I’m writing to follow-up on my video message from August 22 regarding expectations around public health and safety compliance. I appreciate the time you have taken to carefully review these important communications. I also appreciate the strong efforts you have made to comply with face mask wearing and social distancing. I have personally observed this as I have walked across Grounds and visited the Corner.
In the days since my video message went out, I have heard from some of you seeking additional clarity on the University’s expectations. Others have also offered feedback on ways to help keep the community safe while also providing a meaningful college experience. I appreciate the positive and constructive approach you have taken, and I have tried to respond directly to almost everyone who has reached out by email with a personal question about a specific activity.
A team of University officials has been working on an update to University Policy SEC-045 to better comport with the current crisis we face and what we have learned thus far. As we’ve said many times this summer, it remains a very fluid situation. The revised SEC-045 is now ready to share with you, and I believe it responds to many of the questions you have raised.
I know much of what you hear regarding the University and COVID-19 is what you cannot do. I’d like to point out some things SEC-045 makes clear you can do:
- Run, walk or otherwise spend time outdoors without wearing a face mask if you can consistently maintain a distance of six (6) feet from others;
- Participate in an IM-Rec-sponsored activity, or exercise in an IM-Rec facility consistent with the posted policy;
- Enjoy one of the many tents we are erecting outdoors for use by the community, including one across from Corner restaurants that will include tables for your use, consistent with the capacity limits for each;
- Attend a religious service or ceremony; and
- Participate in expressive activity on or off-Grounds.
Below are a few key highlights of importance to you as students. We have tried to provide multiple outlets for activity, while maintaining some important standards critical to community health and safety.
Events and Gatherings Subject to the 15 Person Maximum Limit:
- Events and gatherings are broadly defined. They include any activity bringing together people from different residences for in-person interaction while engaging in a common undertaking (such as a meeting, social event, or other extracurricular activity). These events and gatherings are subject to the University’s 15 person maximum limit.
- However, there are important exceptions to the University’s definition of an event or gathering subject to the 15 person maximum rule. These include:
- Religious services and ceremonies (although the University won’t be hosting any on-Grounds weddings);
- University-sponsored classes and labs;
- On-Grounds expressive activities, such as protests (subject to the requirements set forth in University policy PRM-017), and off-Grounds expressive activities in public spaces;
- IM-Rec sponsored events;
- NCAA-sanctioned athletic activities and events;
- Division of Student Affairs sponsored events;
- On-Grounds tents specifically erected for use by the community (subject to the stated capacity for each tent);
- Events held at University-affiliated spaces such as Morven Farm and Alumni Hall;
- Indoor spaces open to the public (such as a grocery store or restaurant).
- In large spaces like Mad Bowl, the Lawn, or the McIntire Amphitheater, multiple groups of 15 or less are welcome to gather, as long as they are appropriately distanced from one another. Multiple groups can picnic on the Lawn, for example, just not all seated together.
- For larger on-Grounds tents, the space may accommodate one or more unrelated groups of 15 or less, so long as the total number of people in the space is within the total stated occupancy of that space and each group practices social distancing.
Face Masks and Social Distancing:
- A face mask must be worn while indoors and in certain situations when outdoors, subject to the following exceptions:
- Indoors, when you are alone, with a roommate, or in private spaces;
- Outdoors, if you are able to consistently maintain a minimum six foot distance from others;
- To drink, eat, or engage in personal hygiene;
- Indoors at an IM-Rec facility while exercising, consistent with the posted COVID-19 facility use requirements;
- If you have a qualifying condition that precludes you from wearing a face mask, as assessed by the Student Disability Access Center (SDAC) in Student Health & Wellness.
- You must maintain a distance of at least six feet from others when possible. If the circumstances do not allow a minimum of six feet of distance (for example, a table at a restaurant), maximize the distance that is possible and consider wearing a face mask when not eating or drinking.
- Some specific activities may require a more restrictive approach to social distancing. These include:
- A 10 foot distancing requirement for vocal and theatrical rehearsals and performances, with all to be held outdoors;
- A 10 foot distancing requirement for dance rehearsals and performances, indoors or outdoors.
I’ve also been asked about our approach to enforcement. As I stressed in my video message to you, the University must take seriously – and act swiftly to address – flagrant and willful behavior that places others at risk. Immediate interim suspension is reserved for the most serious and flagrant violations, in particular hosting or attending a large social gathering of greater than 15 people. It is also applicable for repeated violations of masking or social distancing expectations after being counseled on the need to comply. We will impose this sanction, where appropriate. At the same time, and as you hopefully will read in today’s email from Gabby Cox, Chair of the student-run University Judiciary Committee, the UJC will hear and address a range of potential violations, applying a proportional sanction where a violation has occurred. The “Compliance with Policy” section of revised SEC-045 provides a good overview of our enforcement approach.
Lastly, many have asked about reporting violations. We have set up tools for you to report a violation you observe when it is of a nature that causes you concern for public health. At the same time, we hope students will directly engage each other as peers in seeking to establish and maintain appropriate new norms around gatherings, masking and social distancing. University disciplinary action, while important in some situations, does not have to be the only tool in the bag to ensure compliance. Talking with each other about expectations in your own social circles, friend groups, clubs and shared houses will go a long way towards achieving our objective of a safe semester.
This revised policy (SEC-045) and the approach described above will apply whether the University is holding courses in person or moves to fully online education this fall.
I hope your courses have started off well this semester.
Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students