Return to Campus Plan

July 20, 2020

Dear Tulane Community:

Resilience is part of Tulane's DNA. We are a community that has faced much adversity but has always emerged stronger, better and more united as a result. Today, we must call upon our resilient spirit once more. We are now just under one month away from our long-awaited return to on-campus teaching, learning and living. There will be numerous changes and alterations on the campuses to which we will return, but the transformative Tulane experience will remain for all students, faculty and staff.

Returning to campus means that we will be able to connect with old friends again and make new ones. We will be able to collaborate, explore and discover once more, in person. We will have the chance to teach, learn, work, play and grow together in the familiar spaces we know so well. Most importantly, we have taken, and are taking, a multitude of measures to promote the safety of our campus community and to mitigate risks associated with COVID-19. That has been the overarching goal in all our planning for coming back to campus. We know of no other school implementing all of the measures Tulane is to achieve this goal.

Our plans are designed in consultation with experts and are informed by guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the Louisiana Department of Health and state and local governments. And we will, of course, respond to changes in public health conditions and any new government guidelines or recommendations.

With technology that allows for remote teaching, learning and work, some have questioned why we should return to campus without a vaccine available for COVID-19. Online learning has and will play an important role in modern education. However, we recognize remote learning may dilute the instantaneous feedback and energy of live instruction and the interaction among students and faculty. Therefore, Tulane is providing several modalities for delivery of coursework that provides interpersonal connection and collaborations designed to support Tulane's education and robust research mission while still promoting safety. Like universities throughout the country, the vast majority of our students, faculty and staff want to return to their classrooms, labs and offices. They recognize that we all need the collaborative, interdisciplinary and relational culture Tulane offers.

But, again, we must primarily be mindful of safety. That’s why our safety protocols begin before students, faculty or staff even step foot on campus. Prior to returning to campus, the entire Tulane community will participate in our free COVID-19 testing program, which will be run by the experts in our School of Medicine. Tulane’s School of Medicine is a leader in developing and improving the fastest, most accurate COVID-19 tests. We are so fortunate to have such "in-house" expertise.

Our mandatory, robust daily symptom self-monitoring, testing and tracing program will help reduce and limit the incidents of COVID-19 on our campus. Tulane will provide free testing upon arrival and retesting throughout the semester. We have established an Arrival Center for residential students at the Hyatt Regency in downtown New Orleans. The Hyatt has partnered with the university to provide the entire property for this purpose. All students who plan to live on campus will be tested at the Arrival Center and must have a negative result before being allowed to move into their campus residence.

When students, faculty and staff return to campus, they will find precautions and safety protocols in place while still allowing for personal interactions and connections. Everyone will be expected to take personal responsibility in following these safety protocols. Other than when in a residence hall room or alone in a private office, students, faculty and staff will be required to wear face coverings when on campus, including in classrooms. Everyone is expected to follow other precautions, such as social distancing and frequent handwashing. Hand sanitizers will be plentiful throughout all campus buildings and the university will provide two cloth face coverings for each faculty, staff and student. Disposable face coverings will also be available to those who might arrive without one.

This summer, all campuses underwent cleaning and disinfection by professional cleaners. Campus Services, in consultation with certified industrial hygienists, epidemiologists and Tulane's Office of Environmental Health and Safety, developed detailed protocols for continued cleaning and disinfection. Sanitizing wipes will be provided so faculty and students can wipe down work spaces and utilize hand sanitizer prior to the start of each class.

Through a variety of measures, Tulane has adjusted classroom capacity to achieve social distancing. We have scheduled all courses in classrooms that allow for required social distancing and have also constructed 13 large temporary classrooms. We will be erecting an additional five temporary facilities for the teaching of dance and other performance classes. In addition, we will be installing safeguards such as plexiglass barriers throughout classrooms and other campus buildings. Finally, all courses will be technology-enhanced, with both in-person and online components. This technology assists with de-densification of classes, giving students significant in-person classroom time and discussions with their peers and instructors while allowing students who are self-quarantining or self-isolating to continue their academic progress. We are also extending pass times — the time between classes — in order to facilitate social distancing practices.

In order to promote safe dining, Tulane University Dining Services is adding a temporary structure dubbed the Dining Pavilion on the Berger Family Lawn. All dining locations will have a defined entrance and exit to avoid cross flow of traffic and maintain capacity restrictions. Like the diners they serve, all Dining Services employees will be tested for COVID-19 and complete a self-symptom and temperature check before work. Patrons will be required to socially distance at all times and to wear masks when not eating. All Dining Services employees will wear face coverings during work hours unless eating a meal during lunch breaks.

Tulane is committed to a thriving student experience outside of the classroom, as well. A committee of students, faculty and staff are developing opportunities and programs to engage students in the new normal of campus life. This will include offerings for events, programs and gatherings, as well as spaces for student organizations to meet, gather and create events with and for each other. We will utilize Tulane’s beautiful outdoor spaces to encourage individual and small group events. While keeping within city and campus guidelines, we will also accommodate larger gatherings such as outdoor movies, Green Wave athletics watch parties and networking events. Tulane’s commitment to public service will continue as we design new opportunities focused on education, training and engagement with the City of New Orleans. At the same time, we will strictly enforce rules against large parties or gatherings by students on or off campus. In addition, once move-in is complete, outside visitors to our student residences either from off-campus locations or from other on-campus residential halls will not be allowed. Sanctions for hosting parties or large gatherings may include suspension or expulsion from the university.

While our protocols to mitigate risks associated with COVID-19 are robust, we recognize some individuals may feel they cannot return to campus. Processes are in place to work individually with any student, faculty or staff who, for health reasons or other factors, feels that they cannot return to campus. Not all classes will be offered online, but we will work with students to make decisions that are most appropriate for each individual situation. Faculty should contact Kathryn Lafrentz to request a COVID-19 job modification or ADA accommodation. Staff should contact their supervisor who will coordinate with their HR Business Partner. Students should contact the Goldman Center. Flexibility by supervisors and employees is important in these circumstances.

Through this message, we have offered a broad outline of our return to campus, but there are many more details and components to our plan – and we know that you are likely to have more questions. To paint a fuller picture of our return to campus life, we will host a series of webinars between now and our re-opening. The first, which will take place at 5 p.m. CDT on Monday, July 27, will feature President Fitts and our leading public health experts as they provide an overview of the return to campus and address your questions and concerns. We will also hold a webinar on returning to work for staff at 1 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, July 28 and one for faculty at 5 p.m. CDT on the same day. A webinar for undergraduates and their parents on academics and student life during the fall semester will be held at 5 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, July 29. Please register for these webinars here. Graduate and professional students should connect with their individual school department head or advisor for program-specific information.

As we stated above, our return to on-campus learning and operations is another challenge for a university and community that has faced and overcome so much in the past, proving time and again its resilience and unbending spirit. But, in addition to being a challenge, returning to campus is also a necessary and welcomed opportunity for us to continue the life-changing education, the life-saving research and the vital scholarship that is the heart of Tulane – and to do so in the familiar halls, grounds, labs and offices of our beloved campus home.

Michael Fitts

Robin Forman
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
Patrick Norton
Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer