Today's Update: Thursday, May 20

May 20, 2021

Dear Student Life Team, I promised I would keep communicating important information to you (in addition to High Five Friday), and wanted to give you one of those updates today. 

I’m sure you saw the new guidance earlier this week about wearing masks outdoors on campus. Fully vaccinated people do not need to wear one outdoors, while those who have not been vaccinated need to continue wearing one when they cannot maintain safe distancing. Masks are still required indoors throughout our campuses. Vaccines are also now available at Jesse Owens North Recreation Center for all students, faculty and staff. Details on all of this are available at  

Obviously, the pandemic and our response to it are constantly being evaluated and evolving. Still, our planning for autumn continues, and I spoke about our approach at this week’s Board of Trustees meeting. One area I highlighted during yesterday’s Academic Affairs and Student Life committee meeting is the role of the residential experience in our planning for a reactivated campus.  

For the fall, we are preparing for much greater density in the residence halls than we had this past academic year, which will mean more vibrant and active residential communities with more opportunities for students to come together, formally and informally. 

As I told the Board members yesterday, currently we are estimating capacity across campuses to be around 15,200 including undergraduate, graduate and professional students, and we are working through the details and process for autumn Move-In.   

We learned a lot of what to do and what we would do differently from our Move-In and Out experiences this past academic year. Move-In will be physically distanced with students scheduling designated times. We know it will occur over several days, likely six to seven days, to support physical distancing. We have heard from families that they really enjoyed the 12 days of Move-In that we hosted last year, but unfortunately this isn’t sustainable for the future in terms of budgets, staffing or in being able to fill that amount of time with things for students to do. 

Vaccine uptake will put us in a much better position for our return, and we will also have a testing strategy to support a safe and healthy arrival.  

Students’ experience in the residence halls will also be much more robust. A major year-over-year improvement will be increased programming in the halls and expanded use of common spaces.  

I also touched on the dining experience with the Board members. We have found that mobile ordering has helped students, staff and faculty plan ahead and utilize their time more effectively, allowing people to know when their food will be ready so they can plan accordingly. As a consequence, few people have had to wait in line in our dining operations. We will continue to offer mobile ordering going forward. 

As higher vaccination levels are achieved, we will bring back more of our seating and gathering options. This will help with the community-building that is inherent in the dining experience and an important part of the overall student experience.  

There is a lot going on, and I was pleased to be able to provide our Board of Trustees, and you, with an update on our Scarlet and Great plans.