We are just six weeks away from the kickoff of the fall 2021 semester, and I am thrilled to confirm that the campuses of George Mason University will be fully open to welcome a record number of students. It has been a long road back from March 2020 when we had to shut operations down to stay ahead of the pandemic, but we find ourselves on the verge of fully reopening.
We are about to return to a Mason that has changed due to the pandemic, and even though we are able to return, we do so as the COVID-19 virus and its variants continue to circulate through our communities.
I am writing to share how we will open in order to balance a return to full capacity while continuing to assure safe conditions of operation.
In keeping with our university value of putting students first, we will reopen campus fully starting Monday, August 2. At that time, we will pilot a hybrid work environment that allows for telework/remote work for one or two days per week—with the necessary assessment to ensure the responsibilities of the position are able to be achieved. The goals are to:
- Retain the efficiencies we gained in remote working.
- Capitalize on the contributions that result from the synergies and collaborations that occur when we are on campus.
- Serve the thousands of students who will come to campus every day and who call Mason home.
- Reinvigorate the campus environment that has come to define a significant part of the full Mason experience.
Recognizing that class will not be in session yet on Monday, August 2, either at Mason or at regional public schools and that some people have to manage transitional needs (child care, transportation, etc.), we will use the first two weeks of August to transition back into this new framework. Thus it is expected that everyone will be fully integrated in their pilot working environment by Sunday, August 15. Note, this is a pilot program and we will evaluate its effectiveness quarterly.
The Office of Human Resources and Payroll will issue more detailed back-to-work guidelines shortly.
Vaccination and proof of status
Because we will come together as COVID-19 continues to circulate, we have an obligation to maintain a safe environment in which to study, work, and live. While those of us who are vaccinated are now able to enjoy a return to campus without masks or physical distancing, measures are still required as long as pandemic conditions persist among those who are unable or unwilling to receive the vaccine. Therefore, as previously announced:
All students will be required to be fully vaccinated, and share proof of vaccination via this link by Sunday, August 1. Appropriate medical and religious exemptions will be observed, and those who are not vaccinated will be required to wear masks while on campus and undergo frequent COVID-19 testing. Those who do not share proof of vaccination or an approved exemption will have their registrations held until they do so.
The Office of University Life will issue more detailed back-to-school guidelines shortly.
Faculty and staff
All employees will be strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, and required to share their vaccination status via this link by Sunday, August 1. To see incentives that encourage faculty, staff, and students to share their vaccination documentation and for instructions on how to do so, follow this link. Disclosure of vaccination status—whether vaccinated or not—will be a prerequisite for eligibility for any future merit pay increases. Those who are vaccinated, but do not disclose vaccination status and upload proof through Mason COVID Health Check by August 1, will be considered unvaccinated. Those who cannot or choose not to get vaccinated will be required to wear masks while on campus, physically distance, and undergo frequent COVID-19 testing.
All students, faculty, and staff should follow this link to upload their vaccination status.
Focus on well-being
It is important for us all to recognize that our return to an open campus is accompanied by a mix of excitement and uneasiness. We are excited to resume life that feels normal again—to be together on our campuses, and to see each others’ full and healthy smiles. But it is also natural to feel reluctance to venture back onto campus, given the experience we have all been living through. Our plan gets Mason back on campus as it should be without endangering public health or compromising our ability to deliver excellence to our students and the community. We will all feel anxiety from time to time, and I encourage us to be good to ourselves and each other, and take these steps together, as one Mason Nation.