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Climate advisory - Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success

 May 27, 2020

by Aashir Nasim, Ph.D.
Vice President, Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success
Director and Professor, Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation


About the May 21, 2020 survey administration. Institutional Equity, in collaboration with Institutional Research and Decision Support (IRDS), administered the VCU Fall 2020 Planning Student Survey to continuing undergraduate, graduate and first professional students. The brief eight-item survey presented a range of fall 2020 campus reopening scenarios to students and assessed (a) students’ ability to adapt to fall calendar and instruction scenarios, course delivery modes, and mid-semester transitions; (b) their perceived ability to adhere to campus safety and risk mitigation measures enacted by the university; and (c) students’ confidence in community and residential housing scenarios. A total of 23,077 students were invited to complete the survey, of which 7,408 students (32.1% response rate) have completed at least one survey question to-date. Below, survey preliminary data are reported by item topic. Final analyses and results interpretation will be made available following the survey close date on May 29, 2020.


Fall Calendar and Instruction Scenarios. The university is considering a number of scenarios that would conclude courses before faculty, staff and student travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. This effort is solely to help mitigate potential risks for virus exposure. Please indicate the level to which you are willing and ready to adapt to the following scenarios (agree/somewhat agree):

  1. I am willing to attend Fall classes in-person on the regular August start date and continue courses and exams online after Thanksgiving break.
    1. All students: 55.4%
    2. Race / ethnicity: 57.7% (White), 55.3% (Asian), 53.4% (URM), 46.3% (International)
    3. First-generation: 53.1%
    4. Pell-grant eligible: 52.7%
  2. I am ready to adapt to a regular August start date with in-person classes, and ending instruction before Thanksgiving break.
    1. All students: 59.9%
    2. Race / ethnicity: 64.2% (White), 58.6% (Asian), 57.3% (URM), 42.3% (International)
    3. First-generation: 60.4%
    4. Pell-grant eligible: 57.1%
  3. I am ready to adapt to a regular August start date with most of all instruction remote /online for the entire semester.
    1. All students: 51.5%
    2. Race / ethnicity: 66.6% (International), 52.3% (Asian), 51.3% (URM), 49.9% (White)
    3. First-generation: 50.7%
    4. Pell-grant eligible: 51.1%

Course Delivery Modes. Based on current projections, we will attempt to reopen campus keeping in mind class size, physical distancing and other risk mitigation measures. Please indicate the level to which you agree or disagree on your readiness and willingness to adapt to starting fall classes with the following course delivery scenarios (agree/somewhat agree).

  1. I would be willing and ready to attend all my courses online.
    1. All students: 50%
    2. MP College / School (Hi): 68.2% (School of Education), 66.7% (University College)
    3. MP College / School (Lo): 31.0% (School of the Arts), 47.1% (Wilder School)
    4. First-generation: 49.6%
    5. Pell-grant eligible: 49.9%
  2. I am concerned about my access to wifi and other technology needed for online courses.
    1. All students: 28%
    2. First-generation: 31.8%
    3. Pell-grant eligible: 32.6%
  3. I would be willing and ready to attend some of my courses on-line and some in-person (i.e., a mixture of course delivery modes suitable for the type of instruction).
    1. All students: 66.5%
    2. Student type: 72.7% (first professional) 66.7% (undergraduates), 64.6% (graduate)
    3. UG class status: 51.3% (freshmen), 69.7% (sophomores), 66.7% (juniors), 65.5% (seniors)
  4. (Due to physical distancing requirements) I am okay with needing to be physically present for some of my scheduled classes and taking my other classes completely online or a mix between in-person and online.
    1. All students: 71.4%
    2. Additional data forthcoming

Mid-Semester Adjustments. VCU plans to offer in-person classes as long as it is safe to do so. In the event of a secondary wave showing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases:

  1. I would seriously consider withdrawing from classes, if in-person instruction transitions to remote/online instruction (agree/somewhat agree).
    1. All students: 30.4%
    2. First-generation: 35.6%
    3. Pell-grant eligible: 34.9%


Individual Behavior. Upon return to campus, we are considering preventative measures such as wearing facecloth, frequent handwashing, and physical distancing. Please indicate your willingness to practice in these safety behaviors (yes for all students).

  1. I would wear a facecloth: 86.5%
  2. I would practice frequent handwashing: 97.4%
  3. I would practice physical distancing: 88.4%
  4. I am willing to self-monitor my individual health, including self-checks of my temperature: 91.2%
  5. I am willing to regularly attest to my state of health: 91.9%
  6. I would hold my peers accountable to safety standards and the practice of safety behaviors: 80.9%
  7. In addition to the safety behaviors, if the need arises, I am willing to transition to rapid isolation, testing and contact tracing by university officials: 82.7%


Residential Housing and Community Confidence. VCU is committed to ensuring a safe learning and living environment for all students. With all the necessary guidelines and procedures in place, to what level are you concerned about the following situations (agree/somewhat agree for applicable students)?

  1. I am okay with a room assignment resulting in sharing a room with a roommate: 37.6%
  2. I am okay, only if I had a room to myself: 74.5%
  3. Even with all the necessary precautions in place, I would still be concerned with living on campus in a residence hall: 54.4%
  4. Even with necessary precautions in place, I would be concerned about areas with higher student traffic (dining facilities, library, university commons, recreation sports, etc.): 69.1%