LIVE UPDATES: Vanderbilt’s response to COVID-19

The Hustler will continue to update this story with changes to Vanderbilt’s response to the novel coronavirus.

Hustler Staff

Last updated March 26 at 8:05 p.m. CT. This story is no longer being updated.

The Hustler has reports of at least 60 student cases of COVID-19, according to students. Tennessee has 957 reported cases of coronavirus and the United States has 83,836 reported cases as of the evening of March 25, according to the Tennessee Department of Health and Johns Hopkins, respectively. There are over 529,591 confirmed cases globally as of March 26. All updates to Vanderbilt’s policies regarding COVID-19 will be posted on the Vanderbilt Coronavirus Website.

March 26

OHARE informed the student body that Vanderbilt students still on-campus would be consolidated into specific dorms. They also said that the United Postal Service (UPS) would ship or store student items; OHARE noted that they would inform students before they took any action. The university will also not allow students to return to campus as a result of Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s Nashville’s “Safer At Home” order.

OHARE said these changes are to help the university better manage facilities, provide meal deliveries and adequately staff buildings. OHARE also said the changes may help the university assist VUMC by providing housing for medical staff to address the expected surge in health care needs

The University Registrar moved all 2020 Summer and Maymester classes online. Registration for the updated schedule will be available for students on March 30.

March 25

Vanderbilt announced that Commencement and the other graduation programming for the class of 2020 would be postponed until May 2021. The Commencement ceremony will be held separately for the two graduating classes with the class of 2020’s ceremony scheduled for the weekend, per a March 25 email from Wente.

March 21

The Hustler reported that at least 60 Vanderbilt students have COVID-19, multiple students said. A group chat for Vanderbilt students with novel coronavirus has reached 60 members and is mostly comprised of students that live off campus, according to students.

The University registrar has delayed registration for Summer 2020, according to March 21 note on the Your Enrollment Services (YES) portal. The registrar said these delays don’t apply to summer registration in the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, or Peabody Online programs or Online Graduate Programs in the School of Engineering.

March 20

Vanderbilt announced that it will be adjusting room and board costs for the semester. Credits will be applied automatically to students’ accounts by April 15. The email from Interim Chancellor Susan Wente also announced the creation of a Student Hardship Fund. The fund, in which the university invested $1 million, will provide funds students facing financial burdens as a result of disruptions caused the COVID-19 outbreak. Undergraduate, graduate and professional students with demonstrated need can apply. Applications open today, and students may be granted up to $500.

The email also added that Vanderbilt is committed to paying and providing benefits to its dining, housing and other staff as usual through the end of the semester.

March 17

Vanderbilt extended the pass/fail deadline from Jan. 20 to April 10 according to a March 17 email from Wente. The email also announced the lifting of many restrictions on what classes could be graded on a pass/fail case for the Spring 2020 semester. The Hustler updated yesterday’s article to reflect an 11th case of COVID-19 confirmed among students.

March 16

The Hustler reported that at least 10 Vanderbilt students have tested positive for COVID-19. Of the six new cases, two of them were students who had been studying abroad in Spain. In one of the cases, the student lived in an off-campus apartment in Nashville.

March 14

A student living off-campus tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, as reported by The Hustler and confirmed by an email sent today from the university. Another student that was traveling with junior Max Schulman in Barcelona also tested positive today. Both students are in self-isolation off-campus.

March 13

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) announced that all athletic activities are suspended until at least April 15. SEC member institutions will continue student-athletes with support in academics, medical care, mental health and wellness, nutrition and housing as needed.

March 12

Vanderbilt Athletic events are cancelled through March 30, per an email from Wente. This is in response to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) announcement earlier today that all regular season and championship events is suspended until March 30. The SEC also cancelled the Men’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville.

“The program schedules impacted by this announcement are those of baseball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, and track and field. Events involving two Vanderbilt programs affiliated with other conferences—bowling (Southern Bowling League) and lacrosse (American Athletic Conference)—also will be suspended through March 30,” the email said.

March 11

Vanderbilt cancelled in-person classes for the rest of the semester. According to the email from Interim Chancellor Susan Wente, this development follows news that a Vanderbilt University Medical Center employee tested positive for COVID-19.

Students still on-campus must leave by March 15. If students have already left campus, they will be permitted to return to get their belongings at a later point in the semester; details will be disseminated at a later date, according to the email from the Office of Housing and Residential Experience (OHARE). All students must complete the Spring Move-Out Information form on the Student Housing Portal.

Additionally, President Donald Trump announced new travel restrictions regarding in-coming travel from Europe. This prompted many students abroad to return to the United States early from their study abroad programs. GEO sent an email to abroad students notifying them that the office is working to understand the details of the announcement. It also encouraged students to stay in touch with their study abroad programs and instructed students to communicate with the GEO office if they decide to leave their programs early.

March 10

Students are allowed to decide if they want to stay on-campus or leave for the remainder of March, per a March 10 email from Arts & Science Dean John Geer. Building access will be restricted to allow for additional cleaning; academic buildings will close at 5 p.m. and on the weekends. Dining halls and the Student Health Center will remain open, the email said.

Office hours are canceled this week, and faculty are encouraged to set up virtual office hours for the rest of March.

OHARE sent an email to students Tuesday night requiring students staying on campus March 10-March 31 to register online on the Student Housing Portal. The email also included new policies including: residents will only have access to their resident floor; access to Greek houses is limited to residents of the house and non-Vanderbilt community members are not allowed in residential housing.

“There should be no parties/gatherings; students are encouraged to maintain social distance and minimize interactions with others,” the email said.

Furthermore, the email said that, while students are not required to leave, “this is a good time to plan for the end of the semester” in terms of moving out of rooms. The email also clarified that campus dining options would be limited to grab-and-go, and Munchie Mart swipe restrictions are lifted.

Regarding study abroad, Vanderbilt gave the following statement via email to The Hustler:

“We are working with our partners, the study abroad providers, to ensure our students’ health and safety, as that is the first priority.  We also take seriously our role in supporting students as they complete their academic coursework. In many cases, the providers are offering online instruction to finish out the semester, which means our students may choose to come home to finish the coursework.  GEO advisers are communicating with students so they and their families have accurate information to make these decisions.”

On March 10 three new cases were confirmed today by the health department. Two of the new cases were adult males in Middle Tennessee, and location information about the third case identified March 10 was not released.

March 9

Vanderbilt junior Max Schulman tested positive for COVID-19, he told The Hustler. He is currently quarantined in Plainview, New York. He said there were around 50 other Vanderbilt students who were also in Barcelona and came back to campus March 9.

Vanderbilt canceled classes for the rest of this week, and the university will move to online and/or other alternative options beginning March 16; online classes may extend until the end of the semester. Several Vanderbilt students in Barcelona to Schulman’s positive case who are back on campus was the cause of the closure per the email.

The eight Vanderbilt students that were traveling with junior Max Schulman, who tested positive for COVID-19 March 9 after visiting Spain, are now all in quarantine at the direction of Vanderbilt administration, according to Schulman.

March 8

Vanderbilt students return from spring break as classes resume tomorrow, and over the past week, coronavirus cases have drastically risen globally.

Vanderbilt’s policies have remained consistent since the initial update to Vanderbilt’s travel policies Feb. 28 requiring students returning from Mainland China, Iran, South Korea or Italy to self-quarantine for 14 days off-campus and report their travel to the school. Students are also required to complete this protocol if they believe they have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19. 

Dean of Students sent out an email at 8:12 p.m. reiterating the need for the Vanderbilt community to work together to limit potential exposure to coronavirus.

The faculty head of EBI Residential College Sarah Igo sent out an email to residents stating that residential colleges were instructed to not hold regular college gatherings this week.

A petition was started by Vanderbilt student Yihan Li requesting the university to cancel classes and hold online classes for the upcoming weeks; it currently has 726 signatures. The petition reads as follows:

“Vanderbilt University should cancel classes and consider holding online classes for the upcoming weeks. There have been two confirmed cases in Nashville and our students are returning from all over the world after the spring break. It is at great risk to hold classes as normal because the novel coronavirus is contagious and airborne. Even though there has not been a confirmed case among our student body on campus, it would be too late to close the campus when there is one, as the deadly virus has a latent period for up to two weeks. Until now, many universities have decided to cancel classes and hold online classes, such as the University of Washington, University of Southern California, Stanford University, Rice University, and Columbia University. Therefore, we respectfully ask the Office of the Chancellor and the Dean of Students Office to cancel classes for the health and wellbeings of Vanderbilt students. Thank you for your support fellow commodores!”

March 7

March 7 email to faculty reiterated that students are not allowed to miss class unless they are undergoing mandatory self-isolation or have a written accommodation authorization from Student Access Services (SAS). The email, signed by Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Tracey George, Faculty Senate Chair John McLean and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs David Raiford, also discussed preparations for “teaching at a distance.”

“We strongly encourage you to take the time now to develop contingency plans to allow you to continue your teaching and research and to accommodate students or instructors who must undergo self-isolation or any other prolonged absence,” the email said.

The email said that the university will implement strategies like teaching at a distance if classes will pose a health risk, but that the school has not found this is warranted yet. The Center for Teaching will host training sessions March 11 and 12 for “Tools for Putting Your Courses Online.”

Students with suppressed immune systems are encouraged to contact SAS immediately. Students with anxiety about being on campus or attending class should contact the Office for Student Care Coordination, according to the SAS response to COVID-19.

March 6

The Dean of Students Office sent an email to students reiterating the university’s COVID-19 policy.

“If at any time we determine that you have failed to comply with the self-isolation directive, furnished false information to the University, or not reported complete and accurate information about your travel and personal contacts (or the travel and personal contacts of others), you may face major disciplinary action, up to and including separation from the University,” the email said.

The March 6 email also encouraged students to report to the Dean of Students Office other students who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

MOSAIC, a three-day overnight program for admitted students, was canceled due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, according to an email sent by MOSAIC co-chairs.

March 4

A Vanderbilt student contracted the virus while abroad in Florence and was diagnosed in Chicago March 4. 

Feb. 28

A Feb. 28 email from the Dean of Students Office announced that Vanderbilt is requiring all community members traveling to China, South Korea, Italy or Iran to update the university of their travel. Such individuals must also self-isolate off-campus for 14 days following their return or face disciplinary action from Student Accountability.

Vanderbilt in Florence was canceled.

Feb. 3

Study abroad in Mainland China was canceled.