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Sept. 21, 2020 – Return to Campus Update

Posted by on Monday, September 21, 2020 in Community Messages.

As the fifth week of classes begins from the August 24th semester start, progress is being made across the university to ensure students, whether on campus or studying remotely, are continuing to build connections and create meaningful experiences while following campus protocols and guidelines.

As Chancellor Diermeier and Provost Wente discussed in their Friday message to students, this progress is a direct result of the choices students have made to step up and help keep our community as safe as possible. Through everyone’s efforts, the university community has thus far managed to slow the spread of COVID-19 and avoid the shutdowns and reversals in plans that other universities have experienced. As the most recent campus COVID-19 data shows, the university’s positivity rate remains low.

While the university continues to provide and expand programming and activities that adhere to campus policies, many students have become the authors of their own experiences and have developed unique ways to connect, engage and explore as safely as possible.

For the undergraduate students, these activities include hosting Mario Kart gaming events, listening in to WilSkills wilderness skills 101 lectures to get ideas for outdoor activities, participating in fitness classes offered through residential colleges, finding new friends to play a game of tennis and having a physically distanced birthday dinner with a small group of friends in their residential college. Students are actively creating experiences that will shape their memories of this unique semester.

For all of our students, there are many new opportunities ahead.


Updated guidelines for student academic and learning events now available

The university wants to provide students with academic and learning opportunities outside of the classroom while following all protocols for campus health and safety. To do so, all student academic or learning events must have an authorized sponsor who submits a required plan through Events at Vanderbilt. 

The sponsor from within an academic department (or school/college) can then include or invite registered student organizations and students to participate or support the event. Event sponsors should prioritize holding academic and learning events outside, and all such events must be on campus. Off campus events are not allowed. The authorized sponsor must file a plan and submit it to Events at Vanderbilt at least 14 calendar days in advance of the event. The plan must include in-depth information, including mechanisms to observe and enforce campus protocols. 

Following the university’s campus visitor policy, no non-VU attendees are allowed at such student events. During the event, there must be at least one faculty or staff member from the sponsoring department in attendance; the number required depends on the number of attendees. Their primary role is to ensure all attendees are following all University requirements during the event.

Graduate and professional student events will follow these same guidelines and also continue to be overseen by school and college deans. 

Guidelines for student learning/academic events>>

Vanderbilt will not grant exceptions to student quarantine and isolation policies 

As Vanderbilt continues the work to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the university is reminding the campus community that it will not grant individualized exceptions to student quarantine and isolation policies. Public health requires consistent collective action, and these policies are in place to help protect the health and safety of the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities.

The university’s decision to place a student into quarantine or isolation is based on positive Vault (or other university-administered or -approved) test results and university contact tracing. The university does not permit anyone to override positive results obtained through the mandatory testing program with other test results. Rapid response tests have significantly higher false negative rates, and we do not accept those results or permit anyone to override positive Vault (or other university-administered or –approved) results with other test results.

If a student has previously tested positive through the campus testing program (pre-arrival, arrival and weekly testing through Vault; or Student Health), the university is aware of their results and the student is exempt from additional testing based on CDC guidelines for 90 days following the date of their positive test. The university does not accept antibody tests as evidence of prior positivity.

No one can test out of isolation or quarantine with a negative test result. It is not allowed by Metro Health regulations or TN Department of Health and CDC guidance. This is because at any point up until the 14th day after the last exposure someone has to a positive individual, they might still develop COVID-19 and become infectious.  Students must not leave isolation or quarantine to obtain testing at alternative off campus clinics.

Those in quarantine should not leave their quarantine residence until the end of their quarantine period for any reason other than for medical care at Vanderbilt’s Student Health Center or Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Anyone who has been declared a close contact will need to continue in quarantine for the required period and not attend in-person classes, work, research or other on- or off-campus activities. The university provides a Vault test for all asymptomatic close contacts in quarantine, with a recommendation that those in quarantine complete the test on, and no later than, day 8 after their last close contact to the positive individual. As stated above, students must not leave quarantine to obtain testing at alternative off campus clinics. If a student’s quarantine test is negative, they re-enter the mandatory or periodic testing program immediately upon completing their quarantine period.

If a student leaves their quarantine location during their assigned period for any reason other than medical care at the SHC or VUMC, they are in violation of the university’s quarantine order and will be referred to the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity. As a reminder, it is possible for individuals to be entirely asymptomatic and yet be infected with the virus and able to infect others.

Undergraduate student quarantine and isolation details>> 

Support provided to students during quarantine and isolation 

While in quarantine or isolation, on-campus students are provided support, including transportation, meals and regular communication from university staff. A team within Housing and Residential Experience are regularly in contact with the students and graduate building managers also assist those in need and maintain contact throughout the duration of their stay.

Campus Dining supports off-campus students who have meal plans and who are quarantining or isolating by providing them with Commodore Cash that can be used on GrubHub during the period they are unable to come to campus to use their meal plan.

Healthcare professionals regularly check in with all students, whether they are living on or off campus, during their time in isolation or quarantine. Students who are experiencing symptoms are monitored by physicians and nurses from the Student Health Center. These students are contacted approximately every other day to assess their symptoms and recovery. Those who are asymptomatic are monitored by the nurses and nurse practitioners from the PHCCC Contact Tracing Team. These nurses call students daily to check on their status, including how they are coping with isolation or quarantine. Students who need additional support are encouraged to contact the Office of Student Care Coordination.

Undergraduate student patient care details>> 

VUPS offers safety tips for Vanderbilt community as time change approaches

As fall and the time change approaches, Vanderbilt University Public Safety (VUPS) wants to remind the Vanderbilt community to remain vigilant, whether on campus or in other areas of Nashville, particularly as it begins to get darker earlier. VUPS is sharing these tips to help everyone remain as safe as possible, whether they are living on or off campus.
  • Scan the area before exiting or approaching vehicles or buildings and while traveling between sites.
  • Have keys ready in hand to quickly access the door of vehicles or buildings.
  • Lock doors and windows of rooms, buildings and vehicles.
  • Do not leave backpacks, purses, cell phones, laptops or other valuables in open view in vehicles. Consider securing these items in the trunk of vehicles when possible.
  • Do not prop open doors or allow strangers to “piggyback” into the residence hall doors.
  • Always lock doors—even when sleeping or just going down the hall.
  • Stay alert and trust instincts—if feeling uneasy, leave. Go to a safe location and notify the police.
  • Avoid isolated or dark areas.
  • If strangers approach, maintain a distance and be observant. If they are in a vehicle, get the license plate number.
  • Avoid walking alone at night.
The VandySafe app has several tools to help Vanderbilt community members including contacting VUPS for emergency or non-emergency assistance via call or chat; activating a mobile Bluelight to share location with VUPS and initiate a response; submit a non-emergency report to VUPS with text, photos or videos; assign contacts to monitor safety at the user’s request; request “Virtual Walkhome,” where the VUPS Dispatch Center monitors a user’s walk to their car, office or residence hall; share location with a friend or VUPS; access information about VandyRide and view VUPS emergency guides.

VUPS encourages everyone to promptly report crimes, missing students and emergencies to the police. For non-emergency situations, call (615) 322-2745. In an emergency, dial 911 or (615) 421-1911 from a cell phone to contact the VUPS Dispatch Center.

Vanderbilt to offer flu shots for faculty, staff and postdocs through Flula-2-Uza 

Flu vaccinations are strongly encouraged in support of the health and safety of the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities. This year, there will be three no-cost, convenient options for faculty, staff and postdocs to obtain a flu vaccine during the next three months.

Employees working remotely are highly encouraged to obtain their vaccination at any Vanderbilt Health Walk-In Clinic or any of the walk-in clinics (not pharmacies) at Walgreens stores. Flu vaccinations are 100 percent covered as preventative care for all employees who are on a VU Health Plan.

Additionally, departments may contact Occupational Health to coordinate on-site flu vaccines for their employees. Requests can be made in the “Ask OHC to Come to You” section of the Flula-2-Uza webpage.

For employees primarily working on campus, new smaller Flula-2-Uza events will be held in October, exact dates to be announced, in the Library Lawn and Peabody tents. There will be no sign up required and flu vaccines will be given on a first-come, first-serve manner in a physically distanced line. Those receiving a flu vaccine at these sites must have completed a Return to Campus Acknowledgement.

As of Saturday, approximately 1,640 students had already received their free flu shot through the Student Health Center (SHC). Vaccinations through SHC are available weekdays on a walk-in basis—no appointment is necessary. The SHC has increased its staffing to allow for proper physical distancing within the clinic and to minimize wait times. For added convenience, there are two more Saturdays when flu shots will be made available to students: Sept. 26 and Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 


Support for Vanderbilt community members continues

As the semester moves forward, Vanderbilt continues to offer support to students, faculty, staff and postdocs who need assistance. The university has reopened the on-campus pre-k childcare program in The Acorn School for enrolled families and launched the on-campus Art Adventures Enrichment Program. Additionally, the Vanderbilt Caregivers Network online forums continue to be a resource to help facilitate and support collaboration.

Those in need of financial support are still encouraged to apply for the Employee Emergency Relief Fund or the Student Hardship Fund. These funds serve as a resource for those who have expenses resulting from the pandemic.

Faculty, staff and postdocs seeking mental health and wellness support have access to Employee Assistance Program Work/Life Connections through individual counseling or coaching. Students are encouraged to seek support through the Office of Student Care Coordination, which serves as the first point of contact for those who may have an academic, personal, emotional, medical or other concern. Student care coordinators individually assess each student’s needs and explore resources within Vanderbilt’s Student Care Network and/or the Nashville community to facilitate connections to the most appropriate supports. In preparation for this semester, the Student Care Network enhanced its staffing and training, increased its telehealth options, implemented targeted programming and reformulated its drop-in services. In August, the Student Care Network also announced students could obtain free access to Headspace, an award-winning meditation and sleep app designed to reduce stress, improve happiness and increase compassion through guided meditation, sleep content, mindful workouts and focus exercises.

Remote-only students residing in greater Nashville area required to participate in mandatory weekly testing

Undergraduate students who have opted for remote-only learning and who reside off-campus in the greater Nashville area remain an important part of our university community. These students may be living, studying, and socializing alongside students who are still coming to campus, and it is important for everyone to keep the campus and our broader Nashville community safe. To that end, these students are required to participate in the mandatory weekly testing program for undergraduates going forward. The first testing appointment was this past Saturday, Sept. 19 at the Rec Center. For future weeks, the University Registrar’s office has contacted students with instruction on how to register for the weekly COVID-19 testing appointment.

COVID-19 testing: On-campus testing center details>> 


Diermeier, Wente urge Vanderbilt community to ‘stay strong’ 

Ask an Expert: Why is the flu shot especially important this year? 

First-year student experiences campus life from 11 time zones away


Tuesday, Sept. 22: “Homegrown Activism: Nashville, Civil Rights, and Justice” – DIG DEEPER, hosted by The Ingram Commons
7 p.m. The Making of a Movement 

Wednesday, Sept. 23: UCC Counselor Meet N’ Greet hosted by the University Counseling Center and the Student Center for Social Justice and Identity
Noon and 1 p.m. 

Wednesday, Sept. 23: A Collaboration in Painting & Music – Dream for Light Years: Ali Smith and Michael Alec Rose, hosted by the Vanderbilt University Libraries
Gallery visitors, which is limited to Vanderbilt community members, must reserve timed tickets to attend in advance. Tuesdays through Thursdays through Oct. 20. 

Friday, Sept. 25: Earth & Sky, hosted by Residential Colleges
11 a.m. Underground Tunnel Tour
1 p.m. Arboretum Tour
7:30 p.m. Moon Viewing