Brown to welcome more students to residence halls, begin limited in-person instruction

As part of a phased approach to welcoming students to campus for the fall, the University will allow additional undergraduates to move in this month, with some small undergraduate classes to be held in-person beginning in October.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — With an improved public health situation in Rhode Island and early success with a COVID-19 testing program on its own campus, Brown University will open its residence halls to additional students and resume in-person undergraduate instruction for some small classes in October.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors who wish to return to campus residence halls will be permitted to do so from Sept. 18 to 20, at which point they will be subject to a mandatory 14-day “quiet period” before the start of some in-person undergraduate classes of fewer than 20 students beginning on Monday, Oct. 5.

The decision comes as part of Brown’s phased approach to welcoming students back to campus for the fall semester of its 2020-21 academic year. Brown announced in early August that instruction would be remote for undergraduate students for the start of the year with a move to some in-person classes in October, provided the public health situation would allow.

Many graduate and medical students at Brown were on campus this summer or arrived in August, and they will continue their instruction this fall.

Brown President Christina H. Paxson, Provost Richard M. Locke and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Barbara Chernow conveyed the University’s decision to increase on-campus operations to the Brown community in a Sept. 10 letter, one day after fall classes began with all undergraduate instruction being held remotely.

“Over the last several weeks, we have continued to consult with public health experts, closely monitor the public health data at campus and statewide levels, and engage in extensive analysis of several other important factors impacting our ability to keep the Brown community and the greater Providence community safe,” Paxson, Locke and Chernow wrote. “You have heard us say many times from Day One of this pandemic that the health and safety of our community has been our top priority. We also believe that the well-being of our students will benefit from engaging with a thriving college environment.”

They noted that essential factors in the decision to invite additional students back to campus included a reliable COVID-19 testing program with rapidly available results, a low number of COVID-19 cases on campus, availability of quarantine and isolation spaces, and positive trends in Rhode Island’s cases.

“We and other leaders in higher education well understand that nowhere in this country will the public health conditions be anything approximating ‘normal’ for a long time, considering the trajectory of the pandemic and the projected timeline for the widespread distribution of an eventual vaccine,” Brown’s senior administrators wrote. “Yet for our own campus, what Brown and Rhode Island are currently experiencing is a set of conditions that may be among the most conducive to bringing more students back to campus that we’re likely to experience for up to a year.”

Brown launched a routine asymptomatic testing program for the fall term on Aug. 24, mandatory for employees on campus and students who live in residence halls or in the Providence area. With more than 14,000 tests completed since, the test positivity rate remains below 0.2%, and Brown has used only a small fraction of its isolation and quarantine capacity.

“It is important to note that a data-based and public health-based approach has driven and continues to form the foundation of every decision about operations since the onset of the pandemic,” Paxson, Locke and Chernow wrote. “Throughout the semester, we will carefully monitor the public health situation on campus and in Rhode Island, and we remain prepared to make adjustments to the activities that are possible on campus.”

To guide decision-making on what levels of activity will be permitted on campus, Brown launched a COVID-19 Campus Activity Level Review Team, which will allow the University to move quickly from one level of campus activity to another as the public health situation demands. The University also created a public COVID-19 dashboard that provides daily updates on asymptomatic test positivity in the Brown community among other factors.

Even with some in-person instruction eligible to begin, faculty will have the option to teach remotely, including for small courses, and all undergraduates will continue to have the option to study remotely should they choose. All courses for both undergraduate and graduate students will accommodate remote learning.

The full text of the letter to the Brown community is included below and is posted to the University’s Healthy Brown 2020 website.

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Decision on Plans for the Remainder of Fall 2020

Dear Members of the Brown Community,

We are writing to update you on our plans for the remainder of the fall semester at Brown. As you know, in August we announced that, in light of the public health situation involving COVID-19, the University would take a phased approach to bringing undergraduate students back to campus. We are writing to share that we have decided to move to the next phase of inviting remaining undergraduates (sophomores, juniors and seniors) to campus and beginning in-person undergraduate courses on Oct. 5. In this letter, we provide the basis for this decision, as well as relevant information for students and employees as we transition to increased on-campus operations.

Over the last several weeks, we have continued to consult with public health experts, closely monitor the public health data at campus and statewide levels, and engage in extensive analysis of several other important factors impacting our ability to keep the Brown community and the greater Providence community safe. You have heard us say many times from Day One of this pandemic that the health and safety of our community has been our top priority. We also believe that the wellbeing of our students will benefit from engaging with a thriving college environment.

We and other leaders in higher education well understand that nowhere in this country will the public health conditions be anything approximating “normal” for a long time, considering the trajectory of the pandemic and the projected timeline for the widespread distribution of an eventual vaccine. Yet for our own campus, what Brown and Rhode Island are currently experiencing is a set of conditions that may be among the most conducive to bringing more students back to campus that we’re likely to experience for up to a year.

We have seen an improved public health situation in Rhode Island over the past several weeks. As participation in testing has increased statewide, the number of new cases continues to trend downward, along with the state’s test positivity rate.

We have also had a good experience with our routine asymptomatic COVID-19 testing program at Brown, which has been mandatory since Aug. 24 for all of our employees authorized to be on campus and students who live in residence halls or in the Providence area. Undergraduate students are required to be tested twice a week. To date, the fraction of tests for students that are positive is very low — about 1 in 1,000, or a test positivity rate of 0.10%. Test positivity for employees is 0.05%. In addition, test results in most cases are returned within a day.

The current low utilization of isolation and quarantine rooms is also a major consideration. We know that we must be prepared for the strong possibility of clusters of positive COVID-19 cases, just as we see in the general population. But the University is currently utilizing only a small fraction of its quarantine and isolation capacity and, so far, we have seen very few violations of our COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy. Graduate and medical students have been on campus over the summer, and while most undergraduate students have been on campus for just a few weeks, we are encouraged that they have overwhelmingly demonstrated a desire to keep the University community and the greater Providence community safe.

Given these circumstances, we have determined that we will move ahead with the second phase of welcoming students to campus and in-person instruction. Graduate courses will begin in person Sept. 16, and sophomores, juniors and seniors who wish to return to Providence will be allowed to do so beginning Sept. 18, at which time they will be subject to the mandatory Quiet Period. In-person instruction of small undergraduate classes will begin the week of Oct. 5, which is after the 14-day quarantine ends. All undergraduate students enrolled for the fall semester under this year’s three-term model have the choice to return to Providence or study remotely, and all courses for undergraduate and graduate students will accommodate remote learning.

Extensive information about how this phase of reopening will affect students, faculty and staff follows this letter. Please be sure to read this letter and the addendum in its entirety for details on telecommuting, academics, residential life, COVID-19 testing, and various campus services, policies and protocols.

It is important to note that a data-based and public health-based approach has driven and continues to form the foundation of every decision about operations since the onset of the pandemic — reflected in the move to this phased approach to welcoming students back to campus and in-person instruction, which created the time for health indicators and testing and prevention resources to improve. Throughout the semester we will carefully monitor the public health situation on campus and in Rhode Island, and remain prepared to make adjustments to the activities that are possible on campus.

To guide this decision-making, Brown has launched a COVID-19 Campus Activity Level Review Team, which will allow us to move quickly from one level of campus activity to another as the public health situation demands. We have also created a public COVID-19 dashboard that provides daily updates on asymptomatic test positivity in the Brown community among other factors.

As I’m sure you know, to date, colleges and universities across the country have had mixed success with returning to in-person instruction. We are heartened to see that a number of our peer institutions that have testing and public health plans similar to Brown’s are faring well, and demonstrating that it is possible to learn to live with a virus that, unfortunately, may be with us for some time.

To a large degree, how the semester will unfold is up to us. Brown has prepared extensively to support the health of the community with its comprehensive testing and contact tracing programs and added cleaning and safety protocols. But, these measures alone will not stop the spread of the virus. It remains essential that all members of the Brown community embrace personal responsibility in following public health guidance, including mask-wearing, social distancing and increased cleaning. We must care about each other and all the people whose lives will be affected by our actions. We all must stand ready to make sacrifices in our social lives to protect Brown and the greater community, and to have a successful semester.

Whether you choose to study at Brown or remotely, we look forward to a semester that is intellectually engaging and socially supportive.

Sincerely,

Christina H. Paxson, President
Richard M. Locke, Provost
Barbara Chernow, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration

UPDATES FOR NEXT PHASE OF ON-CAMPUS OPERATIONS AND COMMENCING IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION

Please review this section for the following categories of operational updates from across the University as Brown moves to the next phase of increased on-campus operations, including offering in-person instruction:

  • Telecommuting and “Return to Campus” Plans
  • Academics (for students, faculty and staff)
  • Student Residential Life
  • COVID-19 Testing for Students and Employees
  • Travel Policies and Quarantine
  • Campus Services (dining, library, bookstore, mail, shuttle, parking)
  • Visitors, Programming and Events

TELECOMMUTING AND “RETURN TO CAMPUS” PLANS

Even with the move toward in-person instruction, the University expects individuals who can work remotely to continue to do so; this is central to promoting a healthy University environment. Telecommuting for all regular employees who are able to complete their work remotely continues through the end of the fall term, Dec. 23, 2020.

Nevertheless, moving to increased on-campus operations with the arrival of more students may affect planning being done across offices and departments to determine which employees are able to work remotely to fulfill their responsibilities, and those who may need to work at a Brown location regularly or occasionally. Academic and administrative units should assess their operations to determine if the shift to more on-campus operations requires a re-assessment of the designations of employees and/or a resubmission of Return to Campus Plans.

Units that have not yet submitted a work plan that includes on-campus and remote staffing needs should review the Return to Campus Plans and Guidelines webpage. If plans require an update, please submit an addendum with any necessary adjustment to the relevant committee listed on the page. Department leaders should continue to follow guidelines in managing schedules with their employees based on the nature of their job assignments.

Student Employment:

Opportunities for student employment for the fall term will be largely offered on a remote basis. Limited in-person opportunities will also be available. Students who are interested in work can search for student job opportunities in Workday. Questions regarding student employment can be submitted directly to [email protected]

ACADEMICS

The University’s phased approach to beginning in-person instruction does not impact Brown’s plans for a three-term academic calendar. The 2020-21 Academic Calendar is online, and Fall 2020 Academic Policies for remote and hybrid instruction for undergraduate and graduate students are now posted on the Healthy Brown website.

For Undergraduate Students:

As announced previously, all undergraduate classes will be taught remotely until the week of Oct. 5. Classes began remotely on Wednesday, Sept. 9, and will continue remotely throughout the next phase of student move-in from Sept. 18 to Sept. 20 and the Quiet Period for newly arriving students. The 14-day Quiet Period is a requirement for all arriving undergraduates living on campus, no matter when you arrive during the phased resumption of on-campus operations. Hybrid undergraduate classes may begin meeting in person the week of Oct. 5.

Students returning to campus in September may reach out to academic advising deans for support for navigating classes during move-in and the Quiet Period.

For Graduate Students:

For graduate students enrolled in courses numbered below 2000, if these courses are listed as hybrid, they will meet remotely until Oct. 5 and will then continue according to their original, hybrid format. Fully graduate courses, those numbered 2000 and above, will proceed in either a hybrid or online format, depending on their designation in [email protected], after the conclusion of the Quiet Period for graduate students on Sept. 15.

Graduate students teaching in the fall will continue to teach fully online until the week of Oct. 5. Following that date, undergraduate courses will resume in their currently planned delivery mode (hybrid or online). If you are serving as a teaching assistant, fellow or independent instructor, you may elect to continue to teach remotely for the full semester.

A substantial number of graduate students have already been approved to be on campus. These include graduate students who have been approved for on-campus research in labs, graduate students who have indicated that their location status is “on campus” (this includes students in labs, students who are taking hybrid courses or who are teaching hybrid courses and have not elected to do so remotely), and graduate students who have been approved for access to departmental spaces through an approved departmental Return to Campus Plan.

For Medical Students:

First- and second-year students at the Warren Alpert Medical School have been successfully attending a mix of online and required in-person components of the curriculum since early August. One hundred percent of actively enrolled pre-clerkship students are participating in the campus-wide COVID-19 testing and symptom tracking program.

For Faculty, Instructors and Staff (including postdocs):

Remote/Hybrid/In-person Instruction: As we welcome students to begin in-person instruction the week of Oct. 5, we anticipate offering some hybrid courses with in-person sessions of fewer than 20 students. As a reminder, all class and section meetings of 20 or more students must be online.

Faculty and instructors planning to teach in person or to offer hybrid instruction with some in-person components may visit the assigned classroom in advance of teaching by contacting the Digital Learning and Design team at [email protected]. Faculty may choose to teach their course exclusively online, and may also opt to do so at any point in the term. In addition, since many students are studying remotely, all courses must be designed to accommodate online instruction for remote learners. Online classes may be offered either asynchronously or synchronously.

Lab and Performance Courses: As part of planning for the fall, the Office of the Provost has requested that all lab, studio and performance classes that involve an in-person component develop plans for safe instruction. Please review the following memos from Provost Richard M. Locke for details about the processes for laboratory courses and performance/studio courses: Safe Instruction: Performance/Studio Courses and Safe Instruction: Laboratory Courses.

Support for Teaching and Learning: Substantial resources are available to support online teaching and learning from the Digital Learning & Design team. Designed for faculty who are planning to teach in the spring and summer terms, the Fall Term Anchor Program will be offered over five weeks from Oct. 19 to Nov. 20, 2020. For more information and to apply, please see the Sheridan Center website. For instructors seeking additional support for online courses, please contact [email protected] and/or [email protected] for information.

Research: Research activity remains at Stage 2 of Resuming Research. Principal Investigators interested in updating their Stage 2 plans to reflect any personnel changes should follow the Resuming Work in Research Facilities Principles and Procedures: Stage 2 guidelines, which include important information about ensuring health and safety in research labs, as well as parameters for undergraduate involvement in labs.

STUDENT RESIDENTIAL LIFE

For All Undergraduates:

All students who will be living in the Providence area, whether you live on or off campus, will be required to read and sign the Student Commitment to COVID-19 Community Health and Safety Requirements (Student Commitment); complete an online educational module; and follow a set of pre-arrival requirements and recommendations.

You will also be subject to Brown’s COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy and must participate in the COVID-19 testing program while you are in the Providence area, including a required test upon arrival in Providence. These are necessary safeguards for student health and well-being and that of the broader Brown and Providence communities.

Failure to comply with the health and safety requirements contained in the Student Commitment (including but not limited to wearing masks, social distancing, testing, contact tracing, and limiting the size of social gatherings for attendees and especially hosts — all whether on or off campus) will be a violation of the Code of Student Conduct. Violations will be addressed through the COVID-19 Student Conduct Procedures with sanctions up to and including removal from campus and academic suspension.

Students who change plans and prefer to live and study remotely outside of the Providence area must send an email from their Brown address to [email protected] to request a change in your location of study. The final deadline for this request is 5 p.m. EDT on Monday, Sept. 14. We particularly encourage this option for students with health conditions that may place them in a high-risk category. You will receive a confirmation email when your location of study has been updated. Students who choose a remote location of study and live in the Providence area will be violating the University’s rules and potentially endangering the health and safety of themselves and others. Dishonesty about location of study will be referred to the student conduct process, and possible sanctions could include academic suspension.

For Undergraduates Returning to Live On Campus:

To gather information needed to make housing assignments, the Office of Residential Life previously contacted students who will be living in a residence hall on campus. This information was due on Sept. 7. Move-in will occur between Friday, Sept. 18, and Sunday, Sept. 20. You will be able to choose one of these three days when you receive your housing assignment (no later than 11:59 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 15). Detailed arrival information will be provided with this communication. All students will be required to observe the 14-day Quiet Period, which will include a period of time when you will be required to remain in your residence hall except to get a COVID-19 test, receive care from Health Services by appointment, or to pick up dining hall meals. All students returning to campus will observe the Quiet Period regardless of pre-arrival test status (including antibody testing) and geographical point of departure.

For Undergraduates Returning to Live Off Campus:

Students living off campus will be scheduled for their first COVID-19 test with Brown shortly after arrival in Providence. If you have not already provided your arrival date, you will soon be asked to do so to become enrolled in COVID-19 testing with Brown.

Off-campus students must follow state-mandated 14-day quarantine requirements in place for people entering Rhode Island from outside the United States and from certain states within the country. You are responsible for keeping apprised of the state directives specific to your situation and for planning your arrival and quarantine accordingly. This may include completion of a certificate of compliance with out-of-state travel quarantine and testing requirements upon arriving in Rhode Island, as well as completion of an out-of-state travel screening form.

Between Sept. 18 and Oct. 4, most students on campus will be observing the Quiet Period. During this time, students who reside off campus are not permitted on campus. Off-campus students are not permitted in the residence halls at any time.

COVID-19 TESTING FOR STUDENTS AND EMPLOYEES

With the increase in community members on campus, a routine testing program — which tests individuals regardless of symptoms — will continue to be essential for identifying and preventing community spread of novel coronavirus at the earliest possible stage. Students, faculty and staff who are approved to return to campus to live, study or work are required to undergo COVID-19 testing at times and dates established by the University.

All community members who are subject to mandatory testing will receive an initial baseline test upon arrival to campus. After the baseline test, these individuals will be tested either once or twice per week, depending on the amount of regular contact they are likely to have with others. Information on testing frequency for students and employees is available on the student and employee testing pages on the Healthy Brown website. If you are required to enroll in the routine testing program, you will receive an email before your arrival to campus with instructions on how to enroll, schedule your first test and track any symptoms daily.

In addition to the routine testing program, Brown has guidance in place for anyone who experiences COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone with symptoms should immediately self-isolate, limit contact with other individuals and stay away from campus, including for any scheduled routine tests. To arrange for a symptomatic test or coordinate for care, students should contact Health Services at 401-863-1330 or [email protected]. Employees should contact their primary health care provider and inform University Human Resources at 401-368-4828 or [email protected].

TRAVEL POLICIES AND QUARANTINE

Any student, faculty or staff member who arrives from a location beyond Rhode Island (or who leaves Brown and returns) must follow state requirements, which may require a 14-day quarantine before conducting activities outside of an individual’s place of residence. For Brown community members who complete quarantine or are not required to do so, Brown’s guidelines on travel beyond campus will be shaped by the Campus Activity Status level in place at any given time, along with Brown’s policy on High-Risk and Restricted Travel, which remains in place.

Brown has suspended all international and domestic travel organized, sponsored or supported by the University through Jan. 3, 2021. This applies to all undergraduates and (unless an exception is approved) to graduate students, medical students, faculty and staff. This includes not only air travel, but local travel for field trips organized by faculty, staff or students for academic or other purposes. We urge all community members to avoid non-essential personal travel and to minimize movement off campus to the greatest extent possible.

Travel for Undergraduate Students:

Out-of-state travel is permitted for undergraduates only in emergencies and with approval, unless a student will remain away from campus for the duration of the fall semester. Travel within Providence for undergraduates will be guided by the prevailing Campus Activity Status level for such functions as visiting medical providers, commercial establishments and other local purposes. Additional details are available on the Campus Activity Status and Travel Policy pages of the Healthy Brown website.

CAMPUS SERVICES

Dining and Meals:

Undergraduates Who have Finished their Quiet Period: Beginning Sept. 16, students on meal plans who are already on campus and have completed the required Quiet Period will be able to go into two eateries to pick up their grab-and-go meals: Verney-Woolley and Andrews Commons. For Andrews, ordering will be required through the Get Food App.

Newly Arriving Undergraduate Students: For newly arriving students beginning their Quiet Period, Dining Services will have several meal delivery/pick-up locations to collect grab-and-go meals. These pick-up locations will be assigned based on residence hall proximity. Students will receive this information with their room assignment from Residential Life.

Graduate Students and Employees: As the fall semester begins, faculty, staff and graduate students may access meals on a grab-and-go basis at the Blue Room in the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center. The Brown Faculty Club will continue to offer the Brown to Table curbside pickup program to Faculty Club members. Safety guidelines must be followed when visiting dining locations.

Library Services:

The Library will be opening spaces for de-densified individual student work on a reservation basis. Graduate and medical students will have access beginning Sept. 16, and undergraduates will have access as of Oct. 5 In addition, the Library continues to support faculty and students in the following ways:

  • Digital access to materials for courses and scholarship
  • "Take-out" ordering and circulation of physical materials
  • Remote consultation with the Library’s experts

Brown Bookstore:

The Brown Bookstore is scheduled to be open beginning Sept. 16. Students who finished their Quiet Period will be able to access the store in person, while complying with all health and safety protocols. Newly arriving students will not be able to use the bookstore in person until Oct. 5, at the conclusion of the Quiet Period. The bookstore is developing plans to process online orders for course materials and deliver them to students’ designated meal pick-up locations.

Mail Services: 

Mail Services will be open for business beginning Sept. 16 for University employees approved to be on campus, and for students who have completed the relevant quarantine or Quiet Period. The University is developing options to support in-person customers in compliance with health protocols, as well as newly arriving students who will be adhering to Quiet Period and unable to access Mail Services in person. These students will have course materials and critical packages delivered to their designated meal pick-up locations.

Shuttles:

Passengers who use shuttle bus services must abide by health protocols to ride safely. All Brown University Shuttle routes are fully operational at this time, and the University may expand shuttle service depending on the location of students in residence. If more students move into the Jewelry District, the daytime Connector route will be modified to accommodate Chestnut Street. In addition, Brown may add an express weekend and evening fixed route for those living in that area. Additional information can be accessed on the Transportation and Parking Services website.

Parking:

Currently, any Brown employee who comes to campus can park in any University surface parking lot, with the exception of the leased street parking spaces that are enforced by the City of Providence. As more employees return to campus and lots start to become congested, we will return to our normal system of parking permits. 

VISITORS, PROGRAMMING AND EVENTS

Visitors:

The University recently updated restrictions for Fall 2020 regarding the hosting of non-degree visiting and exchange students, visiting faculty and researchers, and general visitors for the coming year. Learn more by visiting the Visiting Campus page in the Life on Campus section of the Healthy Brown website.

Programming and Events:

The expectation remains that most events and programming will be offered virtually in the fall semester. Any small gatherings planned on-site must follow University safety protocols and Rhode Island Department of Health guidelines in terms of numbers of individuals permitted, social distancing, use of face coverings etc. Also consult the Campus Activity Status levels on the Healthy Brown website for guidance on permissible activities. For students, guidelines for extracurricular activities are being reviewed on an ongoing basis by the Student Activities Office.