FAQs for Undergraduate Families Revised Jan. 15, 2021


Why won't the university offer/require more classes in person?

The percentage of our classes are being taught in person is at or near the maximum capacity that can be taught in person, given the need to spread out classroom space to accommodate the required distancing and time necessary to clean between classes. This also includes additional outdoor teaching spaces that have been added to provide more options.

Why is the university not requiring faculty to teach in person?

In addition to the limited teaching space outlined above, W&L's faculty have the latitude to determine which approaches to teaching will be most effective for their particular course. Since each professor has unique knowledge and teaching goals, the professor is the best person to decide how to teach the course. In addition, faculty may have an extenuating circumstance, such as being in a high-risk category or having a family member who is in a high-risk category, that prevents them from being able to teach in person safely. 

Are professors permitted to change their method of instruction any time without approval?

As the number of positive cases and students in isolation and quarantine fluctuates on campus, professors have the flexibility to adapt their mode of course delivery to provide what they deem to be the best possible experience for the students in that particular class. We hire professors who are experts in their fields and trust them to guide the learning experience.

Are outdoor classrooms being used to facilitate in-person teaching?

Our faculty have made good use of a variety of outdoor spaces on campus, including the permanent outdoor classroom in the Dell, one classroom tent erected outside Leyburn Library, another erected next to the football field, and the pavilion on the Law School lawn. In addition, some professors hold impromptu classes on the Front Lawn, Stemmons Plaza, and in the Cohen Amphitheater. Professors also hold individual meetings with students outdoors. The university has recently added more classrooms and installed heaters in outdoor teaching spaces to facilitate in-person teaching in the winter months.

Will the university issue a partial tuition refund for students whose classes are mostly or even entirely virtual? How do you defend the value proposition when so many classes are virtual?

Students who are living on campus will pay full tuition regardless of the mode of instruction for their classes. Students who leave campus and cannot maintain a full schedule will receive a partial tuition adjustment based upon the credit-hour rate. Students who are living off-campus will not be charged room and board fees. The question of value proposition is a personal one and each family will need to determine if the value proposition is right for them and their student, particularly as we operate on campus during a global pandemic.

How is the university assessing the quality of the education being delivered this term?

Faculty develop their courses around a set of learning objectives. The tests, papers, readings, lectures, and discussions work together to meet those objectives. Each class must be vetted by a committee looking at its learning objectives, readings, and requirements before it is added to the catalog. The university collects the syllabus for each course, and at different points during a professor's career, the department reviews their teaching materials. This term, as in other terms, senior faculty members will observe classes of junior colleagues, and to a smaller extent the other way around. Every professor surveys the students in the class at the end of the term to evaluate the semester. These evaluation points allow the department head to work with the faculty member if there are issues that need to be addressed. On the whole, however, the university hires qualified professors and expects them to guide their students through their courses.

COVID-19 Rules and Restrictions

What are the rules for governing student behavior and how are they determined?

Current restrictions and guidelines for undergraduate students, law students, employees and visitors can be found on the main page of the COVID-19 Resources, by clicking the appropriate link in the blue navigation bar.

We rely on guidance from the CDC and VDH, as well as a continual review of the COVID-19 spread on our campus and in our region, when determining current guidelines and restrictions. The rules governing student behavior are subject to change based on W&L's COVID-19 Environment Level, which is based on 12 operational indicators that track the university's ability to adequately staff and operate the university safely. The environment levels provide the university with a structured approach to our pandemic response.

In addition, all members of the campus community are expected to abide by the university's Statements of Community Values. The consequences for not complying with community values and COVID guidelines and restrictions can also be found on the main page of the COVID-19 Resources website.

Why are W&L's restrictions so strict? They seem much more severe than other campuses.

As we consider COVID-related guidelines and restrictions, protecting the health and safety of our community has been, and continues to be, our number one priority. As we consult with other universities across the state and country, we are finding that our restrictions and related conduct sanctions are roughly in the middle in terms of strictness and severity. We continually review our restrictions with an eye toward relaxing them as soon as we feel we can do so safely. Unfortunately, relaxing some restrictions at one point in the fall resulted in an increase in COVID-19 cases among our students, so we continue to be cautious as we consider doing so in the current environment. It is important to note that the two increased restrictions this term - the curfew and smaller gathering size limits - have been driven by a state order.

When will the university loosen restrictions?

We will loosen restrictions when we believe it is safe and responsible to do so.

Most W&L students have already had COVID-19, so why are you still requiring them to follow the guidelines and restrictions?

At this point, only 14% of our student body has previously tested positive for COVID-19 and our faculty and staff numbers are significantly lower than those of our students. We understand there are some recent studies that indicate the antibodies one develops after having COVID-19 may last for several months. However, there are other studies that indicate that might not be the case, or that individuals may contract COVID-19 a second time, or even after the initial dose of the vaccination. While we do keep abreast of such studies and find the data interesting, it still not known how immunity works for this particular virus or how long it lasts. We will continue to rely on guidance from the CDC and VDH, and will adjust according to their latest guidance.

I have received the COVID-19 vaccination. Why do I still have to follow the guidelines and restrictions?

According to the CDC, while experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide it is important to continue wearing face coverings, washing hands often, and staying at least six feet away from others in order to get the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19.

Why hasn't W&L create a bubble like other colleges have done?

Creating a "bubble" is not possible on our campus because 25% of our undergraduate students and 100% of our law students live off-campus in Lexington and Rockbridge County. Campuses who have successfully created bubbles have severely restricted students' ability to leave campus and venture out into their surrounding communities, which is not an option for us.

Why does W&L think the safety of the Lexington/Rockbridge County communities is its responsibility?

W&L is an integral part of our local community, and we absolutely do have an obligation to consider the health of the greater community and to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 both on and off our campus. Practically speaking, we are one of the largest employers in our area and if our staff (or their families) are exposed or become sick and they aren't able to work, it could hamper our ability to operate the university. In addition, many of the community's older, high-risk residents are our own retired faculty and staff, to whom we also feel a sense of responsibility.

Why is the university apparently focused only on cases, rather than serious cases and/or hospitalizations?

The university is focused on all cases, not just serious cases or hospitalizations, because the virus is easily spread and affects different people in different ways. Our students, faculty, staff, and local community include those who are immunocompromised and in other high-risk categories. We also have limited local healthcare resources. We have a duty of care to our entire community to follow public health guidance and do our part to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Student Life

What resources are available for students who are feeling isolated, anxious, or depressed? What steps should they take to access services?

The student experience at W&L is designed to provide students with multiple connection points, including residential (first-year) or community (upper-division) advisors (RAs and CAs), peer counselors, class deans, Student Affairs staff, faculty advisors, the Office of Health Promotion and the professional staff in the Student Health and Counseling Center. We recommend that students reach out to their class dean or residential advisor for help accessing services. For immediate assistance, resources are also available on our Get Help Now page.

My student says there is nothing to do on campus. Where can students find ways to connect with other students and opportunities to join student organizations and participate in activities?

Our Student Affairs staff have created opportunities for students to socialize in safe ways, including outing club trips, intramural sports, cooking demonstrations, movie nights, and a host of other programs. These programs are in addition to those offered through the Residential Life program, student organizations, Career and Professional Development, and academic departments and programs. More opportunities continue to be added and programming adjusted as our COVID-19 restrictions evolve. They are publicized through Campus Notices and the Student Dashboard, the weekly Student Activities newsletter, which is emailed to all students, the residential life staff, and social media, including:

Why was Greek recruitment postponed?

On Jan. 14, the Student Affairs Committee voted to approve a faculty recommendation to move Greek recruitment for organizations affiliated with W&L's Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils to the week of undergraduate spring break (April 17-25), with new member education taking place during a condensed, three-week period at the beginning of Spring Term. Recruitment will still be held virtually, as previously announced and as required by the NPC national organizations, and exact dates will be announced once schedules are final.

This decision was made in light of the current surge of COVID-19 cases in Lexington/Rockbridge county and the potential for the presence of a new, more contagious variant of the virus spreading in the community with the return of students to campus. Postponing recruitment will allow all of our students to return to Lexington, complete the initial arrival testing period, and settle back into classes and extracurricular activities. It will also provide time for more people to receive vaccinations and hopefully, with warmer weather, allow for some new member education activities to take place outdoors, where our students can gather more safely in small groups.

More details regarding the exact dates of recruitment, adjusted eligibility requirements, and its impact on the campus housing selection process, will be shared in the coming weeks as they are finalized. Questions may be addressed to SAC@wlu.edu or a student's class dean.

My child has tried to sign up for Outing Club and other activities but finds they are always full.

We are continuing to add opportunities and encourage students to reach out if they are having trouble getting a spot.


What is the role of resident advisors in enforcing the COVID-19 restrictions on campus?

Resident Advisors are sophomores, juniors, and seniors who live in the First-Year residence halls and assist First-Year students with the academic and social transition to college. These upper-division students are knowledgeable about Washington and Lee and are available to answer questions and discuss problems. They also are entrusted with enforcing the residence hall policies of the university, which include restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19. These students work hard to strike a balance between providing support and community for their halls and helping to reinforce the rules.

What types of sanctions are being imposed for COVID-19 violations?

Sanctions for COVID-19 violations can be found on the COVID-19 Resources website. The sanctions outlined are intended to provide an idea of potential sanctions, and discretion may be used when applying sanctions.


What is W&L's testing plan?

W&L's testing plan for Winter Term/Spring Semester can be found on the COVID-19 Resources website.

Why is W&L not testing students more frequently?

We are starting out this term with significantly more testing than last term, and with a new vendor that provides greater capacity and faster turnaround time. Our plan allows for significant flexibility in both targeting and frequency of testing. For example, we announced on Jan. 15 that until we see case rates decline, we are increasing the frequency of screening testing for all students. During this period, all students will be tested at least once weekly. This will start from arrival testing and continue until further notice. We have made this change based on high case rates both in the local area and nationwide, and based on the initial test positivity rate among student early arrivals, which was significantly higher than the rate observed for fall arrivals.

Questions and Concerns

Will there be any opportunities for students to discuss their ideas and concerns with the administration?

We have instituted Meet the Deans events for students to meet and talk with members of the administration and student affairs staff about their campus experience. Members of the COVID-19 Committee held regular office hours in the fall and will do so again this term, and the Vice President for Student Affairs formed a first-year student advisory group to brainstorm new opportunities and activities for the Class of 2024.

Is there a single contact or chain of command for parents to follow if they have questions about COVID-19 or specific concerns about their student?

For questions about COVID-19 policies, care and testing, please email covid19@wlu.edu. That email is monitored daily and questions will be routed to the appropriate resource on campus. For concerns about a specific student, contact the student's class dean.

Isolation and Quarantine

What is the difference between “isolation” and “quarantine”?

  • “Isolation” is the separation of sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. For students diagnosed with COVID-19, isolation typically lasts a minimum of 10 days after symptom onset or a positive test. Since students in isolation have already been exposed to COVID-19, designated isolation spaces can be double-occupancy, as there is no risk of added exposure.
  • “Quarantine” is the separation of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. To keep everyone as separated as possible in case one or more people develops illness, most quarantine spaces are single occupancy. Quarantine for COVID-19 exposure typically lasts 10 full days after the potential exposure, but may last up to 14 days for students who experience symptoms.

What spaces are available for students who are placed into isolation or quarantine?

W&L has designated multiple spaces specifically for isolation or quarantine, encompassing 82 dedicated beds. These include former and current dormitories (Baker Hall, Davis Hall, and an apartment in Gaines Hall); the university’s guest houses (Morris House and Belfield); and various University-owned houses around Lexington. In addition, surge capacity is available at a local motel should on-campus capacity become strained. All spaces are equipped with refrigerators, microwaves, beds, desks, and wi-fi.

In addition to these 82 designated beds, depending on the circumstance, W&L may convert other housing areas on campus to temporary isolation or quarantine units. For example, if an entire Greek or theme house, an entire dormitory hall, or an entire upper division apartment is exposed to COVID-19, and all residents of that location need to quarantine or isolate on a similar timeline, it may be necessary (as well as more comfortable) for these students to isolate or quarantine “in place.”

Am I able to choose which space I go to if I am placed in isolation or quarantine?

Unfortunately, no. Assigning students to I/Q spaces requires consideration of a complex set of factors.

Is the end-date on my quarantine firm, or could it change?

The end date for isolation will typically not fluctuate, as long as the student has recovered, with improved symptoms and no fever.

For quarantine, end dates can be more complicated. Congregate living settings like college dormitories are particularly challenging, as shared bathrooms are considered a potential source of exposure. If a group of students are quarantining on the same hall with a shared bathroom, and one of those students develops COVID-19, it is possible that the remaining students will have to restart a new 10-day quarantine.

What if I test negative for COVID-19 in the middle of my quarantine? Can I return to my normal housing and resume in-person classes?

No. A negative COVID-19 test does not change the duration of your quarantine. Even if you test negative one day, you may develop symptoms or become positive a day or two later, and individuals can develop COVID-19 any time during the 10 days after exposure.

What are the expectations of students in isolation or quarantine?

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 (and placed into isolation) or potentially exposed to COVID-19 (and placed into quarantine), your strict compliance with I/Q protocols is essential to the health and safety of the campus community. W&L has outlined expectations for students in isolation or quarantine. Violating these expectations creates an unnecessary risk to yourself and to the community, so W&L takes these expectations very seriously. Incidents of students who fail to adhere to these standards are treated as student conduct violations.

How do meals work if I am in quarantine or isolation? What other resources are available to me?

If you are relocated to one of the university’s designated I/Q areas, or if you live in a hall or area that has temporarily been designated as I/Q space, W&L Dining Services will deliver breakfast, lunch, and dinner to you on a daily basis. Upon initial check in, students fill out a meal preference sheet to indicate any food allergies or preferences. They are also given a care package with extra drinks and snacks. Due to the complexity of delivering food to a large volume of students across numerous campus spaces, we are not able to take specific orders for each meal period.

If you need items while in isolation or quarantine, we have assigned a team of staff members who are working to manage your needs and provide you with the resources you need to continue to succeed, manage your course work, and maintain social connection. If you receive packages, need library reserves, need supplies, or have other special requests, you can work through the COVID Care Team and we will do our best to accommodate you.

W&L recognizes that being in isolation or quarantine is not a fun experience, and the COVID Care Team was formed to help make it as manageable for you as possible.

If I am potentially exposed to COVID-19, can I leave campus and go home to isolate or quarantine?

Yes, that is an option that you may consider. Before choosing this option, you should be aware of and consider the following:

  1. Do you have a place to safely quarantine off campus? You need to be mindful of going to an environment where you can safely separate from family or friends so as not to risk exposing them. For instance, will you be able to safely obtain meals while maintaining your quarantine?
  2. Are you able to travel to and from campus via private vehicle? If you travel by plane, train, or bus, you will be required to complete a two-week quarantine once you return to campus, so leaving campus is probably not the best option for you.
  3. When students choose to quarantine away from campus in an environment that the university’s health professionals are unable to evaluate and monitor, W&L requires re-arrival testing upon the students’ return. The university will work with you to time your re-arrival with one of our on-campus testing dates. Because of this, your time away from campus may end up being a bit longer than 10 days. Note that when you return to campus, we ask that you follow a modified quarantine-in-place while awaiting your test results – typically less that 24 hours following the test.