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



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.


Tom Davis
Rector, George Mason University


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.


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!


Gregory Washington
President, George Mason University




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 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
Housing and Residence Life

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.

Interim President Anne Holton extends her gratitude to students, faculty and staff

She praises Mason Nation for its perseverance and dedication during the COVID-19 pandemic. “What a semester we have had,” she says. Hear more from President Holton.

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!


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


Patriots, how are you doing? Take the survey. Enter to win some Beats.

Dear Patriots,

I hope you are doing well.  I want to check in with you to learn about your Mason experience particularly since we made the decision to move to a distance learning format in response to the current pandemic.  Please fill out Mason Pulse Survey – it will take less than 5 minutes – so we can gauge your experience, continue to address areas that need improvement, provide you with any needed support, and plan for the future.

When you submit your completed survey, you will be entered into a random drawing. We will give away five pairs of Beats by Dr Dre Studio Noise Cancelling Headphones.  We will notify winners and mail Beats directly to you.

We really want to hear from you.  Knowing how you are doing is incredibly important to us, particularly at this moment in time.  Please complete by Wednesday, April 29.



​Rose B. 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.


Anne Holton
Interim President


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 We will respond as soon as possible.

If you have questions about the COVID-19 emergency assistance funding process, please contact University Life at


David Burge
Vice President for Enrollment Management

Rose Pascarell
Vice President for University Life