Return to Campus Update for DSA Staff

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Monday, July 27, 2020

The following message was sent to Student Affairs staff from Vice President Patty Perillo on July 27, 2020.

Dear Colleagues,

I really hope you had a restful and enjoyable weekend.  I also hope that this message finds you healthy, safe and well…this continues to be my daily prayer for you, my good colleagues!

Last week I informed you that every time we make decisions, we are making them based on the best public health data available. I shared information with you specifically about the complexities of making decisions for Resident Life.  I met with the leadership team several times last week and I wanted you all to know that while two months ago we had about 75-80% of residence halls filled with housing contracts, as of late last week with active and staff contracts at 4,291 students, we are at 48.3% of our total original capacity of 8,886 beds. This will allow us to place each student in a single occupancy room. The best part of this process, from my perspective, is that individual students and families were able to make these decisions based on their own personal circumstances.  We know that for some of our students that living on-campus is a far better living learning environment for them for a host of reasons.  They got to opt-in, with great clarity about responsibilities for behavioral expectations.

Many working groups are still convening and making on-going decisions.  In fact, I am leading the Student Life Working Group and we meet today to discuss recommendations from the Engagement/Event Committee.  Next week we will consider more recommendations from the Student Health and Wellness committee.  At our last meeting, we discussed recommendations from the Resident Life, Residential Facilities and Dining committee; we discussed Dining’s plan specifically. As we continue to meet, make decisions and plan, I will continue to offer you updates.

We do want to keep answering your questions.  As the semester’s beginning approaches, I know there are lots of questions about how we will best manage protests and events on-campus, as well as student behaviors. Below please find answers to your questions related to these topics. 

And, spending time together right now is always a plus! So, if you want to talk with a VPSA Council representative about any issue or concern related to coronavirus or the gradual, phased and safe reopening of campus, please feel free to join our weekly conversations - where questions will be gathered and answered - Tuesday, July 28 from 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. This conversation will be led by John Zacker, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs. Join via Zoom.  Feel free to meet to ask questions, be in community and learn more.  Please join as your schedule allows.

Until we connect again, stay healthy and well, good people – 

Patty Perillo, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs

Protests and Events:

How will we manage protests and petitions in the fall?

We will work with organizations and/or individuals to determine how to support their protests and/or rallies in a safe manner in the fall semester.  Most recently we helped student organizers plan and execute the Black Terps Matter and Black Lives Matter protest.  Our resource people in working with event planners included staff from the Stamp in both our MICA and Event and Guest Services area and also University Police and Facilities Management.  The protocol for that assembly is a bit different than it was in the past to ensure that public health is maintained.  We will work to both enable students and other campus stakeholders to assemble and share their viewpoints.  For the time being, Marsha Guenzler-Stevens is a point person along with Susan Canady in the Stamp.

What will fall events look like?

The University is working on an events management policy and practice and that work is being done with colleagues from across campus - including Stamp, Clarice, RecWell, Riggs, Event and Guest Services, and other programming groups.  Each of those and other departments and units is determining operating plans for their various facilities.  On another front, representatives from across campus are working to create virtual and in-person programs in support of Terps After Dark.  Stamp staff are working to create training for student organizations to support their program planning.  Large scale events will likely not occur - at least for the first 14 days of the semester and, potentially even longer.  Programs that were staples of the fall semester - First Look Fair, Latinx Welcome, etc. will be rolled out virtually.  

Of our big traditional events - which will be virtual, which will be in person?

Many of our traditional programs for the fall will be virtual.  From the First Look Fair to many of the offerings of Terps After Dark.  Some of our traditional programs will be reframed for smaller gatherings, including the President’s Welcome.  Homecoming and Family Weekend will be a combination of smaller in-person and larger virtual programs that will not only have a reach in College Park but will also be available to stakeholders across the globe including parents, alumni, and students that are studying away from the campus.

What programs are deemed essential and must take place in-person? What programs can be canceled now or publicly announced as online (e.g., First Look Fair, PHA/IFC tailgates, ceremonies, Quelcome, or other programs where there are large numbers of people in tight spaces, or not able to honor 6-feet of social distancing--even if taking place outside)? 

Many program planners are asking the question, “Is this event critical in an in-person format?”  Some of the programs listed are already being planned using new software for a virtual delivery.  Programs will have to honor physical distancing and will require participants to wear masks.  Every program will be viewed through the perspective of how this supports the health and well-being of participants.  Many programs may be translated to outdoor venues where - pending any county and/or state capacity requirements - may allow for a larger audience.  Student Affairs colleagues are meeting together to talk about strategies for program management.

Will there be a rubric provided or used that will assist in evaluating or approving in-person events? 

Staff in the Stamp have crafted a checklist rubric to assess risk (especially public health risk) using an online tool developed by colleagues at the University of Nebraska.  This will allow event planners to assess risk and then determine ways to either mitigate risk and/or define a new method of delivery.  This rubric will be used by student organizations but will likely be available to all individuals planning events.

For those programs that will take place in-person, what is the scope of staff-oversight (e.g., when staff are at risk, or when students or community members are not honoring masks or social-distancing)? What is the expectation of 3rd party participants who are not students (e.g., vendors, volunteers)?

At present, the policy that is being developed for event management on campus assigns some of this responsibility to the event host with facility managers making sure we have educated our facility users to expectations.  Flagrant disregard for strategies to maintain the health of program attendees could result in the cancellation of events and, in the case of student groups, the referral to the Office of Student Conduct.  Event and Guest Services is working with third-party agents and those that host events for outside entities to determine the best method of ensuring their safety and the well-being of our campus community.

When can we begin to make our own programmatic decisions about moving events virtually? or How soon will the Division release guidelines or rubrics for evaluation so planning for us (and our students) may commence? 

Many departments are already planning programs with a virtual or hybrid delivery method in place.  The working group looking at event management hopes to complete their work in the coming weeks.

Why has the university not prohibited large-scale events?

At present large scale events are prohibited by the county and state.  If a large-scale event is allowed, it will require approval of a Vice President and will require communication with county and state officials.

What level of liability is staff expected to incur regarding events? What happens if someone pulls their mask down during an event, no one notices, and an outbreak occurs? 

We will work to mitigate risk - both in program preparation and execution.  We also will maintain information that could allow for contact tracing should someone become infected with COVID19 who has attended an event.

Are we encouraged to plan virtual programming for students in the fall instead of in-person programming? 

Again, we suggest that you ask yourself the question, “Does this require some smaller in-person delivery?”  In many instances, you may wish to reduce the audience, if in-person, or seek creative ways to move the program to a virtual format.

What will be the indoor and outdoor event capacities for both on and off-campus events?

Indoor event capacities will be dictated by the size of the space, but cannot exceed 50 as of July 26.  Outdoor event capacities are currently at 100 people with safe social distancing and masks.  Event capacities are dictated by the County and the State.

Will we be required to have sign-ups for all in-person events for tracking purposes?

Event sign-ups or card swipes will be highly recommended for contact tracing purposes.

Will people not affiliated with campus be able to attend events on campus (for example, Mass at Memorial Chapel)?

This has not yet been decided.

Student Behavior:

How will we handle student masks that are printed with inappropriate language?  Freedom of speech?  Student conduct referral?

Most content that a student might put on a mask would likely be Free Speech, however, all complaints will be evaluated to determine if the content is threatening and/or intimidating and whether there is a potential violation of policy.  If OSC determines that there is not a violation, OSC will not address it as a conduct issue. 

Who is responsible for monitoring the wearing of masks (or lack thereof) and 6-feet of social distancing? Is this the same for during an event or program as it is generally on campus (e.g., regardless of program, do staff have the responsibility to address in-person failures to wear a mask or social distance on campus)? How does this play out individually versus organizationally (e.g., an individual on campus, versus an organization program or event or gathering: student- or University-sponsored)? 

The entire community (staff, faculty, and students) is responsible for encouraging others to wear masks, social distance and follow the guidelines for campus and each building.  It will be particularly important for student leaders to role model and encourage compliance with guidance and expectations. Flagrant refusal to abide by the guidelines should be reported to the Office of Student Conduct.

Student organizations will be responsible for ensuring that the campus guidelines are followed at all events. Organizations have an obligation to ensure that all University policies are followed. If it is evident that the majority of organizers and attendees are following protocols, then the conduct would fall to the individual. However, if it is evident that the organization is not making any attempt to have attendees follow guidelines, then the organization may be held accountable. 

What is the process of accountability? We are concerned about the (possible) inequities associated with reporting and adjudicating. Will that information be clear for both students and staff (and especially those who are working directly with students and programs)? Will that directive take into consideration the concerns about police presence and involvement?

OSC has developed sanctioning guidelines for internal use to help staff manage reports consistently.  It is the community's responsibility to remind and encourage each other to wear masks and social distance.  Every report will be evaluated and OSC will determine whether the student was given the opportunity to rectify the situation prior to the incident being reported.  First-time reports will result in reminders to students from Conduct staff.  Repeated or flagrant refusals to abide by guidelines will result in higher levels of discipline. 

How will you regulate student parties when the administration has never been able to stop underage drinking anyway? What about off-campus? Will people be able to have other students in their dorms? Will people be expected to stop meeting other students and does the admin reasonably think they can stop students from socializing in their off-campus housing?  

All students are expected to follow and abide by the Local, State, and Federal regulations for gatherings while off-campus.  Currently, gatherings of 10 or more people are still prohibited.  When parties or gatherings are reported, all relevant behavior will be considered as part of the issue, whether there was underage drinking, loud noise, whether the group size violated State and County directives, etc.

Resident Life is currently determining whether or not students will be able to have others within their residence hall rooms.  Students will be held accountable if they are not following the updated guest guidelines similarly to other policy violations. 

Will the university put a ban on parties? What about outdoor parties?

The University cannot ban parties off-campus but students will be expected to follow the local, State and Federal guidelines and laws regarding gatherings whatever that guidance is at the time.  This may change with public health guidance and the prevalence of cases in the area. 

Engaging students as bystanders and community leaders may help create and advance student behaviors we need for our community. How will we engage students as bystanders and leaders?

Students should utilize their bystander training (Step Up) to engage and encourage others to follow the guidelines to keep UMD safe.  We are currently working with student leaders from SGA, IFC, GSG, and others to help message and encourage compliance and interventions to ensure compliance with guidelines and expectations.

Will Student Conduct be updating their policies around COVID-19?

There will be no changes to the Code of Student Conduct, however, the University and the Department of Resident Life may provide updated guidelines for this situation (e.g. if students in residence halls can have guests, all students must wear masks), and all students are expected to follow these guidelines or they may face disciplinary action, particularly for flagrant or continued violations. 

How can we best ensure students/community members coming through are following protocol and not just employees?

In addition to the training, we will rely on bystander support and intervention as well as constant messaging to students about the expectations and guidelines.  This is a learning situation for everyone and most people will likely just need a reminder to engage in expected behavior.

What is being done to limit the underage students going to the local bars (Cornerstone, Turf, Bentleys) and bringing COVID back to highly populated residence halls? It is a huge problem and first-year and second-year students are already talking about going to the bars on Reddit.

Several staff from Student Affairs held a meeting on 7/9/2020 with the Mayor, Chief of Police, student leaders, and several staff to discuss this.  In the next meeting, we will meet with staff from the Liquor Board as well as the local health department to discuss enforcement in the local bars including limiting the number of people admitted and social distancing while waiting to gain entry.

How will the campus address the issue many kids in residence halls go home often, go to DC & other areas in the DMV for internships/work/visit friends and could constantly be exposed to COVID and bring it back to the residence halls?

Students living in the residence halls are not currently restricted from leaving campus on the weekends, however, students are expected to sign an addendum to their Housing Agreement indicating that if they choose to travel away from campus for Thanksgiving break they will not be permitted to return should campus continue to be open after Thanksgiving. 

Will the university be working with local bars and establishments to help in eliminating the spread of infection? 

Yes, as mentioned above, several staff from Student Affairs held a meeting on 7/9/2020 with the Mayor, Chief of Police, student leaders, and several staff to discuss this.  In the next meeting, we will meet with staff from the Liquor Board as well as the local health department to discuss enforcement in the local bars including limiting the number of people admitted and social distancing while waiting to gain entry.

How will we monitor the movement of residents leaving and returning to campus on weekends as this could impact the infection rates on campus? 

There is no easy way to monitor the movement of students who may choose to leave campus, however, DRL will be encouraging students to discuss these issues with their roommates and come to agreement within their room/suite/apartment about whether leaving campus is agreeable to all roommates. 

How will we find a balance between virtual engagement and too much screen time for students and staff? 

Many programs and activities will be planned by departments and staff including Stamp, DRL, Terps after Dark, Recreation and Wellness etc. to encourage safe participation in activities throughout the campus.

How are decisions regarding student conduct, best practices, and student org restrictions being informed by legal and SCOTUS precedence?

Student Conduct staff continue to monitor Local, State, and Federal guidelines and restrictions.  We have worked with and consulted our colleagues in the BigTen, the Association for Student Conduct Administrations and will consult with the Office of the General Council when appropriate.

When students leave campus to travel in state, out of state, and internationally, will they be required to disclose travel and will self-quarantine be imposed in some cases?

University-sponsored travel will not be allowed during the fall. Personal student travel will be discouraged in order to decrease the spread of COVID-19.  Self-quarantine will be recommended if a student travels somewhere with a higher level of COVID-19. 

Will access to buildings like the gym, stamp, library be restricted/limited?

Eppley and other rec spaces will be open with reduced hours and physical distancing measures in place beginning on August 3rd.  Stamp will open with reduced hours and required masks beginning August 3rd.  The libraries will also be open with restricted hours.  All locations will offer opportunities for students to gather safely in small groups or study independently in reservable spaces.

What study spaces will be available to students residing on campus, taking online courses?  Those with a roommate may need an alternative place to study, attend class remotely, and take online exams and it is unclear if the libraries will be open for that purpose.

General purpose classrooms and spaces in Stamp, ESJ and the libraries will also be available for student use and through a reservation system.  All residence hall rooms will be singles which will also allow for quiet study space.

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