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Sept. 14, 2020 – Return to Campus Update

Posted by on Monday, September 14, 2020 in Community Messages.

As the Vanderbilt community moves another week forward with fall semester classes, we should all take a moment to reflect on the tremendous efforts of everyone to get us to this point.

Students, faculty and staff are making immense efforts to keep each other as safe as possible and continuing to focus on campus protocols and guidelines in this time of great change.

Each person in the Vanderbilt community must be willing to be a part of the solution, and leaders are emerging from many parts of campus.

One example of student leadership is the Student Advocates for Public Health (SAPH). This new student group, established through a partnership among the School of Nursing, Health Professions Advisory Office, Office of the Dean of Students and Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, will engage undergraduate students in education, training and dialogue to promote the safest possible campus for everyone at Vanderbilt.

Another example is the many students leading the charge to form interest groups in residential colleges and build community while still following the university’s protocols. Several groups have already begun meeting, including ones focused on fitness, gaming, jewelry making, jigsaw puzzles, photography, sewing, slacklines, writing, board games, wood crafts, film and music.

Faculty have risen to the challenge of creating new and innovative ways of teaching, as well as ways to continue making research and scholarship breakthroughs. Their dedication to fostering dialogue and creating dynamic learning and discovery environments is ensuring that students have an exceptional educational experience this semester. Chancellor Diermeier has witnessed this work firsthand as he has dropped in to classes across campus to welcome back students and faculty.

At the same time, hundreds of staff have gone above and beyond their daily duties to support both students and faculty—including VUPS officers transporting students who need to quarantine or isolate to their new housing locations; the Office of Housing and Residential Experience staff regularly checking in on students in need; and the dedicated staff of the Public Health Central Command Center who are overseeing the university’s testing and contact-tracing efforts.

Each member of the Vanderbilt community is critical in the university’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to offer a world-class educational experience.

As the semester continues, the community must not lose sight of the importance of continuing to follow the university’s protocols and guidance. Microbiology and immunology expert Dr. David Aronoff discussed why it is important for everyone on the Vanderbilt campus to continue COVID-19 safety measures in this Ask an Expert interview. Dr. Aronoff also noted how these measures will help us all prepare for the upcoming cold and flu season.

There still will be moments of difficulty for many community members this semester. In those times, finding support in friends, classmates and colleagues and remembering the importance of why the university is taking these precautions—for the health of our campus community members and the ability to have an in-person experience—will help keep everyone moving forward in the coming months.



Provost Wente has established a small working group to begin developing any proposed changes to the spring 2021 academic calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week a working group including Vice Provosts Beasley, Christiansen and Robinson, along with Associate Deans Paschal, Christie-Mizell, Rose and Wager, worked to develop at least two calendar scenarios. This week a group of key leadership will stress-test the plans to ensure viability, and then faculty groups will review and share feedback. Next week, updates will be made by the working group and a recommendation will be shared with the provost and chancellor. An announcement of the final calendar is planned for early October. Professional schools will use the same internal process they used in the fall to propose their modified calendars for provost approval. Their process may not follow the same timeline.

See more details in the provost’s Open Dore>> 


Last week, staff at the David R. Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center reached out to students to announce new group fitness classes that will be offered on the grass fields that surround the Rec Center. Registration is required for the classes and opened on Friday, Sept. 11. In addition, club sports have begun to organize safely to conduct conditioning and/or skill activities. Students can visit Anchorlink to join any of the 33 club sports. As a reminder, physical distancing must always be maintained when outdoors, and face masks/coverings must always be worn when outdoors, with limited exceptions. Exceptions for face masks/coverings may be made when individuals are engaged in vigorous solo, individual outdoor recreation, such as biking or running, or under the supervision of relevant recreation staff or instructors, such as an outdoor fitness class through the Recreation and Wellness Center. Physical distancing requirements are especially important when enjoying outdoor activities when mask exceptions are made.


Vanderbilt has announced it will begin the fall athletics season without spectators at home events now through the end of October. Vice Chancellor for Athletics and University Affairs and Athletic Director Candice Storey Lee said health and safety concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic drove the decision to delay fan access. Fans will have access to virtual programming for home football games, including a virtual tailgate, live pregame show and opportunities to win exclusive prizes and connect with Commodore Nation. Details will be provided leading up to the home opener on Oct. 3 against LSU. In addition, Vanderbilt will collaborate with the newly formed Commodore Fan Council to keep Vanderbilt fans connected to our teams.

Athletics fan access delay details>> 


Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff can now add their Commodore Card to Apple Wallet and use their iPhone and Apple Watch to access buildings on campus, purchase meals and more. This new option provides an added health and safety benefit. The contactless payment option will allow users not to touch surfaces or other individuals, thus helping to prevent exposure to COVID-19 and other viruses when making purchases.

Students can enter their residence halls and campus libraries, buy food at campus dining locations, and make purchases at Barnes & Noble at Vanderbilt, the campus post office, the Student Health Center and the Sarratt Student Center Box Office without needing their physical Commodore Card. Students also can use this option to purchase food at nearby off-campus locations that are part of the Taste of Nashville program.   

Commodore Card update details>> 



The university’s student positivity rate has been declining, as can be seen on the COVID-19 public dashboard. However, there were 15 positive student cases on Sept. 12. Contact-tracing efforts show evidence that the spread happened over the Labor Day holiday weekend during a time when individuals might not have been as vigilant about following campus protocols.

During the last few weeks, the university’s contact tracers have observed that certain behaviors repeatedly resulted in individuals becoming close contacts to positive cases. Vanderbilt community members should keep the reminders that follow in mind, even during weekends and in situations off campus, to help lessen their chance of becoming a close contact to a positive case.

  • Always wear a mask indoors and outdoors in public spaces, except when actively eating. Even though it can be uncomfortable to wear a mask in social situations, it remains extremely important in helping combat the spread of COVID-19. Encourage others, instead of shaming them, to wear their mask in these situations to help protect each other.
  • Dine with others only if separated by at least 6 feet and for limited time periods.
  • Always physically distance indoors and outdoors in public spaces, except during the incidental passing of others—for example, in hallways and on sidewalks.
  • Do not share drinks or food with others.
  • Avoid riding in cars with others where 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained.

After receiving negative test results, individuals must continue to closely follow campus protocols. Do not assume that interactions with another person who tested negative are now safe. When students receive their test results, they should remember that a negative test result may only have been valid at the time of the test, and that they should always consider the big picture of following the university’s protocols and the community’s collective responsibility to keep each other as healthy and safe as possible this semester.


It is important to remember that weekly student testing is mandatory for all undergraduate students who are authorized to be on campus and are engaged in on-campus, in-person activities, whether they live on or off campus. Students should treat their testing time slot as any other class period and ensure they attend their appointment every week. By signing the Return to Campus acknowledgment, students agreed to “submit to regular COVID-19 testing if and when VU requires.” Those who refuse or fail to comply with testing requirements will be referred to the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards and Academic Integrity.

COVID-19 testing: On-campus testing center details>> 


Faculty can sign up for the Voluntary Faculty COVID-19 Surveillance Program at any time. Those interested should complete the Voluntary Faculty COVID-19 Surveillance Program webform. Eligible faculty must be VU-employed, working on campus and engaged in in-person activities on campus, such as teaching an in-person course. Participation in the program is confidential, as are test results, except to the extent that information and advice are coordinated by the Public Health Central Command Center.

Voluntary faculty testing>> 


Graduate and professional students, staff and postdocs who are authorized to be on campus and are engaged in on-campus, in-person activities continue to participate in the institution’s mandatory COVID-19 periodic on-campus testing program. 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 analysis of the outcome data being surveilled. Those tested will be notified by the Public Health Central Command Center.

Periodic testing details>> 


Free flu shots are available to all students at the Student Health Center (SHC). Shots are available on a walk-in basis, and no appointment is necessary. We strongly encourage all students to take advantage of this free opportunity and get their flu shot this year. The SHC has increased its staffing to allow for proper physical distancing within the clinic and to minimize wait times. For added convenience, there are two more Saturdays when flu shots will be made available to students: Sept. 26 and Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Faculty, staff and postdocs who may be familiar with the one-day mass vaccination event, Flulapalooza, that was held in prior years should stay tuned for a modified version of the event. A new strategy will be deployed that will focus on bringing the flu vaccine to employees by offering it through various physically distant locations on and off campus over the next three months. More details on this year’s FLUla-2-Uza will be available in the coming weeks.

Student flu shot details >> 


Undergraduate, graduate and professional students can reserve access to the outdoor lower tennis courts (7-10) beginning Sept. 14. Students will need to bring their own racquets, balls and appropriate footwear, as well as their own water. Access to the Currey Tennis Center building cannot be permitted at this time. Staff will be present at the lower court entrance to manage court access, and students must present their Vanderbilt ID. Reservations will be available from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

To access reservations, students should email Students are also advised that courts will close in the event of inclement weather and should plan accordingly.

Tennis court reservation details>> 


Campus Dining has expanded its Taste of Nashville partnerships, with nearly 40 restaurants participating. Food trucks will be on campus every weekday, allowing the campus community to enjoy a wide and healthy variety of food. Meal Money or Commodore Cash can be used for Taste of Nashville and food truck options. Campus Dining is also hosting nightly pop-up events at The Ingram Commons and Kissam featuring signature entrees provided by Taste of Nashville partners; students can redeem meal swipes at these events.

Students’ delivery options have been further expanded this semester through Campus Dining’s partnership with Grubhub. Online ordering from more than 300 restaurants in the Nashville area can now be made using Commodore Cash.

Campus Operations: Campus Dining>>