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Northwestern will require incoming students to shelter in place for two weeks

‘Wildcat Wellness’ aimed at encouraging health and safety upon return to campus
wildcat wellness
Wildcat Wellness runs Sept. 6-20 as Northwestern’s Fall Quarter begins.

Northwestern University will require all students arriving to live on campus or in the Evanston area to follow a modified quarantine period known as Wildcat Wellness for two weeks Sept. 6-20 — much like the previously issued Illinois stay-at-home order — aimed at encouraging health and safety on campus and trying to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

“It is critical that we each take responsibility for maintaining the health of our community,” Vice President for Student Affairs Julie Payne-Kirchmeier and Interim Provost Kathleen Hagerty wrote in a message to all students today (July 31). “As a condition of returning to campus, students, faculty and staff are required to follow policies, protocols and guidance designed to protect everyone’s health.”

In a separate, earlier message to faculty and staff, Hagerty wrote that the modified quarantine period would help “support healthy Northwestern and Evanston communities and create an equitable way to adhere to CDC and local travel quarantine guidance.”

Hagerty encouraged faculty and staff during this period to “refrain from scheduling in-person activities except those that are essential to support students’ return during Wildcat Wellness.” In addition, she added, “Schools and units should evaluate whether staff should be on campus or remote and how best to support Wildcat Wellness.”

Wildcat Wellness

The return to campus message to students stated that the goals of Wildcat Wellness are to:

  • Reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19;
  • Help students coming to the Evanston community for the fall be better positioned to start the quarter healthy and well; 
  • Create a clear and equitable way for our campus community to adhere to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local travel quarantine guidance; and
  • Be responsible members of our neighboring communities. 

“If you arrive in Evanston after Sept. 6, your two-week Wildcat Wellness will begin upon arrival,” Payne-Kirchmeier and Hagerty wrote in their message to students. “A period of coordinated testing will occur following students’ return to campus. Northwestern continues to refine the testing protocols, and testing-specific communications will follow as the start of fall approaches. Students, faculty and staff participating in Chicago programs must adhere to the city’s Emergency Travel Order.”

In the message to faculty and staff, Hagerty said that the first several days of Fall Quarter classes begin within this Sept. 6-20 period and “should be conducted remotely. Evanston in-person classes that cannot meet remotely may be rescheduled to begin after Sept. 20, and make-up sessions can be added. Any programs that are already underway before Sept. 6 may continue operations, limiting social contact as much as possible during this time.” 

Hagerty emphasized that the University continues to develop plans to test students who come to campus in the fall and that some of that testing will take place during Wildcat Wellness. 

Community expectations

Students returning to campus will be required to complete Return to Campus training. Similar training is also required for faculty and staff. Students also must review and agree to a revised set of community expectations in CAESAR on Northwestern’s website in order to register for fall classes.

Payne-Kirchmeier and Hagerty wrote that community members who violate these expectations may face disciplinary actions. For students, this could mean a range of responses ranging from a reminder in cases of unintentionally not following guidance to separation from the University in severe cases of repeat offenses of intentionally disregarding expectations.

In the message to students, the two leaders laid out the most in-depth summary to date of what the student experience will be like this fall — whether students return to campus or choose to live away from campus and study remotely.

The message contained a variety of details for what both options would entail as well as information on the housing situation on and off campus, dining experiences and the availability of student support services. The message also gave details on student organizations, events, activities and recreation and competitive sports.

University leaders have said they are mindful of the difficult decisions parents and students have to make in this uncertain environment, and Northwestern is doing everything it can to communicate the latest information and planning updates as quickly and transparently as possible to try to make the decisions facing students and parents easier for Northwestern families.

“Northwestern has long been an institution focused on balancing a robust academic education with a vibrant and engaging student experience. This is still true, even during this global pandemic,” Payne-Kirchmeier and Hagerty wrote. “You will be a full member of the Northwestern community, whether you study remotely or on campus for what will undeniably be a fall different from any other in our history.” 

For students who choose to study remotely, the message said they expect almost all classes will be remote and most hybrid classes will offer a fully remote option.

For students who choose to come to campus to study, the leaders said they expected almost all classes would be remote as well, though some classes will meet in person, whether hybrid or entirely face-to-face. 

Plans could change

The two leaders also cautioned in their message that these plans could change as the COVID-19 crisis plays out. 

“As a core principle of our return to campus planning, we will put the health of our community first,” Payne-Kirchmeier and Hagerty wrote in their message.

“As the COVID pandemic evolves, we will continue to follow state and local regulations and the advice of our experts in medicine and public health, which means our plans may change,” they said. “Any updates to these plans will be communicated through the Northwestern COVID-19 website.”

Return to Campus Discussion Series

Upcoming sessions in the Return to Campus Discussion Series will share more details about testing, travel, recreation and student services. Specifically, on Aug. 4 and Aug. 13, webinars will focus on health and safety, as well as on the student experience. Questions for the webinars may be submitted by emailing them to or calling 847-467-4111.