Vanderbilt University’s policies and protocols for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic are rooted in safety for staff, faculty, students, invited guests (e.g., contractors), and the public with whom we interact. The health and well-being of our community are critical. Protecting the health of the Vanderbilt community will require long-term effort and commitment, cooperation, teamwork and understanding — all values that our community has shown in a multitude of ways in recent months.
As we confront this health crisis, Vanderbilt University will remain steadfast in the constant pursuit of our mission and ideals outlined in the Academic Strategic Plan. Therefore, the university will ramp up in phases with primary mission activities at the heart of all decision making. Mission-centric activities are any required on-campus activities that fulfill Vanderbilt’s core mission of teaching and research.
Radically different ways of deploying VU campus resources, including physical spaces, will be necessary as part of establishing a new normal. As we move forward, flexibility will be critical. Vanderbilt University’s return to learning and discovering on campus will occur in phases of increased activity and will involve the careful evaluation of data, models and public health recommendations. Protocols will be pragmatic and will evolve over time.
Vanderbilt University’s plans for expanding operations and increasing the presence of faculty, staff and students will be guided by the following criteria:
- The intentional effort by all faculty, staff and students to exercise both personal and community responsibility. The combined efforts by all members of the Vanderbilt community will create a culture that sustains a healthy and safe on-campus environment.
- Existing and projected government restrictions (e.g., safer-at-home orders, masking requirements, physical distancing, gatherings, etc.).
- Public health status: recommendations from the federal government (recently released Opening Guidelines), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
- Resource availability, including personal protective equipment for students, faculty and staff.
- Contact tracing and case management protocols.
- Physical distancing strategies.
- Financial feasibility.
- Alignment with Vanderbilt’s strategic framework that the ramp-up of on-campus activities will support primary mission objectives of the institution (on-campus research, on-campus teaching and instruction, on-campus residential living and learning).
Vanderbilt University’s plans will also take into account local orders and ordinances of the City of Nashville, Davidson County and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), as well as the State of Tennessee’s “Tennessee Pledge: Reopening Tennessee Responsibly.”
The Roadmap for Reopening Nashville follows a four-phase approach. The Vanderbilt University Return to Campus Plan acknowledges the triggers and phases of ramp-up for the city in which Vanderbilt is located and identifies which activities ramp up on campus and when. The Vanderbilt University activities that will ramp up are identified below in each corresponding phase. Vanderbilt’s ramp-up may lag the Nashville ramp-up and will be tailored to our own unique density, operations, and other considerations as a residential education institution. The university will communicate with the VU community in advance of each phase. If metrics of COVID-19 transmission and health system capacity change significantly, and Metro Nashville returns to a prior phase, Vanderbilt may also return to a prior phase and re-impose restrictions on activities.