Update on Mason’s On-campus Operations

Mason Patriots,

This weekend, Northern Virginia is expected to enter Phase 1 of reopening. This is welcome news for our campus community. However, it also prompts questions of what’s next for George Mason University.

Currently, only essential instruction, research, and work associated with critical operations is occurring on campus. While most faculty, staff and graduate assistants will continue teleworking until further notice, after June 10 some faculty, staff and students who have sought and received permission to resume research in university facilities, both on and off-campus, and in the field, will begin this work. Colleagues who are engaged in planning for fall instruction/operations or workspace assessment may also be asked to return to campus as needed. Others with a need to be on campus after June 10 should consult their supervisors first.

Many university operations will remain unchanged through the summer. All summer classes are being delivered online, and all on-campus in-person events are cancelled through Aug. 8. A committee is looking at and will consider event requests on a case-by-case basis.

Mason has implemented an extensive planning and coordination organization consisting of a senior leadership committee and approximately 17 working groups with representatives from all segments of the university who are working to ensure a safe and phased return to campus. We expect to make tentative decisions soon about our plans for fall instruction, and will share more information with the entire campus community in upcoming days.

We understand that you may need to return to campus to collect items to teach or work over the summer. If you must visit campus, please reach out to your supervisor and arrange access to your workspace through the Card Access Security Office at (703)993-3127 or CASO@gmu.edu, or the Key Control Team at (703)993-2823 or keys@gmu.edu. Please note that university buildings will remain secured through the month of June.

Please remain mindful of guidance to be “safer at home” and remain vigilant about implementing measures to contain the virus by washing your hands frequently, practicing physical distancing, and wearing a mask in public areas and university buildings.

If you have questions about what you should do if you think you have been exposed to the virus, please consult  these guidelines, read these notification guidelines.  All university faculty, staff, and students must notify the university of COVID illnesses or suspected exposure so that the university can assist with contact tracing and notify others who may have been exposed. For more COVID-19 employee resources, please visit this Human Resources web page.

Please monitor Mason’s coronavirus webpage for the latest updates from the University, and be well.

Sincerely,

Carol Dillon Kissal
Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance

 

Fall 2020 Decisions. Make Sure Your Voice is Heard.

Dear Patriots,

As we continue to work through options for Fall 2020 campus operations, your voice is important!  In April, a Mason working group was formed and charged with gathering necessary information to provide a framework for decision making for Fall 2020 operations. You can see the Tiger Team Final Report here.

Last week, both Student Government and GAPSA (Graduate And Professional Student Association) collaborated on a student survey to ensure that student voice is heard as decisions are made.  If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to fill out the Student Survey. Today is your last chance, as it closes tonight at midnight. The link will take you to your single sign-on. Once you log in, the survey takes just a few minutes to complete.

As always, remember that we are here for you. Make sure you check the University Life Student Success Website for student related important information including Covid-19 communications, updated hours of operation, and other resources available to you. Also bookmark the Mason Covid-19 page for university-wide updates.

Please be safe, and make sure your voice is heard by taking a few moments to complete this student survey.

Best wishes,

Rose Pascarell
Vice President for University Life

Distribution of CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

Dear Patriots,

We hope you are doing well. We write to provide information on the funding that has been allocated to George Mason University from the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. The CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund provides money to institutions to provide emergency financial aid grants to students whose lives have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mason’s total allocation is $10.4 million to support students with significant financial needs. These funds will be dispersed in two ways:

  1. COVID-19 CARES Act awards will be allocated proactively to students with the highest urgency as determined by Financial Aid
  2. Supplemental funding will be allocated to students who apply through the COVID-19 Student Emergency Assistance Funding process

Per federal guidelines, students are only eligible to receive CARES Act funding through option one OR option two as outlined above.

The eligibility guidelines for the COVID-19 CARES Act awards proactively allocated by Financial Aid are as follows:

  • Students must be Title IV eligible;
  • Students must not have been enrolled in a fully online program prior to the pandemic;
  • Students must be currently enrolled as a graduate or undergraduate in good Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP);
  • Graduate students must have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $5,576 or less;
  • Undergraduate students must have an EFC of $9,999 or less, with unmet financial need of $1,000 or more;
  • Students must have filed a valid/complete FAFSA;
  • Students must have accepted all the financial aid offered to them.

Students who were given a proactive award from Financial Aid were notified on May 8, 2020.  If you would like to check whether or not your received one of these awards, please check PatriotWeb.  Funding recipients are required to acknowledge the financial impact due to COVID-19 before Mason may release any funds. The link to this acknowledgement/certification form was sent in an email from the Financial Aid Office. You can also access the link by logging in to your PatriotWeb portal. We recommend all students make sure their mailing address is current in PatriotWeb and/or enroll in Direct Deposit to assist us in processing these, or future, funds.

IF YOU DO NOT QUALIFY FOR A COVID-19 CARES ACT AWARD OR DID NOT RECEIVE AN AWARD FROM THE FINANCIAL AID OFFICE but you still require financial support due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can apply for emergency funding by visiting the COVID-19 Student Emergency Assistance Fundinginformation page and application.  CARES ACT funding is just one of the funding sources used to make emergency awards.

There will be additional opportunities to apply for emergency funding for summer and fall semesters.  Information is forthcoming.

We will distribute emergency funding as quickly as possible and we appreciate your willingness to comply with the guidelines noted above.  Further clarification is available by reading CARES funding FAQs.

If you have questions about an award that has been posted on your financial aid account, please contact finaid@gmu.edu. We will respond as soon as possible.

If you have questions about the COVID-19 emergency assistance funding process, please contact University Life at ulife@gmu.edu.

Sincerely

David Burge
Vice President for Enrollment Management

Rose Pascarell
Vice President for University Life

Fall Semester Plans

Dear Patriots:

We are approaching the end of the spring semester in what has been an extraordinary year at George Mason University and throughout the world. In other years, this would be a happy time, when longer days and warmer weather bring new life to our campus. We all look forward to returning to that time soon.  In the meanwhile, I’m grateful to our community and the way it has rallied to support one another. That is what makes us Mason Nation, and I’ve never been as proud to be part of this university.

The global pandemic has affected our community in so many different ways. We are all dealing with challenges, stress and uncertainty. I know that many of you have questions. The one I’ve heard the most is, what happens this fall?

First:  Let me say that we never closed the university. Our faculty and staff rallied to deliver classes online and keep our students on track academically. In this time of uncertainty, we believe our greatest contribution is to continue our mission of providing Access to Excellence, and because of the impressive work of our faculty, staff and students, more than 9,700 students will earn degrees this month, and thousands more will be one step closer to completing their degrees.

Second:  Our intention is to bring students back to campus and resume face-to-face instruction in the fall, with appropriate guidance of public health officials and with modifications as needed to ensure the safety of our entire community. To find the best solutions for how to navigate the challenges of safely moving back to a more normal learning environment, we have put together a committee of individuals from throughout the university—the provost’s office, faculty, university life, human resources, finance, facilities, emergency, health and safety and more. This group is called the Tiger Team, in a nod to NASA’s Tiger Team that figured out the solution that allowed the astronauts on Apollo 13 to safely return to Earth after their module malfunctioned.

This team is charged with exploring options for how we can best open our campus safely. That includes evaluating options for lower density classes to allow for appropriate physical distancing, continued use of distance learning, appropriate hygiene and cleaning protocols, reduced occupancy in residence halls, and more. We are blessed to have Vice President for Academic Innovation and New Ventures Michelle Marks leading this effort before she becomes Chancellor at the University of Colorado, Denver in July. Once the Tiger Team delivers its report to the University administration, we will be better positioned to make decisions for a successful fall 2020.

After questions about whether we will be open in the fall, the second most asked question is, what will tuition be? The Board of Visitors will adopt a budget at its meeting now scheduled for May 20, and that budget will include tuition rates for the next academic year.  This will require the Board to navigate a difficult balancing act, weighing the impact on students at this difficult time along with the need for critical investments in faculty and staff to enhance student outcomes.  My administration and the Board of Visitors have been seeking feedback all spring to guide us on this difficult task.

The Board held a session for public comment on April 2, and today we had an additional productive listening session with Rector Tom Davis and Visitor Simmi Bhuller, receiving feedback from more than 160 students and other community members, including dozens who spoke publicly. You can see an archived version of the town hall broadcast here. We also have received input from student surveys, along with guidance from state budget leaders. If you would like to give feedback on the upcoming year’s budget, please share your comments here.

Registration for the fall is open, and I urge you to start planning for the coming academic year. We know there are still many uncertainties, but one thing that is certain is our commitment to our goal of educating students, keeping them on track to graduate, and ensuring the fullest possible learning experiences in the current environment.  Student registrations will help the faculty and administration plan courses effectively for the fall. As you consider your plans, please reach out to your advisers and to other faculty members in your department – they are eager to help keep you on track and answer your questions.

We know many students face real and sustained financial impact because of the coronavirus. I encourage you to apply for financial assistance through the Student Emergency Assistance Fund or the Stay Mason fund.

As the semester comes to a close, I hope you’ll take a moment to recognize and appreciate all that we have accomplished as a university in the face of these unprecedented challenges. Our students, faculty and staff have exceeded expectations for success during this time. That entrepreneurial spirit is what makes Mason such a strong community and a great university.

I look forward to sharing more details about fall with you soon. Stay safe and be well.

Sincerely,

Anne Holton
Interim President