Safe Return to Campus

Dear Patriot,

Through the years, George Mason University has served as a gateway to hope and promise for so many students. This academic year tested us in ways never imagined, and yet our response culminated last month with the largest graduating class in Mason history. That’s a testament to our community, and the reason students are eager to come back each year.

Now we begin the next big challenge: laying the foundation for a Safe Return to Campus. 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.

Our guiding principle throughout this process is our commitment to offering the best educational experience for our students while making the safety, health and well-being of our entire community a priority.  We must meet our core mission of providing a rich and rewarding education that positions our students for success. Re-opening the campus, under proper conditions and with safety modifications, is an essential element of the Mason experience. We know that many students benefit from being on campus, interacting in the classroom, and having an opportunity to engage in person with faculty and fellow students.  We are also proud of our online offerings and understand that online courses may be the best fit for some students. But for many, there is real value in the opportunity to connect within the vigorous living and learning community we treasure so much at Mason.

While not all risk can be eliminated, the evidence tells us that with appropriate precautions it can be greatly reduced. That premise underlies our approach. The effort to reopen our campus has drawn on a wealth of talent and experience across our university and beyond – and particularly the best scientific evidence and advice available from public health experts.  It began with the work of our Patriot Tiger Team, which started the conversation with our campus community in early May and provided options for us to build on. We also benefited from feedback about the Fall semester from our community through surveys, dialogue sessions and virtual town hall meetings, and we will continue to do so.

I have personally consulted extensively with students, faculty and staff and know that many of you have concerns, particularly around members of our community who are most vulnerable to this virus.  Based on this input, we have developed a blueprint to reduce risk and enhance safety as we move toward our fall reopening. We now have 18 working groups who are developing and implementing the detailed plans, standards and policies that will guide us going forward, under the leadership of our Emergency Management Executive Committee.

Our Safe Return to Campus plan assumes that Governor Northam and public health officials will have determined by early August that general conditions in Northern Virginia will allow for a safe return, pursuant to the Governor’s phased approach to reopening Virginia’s economy.  This will of course depend on the progress of the disease in our area, current scientific evidence and the advice of health professionals – as well as the ongoing expansion of local capacity to manage the public health response and the public’s adherence to health and safety precautions.  We are working closely with state officials and will comply with all guidance and directives for higher education.  We are also working closely with local public health officials, pursuant to guidance from the Virginia Department of Health, to coordinate our efforts. Part of our goal will be to rally our university community to understand and follow state and local directives to contain the disease.

Based on our teams’ work and what we know now, we believe conditions will allow us to start classes as scheduled on August 24. We are evaluating whether to complete the semester as scheduled, or end in-person classes before Thanksgiving and hold final exams online.  We are aware the outlook can change, and if it does, we will remain nimble and adjust as needed.  Our incredible faculty and staff are working hard to ensure we have the capacity to offer high-quality online instruction, including the ability to revert to a fully remote option if and when needed.

Even as we proceed as planned, campus life won’t be exactly how we remember. Flexibility remains crucial in this period of uncertainty. But I am confident in our collective capacity to serve the needs of our community and provide students a rich and rewarding educational experience.

Here are a few details around our thinking:

A balanced approach to instruction that gives us flexibility

Instruction has always been the center of the Mason experience, and that hasn’t changed during this crisis. In this new environment, the priority for in-person instruction will be courses that most benefit from face-to-face interactions including laboratory sections and classes that engage experiential learning in a wide variety of subjects. Larger classes and lectures will be online.  For other courses, the university will consider a number of factors, including classroom size, space availability and faculty member availability for teaching in-person.

Regardless of whether classes are taught in person, online or a hybrid of the two, we plan to increase instructional support and resources for faculty and students.

By reducing occupancy in residence halls and adding new measures, we can reduce risk

Our plan for on-campus housing seeks to reduce risk in the residence halls. This includes reducing occupancy to allow for increased physical distancing. We are adding extra cleaning precautions and establishing community guidelines that limit the number of students who can gather together in common areas. We are also setting aside adequate space for residential students who need to isolate should they become sick because of COVID-19 and those who need to quarantine because of exposure to those with the virus.

 Creating a new culture on campus

Our commitment to safety starts with everyone respecting physical distancing norms. The university will reduce the number of students in classrooms to increase the amount of space for physical distancing. Where appropriate, we will also give guidance for physical distancing around campus. 

Face coverings will be required for everyone in all public areas – including classrooms. While there is so much unknown about this virus, research shows that wearing a face covering greatly reduces the spread and therefore is a must for our community. The university will provide two free reusable cloth masks to all students, faculty and staff.

Classrooms and other public spaces will be modified in certain cases. We will have hand sanitizing stations readily available and institute enhanced cleaning of public spaces across campus.

Public health protocols

The university will coordinate with local public health officials to ensure plans are in place for testing, contact tracing, and responding to potential outbreaks on campus. Individuals who have had close contact with persons infected with COVID-19 will be required to quarantine, and those who are suspected or have confirmed positive cases must isolate.  Other monitoring measures will be instituted as appropriate, with a particular emphasis on detecting and responding to a potential outbreak in the residence halls.

We will also ask students, faculty and staff to be vigilant about symptoms that signal sickness, including requiring regular health self-assessments. Everyone will be expected to stay home if they are sick, and to cooperate with public health directives.

Protecting our most vulnerable populations is a priority

We know that certain segments of our community are at greater risk because of their age or health status, and we are taking steps to address their concerns.

Faculty who are at high risk due to age or medical vulnerability will be given the option not to teach in-person courses in the fall. Telework will be encouraged for staff who do not need to be on campus.  Students with special vulnerabilities will be provided options to continue their education remotely or to return to campus with additional protections if feasible.

None of this happens without everyone’s commitment

For the university to reopen campuses, we must be vigilant and adapt to the new reality. This includes adding new training for students and employees. Everyone will be asked to signal their commitment to these new policies for the health and well-being of the broader community. Our intention is to create a safe environment for learning and research and to make adjustments where necessary. Everyone’s patience and flexibility will be necessary and appreciated.

We are ready to pivot, if things change

Finally, the university is prepared to pivot back to fully remote operations, if that step becomes necessary to protect the safety of the community. Such a pivot could be triggered at any point prior to the start of the semester or during the semester, either by government directive or Mason’s own assessment.

Our planning is taking place in real time, with the best information we have at the moment. We continue to consult public health officials and will rely on their expertise throughout this process. This remains a very dynamic situation, which is why we believe this hybrid approach is the best way to serve our mission and prioritize safety at the same time.

We know that many of you will have questions and concerns about the university’s plans for the fall. We will be holding a town hall later this month to address questions and will provide details in a subsequent message next week. The Mason community is encouraged to submit questions or comments here. We will also be updating the university’s main website with more details about the Safe Return to Campus in the coming weeks.

These are challenging times. But we will get through them together. And we will be a stronger Mason Nation when this is over.

Sincerely,

Anne Holton
Interim President

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

Housing Move-Out Update

Dear Patriot,

We hope your online classes are going well and that you are staying safe and healthy during this time. We recognize that collecting your belongings and moving out have been heavily on your mind and we appreciate your patience through this evolving process. We have created a flexible move-out process that allows students  two move-out options in an effort to accommodate varying needs. Students must select their option by June 1st.

Students can enter the Housing Portal and select their option as soon as their assigned timeslot opens and will be able to complete and submit the form until close of business on June 1st.

May 1st at 9:00am = Adams, Amherst, Blue Ridge, Brunswick, Carroll, Commonwealth
May 1st at 9:30am= Dickenson, Dominion, Eastern Shore, Essex, Franklin, Grayson
May 1st at  10:00am= Hampton Roads, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson
May 1st at 10:30am= Kennedy, Liberty Square, Lincoln
May 1st at 11:00am= Madison, ACGC, Monroe, Northern Neck
May 1st at 11:30am= Potomac Heights
May 1st at 12:00pm= Piedmont, Rogers, Roosevelt
May 1st at 12:30pm= Sandbridge, Taylor, Tidewater
May 1st at 1:00pm= Townhouses, Truman, Washington, Whitetop, Wilson

More information about the two move-out options are below:
Self-Service Move-Out Option 1 (Students Pack and Move Their Own Belongings)
  • Beginning on May 1st students will be able to login to the Housing Portal to select a two-hour timeslot between June 10th-30th to remove their belongings and complete the move-out process. Only one student in a room/suite/apartment will be allowed to move-out at a time.
  • Housing and Residence Life will not issue green bins for the move-out process. Students are encouraged to bring their own hand trucks and dollies to assist with the move-out process.
  • Students are allowed to bring one guest to assist with the move-out process and are required to wear face coverings during the move out process. Face coverings will not be provided by HRL.
  • Students are expected to remove all personal items and trash within their rooms. Housekeeping ​will deep clean all spaces after students complete move out.
  • Should a student not be able to come and pick up their belongings in person, a proxy may be designated to pick up belongings. The proxy should also be provided with an inventory of the belongings to be packed. Students utilizing the proxy option will need to select a move-out time that falls between Monday-Friday.
  • Students will be provided a parking pass to utilize in the event they or their guest do not have a Mason pass. The parking pass should be displayed while the student is completing the move out process.
  • Please note that students who miss their appointment should contact housing@gmu.edu for assistance. It is not guaranteed that students will receive a new appointment time and may be required to participate in the full-service move out option.
Full-Serviced Move-Out Option 2
  • Housing will identify an approved moving company to pack up and store the belongings of students that are not able to or are not comfortable with returning to campus to finish the move out process.
  • Students who select this option will have their belongings packed up and stored in a facility located in Springfield, VA.
  • Students will need to complete an online inventory of their belongings, both in their room and any common areas of the assigned space.
  • Students will be responsible for covering the cost of this move.  Estimates for moving expenses will be approximately $700 which includes packing, moving, and storage. Students are responsible for any fees associated with shipping or retrieving their items directly from the facility.
  • Students will be responsible for contracting directly with the selected company by June 10th in order to have their belongings packed after all other students have moved out. If the student does not complete the contract with the moving company then the students’ belongings will be packed and moved for them by the selected moving company. Housing is not responsible for any damages or losses that may occur with the move.
  • Should a student have their belongings returned to campus for move-in and not pick up their belongings, Housing and Residence Life will retain the student’s belongings at an additional storage cost of $300 for 120 days. If the belongings are not claimed within 120 days, then the items will be disposed of for the student.
If you do not pick an option
  • Students who do not select an option by 5:00pm on June 1st will have their belongings packed and stored at their expense.
  • The anticipated expense per student is $700 for packing and storing student’s belongings, but could be higher dependent upon how many students select the full-service move option.
  • Housing and Residence Life is not responsible if any items are damaged or go missing during this process and as such, students who do not select an option are encouraged to work with their own insurance agency to obtain full value coverage for their belongings.
  • Should a student not pick up their belongings when they have been returned to campus, Housing and Residence Life will retain the student’s belongings at an additional storage cost of $300 for 120 days.
I already moved out and took all of my personal items
  • If you have already removed all of your personal belongings and do not need to utilize any of the options outlined above, please be sure to complete the Express Check-Out Form in the Housing Portal by June 1st.
  • If you have already completed this form, no additional actions are needed.
  • Students who may have moved out, but have not filled out the Express Check-Out form may be charged for belonging removal if items are not claimed prior to the moving company process
  • If a student has completely moved out but has not returned their hard keys to HRL, they should be mailed to the following address and include the student’s name and G# (Mason ID or copy of ID not necessary). Students will have until June 30th to return these keys before a charge will be issued to their student account.

    Housing and Residence Life
    4400 University Dr., MS 5C7
    Fairfax, VA 22030
 
Sincerely,
Housing and Residence Life

A message from Rector Tom Davis

Dear Mason Patriots:

The Board of Visitors will host a listening session on the university’s budget for 2020-2021 at 10 a.m. on May 6. We invite our entire campus community to participate, particularly our students.

This listening session is an opportunity for you to share your views with university leadership and ask questions specific to the 2020-2021 Financial Plan and tuition. Interim President Anne Holton and Visitor Simmi Bhuller will join me for the listening session, which will be conducted virtually.

We know the coronavirus has affected everyone differently, and has created financial anxiety and uncertainty for many of our students. The Board of Visitors needs to hear from you as we consider the budget for the upcoming school year.

We ask that you register your comments in advance using this link so that we can hear from as many people as possible during the listening session. All comments submitted through the survey link will be read and reviewed by the board in advance of our May 20 meeting to vote on the budget.  You may also request to deliver your comments live during the session. A link to the May 6 meeting will be available on the university’s home page.

We hope to move back to more normal operations as soon as we can, but we recognize the need especially in the current circumstances to be careful stewards of our resources so that we can maintain our mission of providing access to excellence for our students.

I hope you will take this opportunity to share your thoughts and feedback with us.

Sincerely,

Tom Davis
Rector, George Mason University

Fall Registration to Begin May 1, Summer Registration Ongoing

Dear Patriots,

We hope you are healthy, safe and well.

We are pleased to announce that registration for the fall 2020 semester begins this Friday, May 1. Your registration time will be e-mailed directly to you from the Office of the University Registrar.

We know that many of you have questions about the fall semester. University leadership continues to monitor the health crisis and is considering the best options for how classes will be delivered this fall, with the safety of the university community as our main priority.

At the same time, we remain committed to ensuring you stay on track. Therefore, we encourage you to work with your academic advisor now to register for the classes that will advance your progress toward degree completion. If you need to change your schedule after these decisions are made, you will be able to update your registration.

As options are considered for fall 2020 semester classes, know that the university will keep you informed about plans and any possible adjustments that may be necessitated by the COVID-19 crisis and guidance provided by public health officials or directives by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Please check the university’s coronavirus information page for updates.

We are all adjusting and adapting to the implications of COVID-19. At Mason, our foremost concern is your health, safety and well-being. The university is committed to supporting you, your learning and your continued academic and professional development.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Ginsberg
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President

Doug McKenna
University Registrar