Northwestern provides clarifications on decision to bar most first- and second-year undergraduates from campus


Daily file photo by Catherine Buchaniec

The Weber Arch. The University announced five new testing centers in Evanston in a Tuesday email.

Isabelle Sarraf, Copy Chief

Northwestern administrators announced more information on the changes to its Fall Quarter plans in a Sunday email, addressing Friday’s decision to prohibit first- and second-year undergraduates from returning to campus in the fall with limited exceptions.

First- and second-year students who need the option of on-campus housing can apply between today and midnight on Sept. 1, and requests will be evaluated by Sept. 4, according to the email.

Third- and fourth-year undergraduates who planned to live in Greek housing can now also apply to live in a residence hall this fall by midnight on Sept. 1 and will hear back by Sept. 4. Upperclassmen who have decided to live off campus can cancel Fall Quarter housing contracts without penalty by midnight on Sept. 1.

Incoming undergraduate students can now request a one-quarter deferral to begin their time at NU starting Winter Quarter, according to the email. Requests can be made by Sept. 5, an extension of the previously announced Sept. 3 deadline. However, the email warned that some first-years who defer until winter may find it difficult to make progress on required sequence courses if they do not enroll in fall courses. Incoming students who do decide to defer until winter will still be required to attend virtual Wildcat Welcome orientation activities from Sept. 7 to 15, according to the email.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions will no longer consider year-long deferrals, according to the email.

The University also announced plans for an emergency fund for need-based financial aid recipients who’ve encountered extra travel expenses due to changes in Fall Quarter planning, which will be available beginning Sept. 9.

“As was the case in the spring when COVID-19 forced us to change our plans and reduce the number of people on campus, we will help students who incur extra travel expenses caused by the changes announced Friday,” the email read.

Though there will likely now be fewer students on campus than expected, the University expanded upon community expectations and guidelines given the increase of COVID-19 cases in suburban Cook County. When expectations — such as wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and limiting gatherings — are not met, the University plans to “take swift action.”

Any reported “isolated, low-level incidents” such as neglecting to wear a face covering will warrant a University response. “Severe cases,” such as hosting a gathering that doesn’t comply with expectations, could result in suspension or expulsion. The email encouraged students to report concerns about violations of University policy to NU Help, and concerns involving non-student members of the University community to EthicsPoint.

“We encourage all members of our community to remind each other of these expectations,” the email read. “In instances where we are unable to hold each other accountable with a friendly reminder or a conversation about these expectations, there are resources available for members of the Northwestern community to report concerns.”

The email also announced changes to Wildcat Wellness, the two-week modified quarantine period that will start Sept. 6 for off-campus and early move-in on-campus students and Sept. 12 for other on-campus students. During the first step of the period, undergraduate students are required to self-isolate in their residence until they receive the results of their on-campus arrival COVID-19 test. According to the email, that means limiting social interactions with non-roommates.

After students receive a negative test result, they are allowed to leave their on-campus room or off-campus residence only to perform a limited set of activities, including health and safety tasks, obtaining services and supplies, essential work and engaging in outdoor activity. The University has imposed a 7 p.m. curfew for students during this period. On-campus students will have meals delivered to residence halls, and students must dine in their rooms.

Once the quarantine period ends, on Sept. 21, in-person activities will begin for students not in quarantine or isolation. All undergraduate students, whether living in residence halls or off-campus housing, are expected to comply with these requirements.

The University is also changing its testing protocols for Fall Quarter, continuing to test on-campus students weekly but increasing the testing frequency of off-campus undergraduate students.

Any first- or second-year undergraduate student who doesn’t receive an exception to live in on-campus housing but chooses to live in Evanston anyway will not be tested by the University as part of the recurring protocol. They will also not have access to campus facilities or buildings, other than the Northwestern University Health Service where they may be tested if they have symptoms or have come into contact with someone who tested positive.

“We know this is a lot of information for you to process, and we know that many of you are disappointed in our decision to reduce density by not allowing first- and second-year undergraduates to come to campus this fall,” the email read. “We also know this news came late; however, this pandemic has created a dynamic situation.”

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Twitter: @isabellesarraf

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