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What are the AS&E travel policies for students in general and for the Thanksgiving break?

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It is becoming increasingly clear that travel off-campus, and in particular attending even small gatherings, has been a factor in many of the COVID-19 cases we have seen at Tufts so far this term. This has been true both for short trips and in-region travel and for longer trips and out-of-region travel. In light of the facts, we want to highlight our general travel policy and share specific new guidelines for Thanksgiving break.

General travel policy

All travel (both in-region and out-of-region) during the pandemic is strongly discouraged, except under exceptional circumstances. In general, exceptional circumstances are those in which your physical presence is essential (e.g., the death or life-threatening illness of a close family member). While we understand that travel for other important life events (e.g., family reunions, vacations, holidays, weddings) may be very important to you, it is not truly essential during a pandemic. All AS&E (including SMFA) undergraduate and graduate students are asked to register in advance of any such exceptional travel during the semester with the Dean of Student Affairs office.

Thanksgiving travel policy

Beginning with the Thanksgiving break, if you choose to travel, you cannot return to campus and instead must finish the semester remotely. This applies to all AS&E undergraduate and graduate students traveling in-region or out-of-region, and to those living on-campus and those living off-campus but attending courses and/or using campus facilities in-person. 

If students elect to leave campus at Thanksgiving and therefore decide to finish the semester remotely, Tufts will not reimburse or pro-rate housing or dining fees. Students who believe they have a situation that meets the exceptional circumstance definition may request approval from the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs to travel over the break and return by submitting a request. Such requests will be granted rarely and returning students will be required to meet quarantine and testing requirements upon their return.

In addition, this policy also applies to local travel such as attending off campus gatherings of any kind during the break, such as Thanksgiving dinner. The policy’s public health rationale is not how far a student will be traveling but their exposure to individuals who have not participated in our community’s routine testing and protocols. We recognize that this may be an unusual Thanksgiving for many, but limiting travel is vital to our plan to maintain the health of the community. Students and their families, friends, and loved ones are encouraged to celebrate the holiday remotely in creative and meaningful ways.

We are, as always, appealing to our students to adhere to these policies for the greater good of the community, and we appreciate the high level of compliance we have seen so far. Because of the serious health risks travelling and returning to campus during the Thanksgiving break would pose, violations of the travel policy will be addressed via the Student Conduct Resolution Procedure. 

We are making plans to offer students meaningful ways to mark this holiday that both recognize the difficulties and celebrate resilience and our sense of Tufts community. We will share these plans with you in the coming weeks.

Last update: Monday, Sep 28, 2020 - 10:06am

Can I have guests (whether Tufts students or non-Tufts students) in my residence hall this semester?

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Out of an abundance of caution, guests of any type, including other Tufts students from outside the building, will not be allowed in on-campus residential spaces during the 2020-21 academic year. Residence halls and houses will only be accessible to those students living in the specific building and to authorized university officials and Residential Life staff. Students are not permitted to have any guests from outside the building in their room (unless they are other students in the same residential cohort) or in their residence hall common space.  

Students are permitted to have individuals assist them with moving their belongings into the residence halls but all visitors to the community must wear masks, maintain physical distance from others in the building, and aim to drop off items and leave as quickly as possible. This is necessary because the density of the residence halls needs to be as low as possible to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.   

Students are encouraged to work on group projects, socialize, and otherwise spend time together in groups of less than 10 by reserving classrooms, going to the campus center or Tisch Library, or spending time outdoors. Note that socializing with anyone other than the assigned residential cohort requires physical distancing and masks.  

Last update: Friday, Sep 25, 2020 - 3:10pm

Under what circumstances can I decline my meal plan? Will communal kitchens in the residence halls be available?

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In addition to students studying remotely, the only students who can decline a meal plan are juniors and seniors living in apartments with a less-than-six-to-one resident to kitchen ratio and those who, for medical reasons, are unable to participate in meal plans. Sophomores in spaces designated as having a kitchen may choose a reduced meal plan, but are still required to have one. 

All others will be required to have a meal plan and use Tufts Dining facilities. Information about meal plans is available here.

Community/shared kitchens are open on a limited basis within residence halls except for those within enclosed apartment spaces and in woodframe houses. To prevent virus spread, students are required to wipe down the areas after use and not leave personal belongings in them.

Returning students who canceled their meal plans last spring and wish to re-enroll were encouraged to do so before September 1.

Last update: Thursday, Sep 3, 2020 - 4:59pm

What will the modular housing units be used for? What will they offer to students?

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The modular housing units are only be used for students in isolation—not for general housing. Each unit is a single—with heat and air conditioning—and shares a bathroom with one other unit. Each unit has a bed with drawers underneath, a desk and chair, and a wardrobe/dresser. The units are connected to the Tufts network, giving students full Internet connectivity.

Last update: Tuesday, Sep 1, 2020 - 10:30am

I am planning on living in a double (or triple) and I will take a few classes virtually. How do I tell my roommate to respect my need for quiet time when the class occurs?

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This is an important conversation to have in the beginning of the semester when completing your room or suite agreement. Resident assistants will be living on campus and can help students navigate these conversations. It is our suggestion that students share their course schedules and discuss expectations for attending virtual courses as well as studying.

Last update: Wednesday, Aug 19, 2020 - 2:21pm

What is a residential cohort?

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Students living on campus will be organized into residential cohorts. Residential cohorts are small groups, usually housing six to 12 students each. The residential cohort provides students the opportunity for very close personal and social contact with others—including the ability to have a roommate and share meals with others.  

Face coverings are not required when (1) students are in their bedroom and the only other people present are their assigned roommate(s), (2) when eating, and (3) when doing personal grooming. Any time students leave their bedroom and are or may be within six feet of others, including going to common spaces or bathrooms, face coverings are required. (Students will be assigned to use specific bathrooms and limited occupancy in the bathroom spaces will be implemented.) 

When interacting only with members of their residential cohort in residence hall areas, physical distancing should be maintained where possible, but may be relaxed where needed as long as masks are worn. 

Students living in off-campus apartments will be considered assigned to a residential cohort with those people who they share an apartment or house with, as long as the group is no more than 12 people and all people in the apartment or house consent to this model.  

Students are accountable to themselves and the other members of their residential cohort. If a student becomes infected but is asymptomatic or becomes symptomatic with COVID-19, the people most at risk are likely their roommate(s) and others in their residential cohort. Accordingly, students should carefully observe the university’s physical distancing and face-covering guidelines. If one student in a residential cohort is symptomatic and/or tests positive for COVID-19, all members of the residential cohort will likely be required to self-quarantine in their current housing assignment. However, if masks were worn frequently during close interactions with the other members of the residential cohort, it will help minimize spread from the infected person. We will test the other members of the cohort frequently for COVID-related symptoms and presence of virus to identify any infected individuals to prevent further spread. 

New students will be placed into residential cohorts based on living compatibility (as determined by the housing questionnaire). Continuing students will re-engage in the modified housing confirmation and reselection process to determine the best space for them and, if they wish, they will be able to form groups for the purposes of cohorting. In the event that a student does not have a larger group to join, they will be able to select into a residential area and still have the benefits of a cohort experience, as well as the opportunity to meet new people in the process.  

The residential cohort model has benefits and risks. The most significant benefit is the opportunity for close social interaction with a small group of trusted others. An important component of the personal development that students receive from their Tufts education arises from the close connection with other students. This option facilitates those connections while reducing the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in the community by limiting the number of people with whom students have such close contact. Additionally, the residential cohort model allows students to share meals with others. Since eating requires the removal of a face covering, without a residential cohort model, eating would require people to stay physically distanced at all times during meals.  
 
The residential cohort model also provides a mechanism for collective responsibility and peer accountability, which is necessary to safely operate during a pandemic. The residential cohort model also has drawbacks. Spending time with people without physical distancing increases the risk that one could get COVID-19 from them if they are infected, even when wearing a face covering. However, wearing a mask is an important measure to reduce spread of infection. Additionally, being in frequent close contact with a small group of people may tend to increase conflict and emotional challenges. Also, moving to a different housing assignment will be far more challenging than usual this semester, given the very limited space on campus and the residential cohort model. 

Last update: Tuesday, Aug 18, 2020 - 3:50pm

Can first-year students select their own roommates to help make their own residential cohort, because of COVID-19? 

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After examining implications of allowing roommate choosing, we have decided that we will continue with our current practice this year of making assignments based on living compatibility instead of letting students select their own roommates.  

Because the university has decided to move in the direction of supporting residential cohorts, it will be important that compatibility of living styles is prioritized in roommate matching as we may be more limited in our ability to do room changes.  

We have found that incidents of roommate conflicts have decreased when we take the approach of matching students based on living compatibility. In fact, there are more roommate conflicts per capita with our continuing students (sophomore and above) who choose their own roommates and housemates than with our first-year students, who are matched on living compatibility. We continue to adjust and improve our housing questionnaire every year, and while room change requests do happen among first-year students, they happen far less frequently than with rising sophomores, who have the ability to choose their roommates.  

Last update: Tuesday, Aug 18, 2020 - 3:04pm

What steps is the university taking any steps to increase or change cleaning protocols?

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The university has proactively instituted enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures in response to emerging viral pathogens; these include the application of EPA-approved disinfectants on communal, high-use surfaces. We stand ready to alter these practices as CDC guidance and/or the situation at Tufts changes. In the event that deeper environmental cleaning becomes necessary, the university is working with an outside vendor to ensure that this can be done swiftly and thoroughly.

Dispensers throughout campus are being restocked with CDC-recommended hand sanitizer, and we will install additional dispensers as needed. We continue to monitor our inventory of hand soap, disinfectant, sanitizer and paper products to ensure uninterrupted availability of these products throughout campuses.

Last update: Friday, Aug 14, 2020 - 10:11am

A member of my household has an immune compromised condition. To keep that family member safe, I need a single. How do I get one?

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While we appreciate your concern for your household members, Tufts provides accommodations to students with documented disabilities, and this accommodation does not extend to students with concerns related to their family, friends, or loved ones.  

Students who are concerned about getting a family member sick may request permission from Residential Life and Learning to self-isolate or quarantine (based on Student Health medical guidance) for 14 days before leaving campus at the end of the semester. This self-quarantine might be in a separate residential space from the usual assignment and would not last for longer than 14 days.  

Last update: Wednesday, Aug 19, 2020 - 4:34pm

If I am a first-year or second-year student, can I live with my family instead of in on-campus housing? 

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Yes, you may do so for the 2020-21 academic year only. Normally, our housing residency requirement does not allow for first- and second-year students to live at home, unless there is an approved disability-related or religious accommodation. However, for this academic year only, the policy will include an option for first- and second-year students to live with family. First- and second-year students may not live off-campus unless they are living with family or have an approved religious exception or disability accommodation; living off-campus with friends is not permitted.

Due to federal rules on the way financial aid is calculated, students who live at home with their family will not have housing expenses considered as part of their cost of attendance at Tufts, and therefore their financial aid award will not support housing costs.

Students must indicate their fall housing plans on their Fall 2020 Intent Form. Incoming first-year students and transfer students can access the Fall 2020 Intent Form through their new student checklist; returning students can access the form here.

Last update: Wednesday, Aug 19, 2020 - 2:11pm

How does tiered housing pricing figure into this semester/year?

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Because most rooms will remain at the same capacity level as planned and students will be permitted to select their housing from a variety of room sizes and types, differentiated housing rates will continue to remain in effect for continuing students. Information about housing rates can be found on the Residential Life and Learning website.

Continuing students reselected housing during our revised housing selection period.  

As a reminder, as part of Tufts’ continued commitment to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted and returning students, the cost of each housing tier will be factored in when determining students’ financial aid awards. Awards will be adjusted as necessary to meet the full demonstrated financial need of each admitted and returning student. All first-year students will be charged the base rate for housing since they are unable to select their room size/capacity. 

Last update: Tuesday, Aug 18, 2020 - 2:48pm

Can sophomores elect to live off campus?

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Generally, no. Sophomores who participate in the fall 2020 term in person will be expected to live in on campus housing. Our housing residency requirement is still in place for first- and second-year students.

There are usually only two exceptions to this policy: sincerely held religious beliefs that cannot be accommodated on campus (approved through the Office of Equal Opportunity) and disabilities that require a housing accommodation (approved through Student Accessibility Services).

For this year only, the Office of Residential Life and Learning has allowed a third exception: first- and second-year students may live off campus with their family at their permanent residence. However, living off campus with friends is still not permitted for first- and second-year students.

Students who choose to attend fully remotely (meaning they will not be permitted to come to campus at any time for any reason during the semester), are generally expected to live at their permanent address, and they will not be required to live on campus. Students who take a personal leave for the fall are also not required to live on campus. Sophomores who plan to return in person in spring 2021 following remote study or personal leave in fall 2020 must plan to live on campus or live at their family’s permanent residence during the spring semester.

If sophomores choose to attend remotely or to attend in person but live off campus with family during the fall semester, they may not be able to retain their housing assignment for the spring. While we will make every effort to accommodate all sophomores who wish to return to live on campus, at this time we cannot guarantee on campus housing for those who decide they want to be on campus only in the spring term. If Tufts is unable to provide on campus housing for sophomores returning in person for the spring from a semester on leave or living at home in the fall, we will consider exceptions to the residential policy for those specific situations. However, we do hope to provide housing in the spring for all who request it.

Securing on campus housing for all students who request it is a priority and we will continue to work on solutions to meet demand. When completing the Intent Form, students who choose to live with family or attend classes remotely were asked for their spring plans. We will reach out to those students in the fall to ask for their intent for the spring, and will provide them with housing updates.

Last update: Friday, Aug 14, 2020 - 4:46pm

These FAQs are subject to change. Please check back here for the latest guidance. If you do not  find the information you are looking for, please send an email to COVID19@tufts.edu.