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Aug. 17, 2020 – Return to Campus Update

Posted by on Monday, August 17, 2020 in Community Messages.

It’s officially move-in week, and we are pleased to be welcoming back students for the semester. While this fall will look different than in years past, we remain steadfast in the constant pursuit of our mission and ideals outlined in our Academic Strategic Plan.

As the university prepares to welcome more students, faculty, staff and postdocs back to campus over the coming weeks, it’s important for all to closely follow all campus protocols:

Mask Up: Wear a face mask/covering in public settings indoors and outdoors

Back Up: Maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others

Wash Up: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

Check Up: Monitor yourself daily for COVID-19 symptoms

These protocols are required at all times while on campus and are also critically important to follow while off campus to enhance the safety of the VU community, as well as the surrounding Nashville community. To date, all positive cases among members of the VU community have been the result of off-campus contacts and activities. To slow the spread of COVID-19 among the VU community and to maintain our ability to continue on-campus activities, it is critical that we all do our part to decrease the risk of infection for others.

If you have a COVID-19 concern, report it by calling the Public Health Hotline at 615-343-1352.

What’s Coming Up

Undergraduate move-in

Undergraduate move-in begins today, Monday, Aug. 17, and continues through Sunday, Aug. 23. All students scheduled to move into campus housing must have a negative result from their pre-arrival test or complete a pre-arrival testing waiver request if the student has been COVID-19-positive (confirmed with a PCR test) in the past three months.

Students and families also should be prepared to follow campus protocols, including wearing face masks/coverings at all times while on campus.

Students received an email last week with their detailed move-in instructions, including which symptom screening location to report to. Upon arriving to campus, students and accompanying family members will report first to one of five symptom screening locations, assigned according to the residence that the student is moving into.

Detailed move-in instructions>>

Arrival testing

All undergraduate students are required to complete pre-arrival testing before coming onto campus for the first time. All Vanderbilt undergraduates attending in-person classes (living on or off campus) will be re-tested after arrival.

Undergraduate students moving into on-campus housing will have their test kit waiting in their room. Students should follow the instructions that accompany the kit and complete the arrival test within 48 hours of move-in. The instructions denote where completed tests should be dropped off for processing.

Undergraduate students living off campus will pick up their test kit on campus. These kits will be available for pick-up at the Sarratt Box Office on Thursday, Aug. 20, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (last names A-L) and 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. (last names M-Z) or on Friday, Aug. 21, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (last names M-Z) and 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. (last names A-L). Undergraduate students who have not arrived by Aug. 21, can pick up their COVID-19 test kits and the health and safety kit the week of Aug. 24 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at the Sarratt Box Office. Pick-up days are scheduled based on last name: A-E on Aug. 24, F-J on Aug. 25, K-O on Aug. 26, P-T on Aug. 27, U-Z on Aug. 28.

The test should be completed within 48 hours of being picked up, and the instructions denote where completed tests should be dropped off for processing.

Anyone who tests positive from the arrival test kit must complete their isolation period until they are medically cleared to return to normal campus activities. The Public Health Central Command Center will follow up regarding the process to return to normal campus activities. Students who are in isolation on the first day of class will need to start classes online.

Arrival testing details>>

Symptom monitoring

Individuals who have been authorized to return to campus, including all undergraduate, graduate and professional students, must conduct symptom monitoring every day before coming to campus or leaving their residence hall room.

A symptom assessment tool has been created to aid those coming to and living on campus. The symptom assessment tool is mandatory for students coming to campus or living on campus. Remote-only students do not need to enter symptoms in the assessment tool. The symptom assessment tool is also recommended for faculty, staff and postdocs coming to campus. Those working remotely do not need to utilize the assessment tool. The main purpose of symptom monitoring is to determine if you meet criteria for a medical evaluation for COVID-19. If you have an underlying medical condition or an ongoing chronic condition that has symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, then you do not need to record this if your symptoms are unchanged. Please only record symptoms that are new or worsening.

Student symptom monitoring details>>

Faculty, staff and postdoc symptom monitoring details>>

Updates to masking requirements

Face masks/coverings (e.g., disposable masks or cloth face coverings) must be worn by all individuals on campus at all times in public indoor settings (e.g., common workspaces, public spaces, hallways, stairwells, elevators, meeting rooms, classrooms, breakrooms, restrooms, etc.).

Appropriate use of face masks/coverings is important in minimizing risks to the wearers and those around them according to both CDC and ACHA guidance. You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. The face mask/covering is not a substitute for physical distancing.

Based on CDC guidance and recent updated studies, face masks/coverings need to fit the following criteria:

  • Face masks/coverings must adhere to CDC guidance.
  • Cotton face masks are allowed as long as they have multiple layers.
  • Any face mask/covering with a one-way exhalation valve is prohibited. These masks allow the wearer to directly exhale into the air, and do not prevent the person wearing the mask from transmitting COVID-19 to others.
  • Neck gaiters are not recommended.The fabric used in neck gaiters has demonstrated through various studies as not being effective.
  • Scarves and bandanas are not recommended, as based on studiesthey do not provide enough layers to be effective.

Face masks/coverings details>>

Contacting Vanderbilt about positive test results

Individuals who have received a COVID-19 positive test result or were informed outside of the VU/VUMC system (e.g., notified by Metro Public Health or another public health entity) that they are a close contact, should complete the Command Center webform, which goes directly to the VU Public Health Central Command Center to ensure confidentiality. The form can be accessed only by entering your VUnetID and password.

Test results from individuals tested by VUMC, Student Health, Occupational Health or Vanderbilt surveillance testing are routed automatically to the Command Center. Individuals will receive direct communication from the Command Center about their isolation or quarantine period if they are considered a close contact, and they must contact Student Health or Occupational Health if they develop symptoms. The Command Center will communicate with the individual throughout their isolation or quarantine period to monitor any symptoms that develop and ensure they are well-supported.

Command Center details>>

Classroom protocols

All positive cases and close contacts are tracked by the Command Center. The Command Center is responsible for contact tracing and determining additional cleanings and protocols to implement.

If an individual reports to a faculty or staff member that they are COVID-19-positive or a close contact, the faculty or staff member should tell them to stay in their residence, ask if they are working with Student Health or Occupational Health and, if not, tell them to immediately log their positive result or close contact status with the Command Center on the webform. The Command Center will then launch all next steps, including the contact tracing, quarantine, symptom monitoring and any needed testing. Faculty and staff should not send notifications to other faculty members, staff or students; the Command Center will handle all notifications.

If a student with a COVID-19-positive case is enrolled in an instructor’s in-person course, the instructor will be notified; however, the student will not be identified. Instructors will not need to take any further action unless directed to do so by the Command Center. Only those deemed close contacts through contact tracing will be notified. All students in quarantine (close contacts) or isolation (COVID-19-positive cases) will not attend in-person classes.

Classroom protocols details>>

Student accountability: Your actions on and off campus

Each year, off-campus residents are asked to adhere to the university’s Good Neighbor Guidelines as representatives of Vanderbilt in their interactions with the Nashville community. Students who will live off campus are asked to submit their off-campus address to the University Registrar through YES. An email sent to students last week provides details and instructions related to both of these items.

This year, the principles underlying the Good Neighbor Guidelines are more important than ever.

It is the responsibility of each community member to fully commit to protecting the Vanderbilt community’s collective health and well-being and play their individual part in ensuring a successful fall semester.

Students are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the Good Neighbor Guidelines, the Student Handbook, and all university policies and protocols designed to facilitate physical distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19, which may supersede certain provisions of the Good Neighbor Guidelines and the Student Handbook at this time.

Of particular note is the Gatherings section of the Vanderbilt Return to Campus protocols. It is imperative that students review these protocols to ensure that their residence is in compliance. Some key points in the Gatherings policy include:

  • While students may host small informal meetups of 10 individuals or less, parties, social events and similar group activities, including those involving alcohol, whether on or off campus, are not permitted and pose a significant public health risk.
  • If students choose to host a small, informal meetup at their residence, compliance with VU’s COVID-19 protocols is required, including physical distancing, wearing face masks/coverings, and other personal safety practices, as well as adhering to any other applicable university policies.
  • Any intentional or reckless disregard for the COVID-19 policies and protocols on or off campus will be addressed through the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity, utilizing the existing sanctioning considerations found in the Student Handbook, including reviewing the potential impact on the community in the evaluation of the nature and severity of the incident, which may support an enhanced sanction, including probation, suspension or expulsion.

Students also should take note of Nashville’s guidelines surrounding gatherings. Failure to comply with the city’s public health emergency orders can result in criminal penalties. 

If you notice COVID-19 protocols are not being followed, report it by calling the Public Health Hotline at 615-343-1352.

Public dashboard

Starting today, the university has launched a public dashboard for weekly reporting of new positive COVID-19 cases among members of the Vanderbilt community. It includes positive test reports for Vanderbilt students residing on campus; Vanderbilt students residing off campus who are coming to the university campus; and Vanderbilt University-employed faculty, staff and postdocs who are teaching, working or conducting research on the university campus. This dashboard is designed to give our community visibility into the current presence of COVID-19 among individuals who are living on or regularly coming to our campus. The dashboard will not include positive cases involving students, faculty, staff or postdocs who are studying, teaching, working or conducting research exclusively remotely or at experiential learning sites (either in the greater Nashville area or beyond).

COVID-19 public dashboard>>

Updates for Research in Phase II+

In Phase II+, lead researchers have the opportunity to update their on-campus research ramp-up plans if needed. The new RedCAP forms for Phase II+ are now available. Lead researchers who previously submitted an intake form, or requested an exception, in Phase I or II will receive a personalized email with a link to the new Phase II+ version. To reduce administrative burdens, all previously entered responses will pre-populate the new form. If multiple forms were submitted, a separate email will be sent for each. If a personalized link has not been received via email by 9 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 17, contact for assistance.

Lead researchers who will be submitting a phased research ramp-up form of any kind for the first time in Phase II+ should use the weblink provided on the VU research website. Please consult the transitioning to Phase II+ research ramp-up decision tree and, if necessary, the FAQs for Phased Research Ramp-up. As a reminder, there is no need to submit a form to conduct research activities remotely with all research team members remaining off campus and interacting only virtually. 

The Phase II+ Exception Request for Off-Campus Research Form must be submitted to seek special permission to conduct off-campus research activities within the continental U.S., including the Metro Nashville area outside of Vanderbilt. As a reminder, for the purposes of phased research ramp-up, “off-campus” refers to spaces that are not owned, operated or leased by VU or VUMC such as Nashville Public Schools, Oak Ridge National Lab, or the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

For faculty who would like to mentor VU undergraduate students in a research project that involves in-person activities, as is customary, faculty should work with the undergraduate student to plan the research activities they propose to undertake. During Phase II+, these plans must be reviewed and approved before they can be implemented. This process will be managed through the Phase II+ forms in RedCAP, including review by the Ad Hoc Research Ramp-up Working Group in consultation with the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and, as appropriate, the VUMC Office of Research. After VU approval, additional requirements must be fulfilled by undergraduates working with VUMC-employed faculty mentors before the approved research starts. Medical Center Relations (MCR) is the central VUMC approval office for all VU undergraduate students seeking a research experience at VUMC. Contact MCR at Until further notice, undergraduate students will not be granted access to clinical systems containing protected health information (i.e., eStar).

For further information, contact Vice Provost for Research Padma Raghavan at or

Move-in week activities and orientation for incoming undergraduate students

As move-in commences today, a mix of in-person and virtual activities will be available to students. This includes nightly welcome and orientation activities with residential faculty, orientation leaders and residential colleges staff, as well as the separate CommonVU orientation modules that became available on Aug. 15. Students should look for additional communications about small-group campus tours, scavenger hunts, floor meetings, virtual roommate activities and much more.

Parents and Family Orientation, typically hosted the Sunday following move-in, will be held in three virtual sessions this year.

Tuesday, Aug. 18, 7 p.m. CT – Orientation to The Ingram Commons. This session is open to all incoming first-year student parents and families. Click here to register.

Thursday, Aug. 20, 7 p.m. CT – Supporting Your Student in Uncharted Territory: First-Generation Students and Families. This session is open to all incoming first-year and transfer student parents and families. Click here to register.

Sunday, Aug. 23, 1 p.m. CT – Health, Safety and Wellness: Communicating with VU and Your New Student. This session is open to all incoming first-year and transfer student parents and families. Click here to register.

Registrants can submit questions for any sessions using this form.

Welcoming transfer students

The Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs launched an online Transfer Student Orientation program on Aug. 15 to help support the fall 2020 incoming transfer cohort. Through this program, all incoming transfer students will complete a series of online modules designed to meet their academic and personal needs. During the two-week orientation period, transfer students will meet virtually with their Transfer Group, a smaller cohort of 13-15 incoming transfers led by an upper-division Transfer Student Leader (TSL).

On Aug. 22, all new transfers will be invited to visit campus for a drop-by welcome event, where they’ll have the opportunity to meet their TSL in person, receive a gift from the university, and pick up their Commodore Card. Before classes begin, they also will be invited to participate in a campus tour, led by an orientation leader.

Transfer student orientation details>>

Library 101: Hitting the Books Successfully

Vanderbilt’s libraries are reopening for the VU community. The libraries are following university protocols to enhance safety and promote physical distancing, while delivering excellent services and resources for learning and research. Remote resources and services have been expanded over the course of the last few months as most of the libraries’ services will remain remote. Some library spaces are being used as classrooms, while others are open for individual study—check the libraries’ webpage for current opening hours.

Central, Peabody, and Science and Engineering libraries will be open for undergraduate students living off campus to use as an on-campus place to take their online courses. VUID card access is required to enter these buildings. Headphones or earphones will be required when using these spaces. The buildings will open on Aug. 24 with the following hours:

  • Central, Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and weekends from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Peabody, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Science and Engineering, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If more spaces are needed for off-campus student support, updates to students and faculty will be provided through this Return to Campus Update.

On the libraries website you will also find tips for using the libraries in “What to Know Before You Visit” and see more information about new services and resources in “Frequently Asked Questions.” Staffing on-site has been de-densified, but librarians are fully available via live chat, Zoom, email, phone or text. When in doubt, please reach out to our librarians.

Campus Dining operations and outdoor tents

Campus Dining will gradually reopen its operations in two-week increments beginning today, Monday, Aug. 17.

  • Starting today, Aug. 17, 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 Sept. 7, we anticipate that locations will open to graduate and professional students.
  • Beginning Sept. 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, in residence hall rooms, or in one of the three large outdoor tents that have been installed at Alumni Lawn, Library Lawn and Peabody Esplanade. These 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.

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. All campus protocols must be followed in and around all tent locations, including physical distancing of at least 6 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.

To supplement food options during the first part of the fall semester, food truck offerings will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 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.

Students are encouraged to sign up for Dining News Alerts by texting the word DININGNEWS to 55744. These alerts will provide important service updates and notifications, Campus Dining news, and even special events like Free Friday. Standard data and messaging rates apply.

Students are also encouraged to download the GET app to check their account balances, add Commodore Cash, order food, and to use their phone to enable touchless payment at registers in lieu of their card.

Campus dining operations details>>

VCFC to launch Art Adventures Enrichment Program

Vanderbilt Child and Family Center will launch a recreational art enrichment program for Vanderbilt University community members with school-age children entering first through fifth grades. The new Art Adventures Enrichment Program will run through Nov. 25 and will take place at the university’s 1810 Edgehill Ave. location.

Art Adventures Enrichment Program application>>

The launch of this program comes as the university explores ways to support Vanderbilt community members with school-age children. In June, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente launched the University Working Group on Schools and Childcare. In July, the working group announced the launch of a new caregiver online forum for VU community members to connect and exchange ideas and resources. The new Emergency Relief Fund is also available to support university families.

Families can enroll for either two or three days per week. Two time slots will be offered from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Block A) or 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Block B).

Parking registration open, new options and changes

Undergraduate students can purchase an annual or fall semester-only parking permit online. In an effort to provide more flexibility for residential and off-campus students, students with F, G, J, VK and GT permits can park in any of the parking facilities on the expanded list on the Parking Services website.

Undergraduate students parking program details>>

Faculty, staff, postdocs and graduate and professional students who are authorized to return to campus have more options for parking on campus this year, including the traditional annual parking permit that allows parking in any zone, $5 per day hangtags or a new daily parking option (piloted with a limited number of commuters).

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to offer the VU community a sustainable and equitable transportation and parking program that is aligned with the university’s values. We understand that everyone’s commute needs are different and, in response to feedback from the campus community about the desire for more commute options and flexibility when parking, we are piloting the new daily option to meet the diverse needs of members of the Vanderbilt community.

Faculty, staff, postdocs and graduate and professional students MoveVU daily parking program details>>

What you might have missed 

Classroom visits by faculty

Faculty may visit the classrooms in which they will teach undergraduate and graduate courses this fall through Friday, Aug. 21—during their regularly scheduled class times—as part of their preparation for in-person and hybrid teaching. Faculty who teach professional program courses should contact their dean or department chair regarding the procedure for visiting their classrooms. Before arriving on campus for a classroom visit, faculty must complete the required Return to Campus Acknowledgment in Oracle Learning. Faculty should bring their Vanderbilt ID card to gain access to classroom buildings and must wear face masks/coverings, observe physical distancing and follow all university safety protocols while on campus. Each visit is limited to 45 minutes to allow for transitions between different faculty using the classroom in the following class period. Faculty may report issues with their classrooms by completing this form.

Open enrollment for employees

All benefits-eligible employees should complete Open Enrollment Oct. 19–Nov. 2 for calendar year 2021 benefits. All fully benefits-eligible faculty and staff are required to make an active plan selection during this year’s Open Enrollment for 2021 coverage. Employees will not automatically default into their current plan if no action is taken. Even if you are not planning to make changes, you must confirm current elections, confirm dependent and beneficiary information and attest to whether you and your covered family members are tobacco-free and attest to whether your spouse is eligible for coverage elsewhere. During this time, employees can make changes to or waive health, dental and vision insurance; supplemental life insurance; accidental death and dismemberment insurance; health care flexible spending accounts; or dependent care flexible spending accounts.

Open enrollment details>>

Asymptomatic testing

The university has updated its approach to testing of asymptomatic close contacts based on newly released guidance from the CDC. Asymptomatic close contacts will be tested on day 8 of the required quarantine period. This applies specifically to all faculty, staff, postdocs and students who are authorized to be on campus and are participating in on-campus activities. How an individual receives their test kit will depend on their location either on campus or off campus.

Asymptomatic testing details >>

Surveillance testing

Undergraduate students, graduate and professional students, faculty, staff and postdocs who are authorized to be on campus, and are engaged in on-campus, in-person activities, will be included in the institution’s ongoing COVID-19 surveillance testing program which will begin by Sept.1. The sampling of Vanderbilt community members selected for testing will be based on analysis of COVID-19 test outcomes in segments of the community and other factors that will ensure a representative, meaningful and targeted sample of the VU community. Frequency of the testing during the fall semester will be based on the analysis of the outcome data being surveilled.

Surveillance testing details >>

Emergency Relief Fund and Leave Bank

The Employee COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund has been established to assist employees with financial burdens that have been incurred as a result of COVID-19. Eligible university-employed faculty, staff and postdocs can request reimbursements of up to $500 for expenses related to family care, medical bills from COVID-19 treatment or alternative housing arrangements needed due to personal circumstances linked to COVID-19 isolation or quarantine.

Starting today (Aug. 17), Vanderbilt will provide eligible staff members who are required to work on campus access to a one-time bank of up to two weeks (80 hours) of pay to recover from a diagnosed COVID-19 illness or stay home for required quarantine or isolation periods through the newly established COVID-19 Leave Bank.

Emergency Relief Fund and Leave Bank details>>

+ Video Spotlight

This new video series highlights aspects of the university’s Return to Campus Plan as a way to inform our campus community members of what will be different for the fall 2020 semester. More videos will be added to the Return to Campus video page over the coming weeks.

WATCH: What dining at Rand will look like for fall 2020

WATCH: A message from VSG: You are not alone

WATCH: Contact tracing

WATCH: Testing protocols

WATCH: Navigating campus

WATCH: Facilities cleaning

WATCH: Public Health AmbassaDores

Upcoming deadlines for undergraduate students

Aug. 17-23 Move-in
Aug. 20-21 Undergraduate students living off campus will pick up their arrival test kits at the Sarratt Box Office during the times assigned to them according to last name
Aug. 24 First day of classes for undergraduate students
Aug. 24-28 Undergraduates living off campus can pick up their health and safety kits at the Sarratt Box Office between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on the day assigned to them according to last name

Graduate and professional programs academic calendar

Aug. 17 Graduate School orientation 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 PhD 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

The 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 impact you directly, we want to ensure everyone in our community has easy access to this information.

You’ll receive this update 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.