Student Organization COVID-19 Policies

Last updated on May 11, 2021

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the student organization experience will look very different this year, with nearly all student organization activity shifting online. As we witnessed throughout the fall semester, we are confident our student organizations will continue to be a central facet of GW student life by thinking creatively, leveraging online platforms, and being open to new ways of programming.

The GW Student Organization COVID Policies are created with the health and safety of our community at the forefront. Student organization officers are to lead the implementation and foster compliance with the requirements. While outlined here in the context of student organizations, students should note that many of these policies are also applicable to informal gatherings of on-campus residents. 

This plan is dynamic and reflects the current situation. As we learn more about COVID-19 and local or national conditions change, our plans and procedures will evolve. Changes will be posted to this site. Contact Org Help with any questions. You can continue to find university-wide COVID-19 information on the GW Coronavirus Response website

Most recent updates include:

  • Outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 50 attendees, with masks properly worn and at least 6 feet of space between participants.
  • Indoor group exercise classes, acting, singing, dance are permitted with masks properly worn and 10 feet of space between participants (increase distance further for more rigorous dancing or exercise). These gatherings can not exceed 60 minutes in length.
  • Student organization-sponsored woodwind and brass instrument practices continue to be suspended.
  • Club sports and sports activities continue to be suspended.
  • Clarification regarding food at events: No food or beverages may be provided, served, or consumed at in-person events. Exceptions provided for individuals bringing their own light snack/beverages on an as-needed basis.  

Events, Activities, & Meetings

Based on CDC College and university and ACHA guidance, convening in groups carries an increased risk of viral transmission. This information, combined with the extremely limited number of students residing on campus means that the vast majority of meetings and events should be held virtually using online collaboration tools (e.g., Webex, Zoom, Google Hangouts). All students have free access to Webex and Zoom through GW.

Limited in-person events hosted by student organizations will be permitted. For the health and safety of the GW community, the following guidelines have been put in place for student organization-sponsored events until further notice.  Any student organization event, regardless of location, must meet all these directives to be fully aligned with GW’s policies and expectations. All in-person events must be registered and approved via Engage. 

On-campus residents will have limited access to campus buildings. Students living off-campus during Spring 2021 are not permitted to be on campus unless specifically granted permission. Only students who are part of the approved on-campus cohort may attend events held in both indoor and outdoor campus spaces.

Student organization-sponsored events, activities, and meetings that occur indoors and in person will be limited to a group size of no more than 10, including event hosts and attendees. Events, activities, and meetings that occur outdoors will be limited to a group size of no more than 50, including event hosts and attendees. Note that these group size limitations apply to gatherings of any nature, not just student organization-sponsored events.

Everyone on campus and in public spaces must wear a cloth mask or face covering in accordance with university guidelines. This includes indoor and outdoor events, even when individuals are more than 6 feet away from one another. All attendees are responsible for providing their own masks/PPE. All event hosts and attendees must practice social distancing by maintaining at least 6 feet (2 meters) distance between themselves and others. All attendees should also follow CDC recommendations for handwashing or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Due to risks associated with food sharing and unmasking required for eating, no food or beverages may be served, provided, or consumed at in-person student organization-sponsored events. Boxed meals or individually wrapped food items may be distributed to participants as a “takeout” option, but should not be consumed during the event.

Attendees may bring their own light snacks and water for themselves. This should be limited to an as-needed basis (e.g. health reasons, physical exertion such as hiking, outdoor activities on a hot day, etc.). Personal food items should not be shared with others and eating at events should be limited. When removing masks to eat or drink, attendees should increase their physical distance beyond 6 feet. Participants are responsible for the proper disposal of personal food item trash. This applies to both on-campus and off-campus events. Off-campus events may not be held at restaurants or bars due to their high-risk status.

Because alcohol impairs judgment and suppresses the immune response, it presents additional safety risks beyond those associated with food and beverage sharing. Additionally, recent data indicates that bar and restaurant settings are increasingly the sources of outbreaks. As such, no events with alcohol will be permitted. This applies to both on-campus and off-campus events.

Student organizations should limit the number of materials that need to be distributed at events. For example, consider providing digital handouts instead of paper. Attendees should avoid sharing pens, laptops, etc. 

Any individual preparing or distributing giveaways must wear a cloth face covering and practice proper hand hygiene throughout the entire process. Giveaways must be individually wrapped and easy to grab without an individual needing to touch multiple items (i.e. no bowls of candy bowls). 

All in-person events must be added to Engage at no later than 24 hours in advance for on-campus events and 72 hours in advance for off-campus events. The Engage event must be approved by the Office of Student Life before proceeding (notification will be sent via Engage).

Additionally, advance RSVPs and on-site check-in must be facilitated via Engage for all in-person student organization activities, events, and meetings.  This will ensure that room capacity is not exceeded and will enable contact tracing if necessary. All attendees and hosts must be checked in and recorded in the Engage event. Additional resources will be provided to assist with creating events and  You can learn more about tracking attendance through Engage support resources. 

Please note that attendee advance registration and attendee check-in are not required for tabling, but tabling events must still be added to Engage for approval and any members staffing the table must be recorded via the check-in feature on Engage.

Only GW community members (students, faculty, staff) will be allowed to attend in-person, on-campus events. This includes event attendees as well as any speakers, entertainers, etc. Co-sponsored events with external organizations are not permitted. For the safety of the guests and the GW community, student organizations are required to use virtual resources and online programs to accommodate external, non-GW guests, speakers, etc.

Because external speakers, performers, etc. will not be present on-campus, contracts will only be required if an organization is paying for the virtual services and/or the event is being recorded.  Please note that student organizations should not record and/or distribute any virtual activity featuring an external guest without explicit written permission from that speaker/performer.

In the event a contract is needed, student organizations must follow the usual contract process through the Office of Student Life. Student organizations are not permitted to sign contracts. Contracts can take several weeks to process - plan ahead! We recommend allowing 6-8 to complete the process.

Student organizations should continue to remain cognizant of accessibility needs related to their virtual events. Event hosts should ensure that everyone can participate in the event. For online events, this may mean securing a CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) provider to create real-time captioning services. In registration forms, someone should be identified for participants to contact should they need to request an accommodation for your event.

Organizations may host events and activities off-campus. Off-campus events must abide by the policies set forth for organization events, in addition to any local and facility-specific regulations. If the university’s policy differs from the local/facility expectations, the more restrictive policy must be followed. For instance, if the local guidance allows for gatherings of up to 50 individuals, the event still cannot exceed 10 per the student organization guidelines.  While off-campus, GW community members must always follow CDC and DC/local public health guidelines

Effective social distancing is difficult to maintain in crowds or large groups. It is important to consider your risk level and personal wellness before joining a protest or large gathering. If you are experiencing respiratory symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, fever, or other symptoms of COVID-19 you must stay home to protect yourself and others in the community. Students should take precautions to protect themselves and others against COVID-19 during these activities and follow CDC guidelines for social distancing, face coverings, and handwashing. Additional resources regarding the Student Code for student activists can be found in the Student Code Protest Activities guide.

In light of the risks of COVID-19 community spread, many organizations recommend adopting remote and virtual engagement and postponing all in-person campaigning and canvassing. Students should research local jurisdictions to learn more about their specific recommendations. Consider virtual ways of organizing including virtual phone banks, text banks, and letter writing events. If canvassing, students should follow all CDC recommendations for social distancing and hand washing.

Due to the nature of most recreational sports programming, there is no way to safely maintain appropriate physical distancing guidelines and other safety precautions established for large groups without supervision. Therefore, we are canceling Intramural and Club Sports programming, including practice and competition, which aligns with a trend across many National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association member schools in our region. 

In line with this, student organizations are not permitted to host their own sporting events (kickball, dodgeball, basketball, etc.).

The research on the extent of COVID-19 spread through particles and aerosols released with increased breathing and vocalization (e.g. singing, shouting, exercising) is not yet fully understood; however, initial evidence suggests that these activities can increase the spread of COVID-19.

Indoor group exercise classes, acting, singing, dance are permitted with masks properly worn and 10 feet of space between participants (increase distance further for more rigorous dancing or exercise). These gatherings can not exceed 60 minutes in length.  

Student organization-sponsored woodwind and brass instrument practices continue to be suspended.

We strongly encourage organizations to post events to Engage - required for in-person events and recommended for virtual events. Updates to university policy limit access of residence halls to current residents of that building. Students must continue to follow the residence hall poster policy and cannot poster in a residence hall that is not their own. Off-campus students may not access campus to place physical posters in GW buildings.

Campus Spaces & Room Reservations

Current bookings for the 2020-2021 academic year have been canceled as room capacities and campus needs have changed.  No student organization bookings will be allowed for fall 2020. This includes classrooms, University Student Center, District House, major event spaces, outdoor event spaces, and indoor and outdoor tabling spaces In Spring 2021, student organizations may be able to book rooms in the University Student Center and B levels of District House as well as outdoor and tabling spaces through the Student Activities Link. All COVID-related policies must be followed in these spaces.

Visit the student activities center website to learn more about available spaces and booking procedures.

Outdoor events and activities are preferred since they allow for more spacing and fresh air. However, the same requirements on social distancing and masks still apply. Physical barriers may be erected to define spaces if needed and event hosts should ensure all individuals are staying 6 feet apart whenever possible. Social distancing guidelines also apply to any lines for the event.

The office and storage space assignments from 2019-2020 will remain in place through at least the 2020-2021 academic year from the fall 2020 semester. Reassignment of these spaces creates social distancing challenges and we are unable to safely and effectively facilitate new assignments and moves.

Max capacities for University Student Center's fourth-floor offices have been posted outside each space. Organizations that have allocated office space can only have the posted max capacity in the space at any given time. Space is defined as any room with a door. Organizations in a shared office space must coordinate with the other occupants to define a schedule and ensure that the capacity is not exceeded. Each office has the max capacity listed by the door.

Organization members in the space are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces following their use. Students should also wash their hands before and after using the space, and wear a mask while in the space.

Due to the current most recent fall 2020 campus operation plan updates, Shenkman offices and storage spaces will not be accessible to student organizations. If an organization has an immediate need to retrieve items, they should email [email protected] for assistance.

Please note that we are unable to forward mail and packages at this time. As such, we encourage student organizations to utilize their on-campus or personal addresses for the delivery of mail and packages whenever possible. Mail and packages that are received during this time will be held and stored until the campus operating status allows for the safe distribution of items.

Travel & Transportation

GW follows DC guidelines regarding travel in order to maintain the health and safety of the GW community. The university’s Campus COVID-19 Support Team (CCST) further develops specific travel guidance for GW community members and steps to follow when returning to the District from locations other than Maryland and Virginia. Visit go.gwu.edu/covid19 for the most up-to-date travel guidance for students, faculty, and staff.

December 2, 2020:  Updated Travel Guidance for GW Community Members Returning to DC.

Student organizations may book domestic travel and event registrations for the fall semester if doing so is financially or logistically beneficial (e.g. early bird rates, limited accommodations). We advise that student organizations only make pre-payment for events, travel, and accommodations with a cancellation or refund policy in place. While we are optimistic about fall travel and events, we cannot ensure that conditions or policies will not change. In the event of an event cancellation or travel restrictions put in place by GW and/or state and local governments, the organization will be financially responsible for any outstanding payments. Please also note the upcoming spending deadlines - May 14 (Engage purchase request deadline); May 25 (spending deadline).

Currently, because travel increases the chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19, student organization-sponsored travel will not be permitted outside the 495 Beltway.

The university has determined it is necessary to continue the suspension of all non-essential international travel for students, faculty, and staff until further notice. Accordingly, all student organization-sponsored international travel is suspended until further notice.

If offering in-person events locally, organizations should focus on events that are within walking distance for members or can be reached by members traveling individually. If transportation is needed for a local event, all health and social distancing guidelines apply. This includes maintaining 6 feet of distance between individuals and wearing a cloth mask or face covering at all times. 

Based on CDC transportation guidance, if you must take public transportation, wear a face mask or covering before entering the bus or train, and avoid touching surfaces with your hands. Upon disembarking, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol as soon as possible. 

Students should significantly limit or avoid the use of ridesharing, rental vehicles, or personal vehicles and only use vehicles that allow for 6 feet of distance between individuals.  All passengers and the driver must wear a mask. Increase ventilation by opening windows and limit the time in a vehicle.

Organization Training & Advising

The Student Org Resource Desk in the University Student Center will be closed until further notice; however, the Office of Student Life will continue to offer support through Org Help email and virtual office hours. Student organizations may now sign up for virtual Org Help Hours for spring 2021. Org Help Office Hours are available on weekdays from 2-5 pm (Eastern). If slots are filled or they don’t fit your schedule, please email [email protected] with your question or to request a meeting.

Student organizations with an assigned Staff Advisor should plan to meet with their advisor virtually or via phone throughout the semester. Advisor assignments are reviewed on an annual basis. You can view your organization's staff advisor assignment in your organization's profile within Engage. If your group does not have an assigned staff advisor, “Org Help” will be assigned the role of Student Org Advisor.

The physical location of the Student Organization Finance Desk is also closed until further notice. Student organizations should continue to submit purchase requests via Engage. Email the following contacts with any finance questions: 

  • SA co-sponsorship requests: SA Finance Committee - [email protected]
  • Purchase requests from SA allocation: SA Vice President for Financial Affairs - [email protected]
  • Purchase requests from revenue account and general finance questions: Org Finances - [email protected]

All student organizations were required to complete mandatory training at the beginning of the fall semester. This training covered policies and procedures, COVID-19 information, and resources for managing your organization virtually. Student organization officers may continue to review the Fall Org Officer Orientation at their convenience. We strongly encourage all new officers to complete this training module.

Additional training will be offered throughout the academic year through the Excellence in Leadership Sessions (ELS) program.  All ELS sessions will take place virtually (live) or through an online module (on demand). In addition to the mandatory fall training, organizations must send officers to four additional ELS workshops throughout the year, one of which must be on topics related to Title IX (sex/gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic and/or dating violence prevention and response)

Enforcement & Accountability

Maintaining a healthy campus environment is the responsibility of all members of the university community. In addition to individual responsibility, members of the community should foster accountability in the people around them and should address instances of non-compliance directly, if they are comfortable and it is safe to do so.

Each in-person event must have at least one designated event host who represents the organization and is responsible for ensuring all guidelines are followed. If an attendee refuses to follow established guidance, they should be asked to leave and may be reported for non-compliance. Alleged violations of these policies by a student or student organization should be reported to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, [email protected], or 202-994-6757. Potential consequences for failure to abide by these policies may include but are not limited to, censure, loss of privileges, and frozen financial accounts.

Summer and Fall 2021

While the above guidelines focus heavily on the current academic year, student organizations can expect the same or similar guidelines throughout the summer and until campus returns to a more normal operating status. For this reason, we are not currently approving purchase requests or signing contracts for summer and fall events that do not meet the above guidelines. 

We will continue to review COVID-19 information and guidance provided by the university, public health experts, and local officials as the situation evolves. These guidelines are subject to change and may be scaled back or expanded as conditions change.