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Sept. 28, 2020 – Return to Campus Update

Posted by on Monday, September 28, 2020 in Community Messages.

Fall is officially here. While the weather and scenery are changing, the university’s policies and guidelines currently in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19 will stay the same.

The university will remain in Phase 2+ of the Vanderbilt Return to Campus Plan as the city of Nashville plans to transition to phase 3 of its Roadmap to Reopening Nashville plan on Thursday, Oct. 1. The university’s current status and plans are not affected by the city’s decision.

Vanderbilt’s plan includes stricter health and safety guidelines than phase 3 of the city’s plan and was designed with the university’s unique residential education and research environment in mind. Campus leadership continues to track closely the number of new infections in Nashville and across Tennessee and will make adjustments as needed in response to new information.

Although there will be changes in Nashville, students are expected to abide by Vanderbilt protocols at all times, whether on campus or off campus. The university continues to have lower COVID-19 positive case percentages than the city and state, and the entire Vanderbilt community must continue its outstanding efforts to keep those numbers low and build on our success so far.

Contact tracers in the university’s Public Health Central Command Center urge everyone to adhere to Vanderbilt’s protocols in all areas of the city, including wearing face masks/coverings and maintaining physical distancing. The university has not had any COVID-19 transmission reported within classrooms, research spaces or dining halls; however, there have been cases of transmission when students have been at off-campus apartments and restaurants.  

The university continues to take preventive measures to ensure the health and safety of the entire campus community, including the precaution of closing Rand Dining Center last Friday afternoon while confirming whether there were any COVID-19 positive cases. Follow-up determined there were no staff positive cases, as reflected in our weekly dashboard.


Mental health resources for Vanderbilt community members

While symptom monitoring and testing are important parts of the university’s “Anchor Down. Step Up” campaign, the overall well-being of the entire community is paramount.

During this time, and as World Mental Health Day approaches on Oct. 10, the university encourages all Commodores to check up not only on themselves, but also on their friends, classmates and colleagues. All should be encouraged to connect with the many available resources when in need. 

Students are encouraged to seek support through the Office of Student Care Coordination, which serves as the first point of contact for those who may have an academic, personal, emotional, medical or other concern. Student care coordinators individually assess each student’s needs and explore resources within Vanderbilt’s Student Care Network and/or the Nashville community to facilitate connections to the most appropriate support.

In preparation for this semester, the Student Care Network enhanced its staffing and training, increased its telehealth options, implemented targeted programming and reformulated its drop-in services. In August the Student Care Network also announced that all students can obtain free access to Headspace, a meditation and sleep app designed to reduce stress, improve happiness and increase compassion through guided meditation, sleep content, mindful workouts and focus exercises.

There are a variety of additional self-directed wellness tools (apps) to assist students with meditation, mindfulness, mood tracking and relaxation techniques. All students have free access to WellTrack, an interactive self-help app that provides guided therapy for anxiety, stress and depression. Students on the Student Health Insurance Plan have free access to SilverCloud, an online behavioral health platform that includes therapy programs to support positive behavior change and overall mental wellness, and to treat anxiety, stress and depression. MySSP, which provides counseling support for remote-only students, also is available.

Each area within the Student Care Network provides services to students. The University Counseling Center is supporting students through telemental health services. The Center for Student Wellbeing is providing academic, well-being, and alcohol and other drug support coaching appointments by phone, email or Zoom. Vanderbilt Recovery Meetings are being held using Zoom twice a week. Meditation sessions are being held using Zoom twice a week. Skill-building Workshops and Weekly Wellbeing Practices continue to be hosted by the Center for Student Wellbeing.

The Project Safe Center also continues scheduling appointments with students via phone or video. The 24-hour crisis support hotline is available at 615-322-SAFE (7233). The center now offers its support group, Rooted in Resilience, as a virtual group meeting. Students may communicate with the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center staff via email as well as scheduled virtual office hours. The Office of LGBTQI Life staff are available via email and virtual office hours. The Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center can be contacted via email at Students are welcome to contact staff members individually as well. Events are listed in the Women’s Center monthly newsletter.

The Writers Accountability Group is available to enable graduate and professional students to support each other through the writing process. The Graduate Life Coach, Stacey Satchell, is available to meet with graduate students via Zoom. Students can schedule an appointment online.

Faculty, staff and postdocs also have resources when they are in need of assistance. Individuals seeking mental health and wellness support have access to Employee Assistance Program Work/Life Connections through individual counseling or coaching. The program offers telehealth appointments for short-term counseling, coaching and other services.

Resources for parents in the Vanderbilt community

For parents in the Vanderbilt community who are managing both work and home responsibilities, there are specific university resources available for support.

The Vanderbilt Child and Family Center has a number of resources ranging from family life to baby’s best start to backup care. The center continues to seek input on what working parents need to create pathways to these resources. Two examples that grew out of parents’ expressed interest are:

The Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center has a number of support initiatives and programming, including three parent groups which are open to parents of all genders. The Parenting Group is for parents and caregivers and meets once each month. Each meeting focuses on a specific topic, with an invited discussion leader. Last month the group connected with Jessika Boles, a Child Life Team Lead at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, who explained how to talk to kids about COVID-19. Pandemic Parenting is a subset of the Parenting Group and meets Oct. 22 and Dec. 4. The Single Parent Group meets once a month. As a support group, the meetings are unprogrammed and offer a space for single parents of all genders to seek help from other parents while a member of the Employee Assistance Program joins.

The Women’s Center also hosts monthly Work-Life Workshops that cover a range of professional development and self-care topics. Future sessions for this fall will focus on mentorship and isms in the workplace. The Women in the Academy series, aimed at graduate students and postdocs but open to all, will have sessions focusing on trust and boundaries in the classroom, parenting and the academy, and interviewing in a virtual world. The monthly Kitchen Table Series is an undergraduate student-run discussion series that addresses a range of gender-related topics, with the Nov. 17 session focusing on women’s roles in the pandemic.

Commons “Flip” for the spring 2021 semester

The university has decreased the density in our campus residences by, among other steps, assigning one first-year student per room; however, a central feature of the first-year experience at Vanderbilt is having an opportunity to live on The Ingram Commons. To achieve this for all first-year students, while maintaining the university’s focus on the health and safety of the campus community, students will participate in “The Flip” at the end of the fall semester. Students currently living in the Towers and Branscomb Quad (Lupton, Scales, Stapleton and Vaughn) will be moving to The Ingram Commons, and students currently living on The Ingram Commons will be moving to the Towers or Branscomb Quad. The Flip will give all first-year students a chance to live on The Ingram Commons while maintaining single rooms for these students. Spring housing assignments will be released in late October. 

In anticipation of The Flip, students will begin to receive communications regularly that provide information about what to expect and directions about necessary preparations for The Flip. Some initial general information about The Flip follows.

  • First-year students will continue to be housed one student per room.
  • Each student’s house affiliation will remain the same (i.e., if a student currently lives in Towers and is affiliated with Hank Ingram, the student will be assigned to Hank Ingram for the spring).
  • Students will be moved in clusters so that they will continue to reside with at least some of the students they lived near in the fall; special requests cannot be accommodated.
  • North House residents will not participate in The Flip. This is due solely to the fact that the capacity of The Ingram Commons exceeds the capacity of Branscomb Quad and Towers. Removing North House from The Flip gives the university the numbers needed to execute The Flip between The Ingram Commons and main campus.
  • Packing supplies will be provided and students will be required to pack their own items before departing at the end of the fall semester. Packed items will be moved to each student’s new space before their return in January. Students are expected to unpack their own belongings and set up their rooms by themselves; family members will not be permitted to enter residence halls to assist.
  • Details for spring arrival will be available later this semester.

Student travel for the spring 2021 semester

While many countries around the world have made progress in combating COVID-19, the course of the virus remains hard to predict, as do potential responses from other governments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of State continue to recommend that all nonessential travel be reconsidered over most of the globe. Continuing uncertainties exist related to mandatory quarantines, travel restrictions, visa processing, access to health care, and flight availability. Regardless of efforts to plan around these challenges, foreign governments may implement or change restrictions with little notice, even in destinations that were previously classified as low risk.

As we weigh these factors and the wide range of potential measures that might be needed to keep our students as healthy and safe as possible around the world, the university has decided to continue its restriction on university-sponsored international travel for undergraduate, graduate and professional students for the 2021 spring semester. This includes all study abroad programs; undergraduate students who had previously expressed interest in study abroad for spring 2021 should contact the Global Education Office at


Flu-la-2-Uza tent site dates for on-campus employees announced

This year there are three no-cost, convenient options for faculty, staff and postdocs to obtain a flu vaccine during the next three months. For employees primarily working on campus, small Flula-2-Uza events will be held in the Library Lawn and Peabody tents throughout October: 

Fri., Oct. 2: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Peabody)
Thurs., Oct. 8: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Library Lawn)
Fri., Oct. 9: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Library Lawn)
Tues., Oct. 13: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Peabody)
Tues., Oct. 20: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Library Lawn)
Thurs., Oct. 22: Noon to 4 p.m. (Peabody) 

These events will be staffed by two nurses and there will be no sign up required. Flu vaccines will be given on a first-come, first-served basis in a physically distanced line. Those receiving a flu vaccine at these sites must have completed a Return to Campus Acknowledgment and must bring their Vanderbilt ID card.

Employees working remotely are highly encouraged to obtain their vaccination at any Vanderbilt Health Walk-In Clinic or any of the walk-in clinics (not pharmacies) at Walgreens stores. Flu vaccinations are 100 percent covered as preventive care for all employees who are on a VU Health Plan. Find your nearest location here.

Additionally, departments may contact Occupational Health to coordinate on-site flu vaccines for their employees. Requests can be made in the “Ask OHC to Come to You” section of the Flula-2-Uza webpage.

Flu vaccinations are strongly encouraged in support of the health and safety of the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities.

Free flu shots continue to be available for all students  

Free flu shots continue to be available to all students at the Student Health Center on a drop-in basis—no appointment is necessary. We strongly encourage all students to take advantage of this free opportunity and get their flu shot this year. Follow @VanderbiltU on Instagram to learn more about a fun giveaway opportunity for those receiving their flu shots in the coming days!



Thursday, Oct. 1: The Next Step: Choosing a Major and Planning Your Career! hosted by the Career Center and College of Arts and Science Pre-major Academic Advising Resources Center
1 p.m., Online event

Thursday, Oct. 1: Cut the Craft, hosted by The Ingram Commons
2–3 p.m. Thursdays at The Commons Center 233

Friday, Oct. 2: Candid Conversations with Rick Burr, Assistant Chief of Police, VUPD, hosted by the Vanderbilt University Libraries
1 p.m., Online event

Friday, Oct. 2–Sunday, Oct. 4: VandyHacks, hosted by VandyHacks
6 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Sunday, Online event