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Specific Campus Scenarios: Gatherings

Posted by on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in .

The health and safety of the university community are foundational to our efforts in responding to COVID-19. VU’s protocols with respect to “gatherings” prioritize core mission activities central to the university’s mission. “Gatherings” must be conducted in accordance with VU-established guidelines, and some “gatherings” must be approved.

The university will impose significant penalties for violating the university’s Gatherings policy, whether on or off campus, because such gatherings have potential campuswide impacts. Gatherings are limited to 10 or fewer people, and all must be physically distanced and masked.

The minimum sanction applied by Student Accountability if a student is found responsible for hosting a gathering that violates the policy will be suspension for a minimum of one semester; a first sanction may be as severe as expulsion, depending on the nature of and circumstances surrounding the violation. Attending, participating in, otherwise supporting, and/or concealing a gathering that violates the policy may also result in suspension or expulsion for a first offense. Students living on campus who are suspended or expelled for violating COVID-19 policies and protocols will be required to vacate the residence hall. The university will not issue refunds for tuition, housing costs, or fees.

All university community members also should be aware of Nashville’s guidelines concerning gatherings. Failure to comply with the city’s public health emergency orders can result in criminal penalties.

The Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards and Academic Integrity may also implement interim restrictions while students await the formal student accountability process if the university has sufficient evidence to conclude that the reported behavior presents a threat to the health and safety of our university community. Those interim restrictions may include but are not limited to: requiring students to sequester in their residence hall room or off-campus accommodation or elsewhere; prohibiting students from attending in-person classes or activities; restricting student access to university buildings; requiring COVID-19 testing.

Faculty and staff should carefully review the below Gatherings policy to ensure they are adhering to the guidelines. The Vanderbilt Faculty Manual provides that faculty may be disciplined for violations of the university’s standards of conduct. The process for reaching a decision to discipline a faculty member is overseen by the dean in consultation with the provost. The university’s progressive discipline policy states that a staff member can be disciplined for violations of protocols and procedures governing safety, and such matters are overseen by Human Resources.

These requirements for in-person “gatherings” are subject to change based on public health guidance and Vanderbilt protocols.

  • VU community members only: Attendance must be limited to VU community members (defined as persons with VU identification cards) only.
  • On-campus gatherings only (unless approved): Generally, off-campus gatherings are not permitted if students are in attendance and/or if VU funds will be used. Exceptions to this rule require approval by the Provost or her designee.
  • Maximum “gathering” attendance limit: The number of total/unique attendees may not exceed the maximum number under the university’s phased Return to Campus Plan (i.e., Phase II and II+ max. = 10; Phase III and Phase IV to be defined), or the VU COVID-modified maximum capacity for the space, whichever is more restrictive. Organizers count as attendees for purposes of the maximum attendance limit.
  • Capacity controls/attendance tracking: Sign-ups and ticket distribution should be managed to maintain a strict maximum number of total/unique attendees. If interest exceeds capacity, develop a clear methodology for determining who will be chosen to attend, and consider using a waitlist or setting up separate pools/pods of attendees that do not overlap. Attendance should be closely tracked to assist in contact tracing, if necessary.
  • Physical distancing: Physical distancing is required. The “gathering” may be held only if attendees can maintain appropriate physical distance given the nature of the activities contemplated. Consideration should also be given as to whether attendees will be stationary or moving around during the event.
  • Face masks/coverings: By default, all participants must wear a face mask/covering. There may be exceptional circumstances when a face mask/covering can’t be worn (e.g., woodwind performer or singer during a performance); in those cases, approval should be granted only if additional physical distance and/or physical barriers can be used.
  • Food and drinks: Food and drinks may be served in a space where classes are held only on days when no classes are held in the space, and the space must be cleaned before the next class is held. Food and drink (provided in single-serve or grab-and-go type packaging) must be consumed only while maintaining physical distancing. Attendees may remove their face masks/coverings only temporarily to eat and drink as needed.
  • Student events:
    • Recognized student organization (RSO) events: Events of RSOs must be approved.
    • Social events with alcohol: Student social events with alcohol, whether on- or off-campus, are not permitted.
    • No off-campus events for registered student organizations will be approved prior to September 30, after which this guideline will be reviewed.

What is a gathering?

Core mission activities are not “gatherings.” These events do not require specific approval and are not subject to the VU maximum “gathering” attendance limit. However, other VU COVID-19 protocols (including physical distancing and face mask/covering requirements) must be followed. Core mission activities include:

  • Campus Public Health Events: On-campus public health/infection prevention and response events (e.g., COVID-19 testing center, Flulapalooza)
  • Academic Courses or Co-curricular Events: Academic courses and co-curricular activities when offered in connection with a VU course
  • Mission-Related Meetings Led by Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Dean, Vice Provost, or Department Chair: Meetings of university personnel convened to meet regarding the university’s academic-, research-, and service-related activities
  • Faculty- or Staff-Led Events in Direct Support of Learning/Discovery: University instructional and research support meetings that directly support learning/discovery and are directed by faculty/staff (e.g., lab meetings, journal clubs, poster sessions, programs of an academic/substantive nature hosted on The Ingram Commons or in a residential college and organized by a faculty head, programs of an academic/substantive nature sponsored by an identity-based center organized with its director, recitals overseen by faculty or staff member)
  • Research Lab Activities: University research lab activities, subject to the VU research ramp-up plan phases
  • Use of Libraries: Use of university libraries as an individual patron
  • Dining in Designated Dining Spaces: Dining in designated on-campus dining spaces (including outdoor spaces/tents)

Some personal/social events with members of the VU community are considered “gatherings” and are subject to the guidelines for gatherings while other personal/social events may not be considered“gatherings”:

These personal/social events with members of the VU community are “gatherings” subject to the guidelines under this policy:

  • Organized social events with students present alongside faculty/staff: Any organized social event with VU students in attendance
  • VU-sponsored (funded) faculty/staff get-togethers: Any social event with only faculty/staff in attendance, where VU funds are being used

These personal/social events are not “gatherings” and are not subject to the guidelines under this policy:

  • Non-VU-sponsored (funded) faculty/staff get-togethers: VU encourages all attendees of any event type to abide by any applicable public health orders/guidance.
  • Small, informal meet-up of students (10 or fewer, regardless of phased “maximum”): Students must comply with VU’s COVID-19 protocols, but these informal meet-ups are not subject to the broader “gatherings” requirements.

In-person events and activities with a primarily enrichment, extra- or co-curricular, or community-building purpose are “gatherings” that must follow the guidelines under this policy. Such “gatherings” include:

  • Meetings or events convened by registered student organizations (RSOs): Including Greek chapter events
  • Lectures or panels not part of a VU course: For example, Chancellor’s Lecture Series, Crawford Lecture, deans’ lectures, RSO-organized lectures
  • Art, dance, music, and theater performances: Including those organized by student organizations and offices
  • Ceremonies and receptions

All other gatherings and Events

As described above, small, informal meet-ups of members of Vanderbilt community, whether on- or off-campus, are limited to 10 or fewer people and all individuals must be physically distanced and masked at all times. A student, as an individual, may attend, participate in, or engage with an off-campus service, activity or event that is not hosted, managed, organized or sponsored by Vanderbilt University or Vanderbilt community members. While attending, participating in, or engaging with such services, activities or events, Vanderbilt community members are required to follow Vanderbilt University safety and gathering protocols (including masking and physical distancing from others). This means that if several members of the Vanderbilt community attend the same service, activity or event in the greater Nashville community they must not congregate in a masked, physically distanced group larger than 10.

What is a gathering decision tree