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ARCHIVE: Student Programming and Organizations

Posted by on Monday, June 8, 2020 in .

Student life on campus is an important part of the college experience. There is no denying that the ways in which we live, learn, interact and study will continue to evolve and change in the coming months. Many of these experiences will be new for all of us, and we fully understand that the dynamics of the fall semester may not be what any of us would desire or expect. We share in the feeling that there is a long road of uncertainty ahead, but the collaborative and caring culture of Vanderbilt positions us well to thoughtfully travel it together.

The Office of the Dean of Students is using the parameters and protocols set forth as a part of the university’s Return to Campus Plan as a basis for the below guidelines for student life on campus and to determine how staff and students engage in various activities and programs.


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.

Maximum size and related mechanisms to ensure physical distancing:  

  • The plan must include the maximum number of students and total attendees (students plus staffing) that the sponsor intends to allow to attend, keeping the COVID-19 modified maximum occupancy for any indoor space in mind.  
  • Approval consideration will also take into consideration how the plan addresses the challenges associated with controlling crowds and maintaining physical distance for larger events, including maintaining distance 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 for 50 students, 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 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. Indoor events must stay within the COVID-19 modified maximum occupancy in a space while maintaining physical distancing as established by the university (e.g., through chair straps). 
  • 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 23 students requires two designated staff). When an event exceeds 30 students a third staff member must be added, and this pattern of adding a staff member continues each time the event exceeds a multiple of 15. 
  • 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. Pre-designated student leaders in these roles should have completed the PHA training. All designated event staff must be counted toward any maximum occupancy limit for the designated event space.  


Student Accountability will oversee compliance. Students are expected to comply with all university policies and protocols designed to facilitate physical distancing, reduce the spread of COVID-19 and promote the health and safety as much as possible of the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities. Any intentional or reckless disregard for these policies and protocols will be addressed through the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity, using the existing sanctioning considerations found in the Student Handbook, including a review of the potential impact based on the nature and severity of the incident, which may support an enhanced sanction. This also applies to both unofficial on- and off-campus parties.