When the global pandemic was declared in spring 2020, Elon University made the health and safety of the entire campus community the top priority, adopting policies and practices to mitigate the spread of the virus while allowing students to continue to progress in their education and achieve their goals. The second half of the Spring 2020 semester was moved to remote learning with most students leaving campus and all non-essential campus offices and operations reduced or shut down.
Elon returned to on-campus learning in Fall 2020 with a campus campaign called “Ready and Resilient,” an effort across all academic and administrative departments to conduct in-person classes and operations while giving everyone the tools they needed to guard against the virus. Students were welcomed back to campus with a supply of facemasks, hand sanitizers and new rules related to mitigating the potential spread of the virus.
Faculty who had utilized remote learning technologies at the end of the 2020 Spring Semester used those same systems and pedagogies to help students in quarantine or isolation continue their studies and keep up with their classes. Critical to these efforts was a sophisticated system to provide symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID testing for the campus, quickly identifying cases and moving affected students into isolation or quarantine, either in their own housing or in local hotel spaces. Robust contact tracing was conducted by local health officials and then by university personnel to quarantine those who had been exposed to the virus and guard against major outbreaks.
Student Life staff coordinated by the Office of Student Care and Outreach delivered meals and health supplies to students in quarantine spaces and kept in regular contact with them to monitor their health and well-being. In addition, Elon added personnel and service hours to its Student Health Services operation and contracted with a telehealth service to give all students 24/7 access to health advice and counseling services.
A special COVID website was established with a daily dashboard to keep everyone informed of campus policies and the presence of the virus on campus. In addition, a weekly email newsletter with vital information was distributed to all students, parents, faculty and staff. There were also informational and instructional videos and social media posts, and a special campus telephone hotline so students, parents and faculty/staff could ask questions.
A special campus committee of faculty and staff met weekly to guide campus policies and protocols and a separate data science committee also met weekly to monitor a wide range of metrics and provide advice on special measures that were necessary when COVID cases increased. When vaccines became available in the middle of the 2020-2021 academic year, Elon conducted an aggressive campaign to help students get their vaccinations at on-campus clinics or at local providers or pharmacies.
The campus “Ready and Resilient” campaign that rallied the campus during the first year of the pandemic transitioned to a new campaign called “Healthy Elon” for the 2021-2022 academic year. The goal was to position all members of the campus community to make wise personal choices to protect themselves and others and to maintain good physical and mental health.
In August 2021, President Connie Book announced the naming of Medallion Plaza adjacent to Lakeside Dining Hall to “honor the collective service” of all students, faculty and staff during the pandemic. “We acknowledge the hundreds of you who volunteered, the work of each of you on behalf of each other, the kindness and grace and most of all patience — even when we have disagreed — that we demonstrated during difficult conditions,” Book said. “You have inspired us.”