More on Restart Plans for Undergraduate Students


Clarkson Community,

We appreciate your patience and attention as we share our current plans in a dynamic national environment subject to evolving directives and guidance from local, NYS and federal representatives as well as new best practices emerging from industry and our peers.  If better processes, practices and procedures emerge we will make those adjustments.  Similarly, if we are required to adjust to more stringent requirements, we will make those adjustments.  In both cases we will inform you as soon as is practical.  

Restart Task Force

More on Restart Plans for Students

Clarkson Students and Families,

We hope this message continues to find you and your family safe and well, and looking forward to the Fall Semester starting soon.  We recognize that this is a long communication to all students.  We appreciate your time and diligence in reviewing this information as well as being on the lookout for additional targeted communications that will come on each topic as we get closer to the beginning of the semester. 

We also ask for your indulgence to take a few moments this Independence holiday week to think reflectively about the world we live in and how each of us can influence it for positive social good.

Students, you are tomorrow’s scientists, engineers, educators, entrepreneurs, business people, health professionals and imaginative leaders — the essential workforce that the world needs right now and into the future. As hard as it may be to consider now, 2020 is on pace to be the year you acquire skills and insights far superior to the Clarkson alumni who have come before you. How we come together to handle adversity, create social change and accept responsibility for protecting each other will further differentiate our abilities to apply scientific knowledge, analytical thinking and technology to better the world for all people.  

Through diligence by many working together, our North Country region has by far the lowest incidence of COVID-19 in New York State.  It is clear during this crisis that we have one of the best rural medical networks in the nation for prevention as well as treatment.  The St. Lawrence Health System (SLHS) that runs Canton-Potsdam Hospital (CPH) and our Student Health Center on campus, the St. Lawrence County Board of Health and St. Lawrence County Public Health Department have worked diligently with institutions like Clarkson as well as the community at large to keep us all safe. 

Early in the pandemic, the University shared its engineering and air-borne particle expertise with SLHS to help change the HVAC and construct a new COVID unit in Canton-Potsdam Hospital (located one mile from our campus) that is isolated from other emergency and in-patient units.  This was among other innovation and technology projects to help respond to the pandemic and shortages of critical equipment early in the crisis.  As part of our assurances in bringing students back, SLHS CEO David Acker shared with our Board of Trustees their readiness to respond to COVID-19 as well as to keep patients safe who have other medical needs.  

We are completing our required reopening plan for New York State, which will have details beyond those shared in this message and will be posted and made available to the greater Clarkson community when finalized.  As we reopen, your safety and well-being remains our shared priority and is reflected in our decisions that meet and exceed the mandates issued by NYS.  

Chief among these protocols outlined and linked below is that everyone will wear a face covering in classrooms, indoor public spaces and offices at all times when around others. In other settings, any time an individual comes within six-feet of another person who does not reside in the same residence (i.e. roommate), acceptable face coverings must be worn (mask).  Individuals must be prepared to don a face covering if another person unexpectedly comes within six feet.  Coupled with a rigorous hygiene routine and mindful social distancing, all evidence points to facial coverings doing more to protect each other than all of the additional measures we are taking for disinfecting, installations of plexiglass, air-handling/HVAC changes, etc.  It is everyone’s job to stop the spread and save lives.

Our greater Clarkson community, including the Village of Potsdam, wants to see you.  We respectfully ask that everyone in our University community who returns to campus this fall accepts the responsibility to protect themselves and each other, including those who serve us in the wider community. 

It is in this lens that we share this update with you and the greater University community for your education that begins later this summer.

President Tony Collins and Restart Team Leads

I. Summary of Key Dates and Items for Fall Semester

To recap the message to the University community last week, we plan to begin the fall semester for in person instruction in Potsdam on Wednesday, August 19 with the last final exams on Tuesday, November 24.  There will be no official fall break, however, there will be days structured as alternatives to breaks.  We are asking students to stay on campus/ in the North Country for the duration of the semester.  Most students will go home for the Thanksgiving and December holidays and will return to campus for the Spring Semester which is scheduled to begin January 13, 2021, one day earlier than originally posted.  Students will have the option to increasingly participate in professional experiences, such as co-ops and internships, during the lengthened winter term.

Please contact the Dean of Students if you are requesting to remain in residence on campus over winter break, with the exception of winter sport athletes who will get more information from the Athletic department and coaching staff regarding their housing and schedule during this time. 

The professional programs in the Lewis School of Health Sciences Graduate programs have the same schedule as originally posted.  Students in the Physician Assistant program returned in June for in person education and the other health sciences will be on campus in July.

Students who are immunocompromised or who have an underlying health condition are asked to contact the Office of Accessibility Services ( to determine housing recommendations, options, and plans.  Vulnerable populations in our community and students who are not comfortable returning to campus in the Fall can still safely participate in remote education and online learning with the full complement of support services that will allow them to maintain progress towards completing their degree on time.  Students who plan to attend remotely should contact their Student Administrative Service Representative as soon as possible.

Student move-in will be staggered to reduce the density on the residence hall floors.  Students from an easy driving distance can drop off the majority of their personal items into residence halls July 22-29, 2020 and then return to their home until the evening before classes resume on the 19th of August. Please refer to Section II. C. ResidentialLiving/ Housing on Campus below for more details.

We are also monitoring the NYS order that residents from some states with high-incidences of coronavirus will need to self-quarantine for 14 days before participating in campus activities. This also includes anyone who vacations or has a household member who has conducted business in one of these states two weeks prior to arrival on campus, but does not apply if you simply pass through the state for less than 24 hours.  While some of this information is still fluid, be assured we will work with those impacted.  This list of states may change over time so please check for the most up-to-date information immediately before travel that may impact your trip to Potsdam. We are anticipating more guidance from NYS in the near term and will send more information to those who live in a state identified. 

St. Lawrence Health System that operates Canton-Potsdam Hospital in Potsdam and our Student Health Center on campus, continues to follow and seek out the latest guidance and effective solutions for screening and testing for COVID-19. Students and families are asked to be extra conscientious of their potential to be exposed in the 14 days leading up to moving back on campus and get tested seven days prior to returning to campus. Please see Section III. Screening, Monitoring and Containment of this communication that covers more on our current health and wellness protocol for COVID-19.

All course schedules are currently going through scenario planning for locations to meet social distancing recommendations that reduce in-person class sizes and some adjustments to allow more time between classes to reduce congestion in the hallways and support proper ventilation.  The schedule of classes and the ability to modify individual class schedules is unavailable while these reviews take place.  Once the schedule review is done, the revised class schedule and the ability to modify your individual class schedule will be restored.  We expect these to be available in the next week.

Finally, as always, undergraduate students will be able to request a deferral (gap year) or leave of absence. The deadline for new students to apply for a deferral through the Office of Undergraduate Admission is July 7th. Requests for new students must be submitted to Brian Grant, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Advancement at for approval.  Current Clarkson students may request leaves of absence according to individual schools’ policies. Students who plan to live in the residence halls will be asked to confirm whether they plan to join us in the fall by July 7th.

II.  Reopening the Campus in Potsdam

A.    Academic Options and Flexibility

We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic challenged many of our students and their families on multiple fronts. For that reason, we are providing additional learning and engagement options this coming year that will ensure student success

All students who wish to return to on campus learning are welcome and we are also very ready to accommodate students who do not return to campus this fall. We have enhanced classroom technology and faculty have adapted their teaching methodologies so that students are able to engage in person and online – you can take courses from anywhere in the world. 

In accordance with the best practices recommended by NYS in its most recent guidance, we have considered a mix of in person and online classes. We will augment the NYS guidance by encouraging experiential learning in smaller groups, and participation in related co-curricular and extra curricular activities. Fall courses will be offered through a variety of modes integrating face-to-face and online learning approaches.  Should students need to or choose to stay in their home communities, all classes will be available via distance with the exception of those identified on the schedule as in-person only. Those include courses that require hands-on training for credentials and some laboratory courses that do not have ways for some students to participate remotely.  This approach also enables any student who needs to temporarily quarantine or self-isolate due to possible exposure to COVID-19 are accommodated.  Students who plan to attend remotely for the whole Fall semester should notify their representative in Student Administrative Services so that the class roster reflects your attendance as a distance student for NYS Education Department records.

Regardless of where our students are, our goal is to provide an engaging and enriching Clarkson academic experience.  Through scenario planning exercises and open forums, over 200 faculty, staff, and students helped us create new learning spaces, new experiences, and new safety and health measures, that will benefit our community of scholars, educators, and learners into the future.

From these planning meetings and working with our Faculty Experts Panel, our classrooms are being equipped with lecture capture and learning technologies. Our class schedule was modified to include 20 minute breaks between room usage to minimize traffic congestion and allow time to wipe-down surfaces.  Physical spaces were adjusted to maximize social distancing and fresh air flow. In accordance with the NYS interim guidance for reopening plans and the guidance issued for research at higher education institutions, no classroom, study space or laboratory will have no more than 50% of its normal occupancy with recommended attention toward six foot distancing. 

Because of these social distancing requirements and their effect on our classroom capacity, large classes have been split into smaller sections supported by technology-enhanced learning.  Some classes have been “flipped” so that smaller groups of students engage, face-to-face, in discussions and hands-on activities. As we reduced class sizes and faculty planned for fall, courses that are ideally suited for robust and dynamic online learning were designed specifically for this delivery mode. For classes and sections offered in-person, there will be a remote option for students who are not in residence. The deans and faculty in our schools and institutes are continuing to innovate ways to maximize student engagement in and out of the classroom.  We are taking this opportunity to add some exciting new learning opportunities.

Faculty have been engaging this summer in a comprehensive series of RISE workshops (Reframing Instruction for Success Everywhere) to further replicate the world where students will gain future employment and navigate distance relationships.  Learning from the rapid pivot we made in March, they are more prepared for expanding options in online education, tailoring communication methods and syllabi to give more detailed information for students with different learning styles in digital environments, and ways to incorporate technology to create high quality learning experiences and objectives that complement their in person learning experiences.

Our graduate programs are also being creative about tailoring the graduate experience to these new conditions. Because of the unique approach to each program of study, the Dean of the Graduate School and graduate program directors will be reaching out directly to students as we approach the fall semester opening.

The success of every aspect of these plans depends on Clarkson’s dedicated and talented faculty and staff, whose health and safety are also of paramount importance to Clarkson now and beyond this fall. Just as we know that some students need to remain at home this fall, we know that, even with the extensive precautions, not all faculty, staff, and graduate assistants will be in a position to resume in-person work and teaching.  We are implementing team teaching in many instances to further support the mentoring that can be done remotely along with the in person instruction.

Decisions about how courses will be taught are grounded in best practices for student learning, our classroom capacity in light of public health requirements, and the availability of our faculty to teach in person. Students will receive notice of their updated course schedules within a couple of weeks so that they can make any adjustments well ahead of the start of the Fall semester.

Just as we do every year, we have made recommendations for computing hardware to support these learning modalities and meet the minimum requirements for our degree programs. In addition to acquiring hardware, to ensure the longevity of the system during your time at Clarkson, we recommend that students purchase an extended warranty that includes on site service and comprehensive insurance that covers breakage, theft and all-hazard coverage.

B.    Expectations For All of Us

Throughout this reopening of campus and welcoming new students to our Clarkson family, we remain committed to the safety and wellness of everyone in our community.  As we outlined in the opening of this communication, 2020 may be a once in a lifetime opportunity to gain the experience of being a part of something larger than ourselves.  For example, the reason for wearing a mask and following the safety guidance issued is to protect your community — and in turn, others will protect you by doing the same.  

Based on earlier survey responses and work already in progress, there is great stakeholder interest in shaping a social contract that connects us all to the behaviors and practices we need to uphold to protect ourselves and each other. We are currently calling this the Clarkson Commitmentwith a draft already started.  Below are a few example statements from the working document that every member of our community will be asked to sign.  The Clarkson Commitment and Student Wellness Plan will be available on your Student Checklist in myCU by July 10, 2020.

I commit to:

●      Always wearing my face covering (appropriate mask) any time I am indoors–excluding my assigned residence hall room/suite/apartment–including but not limited to hallways, bathrooms, academic spaces, study/lounge spaces, dining facilities, and fitness facilities, and any time I am outdoors while within six feet of another person.

●      Complying with the event and gathering restrictions announced by the University and/or local/state/federal authorities, whether now in effect or imposed at a later date.

●      Immediately self-isolating and contacting Student Health and Counseling should I become sick with a fever, cough and/or possible symptoms of COVID-19.  For students, Health Center office hours are Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. After hours, I commit to contacting Urgent Care or the Emergency department at Canton-Potsdam Hospital. If I have difficulty breathing or experience emergency symptoms, I will call 911.”

●      Not traveling domestically (outside of the North Country Region) or internationally during each semester. In the event of an emergency or medical situation, a student must request permission at least three business days in advance, absent emergencies, to travel by completing the Travel Request Form. Students who receive approval to travel are required to follow University directives regarding self-isolation upon their return.”

C.  Residential Living/Housing on Campus

Residence guidelines and protocols for student housing have been prepared based upon NYS and public health directives. Clarkson will continue to provide a residential experience that supports and enhances the student experience. Although living arrangements will be similar to previous years, the University will not be operating as usual. New protocols have been put into place to provide students a safe and engaging living experience. These links take you to detailed plans regarding reopeningstudent expectations for safety and wellnesscontainment and student monitoring, and student departure in the event NYS or local directives call for us to reduce the campus population.  What follows here are summaries of this information.  Individualized communications will be sent based on your class year, fall sports, state of residence, etc. 

1.    Staggered Student Move-in and Arrival

Students from within an easy driving distance can drop off their belongings at scheduled intervals starting July 22-29. All other students will begin August 16 unless otherwise notified/arranged.  This will decrease density during move in processes and also will give parents an opportunity to help settle students into a living space.

a.    Student Early Drop Off and Move In  

○       July 22-July 29: Early Drop Off

■       10 students per building/area every 2 hours

■       No guests will be permitted in the residence halls after July 29.

●       Up to two family members/guests may accompany their student during the early drop off process from July 22- July 29; students will pre-register for time slots.

●       Only student building residents and designated employees may enter the residence halls after July 29th.

○       August 16-August 17: move-in for first-year and transfer students, out-of-state, and international students (more is coming on quarantine process for some students)

■       Curbside move-in only.  No guests permitted to enter residence halls.

○       August 18 : move-in for returning, out-of-state, and international students

■       Curbside move-in only.  No guests permitted to enter residence halls.

b.    Late Arrivals

Due to the semester calendar change to best manage safety of all members of the University community, we will work with all students who are unable to arrive by the start of the semester on August 19.  This may be due to co-op, internship, travel issues, health issues, etc.  These students are expected to complete the Late Arrival Form.  All students who intend to study in person should plan to arrive no later than August 30.

2. Summary of Plans to Reduce and Monitor Capacity in Campus Housing per NYS Guidance

We are following the recommended best practices to limit access to residence halls/apartments to only those living in the facility, who are expected to abide by all building and campus protocols.  Campus living arrangements will be the same as previous years with traditional single rooms and double rooms, suite style single rooms and double rooms, and apartment single rooms and double rooms, but no triple rooms will be used. Students living in a corridor-style room with a roommate or an apartment with their “family units” that share a common lounge do not have to wear a face covering in their room or apartment, but must do so upon exiting their residence.  Laundry room usage will operate according to a schedule due to new occupancy limits. Only residents of assigned rooms will be allowed in the residential space and no guests will be permitted in the residence halls after July 29.  Details on all of these protocols and additional measures using best practices to keep students safe are on the website.

Undergraduates, please look for these forthcoming communications from the Offices of Residence Life and Student Life as we build out plans that will be consistent with the current /latest directives and guidance from NYS. 

●       Week of July 6: Clarkson Commitment Introduction

●       Week of July 13: First Year Room Assignments/Early Drop Off/Move In Process

●       Week of July 13: Early Drop Off Sign Up

●       Week of July 20: First Floor Meeting

●       Week of July 27: Relationship 101

●       Week of August 3: Regular Move In Process[1] 

3. Dining Services  

We know there are many questions on dining services. This area of operations still has evolving NYS guidance for higher education, the dining industry and gathering sizes. Based on the current guidance, we are confident that the ‘back-of-the-house’ mandates and best practices to ensure safe food handling during COVID-19 are in place.  Right now, it does not look like self-serve options will be allowed, but grab-and-go of pre-packaged items will be.  We are currently planning an online ordering app with pick-up locations distributed across campus to reduce density in traditional dining locations and bring more convenience to students under these unusual circumstances.  These choices will accommodate different dietary choices and needs.  We are also planning to deploy ‘pick-up lockers’ to further minimize contact and appropriate interim storage.  To start the semester when lesser gathering sizes are anticipated, we will expand outdoor seating for dining, studying and socializing. 

D. Extracurricular Activities

1.   Student Organizations & Activities

Through the Office of Student Life (OSL), we will support student clubs, organizations, and activities that encourage respect, wellness management and fun! We will continue to staff events and the Student Center desk so that the student body can experience a fun college environment that is socially conscious and safe.  We also will work diligently to include students studying remotely in many activities.

Student groups will be encouraged to host their regular meetings online and host in-person events as space and NYS guidelines allow. Groups that can participate in outdoor activities will host games and local trips to outdoor areas. Clubs and organizations will be required to register all travel outside of the University grounds with OSL prior to departure with a participant list.

We will host virtual and in-person activities fairs to help students identify organizations they would like to join.  The Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley (Clarkson, St. Lawrence, SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam) are working together to co-sponsor virtual performers and speakers, in addition to campus-based in-person events that can be shared virtually throughout the semester.

2.   Athletics

Athletic leagues are moving forward and working on schedules to hold their fall and winter seasons in a way for student-athletes to compete in a safe and healthy manner. The leagues are currently establishing travel protocols for locker room standards, scheduling and transportation as well as setting ground rules for fan attendance that may further be defined by NYS guidelines and directives on gathering sizes. 

III.  Screening, Monitoring of Health Conditions, and Containment

Clarkson’s protocols for screening, testing, monitoring and containing for COVID-19 follow the recommendations of St. Lawrence Health System that operates our Student Health Center and the local Canton-Potsdam Hospital located one mile from campus and the St. Lawrence County Board of Health as monitored by St. Lawrence County Public Health.

A.  Ongoing Screening

With other higher education institutions in the region, we are in the process of implementing a mobile phone app for all faculty, staff and students to respond to regular screening questions based on symptoms of COVID-19 to complement testing programs. Here are the currently planned questions:

  • Do you currently have a fever (temperature of 100.4 F or greater) without having taken any fever-reducing medications?
  • Have you experienced any of the following COVID-19 related symptoms in the past 14 days: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell?
  • Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days, or have you been instructed by a health care professional/public health official/contact tracing app to self-isolate or quarantine?
  • Have you knowingly been in close (within 6 feet) or proximate (same enclosed environment, such as an office, but greater than 6 feet) contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who has or had symptoms of COVID-19 within the past 14 days?
  • Have you, or anyone you live with, traveled outside the North Country in the last 14 days?
  • Based on the screening questions answers, students may be asked to undergo further testing.  Screening programs to detect asymptomatic students with COVID-19 do not replace important measures such as hand-washing, social distancing, face mask use and tracing/isolation when someone comes into contact with a person who has tested positive.  

B.  Planned Testing to Start Academic Year

Students from all over the country are moving into a region that has a very low rate of COVID-19 infection.  It is our objective with the other higher education institutions in the region to ensure all students who come to St. Lawrence County are healthy and stay safe, and to maintain the region’s status as a community that has been diligent in prevention and containment.  When we can sustain staying safe, we can resume more of the traditional activities and learning opportunities within our region later in the year.

Before students come on campus for the Fall semester, they will need to undergo COVID-19 testing with RT-PCR (not serology). This must be scheduled to be performed within 7 calendar days prior to arrival on campus. Students with a positive test prior to arrival will not be allowed to be present on campus in person.  Based on some medical practices/localities needing more justification, we will be sending a communication from the Student Health Center managed by St. Lawrence Health System and the St. Lawrence County Board of Health with this reopening requirement that you may give your provider/ local testing site.  We will be sending closer to the reopening date the method for reporting your test results.  International students and students coming from a state that is under a NYS mandated travel advisory will get separate communication on testing — we are still getting guidance from NYS on the quarantine parameters when combined with a COVID-19 test that is negative.   Please contact if your provider/ public health agency is not able to secure a test with these additional resources.

Medical professionals from St. Lawrence Health System and our affiliated Physician Assistant program members who have been trained in administering the COVID-19 test will do a second test 7 days after each student arrives on campus.  Students will get more information on where and how they will take place.  The results of this second round of testing, and the occurrence of positive cases throughout the semester,  will determine the pattern for additional testing.

C.   Positive Case Response Plan

Clarkson has developed plans and protocols to respond to positive or suspected cases as well as preventative policies and practices.  Students who test positive for acute COVID-19 (by RT-PCR) will be contacted immediately by Student Health Center personnel (these are St. Lawrence Health System employees) at the university as well as St. Lawrence County Department of Health staff. Every effort will be made to maintain the student’s confidentiality concerning the diagnosis. Similar to our previous Student Wellness Plans, it is recommended that when possible, the student return to his/her/their permanent residence and pursue the guidance from their regular family care and provider networks; however that may not be possible for a variety of reasons.   Students who can’t return to their permanent address or indicated that they prefer to self-isolate or quarantine on campus will follow the protocols outlined for campus residents.   For detailed information, please review the Clarkson University Positive Case Response Plan.

IV.   Future Ready

The University wide announcements and copies of most communications based on the specific cohort you are in (fall sports, first-year, state of residence, etc.) will be posted at and other checklists in MyCU along with components of this plan as they evolve.  This site also shares the guiding principles, examples of work underway and details the various work groups on the Restart Task Force with contact information. 

Thank you for staying with us to the end of this long communication.  We know you have already adapted to many, many challenges and life changes that this pandemic has created.  Your patience, goodwill and resilience have been very appreciated.   Best wishes for your continued health and safety.

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