President Washington’s updates on Safe Return To Campus

Dear Fellow Patriots:

We are fewer than two weeks from the start of the Fall semester and soon will be welcoming many of our faculty, staff and students back to George Mason University’s campuses. We do so with a mix of excitement that accompanies every fall return to campus – and trepidation, because this is 2020 and the pandemic has changed just about everything.

My leadership team and I have been watching the ebb and flow of the COVID-19 virus in northern Virginia, and have determined that it is best to stay the course with our modified re-opening of campus, with continuing flexibility for faculty with respect to the format of their classes. Faculty members who will be delivering their curriculum in person or via hybrid experiences should continue to use the Safe Return to Campus Plan to guide their efforts.

Tracking pandemic conditions
While most public discussion centers on COVID-19 cases nationally and statewide, we are closely monitoring Northern Virginia pandemic conditions, because they give us a more accurate understanding of what is occurring in the communities in which we live and serve. Specifically, our decisions are driven by data from Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William counties.

One data point we track particularly closely is the Positivity Rate, the percentage of those receiving COVID-19 tests who test positive for the virus. Virginia’s seven-day rolling average as of Monday afternoon was 7.4 percent, while Fairfax County’s was 5.1 percent and dropping, and Arlington County’s was 4.2 percent.

Changing of conditions, change of plans
Unfortunately, Prince William County’s rates have headed in the other direction, and stood at 9.0 percent on Monday. And that trend has troubled us, particularly because we operate the Science and Technology Campus there, and many who work at Mason live in Prince William County. Therefore, we have made two decisions that affect classes this fall:

  1. We will continue to provide faculty at all Mason campuses flexibility to offer their classes through face-to face, hybrid or fully online formats. By applying the public health and safety best practices set forth in our Safe Return to Campus Plan, we have confidence to deliver our academic programs as had been planned and given evolving circumstances. However, if individual faculty member circumstances have changed, and individuals want to request a change in their course format, they should immediately be in contact with their academic program chair/director and dean.
  2. We will move to all-online instruction on November 30, following the Thanksgiving holiday. We have decided to do this upon recommendation of our Emergency Management Executive Committee and public health advisors, in order to minimize the risk of transmitting both COVID-19 and influenza, both of which are expected to begin seasonal surges around then.

    Why not just keep campuses closed and go all online?
    This is a very reasonable question, and one I am asked often, especially because many other universities have opted for online-only instruction, though no public university in Virginia is requiring all online instruction.

    The reality is, there are no good solutions to carrying out our academic mission in light of the pandemic. Every solution carries a host of negative side effects that threaten people’s ability to stay healthy and safe, and to remain affiliated with Mason.

    Quality of instruction For many classes, online instruction is just as effective as in-person teaching; in fact, we are seeing excellence in online instruction that we could not have predicted pre-pandemic. But that is not universally true, for environments like laboratory learning, or for disciplines like the performing arts. Of course, we will adapt as necessary, but driving all courses to online environments is an option we will avoid until it is necessary.

    Inclusion of international students – By going fully online, we could exclude international students from coming to our campus, because the federal government is refusing to process student visas for international students whose course content is all online.

    Human toll for university faculty and staff – Closing the campus to all instruction would come at a significant financial loss to the university – a devastating loss if we were to re-close residence halls. Such measures would cripple the university’s ability to deliver on its education and research mission, not just for this academic year, but for years to come. The numbers of furloughs and layoffs that would be necessary to balance our budget would be staggering, made all the more challenging in an economy of 10 percent unemployment. Those employees’ ability to keep health insurance, pay their rent or mortgage, and meet basic living needs would be imperiled. Furthermore, the impact would extend beyond our campuses to surrounding communities where the affected employees live.

    Should evolving public health conditions make it necessary to fully close our classrooms, or even our residence halls, of course we will do so. But each of us should be mindful of the devastating impact this will have, not just on the university, but on the people who rely on it for their education and their livelihoods.

    The academic calendar remains the same
    Classes will begin on August 24 and end on December 16 as scheduled, with all-online instruction starting on November 30, following the Thanksgiving holiday.  As part of our effort to minimize the risks that increase in the winter months, we plan to hold Winter Graduation online.

    Staff on campus
    As the campus reopens, staff should work with their unit leaders to determine the proper balance of their work to be performed on campus versus from home. With the goal being to de-densify the campus and observe all health and safety protocols, every department has been required to submit its own safe return plan. As a general guideline, employees should avoid spending more than 50 percent of their time on campus. Social distancing rules will be in effect for all offices, just as they are in classrooms.

Residence halls will stay open throughout the semester
Mason’s residence halls will remain open under all of our planning scenarios. We will reduce occupancy from 6,200 students to approximately 3,350 students to achieve appropriate physical distancing. In the event of another Governor’s stay-at-home order, we anticipate considering residence halls to be our students’ homes away from home. We will take appropriate measures to keep them as safe, hygienic, and comfortable as possible, as well as offer appropriate public health and safety measures to the university employees who staff residence halls and dining facilities. In addition, University Life has planned a robust line-up of programming to ensure residential students continue to experience a full and satisfying on-campus experience.

Pre-move in testing required for all residential students
All students planning to live on campus in Mason’s residence halls have been recommended to self-quarantine two weeks ahead of their arrival. In addition, Mason has contracted with a vendor to provide comprehensive at-home testing kits to all students who plan to live on campus. Residential students are in the process of receiving and returning their test kits. Starting August 15, at move-in, every student will be required to have both a health screener green light as well as proof that they have taken a COVID-19 test to be cleared to stay in a Mason residence hall.  We anticipate that residential students will be tested again periodically throughout the semester.

Daily health checks required for all who step onto campus
All students, faculty and staff who come to campus must complete an online health survey every day before arriving on campus. This tool – the Mason COVID Health Check™, an online health screening protocol developed by the College of Health and Human Services – will serve as a quick and effective way to track the health conditions of all students, faculty, staff and contractors who will work, study or live on campus.

Voluntary testing throughout the semester
Throughout the semester, students, faculty and staff working on campus will be asked to engage voluntarily in random COVID-19 tests. This protocol, recommended by Mason faculty experts and in collaboration with university leadership, will help to track the spread of the virus, should cases emerge. We encourage all members of the Mason community to agree to be tested if requested to do so.  Working in partnership with our local public health officials, case investigation and contact tracing protocols also will be in place.

Safety measures being taken in our classrooms
Our classroom spaces will look and feel different this fall. Classrooms and instructional spaces have been modified such that seating has been spaced out to allow for six feet of distance between students; faculty have been allocated more space, up to 100 square feet. Some classrooms will have seats noting they should be left empty to ensure physical distancing; others will simply have fewer seats. High-contact surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected with an EPA-approved disinfectant twice each day during normal operation hours, in addition to regular overnight cleaning. In addition, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer stations are available in or near classrooms.

Reminders to do our part
Signage will be posted throughout campus to illustrate required physical distancing and point to hygiene practices such as frequent hand washing. All students, faculty and staff will be required to wear face coverings. Everyone will be given two reusable face coverings to use. And a multimedia communications campaign is planned to encourage all Mason community members to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

This will be a Fall semester unlike any other we have experienced. The unknowns far outnumber the certainties. But together, we will continue to deliver on our academic mission, and I deeply appreciate the dedication and innovation of each and every one of you at this historic moment for George Mason University, the nation and the world.

With gratitude,

Gregory N. Washington, PhD
President

 

An update on COVID testing and Safe Return to Campus

Dear Fellow Patriots:

We are excited to bring students, faculty and staff back to campus and resume our mission of providing a rewarding and inclusive education. We also know that in these less certain times, a safe return to campus starts with a focus on health and a shared commitment to building a culture of well-being.

University teams have spent the summer working diligently to develop a plan for supporting and monitoring health on-campus. Our teams are working with our partners in public health to monitor health on campus, track potential symptoms of COVID-19 through self-reporting, testing and contact tracing, and isolate and treat those in our community who become ill.

We are pleased to share a summary of the plan below. We also encourage you to review our Safe Return to Campus website and plan for more details.

Creating a safe environment requires everyone’s help. Everyone can do their part by staying engaged, being aware of new requirements for safety and looking out for their fellow Patriots. Together, we can create an environment where health and safety go hand in hand with education and learning, and everyone has an opportunity to thrive.

Below is a summary of steps to take in order to come back – and stay back – on campus for the 2020-21 academic year. For the complete Mason Safe Return To Campus Plan, click here.

14 days prior to returning (residential students only)

  • Self-quarantine at home for 14 days.
  • Complete a COVID test.
    • You must have a negative COVID test to be cleared to move into a Mason residence hall.
    • If you test positive, seek medical attention as appropriate, and stay away from campus until you are cleared by a medical professional.
  • Students will receive a separate email with detailed instructions.

7 days prior to returning to campus (all students)

  • Start completing your daily Mason COVID Health Check™, a brief online questionnaire about your health status.

While on campus (all students, faculty, and staff)

  • Complete your daily Mason COVID Health Check
  • Wear a face covering over your mouth and nose at all times in public places.
  • Practice appropriate social distancing.
  • Practice appropriate hygiene, including thoroughly washing hands for at least 20 seconds, and if you can’t do that, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes.
  • Stay home if you feel symptoms consistent with COVID.

If you display symptoms of COVID

  • Students, as well as uninsured Mason employees and on-campus contractors, will be tested at the Mason On-Campus Testing Site.
  • Student Health Services will continue to serve students at regional campuses through video telehealth and will work with those students to get testing convenient to their location.
  • All other employees should be tested through their insured health providers.
  • The Ángel Cabrera Global Center has been designated as an on-campus quarantine site, when warranted. Residential students who must quarantine, may be quarantined in their room or in the Cabrera Global Center based on public health guidance.
  • All other students, faculty and staff must stay away from campus until they are cleared by a medical professional to return.

Random testing to detect asymptomatic carriers

  • To help track the virus spreading via carriers who display no symptoms, throughout the academic year Mason will randomly select members of the community to request that they participate in voluntary testing.
  • Testing will be done at the Cabrera Global Center.

These are challenging times for everyone and we greatly appreciate everyone’s role in building a safe campus environment. We can do this together if everyone does their part. Let’s be Patriots and have a great year!

Sincerely,

Julie Zobel, PhD
Assistant Vice President, Safety, Emergency, and Enterprise Risk Management

Carol Urban, RN, PhD
Testing Site Coordinator
Associate Dean, Practice & Strategic Initiatives
College of Health and Human Services

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

What to Expect for Fall 2020

Dear Patriots:

As final preparations for the school year are being made, I look forward to welcoming you back to Mason for the first day of fall semester classes on Monday, August 24.

Fall 2020 will look different at Mason, with decreased density on campus and more online learning. Students will have the opportunity to have a course schedule consisting of a mixture of in-person, hybrid and fully online classes. Students will receive a high-quality education regardless of the delivery mode or course format. Mason will support your learning and development consistent with our mission to provide you with a rich learning experience that is innovative and inclusive.

We will widely communicate if it becomes necessary for Mason to pivot to a fully remote and online format for our courses. Please pay close attention to messaging from the administration, your college and professors throughout the semester. The health and safety of students, faculty and staff remains, and always will be, our priority.

Fall schedules are available to view in PatriotWeb, including changes that may have been required because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the next two weeks, students will receive personal emails from the Registrar’s Office with their class schedules. Students also may receive messages from their college/school, or academic program, with added information relevant for the fall semester.

If you have questions or concerns about your class schedule, please contact your academic advisor.

Another change you should be aware of for this fall is that the bookstore will sell textbooks and course materials online only prior to the start of the fall semester and recommends that you order your materials to be delivered at home in advance of the semester. In addition, the bookstore does not plan to sell textbooks/course materials in-store the first two weeks of the semester to comply with social distancing requirements. After you receive your course syllabi, please order the needed materials immediately to ensure they arrive to you on time.

If you will be returning to Mason’s campus, remember that all faculty, staff, and students must complete the university’s online Safe Return to Campus Training. This training is available now for faculty and staff in MasonLEAPS and will be available in Blackboard to students on Monday, July 27. This training is an important step for the health and safety of our community and represents a shared commitment to keeping our campuses as healthy as possible.

I wish you well and look forward to seeing many of you soon. All the best.

Mark R. Ginsberg, Ph.D.
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President

 

Six Options for Learning in the Fall

Fall 2020 will look different at Mason, with decreased density on campus and more online learning. There will be opportunities for in-person learning for students who want to return to the Mason campus, and many other choices for learning online. In all cases, we are prepared to fully pivot to online learning, if public health factors make that necessary.

Here are the ways you can learn in the fall:

  1. Learn on Campus: In-Person
    • Classes meet on campuses, on the days, time and locations listed on your class schedule.
    • Physical distancing per university guidelines; masks are required in the classroom to ensure everyone’s safety.
  2. Learn on Campus: In-Person and Online (Hybrid)
    • 50% of the class meets in person on campus, with all students expected to attend class on the days, time and locations listed on your schedule.
    • Physical distancing will be observed based on university guidelines. Masks are required in the classroom.
    • 50% of the class work is completed online, on your own time. Keep in mind course instructions and deadlines for completing assignments.
  3. Learn on Campus: In Person and Live-Streamed (Hybrid)
    • In this flex model, you will alternate between in-person learning and live-streaming lectures. Your instructor will provide information on what days to come to campus. Physical distancing will be observed per university guidelines; masks are required in the classroom.
    • All students are expected to attend class either in-person or via live streaming on the days and times listed on your schedule.
  4. Learn in Place: Online, On Your Own Time
    • These courses will be 100% online, in an asynchronous format. You do not need to be on your computer or device on a specific day or at an exact time.
    • Be sure to pay close attention to the syllabus assignments and specific deadlines.
  5. Learn in Place: Online, Live-Streamed
    • Classes will meet in real time via Zoom or WebEx on the days and times listed in the class schedule. The instructor will facilitate live, online lectures and discussions.
  6. Learn in Place: Online, Live-Streamed and On Your Own (Hybrid)
    • This remote format is 50% live-streamed on the days and times listed on your class schedule.
    • The remainder of classwork is completed online, independently, on your own time. Be sure to pay close attention to instructions and deadlines listed in the course syllabus.

President Washington addresses Safe Return to Campus

Dear Patriots,

Preparation is underway for what may be the greatest campus-wide challenge the George Mason University community has ever taken on – our safe return to campus.

We have no playbook – none exists to navigate any modern university through a global pandemic, much less the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression.

So, like every university, we are in the process of writing our new playbook, observing the be​st public health expertise that exists – often from the Mason community itself – to address the unknowns that await in months ahead.

The quality of education you can expect to receive will not change. We will not retreat from our mission to provide the very best, most inclusive education possible, to create a more free, just, and prosperous world. And we will support the health and safety of our community in pursuit of that goal.

To stay focused on our mission, we just have to think like Patriots. That means bridging often-competing interests to find our own way forward, like insisting on both excellence and inclusion as a core value of who we are.

For this challenge, it means both committing ourselves to the health, safety, and well-being of everyone in our community and maintaining the most complete university experience possible, as circumstances allow.

It means finding excellence through online instruction and through in-person coursework – and knowing when it’s best to use which technique.

And it means having the discipline to act in ways that protect our own health and look out for the health and safety of our fellow Patriots.

Instruction

We will offer the same robust academic plan for this fall that we always do, in a mix of in-person instruction and online classes. We will start and end the semester classes on time, beginning August 24 and ending December 19.

Drawing on our knowledge that in-person instruction makes a difference, particularly in smaller learning environments, we will preserve this environment where we are able to. Students learn best through dialogue and experience, when they can interact directly with other students and have more direct access to faculty.  At the same time, larger classes can be just as effective online, and for some the convenience makes a difference. We’ll develop excellence in blending both forms of instruction.

When in-person classes are best, we will observe public health best practices including social distancing in classrooms, enhanced cleaning procedures, and the requirement that everyone wear masks.

Coming back to campus

We know that bringing people back to campus is a major effort, and we will be conducting this effort in stages. Students who are living on campus will begin to come back in phases. Student staff will move in on August 8. Upper class students will move in between August 15 and 18. Freshmen will move in between August 19 and 21. Students will receive time slots from University Housing and Residence Life, and will need to follow those instructions closely.

Reducing campus density

The university you return to won’t look like the university you left. Everyone must wear face coverings in public places. Physical distancing will be required. We are reducing density in classrooms, residence halls and administrative offices. Supervisors will create safety plans and telework will remain an important component of work plans.  Our goal is to greatly reduce the density on campus while providing outstanding service to our students.

A lot can change in the next six weeks. We will be working closely with the local health department, Virginia Health Department and through Centers for Disease Control guidelines to put the safest environment in place. We will also continue to work with renowned experts in public health who work right here at Mason to guide the way.

Public health and safety

The university will not reopen until public health officials deem it safe for us to return. We also will remain agile. Should circumstances change, we are prepared to pivot back to full online instruction.

Shared commitment to each other

Each of us will need to do our part. We must complete online training to understand the new environment on campus. Anyone coming to campus is required to conduct a daily self-health check.

And, I cannot emphasize this enough: If you feel sick or are symptomatic, stay home.

It is not possible to make our university 100 percent risk-free. But we can greatly minimize risk, and our new playbook has been written so that we can make that happen, even without knowing exactly how this year will play out.

Each of us should review the university’s Safe Return to Campus website. For those who want to go even deeper, feel free to read our Safe Return to Campus Plan.

Above all, get ready for an academic year like none other. We will move through this year together, stronger and wiser for our efforts.

Alright, Patriots. Let’s get to work!

Sincerely,

Gregory Washington
President, George Mason University

 

 

A message supporting our international students

Dear Patriots,

This week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that it would discontinue visa exceptions for international students on F-1 visas who take all of their courses for the semester online. This decision could force hundreds of thousands of international students to leave the United States and threatens to interrupt the academic work of more than 3,000 students here at George Mason University.

International students contribute greatly to the cultural and intellectual fabric of George Mason University, benefiting everyone in our community. Our best-in-state diversity ranking is in no small part dependent on the students from more than 130 countries who choose Mason for its academic and inclusive excellence. We are proud to say that you can meet the world on our campus. We have an obligation to stand with our international students and make our voice heard on this unfortunate decision.

Universities will be joining together to explore options for how we can protect this vulnerable population. Our Association of Public and Land Grant Universities shares these concerns, as you can see in this public statement. I, too, urge the administration to reconsider this executive action.

Here at Mason, and across Virginia, conversations are underway as we work to fully understand the new guidance and its impact on our operations and our students. We are committed to finding creative solutions so that our students are able to continue their study in the U.S.

Our Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS) is putting together more information, which will be forthcoming later this week. Faculty and administrators in the schools and colleges can expect to learn more from their deans; international students will receive information from OIPS, including guidance and announcements about FAQ’s and online discussions.

Despite unprecedented challenges we currently face, we will not waver in our support for our international community.

Sincerely,

Gregory Washington
President, George Mason University

 

 

 

Update from President Holton on the Safe Return to Campus

Dear Patriots,

This has been an extraordinary time for all of us, and I remain so proud of George Mason University community’s response.

I hope you were able to attend Wednesday’s town hall meeting. I’m pleased to say that more than 3,000 people tuned in to watch, and we received more than 500 questions for the event. More than 50 percent of those were from students and about 30 percent were from faculty and staff. The leadership team answered many of your questions, and we plan to address those we didn’t through upcoming communication with you and on the Safe Return to Campus website. If you missed the meeting or would like to see it again, you can see the video recording here.

We miss you. Mason isn’t the same place without our students, faculty, staff and researchers. The good news is that we continue to plan to start the fall semester on time on Aug. 24 with a hybrid of in person and online classes. That successful start depends on our region’s continued success in fighting the virus, and we are working closely with public health officials to monitor conditions and help ensure we do our part to support their work.  It also depends on us committing as a community to four key things. We must wear our masks; I wear a mask to care for you, and you wear a mask care for me.  We have to stay six feet apart from each other. We have to wash our hands, and we have to stay home if we are sick. If we can put protocols in place that support those key pieces, we are convinced that we can significantly reduce the risk and rejoin our campus community together. It will be different but also rewarding. Together, we can make this work.

A few updates that are worth noting:

Class schedule anticipated to be available by July 17

As Provost Mark Ginsberg said Wednesday, class scheduling is complex jigsaw puzzle. By July 17, we hope to have the class schedule available so that students know the time and format of their classes for the fall semester. We plan to offer many classes in both face-to-face and online formats, with preference for in-person instruction given to labs, hands-on classes and experiential learning. This has required tremendous cooperation and hard work by the provost’s office, the deans, the Faculty, and facilities management among others, and I know you appreciate their work as much as I do. Some students may receive specific information from their individual school or college prior to July 17, but that’s our goal to complete the puzzle.

Housing

We had a lot of questions about housing at the town hall. We are keeping our on-campus student occupancy rate around 75 percent, intentionally keeping about 1,500 beds empty to facilitate physical distancing and in case we need space for students to quarantine.  Most of the occupancy is single rooms along with some doubles but with no more than two people in a room.

Any new students or first-year students who met the June 1 priority registration deadline are guaranteed a housing assignment.  All returning students who selected an on-campus housing assignment in March are also guaranteed an assignment. We do have an established waitlist and any student on the waitlist as of June 20 is receiving an assignment. We will continue to work with all others as spaces become available. In order to comply with social distancing guidelines, move-in will look different this fall, starting on Aug. 15 and occurring over a week-long period instead of the more typical two days.

Financial aid for students

Some parts of the country are reopening and the economy is rebounding but in other places this is a longer and more drawn out process. We know the economic crisis affects a great number of our students and their families. Mason is distributing over $10 millionin federal CARES act relief funds to students, with about half already out the door and the rest being issued this summer and early fall. We also continue to accept applications for the Student Emergency Assistance Fund. This is particularly important to our undocumented students who do not currently qualify for CARES Act relief. Our Foundation and Advancement teams have been instrumental in working to help this important part of our student population.

Athletics

Our student-athletes are eager to return to practice, and I know I speak for many fans when I say I’m looking forward to seeing them return as well. Selected sports will be able to begin voluntary workouts on July 13, with numerous health and safety protocols. This includes a 14-day self-quarantine period before returning to campus, appropriate testing, daily health assessments, COVID 19 training, and other factors to ensure health and safety of students, trainers and coaches. Stay tuned for more information from our athletics department in early July.

Commencement

This came up at the town hall and I know it’s an important question for many. The university’s virtual recognition ceremony was well-received, but we know it’s not a substitute for an in-person event. We will celebrate the Class of 2020, but at this time we can’t provide a specific date. We are committed to bringing you together to celebrate when it is safe to do so. As vaccines and treatments are developed, as contact tracing increases, we will be able to get a better idea. I promise I will be there to applaud your efforts when we can gather safely to celebrate.

Travel

As a follow up to previous messages, we are announcing that Mason has suspended all international travel through the end of the fall semester, with the exception of travel to South Korea. Exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case by the University Travel Advisory Committee (risk@gmu.edu).

More about Phase 3

Gov. Northam has announced that Virginia will move into Phase 3 on Wednesday, July 1. Most employees will not be returning to campus in July and many employees will continue to telework through the summer and possibly through the fall semester. Please reach out to your manager or supervisor to talk about your work situation. Our Human Resources and Employee Relations teams are available to help you work through individual specific situations. We know many of our employees have children in the K-12 schools and those schedules and decisions will affect their work schedules, and we encourage everyone to remain flexible as we move into fall.

A word of gratitude
As I return to the faculty and begin preparing for my fall teaching, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your many kindnesses and help during my tenure as Interim President, and for honoring our Mason value “we thrive together” in this moment. The tough situations we are now facing can indeed make us stronger, if we can stay flexible, be patient and open with each other, and stay focused on meeting the needs of all. I want to thank especially my leadership team for their incredible work and friendship, and President-Designee Washington for his invaluable engagement over the last few months. I have total confidence that you will extend him your full support as he begins his tenure July 1, and that together you and he will lead this university forward to its next great chapter.

Remember to hold each other in the light.

Sincerely,

Anne Holton, Interim President

 

Safe Return to Campus website is live

Dear Patriots:

As George Mason University prepares to bring students back to campus this fall, we want to make sure everyone in our community has access to the most current information. Today, we are announcing the Safe Return to Campus Plan website, which will be updated frequently as new information becomes available.

We encourage you to bookmark this site and use it as a reference when you have questions. The site includes the university’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the university preparedness guide, announcements, and other information designed to support the health, safety, and well-being of the Mason community as the university fulfills its academic mission. The second phase of information will be posted to the website in early July.

As previously stated, our plan calls for starting the fall semester on time and bringing students back for a mix of in-person instruction and expanded online classes, as well as the continuation of research. This hybrid approach will allow for appropriate social distancing on campus, while making alternatives available for those students who are not ready to return.

Some essential faculty and staff are returning to work this month, although most faculty and staff will continue to work from home. All faculty and staff who return to Mason campuses must first complete the Safe Return to Campus Training, accessible on the Safe Return to Campus website. The stages outlined on the website reflect our preparation for an Aug. 24 start to the semester.

We know that students and their families, faculty and staff, and community members have many questions about the university’s plans for the fall semester, which include a combination of in-person and online instruction and other adaptations.

To address questions, Interim President Anne Holton and senior leadership will conduct a virtual town hall from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24, livestreamed on GMU-TV. Questions and comments can be pre-submitted here.

Sincerely,

Paul G. Allvin
Vice President of Strategic Communications and Marketing

President Holton to host virtual town hall June 24

Dear Patriots,

As President Holton noted in her message last week, George Mason University will reopen on time on Aug. 24 with a mix of in-person and online classes.

We know there are many questions about our Safe Return to Campus and the university’s overall operations. We invite students, their families, faculty, staff and community members to submit questions here ahead of the town hall that President Holton will host with senior leadership from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 24.

The town hall will be livestreamed on GMU TV and a link also will be available directly from the university’s homepage.

This is new territory for all of us, and your flexibility, compassion and creativity will be essential as we move forward together. We look forward to gathering with you virtually on Wednesday.

Sincerely,

Paul G. Allvin
Vice President of Strategic Communications and Marketing

NOVA in Phase Two; Town Hall Meeting; Additional Information for Faculty and Staff

Dear Patriots,

Phase Two

This week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the Safer at Home order has been lifted and that Northern Virginia is entering Phase 2 of the state’s reopening today, Friday, June 12. He has also issued guidance for the re-opening of higher education campuses this fall.

Many of you may be wondering how these announcements affect George Mason University.  For most of our community, there will be little immediate change from the last few months.  Courses will stay online this summer, and the majority of our faculty and staff will continue to telework in June and July. As we all adjust to the new guidance, I encourage everyone to follow the Governor’s directives and the advice of public health professionals. Wear masks, stay six feet apart, wash your hands, and stay home if you are sick.  The evidence is strong that following these basic rules will greatly reduce the risk of additional infections as our communities reopen.

We appreciate the Governor’s encouragement to re-open our campuses when safe to do so and guidance on how best to do so. Our plans for fall are closely aligned with that guidance.  We will submit our Safe Return to Campus plan to SCHEV by July 6 as directed and look forward to working with state and local officials in the coming months to implement our plans.  Some faculty and staff will gradually begin coming back to campus over the summer, to help prepare the university for our students in the fall, as I outlined last week, and to re-commence research efforts where feasible. Additional guidance for those individuals is included below.

Town Hall Meeting

We know many of you have questions and feedback about our plans to reopen the campus and other aspects of how the coronavirus is impacting the university. I will host a town hall meeting from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on June 24 with university leaders so we can offer clear answers to those questions. If you have questions or comments, please submit them here. The town hall will be livestreamed on GMU TV.

Additional Information for Faculty and Staff

Some researchers, people in operational roles that are directly involved with campus reopening, and other essential personnel may begin to return to our campuses in upcoming weeks. Planning for who will return to campus, and when, will be an ongoing process.

For those who are returning to campus and those who are managing people who will return to campus, the university will have new procedures to ensure a safe return.

A Unit/Department Safety Planning tool will be available to help units and departments determine who should return to campus and when, what workspace or work schedule modifications may be needed, and a process to request safety supplies. This tool will be shared directly with senior leaders across the university, who will be asked to develop plans for their departments.

These supervisors will appoint individuals to complete these Unit/Department Safety Plans for their divisions or functions. If you have not been assigned to complete this plan for your division, please await instructions from your supervisor or department head.

Training for Those Returning to Campus

Anybody coming back to campus will need to complete the Safe Return to Campus Training. This training, with separate employee and student components, will provide important information about COVID-19 illness and transmission, the precautions Mason is implementing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 within the campus community, and specific faculty, staff and student responsibilities to protect yourself and others while on campus. It is designed to help educate all the members of our community on our new culture.

This training will be shared first with the essential personnel returning to campus this summer, and then with all members of the Mason community.

The campus environment we return to will be much different from the one we left in March. Our Safe Return to Campus requires everyone’s cooperation. Our success depends on everyone adhering to these new guidelines.

Every one of us has a role to play in helping to safely reopen the university. Please accept my heartfelt appreciation for your commitment to the health and safety of the Mason community.

Sincerely,

Anne Holton
Interim President

Message from Housing and Residence Life

Dear Patriot,

Earlier today President Holton shared Mason’s plans to return to on-campus operations for the fall semester.  Please know that students with a current assignment and/or first-year prospective students and transfers who have a deposit submitted by June 1st will have a housing assignment this fall.  Needless to say, we are going to have a lot of questions around this and we want to answer them with full clarity.  However, please be patient as we work with these parameters that will include taking physical distancing measures, new community standards for living in residence, and additional guidelines for moving in, dining on campus, and more into consideration.

Our hope is to communicate out and have answers by the end of next week (June 12th).  We will send this information directly to students via their Mason e-mail and will post additional information to our various social media accounts.  Additionally, updates are often sent out via the Mason Family Flash newsletter and through the Mason Family Association.

We look forward to having nearly 4,500 students return to university housing in the fall and we will be in touch soon.  In the meantime, please contact housing@gmu.edu if you have immediate questions before then.

Housing and Residence Life