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Aug. 3, 2020 – Return to Campus Update

Posted by on Monday, August 3, 2020 in Community Messages.

This weekly Return to Campus Update is part of our ongoing effort to provide you with the latest information regarding the fall 2020 Return to Campus Plan. While some of this information may not directly affect you, we wanted to ensure everyone in our community has easy access to this information.


Vanderbilt Phase II continues with readiness for further on-campus activities

Vanderbilt University has continued successful implementation of Phase II of its Return to Campus Plan, and as of August 10 will have the criteria and systems in place to begin on-campus classes on August 24 for all undergraduates and many graduate and professional students (some graduate and professional programs will have started before that date). This next step, termed Phase II+, is based on the ramp up of education and research activities since Phase II launched on June 18 and includes the implementation of extensive protocols to protect the health and well-being of the university community as much as possible. Vanderbilt’s Phase II+ includes health and safety guidelines that are stricter than those in Metro Nashville’s modified Phase 2 plan and has been designed with the university’s unique residential education and research environment in mind.

Phase II+ details>>

Pre-arrival test kits and arrival testing

Due to their residential living arrangements and interactions across campus, all undergraduate students are required to complete pre-arrival testing within 14 days before coming onto campus for the first time. We have partnered with Vault, a national provider of at-home test kits, to provide COVID-19 at-home PCR saliva test kits in early August as a convenience to students. This saliva PCR test is the first FDA EUA-authorized solution of its kind and is currently a testing solution for many national companies, as well as sports leagues such as the National Hockey League, the PGA Tour, and Major League Soccer. As students complete the Vault test, they will be supervised via Zoom by a medical professional which will allow for a higher degree of service for students and families, while also increasing test efficacy. Our providing this test kit solution for all undergraduate students also allows consistent methodology across the student body and eliminates the challenge of finding asymptomatic testing options in locations across the U.S. with varying levels of availability.

The Public Health Central Command Center will use the results from this pre-arrival testing, as well as the arrival testing, as one factor in determining the schedule for ongoing surveillance testing across all Vanderbilt student, staff and faculty groups. The new Vault testing strategy also will result in an accelerated arrival testing plan; updates regarding this will be shared by August 10.

Undergraduate students received an email on July 31 with instructions for ordering, completing and returning the test kit.

Undergraduate student pre-arrival testing>>

Asymptomatic Close Contact Testing for Vanderbilt University Community

The CDC continues to release regular updates to COVID-19 guidance, and recently issued specific updates on the testing of asymptomatic close contacts on or after the eighth day following exposure. Per both Vanderbilt Return to Campus protocol and CDC guidance, a close contact is defined as any individual who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to positive test collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

University Public Health Central Command Center officials, in consultation with the Student Health Center and Occupational Health Center, as well as Vanderbilt University Medical Center and our School of Nursing, are reviewing the updated CDC guidance and developing an asymptomatic close contact testing plan that takes into consideration the CDC recommendations. All close contacts must quarantine for 14 days regardless of testing results. The details of this plan will be released on August 10.

Temporary Housing Support for Off-Campus Vanderbilt Community Members

For the convenience of the VU community, the university has negotiated special rates with the Holiday Inn Vanderbilt—a Vanderbilt-preferred hotel—for use by members of the VU community who live off campus and, because of their personal circumstances, want an alternative short-term residence. A valid Vanderbilt ID must be presented at check-in to verify Vanderbilt affiliation, and the faculty member, staff member, postdoc or student will be responsible for all associated costs. Undergraduate, graduate and professional students with demonstrated need can apply to the student hardship fund for assistance with these costs.

Off-campus undergraduate student alternative short-term residence details>>

Faculty, staff, postdoc, graduate or professional student alternative short-term residence details>>

As a reminder, on-campus students are being provided alternative housing for quarantine and isolation through their housing contracts.

Outdoor Spaces and Tents

Three large tents have been installed at Alumni Lawn, Library Lawn and Peabody Esplanade to serve as dining locations for the campus community. Capacity at each tent will be managed by on-site Campus Dining staff stationed at check-in tables, and time within the dining tent will be limited to 20 minutes. Dining tents are available to all members of the VU community, regardless of whether the meal to be eaten was purchased from a Campus Dining location. All guests must present their Vanderbilt ID at check-in.

Additional tents may be installed to support particular buildings or programs on campus. All campus protocols must be followed in and around all tent locations, including physical distancing of at least six feet and wearing a face mask or face covering at all times, except when eating or drinking. Signage will be posted throughout tent areas to direct circulation and provide reminders of protocols, which must be followed at all times. In addition to tents, other outdoor spaces throughout campus are being updated with painted circles on lawns to identify physically distanced locations for use by individuals, including for outdoor dining, studying, leisure and other activities.

Campus Operations: Outdoor spaces>>

Campus Dining Operations

Campus Dining will gradually open its operations in two-week increments for the fall semester. To begin the fall semester, only undergraduate students and residential faculty will be authorized to use their meal plan, meal money or Commodore Cash to purchase meals from Campus Dining locations; cash, credit cards and debit cards will not be accepted. Beginning September 7, we anticipate that locations will open to graduate and professional students, and beginning September 21, Campus Dining operations plan to return to servicing the full VU community, including faculty, staff and postdocs. To maximize physical distancing, Campus Dining’s reopening plan does not include seating in dining halls. Meals will be served to-go style, to be eaten in a physically distanced manner in designated areas or the tents mentioned above.

To supplement food options during the first part of the fall semester, food truck offerings will be available during lunch hours Monday through Friday between Buttrick Hall and the Black Cultural Center. These food trucks will be available to all members of the VU community but will only accept Commodore Cash and Meal Money as payment.

Campus Dining operations>>

Campus Visitors

As part of our comprehensive efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible at Vanderbilt, throughout the city of Nashville and beyond, we have made the difficult decision to limit the presence of visitors on campus for the fall semester, and to impose heightened expectations for those visitors who are permitted. In an effort to de-densify our public spaces, individuals including prospective students, faculty, staff and postdoctoral fellows, non-Vanderbilt interns and observers, recruiters and family members of students, faculty and staff—among others—regrettably will not be permitted in campus buildings until further notice unless specific permission has been granted in advance by the appropriate university office, dean or vice chancellor. In certain cases, exceptions may be made for approved users of VU Core Facilities, research participants, visiting researchers, suppliers, contractors, vendors, safety inspectors and others based on individual circumstances.

Fall 2020 Visitor Policy>>


Updates to the schedule of undergraduate classes were finalized in YES on Wednesday, July 29. Undergraduate students should have received an email from the Office of the University Registrar with information about the schedule and schedule adjustment windows. Those windows are defined on the University Registrar website.

The university requires on-site temperature screenings when individuals are at increased risk for exposure to COVID-19 because their daily activities result in close and/or frequent contact with others. Temperature screenings guidelines>>

All university-sponsored domestic and international travel is restricted until further notice. We also ask that students stay in the Nashville area and not travel at any time until the end of in-person classes on Friday, November 20. Further information regarding faculty, staff and postdoc travel>>


  • Aug. 5: Place your pre-arrival test kit order by 2 p.m. CDT
  • Aug. 7: Complete Student Return to Campus Acknowledgment Form
  • Aug. 10: Download VandySafe app to start mandatory daily symptom monitoring
  • Aug. 10-31: Open enrollment class registration
  • Aug. 11-12: Complete your pre-arrival test via telehealth Zoom meeting between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. CDT
  • Aug. 12: Drop off your pre-arrival test kit at the UPS store or brown UPS drop box by 4 p.m. your local time
  • Aug. 17-23: Move-in
  • Aug. 24: First day of classes for undergraduate students


  • Aug. 3: Orientation for Owen Graduate School of Management Master of Finance, Master of Marketing and Master of Accountancy begins
  • Aug. 9: Owen Graduate School of Management Executive MBA Week in Residence begins
  • Aug. 12: School of Medicine Master of Genetic Counseling program launches
  • Aug. 15: Orientation for Owen Graduate School of Management Master of Management in Health Care begins
  • Aug. 17: Law School classes begin
  • Aug. 17: Owen Graduate School of Management programs (except EMBA and MMHC) launch
  • Aug. 17: School of Medicine Master of Science in Clinical Investigation program launches
  • Aug. 17-21: School of Nursing Ph.D. Intensive Program
  • Aug. 19: Divinity School orientation begins
  • Aug. 20: Owen Graduate School of Management Master of Management in Health Care program launches
  • Aug. 21: School of Nursing PreSpecialty (M.S.N.) program launches
  • Aug. 24: School of Nursing Specialty Level (M.S.N.) program launches
  • Aug. 24: Divinity School classes begin
  • Aug. 24: Graduate School classes begin
  • Aug. 24: Peabody College classes begin
  • Aug. 24: School of Engineering classes begin
  • Aug. 26: School of Medicine Doctor of Audiology, Doctor of Medical Physics, Master of Science in Medical Physics, Master of Education of the Deaf, Master of Public Health and Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology programs launch
  • Aug. 27: School of Medicine Master of Science in Applied Clinical Informatics program launches
  • Aug. 31: School of Nursing Doctor of Nursing Practice program launches
  • Sept. 1-4: Divinity School Doctor of Ministry Virtual Intensive Program

You’ll receive this update weekly via email until the start of the semester, and then we will switch to running it as the top story in MyVU once classes begin, continuing through the end of the fall semester. Each edition also will be posted on the Return to Campus website under the Community Messages section.