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Gatherings, Programming and Activities

Posted by on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in .

The university also is applying lessons learned from the fall semester to adjust and enhance its approach to supporting our students academically, socially and emotionally, and protecting their health and safety as much as possible with regard to testing and other COVID-19 protocols.

Building on fall programming, physically distant social activities and virtual opportunities, such as concerts, game nights, crafting sessions, outdoor fitness classes, multiple speaker series and film watch events, also are being planned for students.

COVID-19 has presented new challenges for everyone, and the university is committed to supporting students as they progress toward degree completion. Vanderbilt will continue to provide a robust educational experience for all students—whether they are in person or have been approved for remote study.

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. .

Beginning Wednesday, March 10, outdoor official campus gatherings may increase from eight to a maximum of 12 people. This update does not change the eight-person rule for indoor campus gatherings or any informal student meetups, on or off campus. Masking and physical distancing protocols remain in place for all gatherings regardless of size or location.

This change recognizes the continued efforts of the campus community to follow campus health and safety protocols and comes as the university continues to take a cautious and incremental approach to its protocols so the Vanderbilt community can finish the semester strong and while the city increases its gathering size limits.

In addition, Vanderbilt Student Government’s Campus Life Committee has worked closely with university leaders to develop creative ideas for outdoor activities. As a result, the university will be adding more amenities, such as outdoor furniture and lawn games, in a phased approach over the coming weeks to help facilitate outdoor engagement opportunities.

Upcoming additions include the following:

  • The university will reinstate painted circles indicating 6 feet of physical distance on campus lawns starting this week. Stickers will be added to various non-grassy areas to remind students of the requirements for using outdoor spaces. No university-owned furniture may be moved from its current location.
  • Vanderbilt community members also are encouraged to bring their own camp chairs and hammocks outside. Only one hammock is allowed per post, and camp chairs must be placed at least 6 feet apart. Students should use the lawn circles to determine 6 feet of space when placing their camp chairs outside.
  • Lawn games will be added in outdoor spaces in the coming weeks. Guidelines will be posted for following campus protocols and for cleaning game equipment after use.
  • VandyRadio music will be broadcast in the campus tents.
  • Campus leaders are working to bring a stage to Wilson Lawn for programming. The stage will provide space for individuals to host showcases, musical performances and more. Once ready, the university will share details for reserving the stage and guidelines for its use.

The university will impose significant penalties for violating the university’s Gatherings policy, whether on or off campus, because such gatherings have potential campus-wide impacts. 

The presumptive 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. Additionally, failure to comply with the Gatherings policy may result in a restriction from campus for the remainder of the academic year.

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.

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.

As outlined in the Student Handbook, students are responsible for what occurs in their rooms and residences both on and off campus. To that end, if a student is living in a residence (on or off campus) with one or more other students or non-students and the residence is found by the university to be in violation of the Gatherings policy, all Vanderbilt students who are residents may be subject to corrective action as hosts through the university’s accountability process, even if the conduct of an individual resident cannot be specifically identified.

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, 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; in those cases, approval should be granted only if additional physical distance and/or physical barriers can be used.


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 (8 or fewer, regardless of phased “maximum”): All individuals reasonably determined to be present at a single address or within a residential unit, including hosts, individuals in different rooms or spaces, and non-Vanderbilt affiliated individuals, count as attendees for purposes of the maximum attendance limit. Attendees must comply with VU’s COVID-19 protocols and applicable public health orders/guidance at “informal meet-ups,” including but not limited to:
    • Physical distancing is required. The “informal meet-up” may be held only if attendees can maintain appropriate physical distance given the nature of the activities contemplated.
    • Face masks/coverings are required. By default, all participants must wear a face mask/covering.
    • Food and drink must be consumed only while maintaining physical distancing. Attendees may remove their face masks/coverings only temporarily to eat and drink as needed.

Students are prohibited from “small, informal meet-ups” of any size in their assigned on-campus residential units, including in individual rooms and common spaces within suites, apartments, and lodges.

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


As described above, small, informal meet-ups of members of Vanderbilt community, whether on- or off-campus, are limited to 8 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 8.

What is a gathering decision tree























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 from an academic department (or school/college) who submits a required plan through Events at Vanderbilt. 

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.

Maximum size and related mechanisms to ensure physical distancing:  

  • At this time, the maximum number of total attendees (students plus staffing) will be 25 regardless of the capacity of the space in which the program will be held. This limit may be increased during the course of the semester to, for example, the COVID-19 modified maximum occupancy of the space reserved, or to align with changing Nashville guidance on gatherings, which requires permits for certain-sized gatherings.
  • Approval will take into consideration how the sponsor’s plan addresses maintaining physical both during the event and ingress/egress before and after the event.
  • In some circumstances, the university has already taken steps to help maintain distancing and event flow for specific on campus locations.  
  • For example, for outdoor events in the dining tents, there are set table and chair locations. On a lawn, students can be directed to remain in the circles, one person to circle.  For an indoor lecture, the university may have designed classroom spaces with chair straps in place to signify physical distancing and signage may already be placed to direct proper circulation. If the location for the event already has such measures in place, the plan may specifically refer to and rely on those measures. 
  • If, however, the location does not have such existing measures, the plan must include specific steps that the sponsor will take to maintain physical distancing. Regardless of location, some additional methods to mitigate potential bottlenecks may include ticketed entry and timed entry/dismissals.
  • The tasks of maintaining physical distance and complying with university protocols become more challenging as event size grows and plans for larger group gatherings, if allowed, will receive significant scrutiny, including whether they are generally consistent with Nashville guidance on gatherings. 
  • Ultimately, wherever an event is located, the sponsors must state the expected mechanisms for following all campus protocols, and also state how the sponsor will enforce those protocols once the event is underway in the required plan.   


  • Event sponsors should prioritize holding academic/learning events outside. Many outdoor spaces, like indoor spaces, can be reserved through Events at Vanderbilt. 
  • Physical distancing: All participants, including speakers, must always maintain physical distancing of at least six feet. 
  • Face masking/covering: All participants must always wear a face mask/covering, including any speakers. Attendees must wear a mask when not actively eating or drinking at an event where food or drink has been previously authorized.  
  • Food or drink at event: The default position is that no food or drink will be allowed during any event. Prior authorization may be granted for pre-distributed, pre-placed, and pre-packaged food if the plan explains why food or drink are necessary for the event and how this distribution and placement will be achieved. Even then, three conditions must be met: (a) attendees must wear a mask when not actively eating/drinking; (b) no alcohol is permitted at campus events; and (c) no third-party food servers are permitted.   


  • Consistent with the campus visitor policy, no non-VU attendees are allowed at student events. The only exceptions are guests invited by the sponsor to provide content for the event (such as a speaker or instructor). Any guest must complete all required paperwork (e.g., Acknowledgments) and be approved by the Provost’s office to come to campus. Refer to the Campus Visitors policy on the Return to Campus website for requirements about how food and drink must distributed/arranged for campus visitors, noting the role of Campus Dining. 

Group participation, especially cheering/yelling/singing: 

  • Attendees should avoid activities that might require people to yell, raise their voice, or project their voice, given recent research about how talking loudly can lead to more large droplets/aerosols that spread the virus. 

Anchor Link and RSVP system:   

  • The sponsor must enter events into Anchor Link and use the RSVP feature to ensure that the event does not exceed the stated maximum number of attendees in the plan. All attendees must RSVP at least 48 hours in advance of the event so that appropriate vetting of attendees can occur.  

Swiping in at events:  

  • All attendees at university events (including faculty, students, and staff) must swipe in at every event in to aid in contact tracing efforts if needed. If the event must use a different sign-in approach due to a technological issue, the sponsor must ensure appropriate sanitization between uses for pens/stylus/papers/iPads, or whatever other materials are used.   

Ratios for event staffing and support 

  • For student events, one designated event staff member must be in attendance for every 15 students attending. For the avoidance of doubt, when an event exceeds 15 students, a second staff member must be added (for example, a gathering of 20 students requires two designated staff). 
  • Event staff’s primary role is to make sure all attendees are following all above guidelines and to help maintain compliance. Designated event staff must include faculty or staff from the sponsoring department and may also include Resident Advisers or pre-designated student leaders who are aware of this role and responsibilities therein.  
  • Event staff may not be solely students; at least one professional (faculty or staff) must be in attendance at every event. All designated event staff must be counted toward any maximum occupancy limit for the designated event space.  


  • Graduate and professional student academic and learning events held within buildings specific to the school or college should be carefully reviewed by the dean for compliance. The dean can approve the events but must ensure the following:
    • Attendance must be tracked and be instantly available in the event contact tracing is needed
    • Events must be registered in Anchorlink for DOS tracking
  • Graduate and professional student academic and learning events proposed to be held outside of their specific buildings must be reviewed and approved by the Office of the Dean of Students through the Events at Vanderbilt space reservation process or by otherwise emailing

Guidelines for performing arts student organizations

  • Signing in groups will be permitted with the following restrictions:
    • No more than 12 individuals can gather
    • Singing must take place outdoors (outdoor reservation required)
    • Singers must wear masks at all times
    • There must be 12 feet between people and/or a physical barrier between singers
  • Instrumental groups restrictions:
    • Instruments that require use of air (Woodwinds, Brass) will not be allowed
    • String and percussion instruments
      • No more than 12 individuals can gather
      • Individuals must be no less than 10 feet apart
      • Individuals must wear masks at all times
  • Dancing in groups will be permitted with the following restrictions:
    • No more than 12 individuals can gather
    • Individuals must be no less than 10 feet apart
    • Individuals must wear masks at all times
  • For groups that do not fall under either singing or dancing categories (VUT, TNC, etc.), the following restrictions will be in place:
    • No more than 12 individuals can gather
    • Individuals must be no less than 10 feet apart
    • Individuals must wear masks at all times
  • All groups that can gather should prioritize outside meeting locations rather than indoor.

We are balancing the health, safety and comfort of our constituencies and our community with providing meaningful experiences for students traditionally associated with Vanderbilt. These are temporary measures to deal with the challenging circumstances in which we find ourselves. 

No guests will be allowed within residence hall rooms. Although first-year students will be assigned a single room, we expect that they will make friends on their residence hall floors, sitting in their doorways talking late into the night, or lounging on one of our various campus outdoor areas while physically distancing. Students will also be able to interact with their virtual roommates and other friends in person throughout the academic year, while still following the university’s protocols. 

We hope that community members will be active participants and bystanders in keeping the community healthy, safe, and accountable.  

Students around campus practice healthy behaviors.


Vanderbilt will continue to provide strong support to our incoming transfer students even as they live in off-campus residences. Through our transfer orientation program, students will interact with others through informational sessions and small-group discussions that will help them navigate your academic program, campus resources and student life on Vanderbilt’s campus. Through TSO, they’ll also have the opportunity to connect with Transfer Student Leaders (sophomores, juniors, and seniors who transferred to Vanderbilt themselves) and other incoming transfer students.

Additionally, the new Campus Connection Program will provide undergraduate students with personalized support and guidance as they navigate the various experiential learning and campus services that are part of their collegiate experience at Vanderbilt. The program will engage Campus Connectors, professional staff from Academic Affairs, to serve as liaisons who directly support personal and professional development for their cohort of students from enrollment to graduation.