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Emory welcomes first-year students for fall semester

Carrying boxes, bags and great expectations, Emory students began arriving on campus this week in preparation for the launch of a new academic year. 

First-year students, international students and students with circumstances that require them to be on the Atlanta campus move in Thursday, Aug. 13, through Monday, Aug. 17 — a longer window than normal, due to new health and safety protocols established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In addition to face coverings, handwashing and physical distancing, those protocols will bring other visible changes for the fall semester, notes Scott Rausch, senior director of Emory Residence Life. With no more than one student assigned to a room, the residential student population will be sharply reduced on Emory’s Atlanta campus — from about 4,400 students this time last year to about 1,600 this fall.

Oxford College first-year students move in Saturday, Aug. 15, through Monday, Aug. 17. With one student per room, approximately 400 students – including first-year, international and a few second-year students and residence life staff — will live on campus this fall. Normally, the Oxford campus hosts about 1,000 students per term.

The decision to welcome students to campus in a moderated way, with campus safety protocols and limited in-person classes, was made in an effort to help students return while keeping health and safety considerations a top priority for the Emory community.

“We each have a responsibility to maintain a safe and vibrant living and learning environment for all members of the university community and the larger society,” says Enku Gelaye, vice president and dean of Campus Life.

“As a caring community, Emory has developed a community compact,” Gelaye notes. “We define this document as an agreement among members of the community to pursue the common good together — that common good is reducing exposure to COVID-19 for ourselves and others in our university family.”  

On-campus housing for the fall semester is limited to students who have an approved housing agreement for the coming academic year and fit into the following categories:

  • First-year and new transfer students
  • International students
  • Select seniors completing Honors work
  • Undergraduate students receiving scholarships as part of a scholarship program specifying on-campus housing as a condition of their scholarship
  • Students with specific on-campus housing needs (pending review and approval)

University leaders will revisit these decisions for the spring semester.

A new process for moving in

Students arriving on both the Atlanta and Oxford campuses first report to one of several locations for a rapid COVID-19 test and health screening, with both drive-up and walk-up options. At that time, they also receive a welcome kit that contains cloth face masks, wipes and hand sanitizer, a thermometer and other self-care items. Once administered, test results will be delivered by text in about 20 to 30 minutes.

Those students with a negative result can proceed to assigned residence halls, where professional movers and student and staff volunteers will be waiting with carts and dollies to help transport belongings. Those who prefer to move themselves will be allowed one “helper”; other friends or family members will be invited to wait in an outdoor rest area. Everyone is expected to wear a face covering — extras will be available — and to exercise physical distancing, especially in common spaces, Rausch notes.

Students who test positive, exhibit COVID-19 symptoms or have experienced direct exposure have two options: they can return home to self-quarantine and attend classes online for a two-week period or they may consult with Student Health Services providers and self-quarantine for two weeks in pre-designated locations with campus support.

In Atlanta, students who test positive may stay at the Emory Conference Center Hotel; for Oxford College, they will be invited to stay in a residence hall on a floor designated solely for self-quarantine. In each location, students will receive daily health care checks, meals and support services.

Campus dining options — including Dobbs Common Table and the Cox Hall food court on the Atlanta campus and the Student Activity and Academic Center Café on the Clairmont campus – opened for to-go service beginning around 12 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 13, Rausch says. On the Oxford campus, food service will begin with dinner in the Oxford Dining Hall on Saturday. 

In addition to pre-cleaning, extra cleaning protocols are in place at campus residence halls and classrooms.

“Residential services is ramping up the frequency of cleaning, with common spaces and bathrooms being cleaned more often,” he says. “Students will also notice lots of signage directing them to wash their hands and information about doing their own cleaning.”

Supporting Emory’s newest students

Though first-year students have been online preparing for the college experience throughout the summer, once they arrive on campus new student orientation will continue over three days with asynchronous and synchronous online programs, videos and real-time sessions, says Jill Camper, director of new student programs in the Office for Undergraduate Education in Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

“We want to make sure our students have all the resources they need to feel supported, prepared, welcomed and excited to be a member of our community,” she says. “This year, we’ve designed an orientation that will be inclusive of all new students, regardless of whether they are living on campus, off campus or at home this semester.”

Many traditional first-year Emory experiences — including Fall Convocation, the Coca-Cola Toast and the Oxford Olympics — are still scheduled to take place, but will be conducted online. Emory College’s popular Songfest will be a hybrid experience this year, with performances from individual halls presented online.

But despite the required changes this semester, little has dampened the enthusiasm of Emory’s newest students, who’ve already been connecting through social media, engaging in pre-registration appointments with advisers and reaching out to make campus contacts, says Steve Savage, associate director of communications in the Office for Undergraduate Education. 

“The excitement of these students is absolutely palpable, and that’s true of our first-year students who are choosing to study remotely, too, ” Savage says. “We’ve been hearing from students throughout the summer who’ve been hunkered down and are ready to start something new. You can feel the anticipation.” 

For more information about move in plans, the Fall 2020 student experience, health and safety protocols, and campus services and resources, visit Emory Forward.

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