Mason Student Services Center Updates (message from NSFP)

The Mason Student Services Center (MSSC) has suspended in-person services until further notice. To prepare for fully remote services, MSSC has moved their in-person check-in form online. Students may reach MSSC via the check-in form or by email at mssc@gmu.edu.
MSSC has also created a secure link to upload documents (available via the online check-in form) that would normally be submitted in person. MSSC will continue to remain in close communication with partner offices including Financial Aid, Student Accounts, Admissions and The Registrar’s Office, so students continue to receive the best service possible.

Campus Building Closures and Other Updates – A Message from President Holton

Dear Patriots:

The university continues to monitor the coronavirus outbreak and take additional measures as appropriate. This is important as we focus our efforts around resuming the spring semester through alternative virtual instruction, supporting the small community of students who must remain on campus, and providing essential operations to support our mission.

As a result of our continuing focus on the safety of our community, the University will be closing our buildings to the general public for the foreseeable future. We also will be mandating telework for all faculty and staff except for those who need to work on campus to continue critical functions for the university as outlined below.

Building security and core functions

University buildings will be closed effective Wednesday March 25, except as otherwise provided.  All exterior and interior doors will be locked.  Faculty and staff will continue to have cardswipe and key access but must comply with the telework mandates outlined below.

Police and Safety Headquarters will remain open, with police patrolling the campus and facilities monitoring buildings. Southside Dining will provide grab and go dining service for those remaining on campus during hours listed here.  Retail dining establishments with separate entrances will be allowed to remain open so long as they are complying with the Governor’s Executive Order limiting numbers of occupants and enforcing social distancing; more details are available here.

Mason library facilities, including Fenwick, will be closed starting Monday March 23.  Library services will continue to operate, will expand virtual access as feasible, and will be available virtually to support faculty and students in accessing needed materials for online classes and assisting with other resources and services.  For more details about library services and accompanying policy changes during this period, please see:  https://library.gmu.edu/

SUB I will be closed to the public, but Student Health Services, the Mason Card Office, and the Cashier’s Office will be open on a limited access basis. In an effort to limit risk of infection, we ask students to call 703-993-2831 and speak with a nurse prior to coming in to Student Health Services. For more information, visit the Student Health Services page and click the Patient Notice link.

Faculty, staff, and students who wish to access the Mason Card Office should call 703-993-1004 to make an appointment.  The Cashier’s Office will be accepting cash payments by appointment Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.; please call Bill Cunningham, Assistant Director, Cashier’s Office and Account Management, at 703-993-2498 to schedule an appointment. All check payments should be mailed to GMU Cashier’s Office, 4400 University Drive, MS 2E2, Fairfax, Virginia 22040.

The HUB will be closed to the public. Packages from USPS , UPS, FedEx and Amazon will be delivered to the Mail Center in the HUB. Individuals with a valid Mason ID will be able to access the HUB via the ground floor (basement level) door across from the Shenandoah parking deck, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Friday for mail and package pickup.

If faculty and staff need more information or have questions about card access please go to https://masonid.gmu.edu/access/ or contact the Card Access Security Office at 703-993-3127, or contact CASO@gmu.edu or Key Control at keys@gmu.edu or 703-993-2823.  If you need to request access to a locked building please review this list to determine the appropriate contact.

 

Telework mandate

The university is mandating that all employees who can work remotely should do so, except those who must report in person to carry out key university functions, such as critical research, teaching including online instruction, supporting students allowed to remain on campus, health care, and administrative and other obligations that cannot be conducted remotely.

Deans, directors, unit leaders and managers have the authority to identify those who must report in person, those who can work remotely, and those who may need limited, intermittent access.  They should share that guidance with their faculty and staff. Those who need access, including on a limited basis, to perform key university functions should coordinate with co-workers to allow for social distancing and of course should continue to practice careful hand hygiene.

Employees shifting to telework should return to campus before Wednesday, March 25 to collect whatever items they may need to work remotely for the remainder of the semester. Please practice social distancing during this time; you may need to schedule individual time in your department for employees to retrieve belongings.

If you have questions about leave, your ability to do your job remotely or your current job duties, please contact your supervisor and/or Employee Relations. If you have questions about Virginia Public Health Emergency Leave, please review the PHEL guidance and/or contact the HR Benefits Team.

Notification of confirmed cases in our community

We want to let you know about another confirmed coronavirus case associated with our campus. On March 14, we received notice from a student regarding their positive diagnosis of coronavirus. The public health department has since confirmed that case and has informed us that since the student had not been on campus since Feb. 25, to include during the infectious period, there is no risk to the campus community from this case.

As I stated in my last message on Friday, we do not anticipate sending messages about coronavirus testing or positive cases each time we learn of a new confirmed case associated with our university. Instead, please visit the university’s confirmed coronavirus cases webpage, which will be updated at 2 p.m. daily if there is new information to share.

Please continue to monitor the Virginia Department of Health for the latest information about the virus in Virginia and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for national and worldwide updates, and George Mason’s coronavirus website for the latest Mason information.

Remember to practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, take time to get outdoors, and get sufficient rest.  We remain focused on our core education and research missions along with our commitment to keep our community safe, and thank you all for your cooperation toward those ends.

Sincerely,

Anne Holton
Interim President

Assistance from the Stearns Center

Dear Colleagues,

We have talked with and heard from so many of you this week, and we are endlessly impressed with your determination to support your students, with your flexibility and persistence, and above all with the ways you are working with one another to adjust to an entirely new set of teaching experiences. As we collectively forge a path forward, it’s important to take a deep breath and consider your essential purposes for your courses, so you can focus on the most important learning you want your students to achieve. Your class this semester is not going to look like the class you imagined in January—but we believe that you can support your students, and each other, in sustaining the “access to excellence” foundation that Mason is built on.

As we get ready to start instruction next week, we wanted to share a few thoughts to help get you through this next leg of the journey.

Focus on your goals. As you’re transitioning to remote courses, it’s important to keep in mind what you ultimately want to achieve. What are your goals for the course? How do you want your students to engage with your field’s key concepts and questions? The Stearns Center team can help you think creatively about how to achieve these goals. Please reach out for help through scheduled office hours and webinars and explore some of the Stage Two and Stage Three content on our Instructional Continuity site.

Be flexible. Remember, the activities and assignments you’ve previously used were always the means to an end, a single pathway toward learning about your field. This semester will very likely require all of us to explore new paths. The new plans that you have for next week may not work out as you imagine—but we and your students know you are doing as much as you can to support good learning. Students may also run into difficulties with the new expectations, and again your flexibility will help them continue their learning here at Mason.

Finally, be ready to be flexible with respect to technology access. We have never experienced the demands that we are seeing for so many—the whole country!— to be online at the same time. You should expect some delays as you access online recourses, and it might take a couple of times to access what you or your students need. In some cases, things that were planned to be synchronous might need to be asynchronous, and some tasks that you had planned using one tool might need to adapt to another. Please be patient with yourselves, and with your students.

Communicate. Keep your students updated about your plans, even if some parts of a plan are still in development. You can reduce their stress and increase their success by helping them mentally adjust to your new approaches in advance. (If you’re using a Blackboard site, we recommend using the Announcements function over using student email, since more students check Blackboard and the information will remain accessible in the course.) Encourage students to communicate with you about their own access opportunities and challenges. And communicate with your own colleagues, both about your successes and the challenges you and your students are facing: teams across the university are working to assemble resources, but need accurate information about community needs in order to respond.

Be realistic. Your goal is not to replicate your current face-to-face class, or to create a fully developed online class, but to use online tools to adapt so that you can support learners temporarily through virtual connections. In these first few days of our altered semester, our goal together is to help students begin to make the transition to learning in new environments. As the semester progresses, Stearns Center, ITS, and your local support teams will be available to provide additional suggestions and strategies to help you help your students learn.

Take care of yourself. Your enthusiasm for your subject, your commitment to your students, and your good humor about being a learner yourself will come through to your students and enable their engagement and success. But all of those depend on you finding ways to relieve your stress, to get enough sleep, to ensure that your own family is safe, and to stay healthy. Keep track of resources that may be available through Mason, and be sure to reach out locally to share other ideas with friends and colleagues.

Utilize the resources. At the Stearns Center and in ITS, we continue daily to update the resources we’ve compiled to help you through this challenge. We’ve expanded our team of instructional designers: professionals whose expertise blends technology and teaching strategies, and who have experiences in a range of university disciplines. If you are stuck, need additional tools, or have questions, please contact us to help connect you with available resources. Please contact the ITS Support Center in the event of a technology issue. If you have not already registered for the ITS Alert listserv, please take a moment to subscribe so you can be made aware of issues as they arise.

YOU CAN DO THIS! You’re creating a new path. It’s not an ideal situation and it’s not easy, but you’re not in this alone. If we keep our eyes on our goals and use some creative thinking, we can make it to the right destination—together.

If you have any questions, email the Stearns Center at stearns@gmu.edu.

Thank you from the Stearns Center and ITS teams!

Resuming Classes Virtually and Other Updates – a Message From President Holton

Dear Patriots,

It is an understatement to say that we are living in extraordinary times. When the academic year began, few of us could have imagined that we would be preparing to finish the spring semester teaching our courses online. This is a new reality for all of us, and while we might not have planned on this path, we are taking it and stepping boldly into this new frontier.

At the same time, the outbreak from the coronavirus is intensifying with each day. We continue to monitor developments and respond in a way that protects our community and minimizes widespread exposure.

Sadly, I learned today as did the rest of you that one of our students has tested positive. Our prayers are with that student for a speedy recovery, and we are doing everything we can to provide support and assistance with our partners in the department of health.

We expect more of our community will test positive for COVID-19 in the coming days and weeks. Rather than send out messages every time we learn of a case, I have asked our communications team to add a link to the university’s coronavirus web page, listing the number of cases. This is in line with how our peers at other universities are reporting these cases.

Events cancelled through the end of the semester

The university has decided to extend the cancellation of all events through May 18. We made this decision after considering the Centers for Disease Control’s guidance and recommendations from a working group that included faculty, staff and deans.

We will reevaluate the situation in April and share more details about how this affects future events going forward.

Commencement postponed indefinitely

We have decided to postpone Commencement and our degree celebrations indefinitely. This was among the most difficult decisions we have had to make. These are time-honored traditions that students and their families look forward to, and we did not make this decision lightly. Our hope is to either reschedule at a later date, and/or to find a creative way to celebrate our students online. We will be seeking input from our graduating students on how they would like to be celebrated during these unprecedented times.  We’ll be in touch soon on this, as well.

Study abroad cancelled for summer session

Because of the U.S. Department of State Travel advisory elevation to level 4, it is not possible to run our summer abroad faculty-led programs this year. Many of our peer institutions have also cancelled their summer programs. I know this is a disappointment to our dedicated faculty and staff and to the nearly 500 students who participate in these programs each summer, but it is the right thing to do for the health and safety of our community.

Resuming classes on Monday, March 23

I know many of you are eager to resume your studies and coursework.  Our hard-working faculty, with the excellent support of the Provost’s office and the Stearns Center and others across the university, are standing up about 5,500 classes in a virtual alternative format to ensure that we can maintain our instructional continuity. That’s a remarkable accomplishment. I am proud of the collaborative spirit I have seen within and among our departments, schools and colleges.

I also want to thank our faculty and staff for their flexibility and creativity. Whether you’ve found new ways to do your job remotely or you’ve taken on entirely new responsibilities, we appreciate your adaptability during this time.

Please know that it is reasonable to expect some bumps along the way, particularly this first week. Patience and persistence will be key, as will collaboration and kindness. We will get through this together.  Some students and faculty are new to the online environment, and we will all be learning as we go. Our technology leaders are in frequent contact with Cisco, Blackboard and Microsoft to ensure increased capacity. However, because many schools and businesses are looking to these same vendors for support, there may be technology glitches.  Faculty are encouraged to make back up plans for course instruction or consider asynchronous class structures.

Please contact the ITS Support Center in the event of a technology problem so it can be monitored and shared, and monitor the ITS Alert page. If you have not already registered for the ITS Alert listserv, please take a moment to subscribe so you can be made aware of issues as they arise.

Students are advised to visit https://learningservices.gmu.edu/keeplearning/ for resources, tips and helpful advice. I also encourage you to watch this video with five tips for online learning success from  Associate Professor Melissa Broeckelman-Post.

The Stearns Center’s Instructional Continuity page has valuable resources for faculty, as does as does ITS’s Working Remotely: A Guide to Maintaining Continuity.

We know this transition is not seamless, nor is it easy, but it is the path forward to completing our educational goals this semester, and I have the full confidence in our university community that we will succeed.

Grading

I know many of you, students and faculty alike, have questions regarding grading structures in light of the instructional transition. This is a faculty governance question. Once the Faculty Senate has the opportunity to review options, we will communicate more details to you about this. We are committed to a successful semester in this new environment.

Financial resources for students

We know that the alternative instruction format and other potentially challenges may cause additional financial burdens. Both the Stay Mason Student Support Fund  and the Student Emergency Assistance Fund are taking applications from students to provide emergency relief related to this new environment. University Life also has other resources for health and well-being during this time.

Refunds for housing, dining and parking

As many of you know, we are closing our residence halls to all but those students with extraordinary circumstances. This is an important step to prevent the spread of the virus.

Many of you have asked about refunds. The university is committed to refunding money to students for housing, dining and parking. We are working out the details and will get more information to you soon.

Taking care of yourself

All of this can be overwhelming, and I know we are all doing our best to stay positive and focused on what matters most. Your studies can be a wonderful distraction from the headlines, and I urge everyone to take care of themselves and each other. Rest. Eat healthful meals. Get outside. Find time for family and friends – whether it be in small groups practicing social distancing, or using online tools that help keep us together.

I appreciate everyone’s flexibility and creativity to make the best of this changing situation. I am proud to be a part of Mason Nation, and I know you are too.

Sincerely,

Anne Holton
Interim President

UL: A Note of Gratitude from Rose Pascarell

Dear All University Life Colleagues:

I hope you and your loved ones are well, and you are doing your best to negotiate the daily shifts and changes. It is somewhat inconceivable how much our world has changed over the past few weeks. As changes occur, we are settling into new ways of working in support of and service to our students.

To help with any questions you may have about how the university is receiving updated information and responding to daily changes, here is a sense of our current structure: there are daily meetings occurring with the Emergency Operations Group (several UL members sit on this group), the President’s Executive Council (I am a member of this group), UL Cabinet Response Team, as well as continuous communication between many of us on those teams.

We are kept abreast of campus, local, national and international cases and trends, led by Dr. Park and her colleagues Dr. McCall and Dr. Wintermeyer in Student Health Services. Dr. Park is working in tandem with Julie Zobel and Dave Farris in Emergency Health and Safety, gathering daily information from local health departments, the Commonwealth, and the CDC in order to provide the entire university with updated information. Their expertise, together with the information they continue to gather, thoughtfully informs the decisions the president and senior leaders have made thus far.

But my message to you today isn’t about work. It’s about all of you, individually and collectively, and the way you’ve shown up for our students and each other in this moment. The care you are demonstrating right now, by teleworking, refraining from crowds, and being vigilant about hand washing shows your deep compassion and appreciation for the larger human condition, particularly the most vulnerable in our population. The compassion you are showing by recognizing that some of us need to remain on campus in modifies structures in order to serve students — particularly our colleagues in Student Health Services, Housing and Residential Life, Counseling and Psychological Services, and International Programs and Services is humbling.

I appreciate your offers to help each other in new and different ways. The care you are taking to ensure our students are safe, secure and in the best possible position to succeed, is simply astounding. The creativity I’ve witnessed over the past two weeks in particular is unparalleled.

As we are likely in for more challenging weeks ahead, I urge you to reserve some of the care you give to others for yourself. Whether you rely on physical, social, spiritual or emotional self-care, please remember to take care of you in the days ahead (and you’ll be hearing more from the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being about short, simple well-being and self-care activities). The COVID-19 virus is called novel because we’ve never seen anything like it before — please continue to keep up with the latest fact-based developments here.

And as I said, keep in mind that many of our colleagues and friends, including those in housekeeping, facilities, housing and residence life, student health services, and counseling and psychological services to name a few are still — and will remain — on-site for the foreseeable future. Let’s show our gratitude to them as they continue to care for the hundreds of residential students who cannot return home.

We’re all doing our best in this uncharted territory, and I’m grateful to each of you for the contributions you are making to our students, to each other, and to Mason. Your care and compassion for each other and our students are making these unfathomable circumstances a little more bearable.

Thank you, sincerely.

Rose

Mason Student Diagnosed with Coronavirus

Dear Mason Patriots,

On the evening of March 19, George Mason University was made aware that a student who attended classes in Arlington tested positive for coronavirus and is receiving treatment at a local hospital. While this student is undergoing treatment, please be considerate of the student’s privacy and wellbeing. We all wish the student a quick recovery and the university is working to provide the student with assistance and support.

An investigation is being conducted by the local health department to determine if anyone else within our community should take additional precautions such as self-isolation or quarantine.  The student does not reside on campus, and to our knowledge, the last time that this student was on the Arlington campus was on March 4.

The university has taken aggressive steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus within the Mason community by moving classes to an online format, cancelling events, and promoting telework whenever possible. Given these precautions and what we know about the situation, the risk of exposure to other students, faculty, and staff who visited the Arlington campus remains low.

We encourage anyone that has concerns about potential exposure to await official guidance from the health department or university before taking additional precautions.  Individuals who were at risk of exposure will be contacted directly and provided specific guidance. The actions the university is taking are consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health guidelines, but we understand that this situation may cause some anxiety in our community.

If you have individual concerns about the university’s response, please contact safety@gmu.edu. At this time, we continue to stress the importance of general precautions; wash your hands, practice good hygiene, monitor yourself for illnesses, remain home if you are sick, and continue to practice social distancing. If you feel ill or have concerns about your health, please contact your healthcare provider.

For more information about coronavirus, please visit www.gmu.edu/coronavirus.

David Farris, PhD
Executive Director, Safety & Emergency Management

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

Thank you, faculty and staff

March 19, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

I want to express my appreciation to all of you at this unprecedented time. I know each of you is doing a tremendous amount of additional work on top of your regular responsibilities and I am grateful for your patience and understanding as we address numerous issues surrounding the continuity of operations. We are a vibrant community with connections all over the world, and your health and safety are paramount. All of the decisions we are making, and will continue to make in the coming days, are focused on your well-being.

In coordination with college/school administration, the faculty senate, and the university leadership team, the Provost’s office is addressing a variety of issues central to university operations to ensure the best possible continuity of instruction, research, and student services in this unprecedented environment.

Our administrative team is listening to your concerns and addressing them as quickly as possible. For administrative issues, please reach out to Renate Guilford. Janette Muir is managing instructional continuity  Pam Shepherd and Melanie Balog in the university’s central communications office  are managing university wide messaging, and Amber Hannush  is in charge of coordination.

For the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 and how the university community is responding, please be sure to regularly review the information available at http://www.gmu.edu/coronavirus/. These links are updated daily, and will take you to specific topics of interest and direct you to the most pertinent and up-to-date information.

Thank you for your tremendous contributions to help Mason move forward during this time.

Sincerely,

David Wu
Provost and Executive Vice President

Campus mail service update

Mail Services has provided the following information:

  • Fairfax campus: Regular mail delivery will be on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday until normal operations resume. Mail Services front counter will be open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Arlington and SciTech campuses:  Interoffice mail delivery service will be on Tuesday and Friday.
  • Mail delivery to essential departments will continue on the usual schedule.
  • Departments may request their mail be held until Mason resumes its normal schedule. Departments may also request to pick up their mail at the HUB, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Please send either request to Mail Services at mailroom@gmu.edu.
  • The HUB mailroom will be closed on weekends.

With questions, contact Terry Metro at tmetro@gmu.edu.

Research Continuity of Operations Plan

Dear Colleagues,

The growing number of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 over the last 48 hours necessitates a change in our response to this unprecedented public health challenge. To protect the health and safety of our community by reducing risk associated with social transmission of the virus, with the exception of activities designated “critical” PIs must make plans to:

  • end all research activities conducted in Mason labs and facilities, including leased facilities, by Friday, March 20
  • end all research activities conducted at off-site locations outside of their homes, including clinical settings and field sites, by Friday, March 20.

At this time, Mason anticipates that “critical” designation will be given to activities that require animal husbandry, research related to COVID-19, and maintenance associated with essential equipment and materials.

Faculty requesting “critical” activities designation MUST submit an electronic request to their associate deans or directors for research providing information in the attached form if they have not already done so. Requests for “critical” designation will be reviewed by a committee convened online by the vice president for research.

The university recognizes that the limits described herein may have implications for faculty tenure and promotion timelines as well as progress to degree for graduate students. Regrettably, given the gravity of the pandemic, these concerns alone are not sufficient to earn the “critical” designation. However, Mason leadership is actively working to identify and implement other flexibilities to mitigate these concerns; more information will be available shortly.

After Friday, March 20, Mason researchers and scholars should plan to spend the majority, if not all, of their research time working from home on activities that include but are not limited to: engaging in data collection through on-line means; writing manuscripts and dissertations; completing books; conducting literature reviews; designing research plans; engaging with collaborators in research discussions through on-line platforms; and performing data analysis. PIs should work with their teams to develop personalized plans that allow each individual to conduct research remotely to the fullest extent possible – special care should be given to plans developed for students planning to graduate this year. During this period, all PIs should continue charging to sponsored awards as planned. No immediate changes in support for research staff, students, and postdoctoral fellows should be made as long as these individuals can stay engaged in their research work in some capacity (e.g., consider activities like those described above). PIs should also ensure that they have contact information for students, postdocs, and research staff, and that group members are familiar with their research continuity of operations plans.

For critical activities, controlled access to Mason research labs and facilities will be available. When Mason labs and facilities are accessed, social distancing strategies should be maintained for critical work and flexible work schedules implemented, while also supporting strong lab safety practices. If any researcher – staff, graduate student or faculty member – conducting critical activities demonstrates minor symptoms of illness, including but not limited to cough or fever, the individual should stay home. Anyone in doubt about whether they could be ill are directed to NOT go to work.

Mason will be working with sponsors during this period to ensure that we continue to operate in a compliant and appropriate manner. Staff in our offices of sponsored programs and research integrity and assurance are prepared to work remotely and will be available to provide ongoing support. Federal guidance on support for research through grants and contracts during this public health emergency can be found here: https://www.cogr.edu/institutional-and-agency-responses-covid-19-and-additional-resources. In addition, the offices of research integrity and assurance and environmental health and safety are implementing phased plans to maintain continuity of operations for human subjects, lab support and animal husbandry.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to you for joining with us to keep our community as safe and healthy as possible. Additional guidance, including FAQs, is available at this website: https://www2.gmu.edu/research-continuity-guidelines. If you have any questions about this guidance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your associate dean or director for research.

Sincerely,

Deborah Crawford
Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Economic Impact

David Wu
Provost and Executive Vice President