Understanding the Health and Safety Policy for Student Activities

There is a Health and Safety Policy for Student Activities.

The policy states, in part:

  • No student organization events with alcohol will be approved, whether on- or off-campus. This applies to any student organization (Greek and non-Greek).
  • Events and gatherings held in residences and locations off-campus are currently limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Additionally, spaces being used for events and gatherings must allow occupants to maintain at least six feet of distance.
  • Events and gatherings held in restaurants or event venues must comply with public health requirements established by the restaurant or venue. In addition, students attending an event or gathering must comply with the limitations on the number of people permitted to gather, as well as the University’s requirements for physical distancing and use of cloth face coverings.

Questions and answers

Learn more about the policy from Adam Goldstein, Dean of Students.

Q: What is the Health and Safety Policy for Student Activities?
A: This policy provides a framework within which student organizations can safely and responsibly host events during this pandemic. Safe hosting includes limiting the number of attendees to 25 people outdoors or 10 indoors, having 6’ social distancing, and the wearing of cloth face coverings. It also says that no student organization events with alcohol will be approved, whether on or off campus.

Q: Why is this policy necessary?
A: We are in a pandemic with potentially deadly outcomes. You can see in the news that superspreader parties have occurred on campuses across the country. Some schools have already had outbreaks that forced them to go online. There have been infections within our own campus community. We needed to create guidelines so that student organizations know how to safely congregate – whether on or off campus – in a way that does not increase the likelihood of contracting COVID and bringing it to our campus community.

Q: Why is there a ban on alcohol at student organization events, even if you are respecting attendance limits and social distancing?
A: Because COVID is so contagious, and the University is a congregate living setting, we need to do all we can to prevent the potential for COVID to infect our students. Alcohol impairs judgment. When you add alcohol to the equation, many of us (even with the best of intentions) might not be as careful as we need to be about social distancing, handwashing, etc. Our best medical guidance suggests that by having student organizations host dry events, we can reduce the likelihood of potential harm to our students and the campus community.

Think of it this way – none of us like wearing masks, but if we all do it consistently, we have a greater chance of returning to normalcy sooner. Student organizations may not like to host dry events, but if we do it this way now, we believe it will help increase our chance of returning to normalcy sooner.

Q: Why does this policy apply to off-campus events in restaurants or other venues?
A: Behavior that takes place off campus has the ability to impact our campus community. We can have all the public health safeguards in place on campus, but those will do little good if we do not also adhere to safe behaviors off campus. The bottom line is that we need students to behave the same way in restaurants or other event venues as we would on campus: with masks, using 6’ social distancing, and by ensuring there are not more attendees present than allowed (25 outdoors, 10 indoors).

Q: Why did only Greek students hear about this policy?
A: Greek leaders were invited to a meeting on August 13, several days after the policy was published; the meeting was with President Hatch; Adam Goldstein, Dean of Students; Tim Wilkinson, Associate Dean for Student Engagement; and Betsy Adams, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, to explain this policy. Many Greek organizations have members who live in single-family homes off campus and it was important to talk to all the members about the ramifications of hosting events that are tied to their organization. In that meeting, students were also told about what would happen if individuals or groups of friends sharing household parties (independent of their student organization).

Q: When and how will this policy be communicated to other student organizations?
A: The policy will be thoroughly covered in the required Student Organization COVID-19 Training, which will be available for Student Organizations by Monday, August 24th. Executive board members from Wake Forest University’s recognized student organizations will be expected to participate in the online training. Additionally, student leaders will be invited to a Zoom session with Dean of Students staff to discuss the Health and Safety policy. That session will occur on Tuesday, August 25th at 5:30 pm. The policy is also on the Policies page of Our Way Forward so students, faculty, and staff can access it.

Q: Does this mean friends who are of legal age can not gather and enjoy a beer in their home?
A: This policy applies to student organization events, not individual students. So yes, a few friends that are 21 can get together and legally drink alcohol. However, the rules on the size of safe gatherings apply to all students (per our statewide executive order limiting gatherings to 25 people outdoors or 10 indoors). If ‘word gets out’ and a party organically grows, the hosts will be held accountable.

Q: If my student is on a lease and there is a party at their house (but they were not there for the party), why would my student be held accountable?
A: When students sign their name to a lease, they and their housemates become responsible for what occurs inside the residence. This is true whether a party is intentional and planned or not intentional and the amount of attendees grows organically. This will require housemates to reach agreements about what will and won’t occur in each residence. Every student has a responsibility to ensure they are not contributing to dangerous situations. Also, please know that a student being referred to the Student Conduct process does not mean they will automatically be held accountable for a party. The student would be able to explain their role (if any) in the event.

Q: Why did we add this policy after we sent the email on August 6 saying students have to sign the Student Code of Conduct addendum?
A: This policy took longer to get reviewed and approved. COVID planning has involved thousands of university decisions, and conditions are changing daily, which means issues are constantly rethought, new questions raised, and protocols reworked. This policy went through that sort of work-and-rework. We wanted and needed to get the initial communication out about the Student Code of Conduct before students began moving to campus. The Student Code of Conduct addendum does state “students are encouraged to visit [the Policies] website frequently.” We held a meeting with Greek leaders, and will hold one with other student organization leaders, to ensure they understand this policy.

Q: Why are the full policies only accessible to students, faculty, and staff?
A: Our COVID policies are intended for internal use, and while we are not trying to keep important information from parents, our policies may change to address changing public health conditions. To avoid confusion, we prefer not to have Wake Forest documents copied and pasted on external websites or social media that we cannot update. Any student is free to read the policies and can explain them to their parents/families.