Expectations for Autumn Quarter and Restrictions on Gatherings

To: All Students
From: Michele Rasmussen, Dean of Students in the University
Subject: Expectations for Autumn Quarter and Restrictions on Gatherings
Date: September 4, 2020

Dear Students,

We hope you have had a restful summer. Whether you are returning to campus or plan to participate in Autumn Quarter remotely, we are eager to support you in a successful start to the academic year.

This quarter will be unlike any that we have experienced. The University has implemented numerous measures to promote the health and safety of our community, and the only way this will succeed is through a commitment by our campus community to new habits and behaviors, particularly in how we socialize with each other. Our work with students indicates that there is widespread determination to uphold public health requirements regarding COVID-19, and we are grateful for that. I write to reinforce these requirements and outline ways of maximizing compliance for the good of our community.

Each of us returning to campus must complete a training and sign an attestation confirming that we will comply with health and safety precautions. Further information on this training and attestation will be shared with students next week.  The UChicago Health Pact serves as a brief reminder of these commitments. I urge you to review the Pact and contact your area dean of students with any questions about its requirements.

Restrictions on Gatherings

To maintain social distancing requirements, all members of our community must follow city and state restrictions on gatherings, including parties. The City of Chicago has prohibited gatherings and parties in private residences with more than six people who do not live in the household. Members of our campus community who attend any gathering are expected to wear a face covering and maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing.

We have the benefit of learning from other colleges and universities that opened earlier this summer. At some schools, off-campus parties and large gatherings at bars or other venues likely were factors in hundreds of new COVID-19 cases. Given the serious risks, we urge you to contribute to a culture of safety and honor the restrictions on such gatherings. If we do not all follow these requirements, we will not be able to sustain in-person classes and activities this quarter.

For off-campus students, please remember that your actions directly affect your friends, housemates, and the larger campus and Hyde Park community. Students living on campus must follow the Autumn 2020 rules set forth by Housing & Residence Life, which prohibit visitors in our residence halls. The rules for residence halls include having no parties or gatherings of any kind; students may have one guest in their room at a time, who must live in the same residence hall and wear a face covering.

For recognized student organizations (RSOs), most events should be held remotely. Only events with a demonstrated programmatic need for in-person gathering will be approved by Student Centers and the Center for Leadership and Involvement staff, with clear limits on the number of attendees depending on the size of the venue. Student Centers will identify spaces where social distancing can be maintained. You can find the RSO policies and protocols for Autumn Quarter 2020 online. Other student groups should abide by these regulations and adhere to any additional guidance provided by your school, division or national organization.

Procedures for Violations

While we do not want to be punitive, it is essential to promote an understanding of and respect for what is acceptable so that we can help keep our community healthy and safe. Ignoring the public health risks associated with gatherings, as well as serious violations of other requirements, will have consequences for individual students and their groups – whether they are part of an RSO or other type of group (including off-campus Greek organizations).

We cannot tolerate actions that place others at risk. Violating the requirements in the attestation could result in severe disciplinary action, including but not limited to suspension of access to campus. Students who engage in such behavior should expect to be subject to disciplinary procedures as described in the Student Manual.

How to Report Concerns

Please keep in mind that these are campus-wide requirements; faculty and staff members also have received reminders of workplace requirements for health and safety. You can find extensive information on public health requirements and the University’s other preparations for Autumn Quarter at the UChicago Forward website.

If you have a COVID-19-related public health concern at any time, please share it with your area dean of students or UCAIR, the University’s incident reporting system. UCAIR is the main reporting method if you believe that a required COVID-19 safety policy or practice is not being followed. Reports can be submitted anonymously. Please provide as much detail as possible; reports will be reviewed with follow-up by the appropriate campus administrator, including the area deans of students.

We are grateful for the engagement and leadership of students across campus, particularly your peers in Student Government, Graduate Council and other student groups, in emphasizing the importance of these requirements. Thank you in advance for taking these matters seriously and for respecting our collective responsibility to help keep our campus and community safe.