Information for student clubs and organizations regarding fall 2020 semester

The following message was sent by email to students on Tuesday, July 14.

Dear Student Club Presidents and Leaders:

I know many of you have expressed interest in gaining a better understanding of what the fall semester will look like as it relates to your organization.  While the protocols established below are our current thinking, please know that these protocols may change as a result of guidance from SUNY and the state.  We have and will continue to benchmark these protocols with our SUNY counterparts, and our guidelines are consistent with what we are seeing across the state.

It is important to recognize that the college experience this fall will look and feel very different from what we are used to.  We acknowledge that this may be disappointing, but we must consider student safety first.  We are committed to promoting a new and invigorating college experience for everyone, and your role as a club leader will play a significant part in this process.  Retaining opportunities for students to connect and engage in co-curricular experiences is critical to our goal of promoting a holistic student experience.

As you may have seen in the FAQ section of the New Paltz Forward plan, the College will enact strict guidelines related to in-person campus events and club activities this fall.  I hope to clarify and expand on those within this communication.  I know it is lengthy but ask that you please read it carefully.

Club Meetings

We anticipate that nearly all clubs will need to conduct their recurring club meetings virtually.  Given space availability and capacity restrictions for social distancing, there will not be sufficient venues to accommodate in person meetings.  Furthermore, hosting meetings virtually will give students who are completing their studies online the opportunity to connect with your group.

The campus has procured a number of Zoom accounts to provide the full functionality of the platform to student groups and organizations.  Accounts will be managed centrally by the Center for Student Engagement, the Student Association Business Office, and the Office of Residence Life, and these offices can help schedule and organize your group meetings.  To gain access to the Zoom platform, groups will be able to submit a request through ENGAGE beginning on Aug. 1, 2020. The platform will be available to primary club contacts in the main Forms tab.

Event and Gathering Matrix and Review Process

This matrix (also attached) will be used campus-wide for all programs hosted by campus departments, academic programs, and student groups.  For student groups, the initial review will be conducted by the Center for Student Engagement with further approval by a campus-wide review board.  Requests should be submitted through the ENGAGE Event Form at least 30 days in advance. A decision will be made no less than 10 days prior to your event.

Hosting a Campus Event

While we strongly encourage you to think about how to host programs remotely, we understand not all events will work in this format. As outlined in the Events and Gatherings Matrix above, groups may make a request through ENGAGE to host a campus event. The submission process is open now.  The review process will include the following considerations in addition to the five criteria outlined in the matrix:

  • Personal face masks must be required for entry into all events.
  • Social distancing requirements must always be maintained.
  • Club members and attendees must have completed the daily health screening.
  • Groups structured around physical exercise, performance and musical rehearsal/practices will be restricted to online events, due to the increased risk of coronavirus transmission associated with these kinds of activities.
  • Event marketing should remind participants to follow public health guidelines such as wearing a mask, social distancing, and frequent hand washing, etc.  Announcements should also be made at the event.
  • Student events will be restricted to New Paltz students only with campus ID checked at the door. Advance sign-up is required.
  • Outdoor events may not be advertised to non-students/off-campus.
  • Groups should implement live streaming (Facebook Live or Instagram Live) for any in-person program that does not conflict with copyright law or contractual agreements.
  • Participants shall not be asked to share any items (such as utensils or writing instruments).
  • No communal food (buffets, etc.) shall be permitted.  All food must be individually prepared by an approved facility or pre-packaged store bought.  Homemade foods are restricted.
  • When possible, different doorways should be marked as separate entrances and exits.
  • Events should be no longer than 90 minutes in length (from arrival to departure).
  • Student groups may not host outside guests, including, but not limited to, other college teams or clubs, high school or college prep programs, parents and family, alumni, and friends.
  • Student groups looking to contract outside services must ensure and provide documentation that those vendor(s) will comply with campus standards for mask-wearing, social distancing, cleanliness, etc.  Please note there will be a limit to the number of hired personnel permitted at any one program.
  • Event capacity may not exceed the adjusted room capacities for social distancing. Outdoor venues will also have established capacities on the current guidelines established by the state.  See details in “Venue Availability and Capacities” section below.
  • Groups must assist in cleaning high-touch spaces and equipment.  Supplies will be provided by the Center for Student Engagement.
  • Additional considerations for Events and Gatherings outlined by the CDC can be found here.

Venue Availability and Capacities

Because of established social distancing guidelines, room capacities have been adjusted and capacities are approximately 10-20% of the typical number. Furthermore, because most classrooms on campus will not be large enough to meet the needs of face-to-face course enrollments, many of these classes will be moved into larger campus facilities not typically used for academic purposes.  This includes theatre space and Student Union space.  Finally, there will be attendance capacities for outdoor venues, as well, and these will be guided by the current guidelines established by the state.

As of the writing of this e-mail, indoor and outdoor events will be limited to a maximum of 50 persons. Additional occupancy restrictions may apply to meet applicable guidelines.  Following is a list of modified room capacities of many campus venues with regards to compliance with social distancing:

  • Parker Theatre (38)
  • McKenna Theatre (58)
  • Studley Theatre (56 main floor; 82 with balcony)
  • Student Union MPR (163) with no tables, chairs, or stage (reduced with equipment)
  • Student Union 100 North (62) with no tables or chairs (reduced with equipment)
  • Student Union 62/63 (50) with no tables or chairs (reduced with equipment)
  • Student Union 204, 208, 209 (2 each)
  • Lecture Center 100 (84)
  • Lecture Center 102 (43)
  • CSB Auditorium (48)

The following venues will not be available for student club use for the fall 2020 semester:

  • College Terrace (being used for food service meal plan distribution)
  • Elting Gymnasium (modified for exercise and fitness opportunities)
  • Residence Hall Lounges and Kitchens (restricted for use by building occupants only)

Off-Campus Events

Student groups will not be permitted to host events off campus.

Club and Involvement Fair

The Center for Student Engagement will not be hosting an in-person Student Club and Involvement Fair this semester. Alternatively, we are working hard to procure a technology platform that will allow us to host a virtual fair. When we know more about when and how this platform will work, we will let you know and provide instructions on how your group can sign up.  Our hope is that we will be able to create virtual break-out rooms where each club could meet and interact with students interested in joining your organization.

Club Tabling

Club tabling will be restricted to four groups at a time and only on the 2nd Floor Student Union Outdoor Concourse. Groups will be limited to a maximum of two members present during the tabling period, who must be wearing masks and social distancing.  One table will be permitted on the east, west, north, and south end, respectively, of the concourse and timeslots will be a two-hour window.  The Center for Student Engagement will maintain a sign-up form on ENGAGE on a first-come, first-serve basis and groups will be limited to one date per week. This form will be available to primary contacts and located in the main ENGAGE Forms tab; it will become available no later than Aug. 14, 2020.

Indoor tabling activities in the Student Union, Sojourner Truth Library, Lecture Center and Peregrine Dining Hall will not be permitted as social distancing cannot be maintained while ensuring safe building egress.

ENGAGE Software

The ENGAGE software provides your group with a variety of solutions to conduct business remotely.  For example, your group can send out messages to those on your roster, hold discussion boards, and conduct elections.  We are actively promoting this platform to new students and you may receive inquiries from new students asking to join.  Please be extra vigilant in monitoring these requests in the roster section of your club page.  Look for training opportunities with the ENGAGE software early in the semester.  Please also make sure you complete the club re-registration process, as well.  Look for details soon about this process.

Student Club Offices and Storage

Clubs that have designated office and storage space will be permitted to access these rooms through the typical process managed at the Student Union HQ Desk.  No more than one person will be permitted in an office at any one time.  Equipment may only be removed or used for approved activities.  The Center for Student Engagement will employ key-cleaning protocols after each use.

Student Union Hours of Operation

Please note that the Student Union Hours of Operation will be reduced for the fall semester and all requests for space must be within the established hours. The hours will be as follows from Aug. 23 – Nov. 24:

  • Monday: 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday: 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
  • Thursday: 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
  • Friday: 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
  • Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 10:30 p.m.

A Note to Fraternity and Sorority Chapters

All fraternity and sorority recruitment activities must be conducted virtually with the exception of the tabling process outlined above.  All new member education and initiation programs must be conducted virtually, preferably under the direction of your regional, national or international office.  Your new member education plan shall be submitted to the Center for Student Engagement for review and approval.  No “unofficial” activities shall be permitted.  A modified window for new member education will be established to align with the updated academic calendar.  Look for more detailed information soon.

A Note to Student Association Groups

The Student Association anticipates that the insurance carrier will have increased restrictions as it relates to the insurance coverage policy during the time of COVID-19. This may mean that events or opportunities previously held may not be covered this semester.  All proposed events hosted by Student Association clubs must also be cleared by the Student Association Business Office for an insurance review and approval.  The Student Association may have additional protocols in place related to club-funded activities. Look for more details coming soon.

In Closing

We really understand and acknowledge that the protocols outlined above are not the campus life experience we were all hoping for.  We also hope that you recognize the necessity to implement these protocols for the upcoming semester.  It is our hope that we will return to a more “normal” college experience in the near future.  Conducting activities in a modified or virtual way will require all of us to think differently and creatively.  In challenging times like these, we have the opportunity to tap into new mechanisms and ways of doing things that can be revolutionary and stand the test of time.  Please continue to join us in creating the vibrant college experience we all need and want, especially for those new students who are joining our community.

In best regards,

Michael Patterson

Director, Center for Student Engagement