President Anne Holton at Budget Town Hall, September 2019

A message from President Holton

Dear Patriots,

This is an extraordinary time for everyone, so I would like to begin this message by expressing my sincere gratitude and admiration to the entire Mason community. I am continually amazed and inspired by the creativity and resilience of our people. When I first heard the phrase Innovation is Our Tradition, I had some understanding of what that means here. I’m beginning to understand deeply just how significant it is. It is a sense of purpose that we bring to every challenge or opportunity, one that I think makes us even better with every new day

Today the university’s leadership has made some decisions regarding the rest of the semester that will allow us to be successful in our mission during this continued period of uncertainty. These decisions were made based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ongoing increasing cases in our region, along with input from the faculty, our deans and our Board of Visitors. Please remember you can find all our central communications on the university’s coronavirus website.

Online instruction extended
We are extending online instruction for the remainder of the semester. We feel this is the right decision to safeguard the health and safety of our campus community. We recognize that this is not ideal, and we look forward to getting back to our normal routines, including face-to-face-instruction and the robust faculty-student interaction it allows, as soon as we can. We will be in contact with our residential students soon about the implications of this change for them.

Academic calendar and registration
The additional week of spring break will require us to extend the spring semester for a week. The last day of class will be Monday, May 11 and final exams will be held May 13-20. Registration for summer classes will be delayed by one week and time tickets will be adjusted accordingly. This extension does not apply to the law school or classes that are on an eight-week calendar, or online special cohort classes, or other specialty courses whose schedules were not delayed by the extension of spring break.

We expect the summer term to begin on June 1, and summer session adjustments will be made. We expect normal operations to resume in time for fall.

Commencement will be rescheduled
Based on the changes to the academic calendar this semester, we have decided to postpone commencement by at least one week. Therefore, commencement will not be held as scheduled on May 15. Degree celebrations that were scheduled for May 13-16 will also be rescheduled.

We are tentatively looking at rescheduling commencement for May 22,  if future developments make large gatherings feasible then. We will provide additional details as soon as possible.

Recruiting goes virtual, acceptance deadline extended
The Office of Admissions has cancelled all on-campus recruitment events until further notice. Admissions is encouraging students to visit the virtual tour, and the team is actively working on video content and virtual options to continue to connect with students and families. Additionally, in order to give students more time to make their decisions about next fall, the Admissions Office has extended the National Candidates Reply date for Freshmen from May 1 to June 1. The Mason Nation is an incredible place, and we look forward to sharing it with an amazing group of new Patriots this fall.

Telework implementation and security

Faculty are working to transition their classes to alternative virtual instruction. ITS has helpful instructions on its Working Remotely page. We appreciate your flexibility and creativity that allow us to continue instruction and provide necessary services to our campus community.

We continue to strongly encourage teleworking options for employees where feasible.  Human Resources will soon provide additional information on teleworking to help guide supervisors and employees. Please work with your managers and refer to existing policies and procedures.

We are sensitive to maintaining the safety and security of those who are working on campus. The Card Access Security Office has shared details about opportunities to restrict access to your departments to cardholders.

Health and wellness
If you are not well or at high risk of experiencing serious medical complications as a result of COVID-19 exposure, please do not come to campus. We would like to remind travelers returning from countries designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as level 3 (China, Iran, South Korea, most of Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland) that you are to remain off campus for 14 days, practice social distancing and inform the Benefits team within Human Resources of your travel history. If you have a health concern, please reach out to your health care professional.

Take time to take care of yourself. University Life Vice President Rose Pascarell shared available resources for our community; please take advantage of these and other university resources, and continue to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and get sufficient rest.

I am so proud to be a part of this community. I appreciate the spirit of teamwork and support that runs through this university, and I look forward to seeing us continue that spirit in the weeks ahead.

Sincerely,

Anne Holton
Interim President

Headshot of Rose Pascarell, VP on University Life

Update from Rose Pascarell, Vice President for University Life

UPDATE: The RAC is closed March 16-22.

Patriots,

Thanks for hanging in there.

Though this week was filled with uncertainties and questions, we are working hard to stabilize things as much as possible for you during this time. While this is new territory for all of us, we will do our best to remain responsive and keep you informed as new information becomes available.

Please remember to reference www2.gmu.edu/coronavirus. It is a great resource to get the most updated accurate info and FAQ’s. There are also links to the CDC and other sites that will provide more information related to the virus.

Many of you may be feeling anxious over the unanswered questions regarding this coronavirus.The sudden changes to your schedule and daily routine can be unsettling, along with additional concerns you may have about your health and the health of your loved ones. In this moment, remember Mason offers several online options focused on your care and well being.

ONLINE SUPPORT RESOURCES FOR YOU AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW

Please check out the online resources and articles on the websites for the Center for the Advancement of Well BeingCounseling and Psychological Services, and Student Health Services. Now is an excellent time to join BurnAlong (free to you) and participate in online classes  — exercise, dance, yoga, relaxation — all in community and at a distance. BurnAlong also runs on a social platform so you can invite your friends, roommates, and others to join you in these activities.

Counseling and Psychological Services will soon offer virtual workshops addressing anxiety, including worry related to COVID19 as well as workshops focused on healthy coping skills. All Mason students can register for free, online psychoeducational support through Therapy Assisted Online (TAO).

UPDATED  HOURS

Updated hours for many student services and student-facing offices during Spring Break Week 2 are listed on the University Life website. The hours will likely change as new information emerges – this could happen on a daily or weekly basis and we will update that information as quickly as possible. The Mason Student Services Center and all University Life offices are open and providing service on a modified schedule, either in person, online, or via telephone.

WHAT TO EXPECT THIS WEEK

This week, you will receive information to help you get ready for online instruction, including the most effective approaches to online learning. Some of you may be very familiar with online courses and others may be first timers. By the way, this is also true for Mason faculty. Many are very familiar with online instruction; others are thinking through this in real time. Please be patient with yourself and your faculty as we move through this together. And please remember to maintain communication with your instructors regarding your accessibility needs as we transition to online learning.

During this time, it may seem tempting to connect with each other as you would normally, prior to the precautionary distancing measures now in place.  I cannot stress strongly enough the need to focus on physical distancing to ensure not just your health and well-being, but everyone around you as well.  Do not meet in large groups on or off campus  – it’s just not smart right now.  Connect with each other in other ways — online, outside in the fresh air, or remotely. Look for updated e-activities organized by Student Involvement, LEAD and other University Life offices soon. You can still work out at Mason Recreation. And if you feel ill, rest at home to keep others safe and healthy.

Finally — stay connected to each other. Show compassion for yourself and others, and continue to be courageous as we move through this together. In times of crisis, communities usually realize they are stronger and more resilient than anyone knew. That’s us, Mason Patriots. That’s you.

Rose Pascarell
Vice President for University Life

Update on Mason’s Response to Coronavirus Outbreak

Dear Patriots,

We appreciate your flexibility during the continuing changes associated with the coronavirus outbreak. As the situation evolves, Mason’s response evolves with it. We will continue to communicate with you via email as much as possible to make sure you have the most updated information. Please also continue to refer to the university’s coronavirus website, which is the official source for university updates.

We want to share some additional information and guidance about George Mason University operations during this time.

Events: All events are cancelled until April 10. All student events, registered student organization functions, social functions, and gatherings are cancelled.  Programing for students who remain on campus during this period will be organized and managed by University Life. Only routine administrative and academic functions may be held on campus. Whenever possible, faculty and staff should conduct meetings using collaborative technology.  If a face-to-face meeting is necessary, meetings must be held in space managed by the department and social distancing must be maintained.  To reinforce this restriction, reservations will not be taken through University Events during this time.

Telework: In an effort to promote social distancing, the university is encouraging faculty, staff and student employees to telework during this time. Teleworking employees are expected to be reachable by phone and email, attend meetings via Webex, and be able to perform their duties as they would while present on campus. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that telework accommodations do not diminish university service delivery.

Additional resources are being deployed to support the institution’s migration to a telework environment. ITS has created Webex accounts for all Mason employees and is setting up Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, which will allow employees remote access to basic office tools from their personal computers. For status and support, please check ITS’ Working Remotely.  Please look for additional guidance on this topic soon, and share any questions you may have with your supervisor in the meantime.

Travel: On Thursday, March 12, Gov. Northam prohibited out of state travel for all employees of the Commonwealth, with exceptions for those whose work requires them to commute in the Northern Virginia/DC metro region. We are seeking additional guidance from the Commonwealth regarding official travel across state lines within DC region and will share those details when they become available. The university has restricted all student, faculty, and staff domestic and international travel. International travel is prohibited.

Student organizations, teams, and clubs are prohibited from travelling domestically for university related functions.  Employees should suspend all domestic travel unless it is required to support a critical business or academic function that cannot be accomplished remotely. Use of commercial transportation is prohibited. Attendance at events and conferences does not qualify as an exemption to this restriction.  Supervisors must approve critical travel in the local area and social distancing must be maintained at the traveler’s destination.

Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL): The Commonwealth of Virginia has announced Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL), which provides employees with up to eighty (80) hours of leave when the State Health Commission and Governor declare communicable disease of public health threat conditions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.  All state employees, covered or not covered by the Virginia Personnel Act, are eligible, including student wage employees, non-student wage employees, graduate assistants, and adjunct faculty. Employees may use PHEL to attend to their own medical needs or the medical needs of an immediate family member being treated for COVID-19.  For more information on PHEL, please see this guidance from HR.

We appreciate your patience as we prioritize the health and safety of our Mason community.

Respectfully,

David Farris, PhD
Executive Director, Safety & Emergency Management

Lisa Park, MD, MPH
Executive Director, Student Health Services

President Anne Holton at Budget Town Hall, September 2019

An update on the university’s coronavirus response from President Holton

Dear Patriots:

We all are experiencing a great deal of uncertainty as we respond to the evolving coronavirus outbreak. I want to thank everyone in our community for showing such resilience and adaptability. I am continually impressed with how the Mason Nation responds to challenges and finds ways to thrive during them. We continue to monitor this situation and want to make certain that everyone is informed as we depart from our normal routines and make adjustments. With that, I’d like to share some additional details about health and safety precautions being taken at the university.

All Campus Events Cancelled from March 13 through April 10

Out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with the Commonwealth’s announcement today, campus events from March 13 through April 10 will be canceled. This includes university events and events at EagleBank Arena, as well as events organized by outside groups. Our admissions team has also cancelled campus visits and is implementing virtual visits for prospective Patriots and their families. We will continue to evaluate the situation and extend the cancellation period further, if needed.

We are assessing the governor’s guidance following his call for a state of emergency for the commonwealth, and will adjust our plan and communicate as appropriate.

We know this is in an inconvenience but we believe it is an important step toward curtailing the spread of the coronavirus. Mason is hardly alone in these restrictions, and we believe this is the right thing to do to protect public health.

This does not apply to routine departmental activities or meetings with 30 people or fewer, although we strongly recommend all meetings be held in rooms with sufficient space to allow social distancing. This may require securing a larger meeting space or converting to telepresence options.  If you would like to reschedule an event, please reach out to your event coordinator for assistance.

Practice Social Distancing

To minimize the potential spread of coronavirus at the university, we are asking all students, faculty and staff to implement social distancing measures wherever and whenever possible.  Examples of social distancing include leaving six feet between individuals in meeting spaces, avoid large gatherings and limit direct contact with others.

The university will remain open, and faculty and staff will be working through this time. We anticipate that there may be the need to reduce some services and hours of operation to implement social distancing measures, so please check the FAQs on the university’s coronavirus website for updates or reach out directly to departments for more guidance.  I appreciate everyone’s patience during this time.

As stated in my previous message, if you feel unwell, please stay home. Some faculty and staff may need commence teleworking immediately, particularly those who have medical conditions that put them at high risk. If faculty and staff believe the best option is teleworking, please work with your supervisor.

Travelers Returning from Level 3 areas

We know that risk of spreading the virus can be controlled by self-quarantine, so for those members of our community who are returning from travel, we want to remind you of the CDC level 3 travel restrictions and guidelines.

All students, faculty, and staff returning from these areas are advised to stay home for 14 days after returning from travel, monitor their health, and practice social distancing.

The Office of Housing and Residence Life has reached out to all residential students, and the majority of those students will not be living on campus at this time.  Any student requesting an exception must disclose if they have traveled to a level 3 country prior to returning. Faculty and staff returning from those countries are also required to disclose this information to Human Resources.

We will continue to keep you informed of the university’s response to this situation. In the coming days, you may receive information directly from our various departments. I recommend everyone stay current with the university’s information channels – email, website and social media. I also urge all of you to take care of your health and keep a positive attitude, and keep in the mind the most vulnerable in our community. Moments like this make me proud to be a part of the Mason Nation.

Sincerely,

Anne Holton
Interim President

Headshot of Rose Pascarell, VP on University Life

A message from Rose Pascarell, Vice President for University Life

Dear Mason Families,
I hope you are all doing well during this challenging time. I’m sure by now you’ve read the messages from President Holton which extended spring break through March 20, followed by online instruction from March 23 through Friday, April 3. In addition, all campus events have been cancelled, postponed, or will be offered virtually.
We will continue to communicate with you and your students throughout the next few weeks, and we will advise you when Mason operations and events fully resume. While there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus associated with our community at this moment, health care professionals locally, domestically, and globally expect that the virus will continue to spread in the coming weeks, and out of caution and care for our students and community (and in conjunction with other universities throughout Virginia and the United States), we are doing our part to avoid the spread.
All students will soon receive an email from my office, which will detail information about services and facilities that will remain open next week during the extended spring break. Many students may be feeling some anxiety in this time of uncertainty and change. This is understandable, and it means we need to make extra efforts to take care of our mental health and well-being. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) will soon be offering virtual workshops addressing anxiety, including worry related to COVID19 as well as workshops focused on healthy coping skills. Updates on CAPS offerings including links to self-help resources can be found on their website: caps.gmu.edu. In addition, all Mason students are eligible to register for free, online psychoeducational support through Therapy Assisted Online (TAO): caps.gmu.edu/therapy-assistance-online-tao.
We also realize that some students have extenuating circumstances or logistical challenges that make their return to on campus housing the only viable option, and we assure you we will work with individual students to assess their needs as well as their personal health safety.
In these unprecedented times, we are working to keep our Mason communities informed, and we ask for your patience as the circumstances and information continues to evolve rapidly. The University’s coronavirus website will continue to be an excellent resource for updates and new information, and I encourage you and your student to check the website often.
Your personal healthcare provider continues to be the best source of information about your own and your family members’ medical condition and concerns.
Please continue to stay calm, informed and healthy.

Thanks,

Rose

Rose Pascarell
Vice President for University Life

President Anne Holton at Budget Town Hall, September 2019

A message from President Holton regarding the coronavirus

Dear Patriots,

Your health and safety are our highest priories, and we continue to monitor the coronavirus outbreak around the globe and in the region. While there are no known cases on our campus, we are aware of a number of confirmed cases in Virginia and the Washington, D.C. region. With this in mind, we are taking a number of precautionary measures to limit exposure and minimize risk.

Mason to extend spring break, then move to virtual instruction

To limit exposure on our campus, Mason is extending spring break by an additional week through March 20. This will allow students and faculty to prepare for virtual alternative instruction and reduce close contact on campus.

The Antonin Scalia Law School will move immediately to virtual alternative instruction and will not go on an extended spring break. Additionally, classes in other colleges and schools that are already online will not be delayed by the extended spring break and will continue as scheduled.

When spring break ends, most classes will be conducted through virtual alternative instruction, from Monday, March 23 through Friday, April 3.  Students will be contacted by their faculty with additional details about virtual learning. The university will continue to monitor and reevaluate the situation prior to April 3. If an extension of virtual learning is needed, we will adjust as determined and communicate that with you.

We are also committed to ensuring that our students will successfully complete their coursework this semester, and will work to create tailored plans for those instances where virtual instruction is not a sufficient solution.

Students encouraged to stay off campus, but residence halls remain open

We know that one of the most powerful ways to minimize the spread of coronavirus is limiting interaction in close spaces. For that reason, we encourage students who are home to stay home during this time. We will continue to keep residence and dining halls open for students who cannot return home.  Specific details will be sent to all residential students on Thursday. More information about student services, student centers, and the library will be forthcoming.

Mason to remain operational during this time

The university will remain open, and faculty and staff are expected to continue working during this period. In fact, for some, constraints on their time will increase, particularly as we work to shift classes to virtual instruction. I appreciate everyone’s patience as we move through this uncharted territory.

Of course, if you feel unwell, please stay home. And some faculty and staff may need to telework, particularly those who have medical vulnerabilities that put them at high risk. I encourage supervisors to work with faculty and staff who request flexible work options due to medical susceptibility to coronavirus.

If you are returning from a level 3 travel restriction country, or have been instructed by the health department, please follow guidance from the CDC about self-quarantine, whether on or off-campus.

The Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning and ITS have resources for faculty to migrate to virtual alternative instruction and for staff to be telework-ready as necessary.  Instructional continuity plans can be found on the Stearns Center website, and VPN information is available from ITS. Guidance on telework is available from Employee Relations. Deans, directors and department heads have been in contact with their teams to ensure continuity of operations during this time.

As a reminder, the university also has suspended university-related domestic and international travel through April 10 for students, faculty and staff, and has cancelled study abroad-related travel for the semester. In addition, we strongly encourage our campus community to postpone or forgo nonessential personal travel during this time.

Moving forward

We are currently evaluating additional options, including cancelling events. We anticipate sending more information about events and other university business this week, and we encourage you to reach out to organizers to check the status of those events.

As you know, this situation is changing rapidly and we will continue to send information often. I want to urge everyone to monitor their email. Students, if your family members want to receive these emails, please make sure they sign up for the Mason Family Flash newsletter.  In addition, please utilize other university information channels, including the university’s coronavirus website and the university’s switchboard, which can assist in directing calls about Mason’s response to the coronavirus. The number is 703-993-1000.

All of these decisions are being made with the health and safety of our campus community in mind. Remember to take time to practice good self-care and focus on what you can do to remain healthy: frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds, getting enough rest, eating healthy and drinking plenty of water.

We appreciate your patience and flexibility during this time as we navigate this evolving situation, and we will continue to provide regular updates through email and through the website.

Sincerely,

Anne Holton
Interim President