comply with public health safeguards, restrictions on in-person gatherings (even informal ones) may be increased.
Due to the nature of different kinds of sports, certain club sports will be safer and allowed, while others may not be. Much depends on the type of activity being engaged in, whether equipment is shared, whether social distancing is possible, etc. Club sports are currently working through Return to Play guidelines with the Simon Recreation Center staff.
University-sponsored travel currently is not allowed. This includes student groups.
In general, students (just like staff and faculty) are encouraged to limit personal travel. Individual students who choose or need to travel for personal reasons should wear a mask in the same situations they would on campus, maintain at least six feet of distance between themselves and others as much as possible, and practice all other safeguards. If you travel and are exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should plan to quarantine for 14 days prior to returning to campus.
The University’s Interim Meetings and Events policy explains criteria and processes for limited exceptions to the restriction on in-person events. Students (as individuals) and student organizations (as organizations) cannot request exceptions for events. Student-facing events must be developed in coordination with and requested by the Student Involvement Center.
Affiliated groups and groups of students who believe that their event can: be operated safely, would serve a significant portion of the University community and would not otherwise be viable in a virtual setting, may apply for consideration through the Student Involvement Center.
There are different reporting mechanisms, depending on the role of the individuals who are non-compliant.
Whenever possible, students (as well as faculty and staff) are encouraged to gently encourage peers to honor the public health safeguards. Proactively, it can be helpful to think about what you would say if you found yourself in a situation where you were uncomfortable with behaviors happening near you (e.g., too many people entering your residence, someone standing closer than six feet without wearing their mask). Some students have found value in speaking from their own experience.
For example, “I know we all have different comfort levels with different levels of risk. Because I often visit my aging grandparents, I really prefer to maintain as much distance as possible and to have everyone around me wearing their masks. It’s important to me not to risk spreading COVID-19 to my grandparents. Thanks for understanding.” Or, “If I test positive for COVID-19, I will be asked about individuals I’ve had close contact with. In that moment, I want to feel good about my answer and to be able to say that I have put no one at risk. I appreciate your helping me do that.”
Members of our University community are empowered to make their own personal decisions on their health, safety and well-being, pending that this is done within the guidelines and expectations of the CDC and our valued city partners. Community members will continue to have agency in decisions about their own engagement.