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.