The message was sent to all Duke undergraduate students.

Dear undergraduate students,

Regardless of where you are this fall, we hope that your first days of fall classes are going well. Whether you’re in Durham or engaging remotely, please know that our teams, your faculty, and your advisors are here for you and eager to connect in the days and weeks ahead.

We’re writing to provide you with updates on confirmed and possible COVID cases in our student community, report the preliminary degree of Duke Compact compliance, and describe steps we can all take to help mitigate health risks in our community. Going forward, we anticipate sending you a bi-weekly message refreshing this information and sharing important updates, such as the number of COVID cases and trends in compliance and conduct outcomes. Regular updates will be important, as we know that the steps being taken today—both the decisions you make on a daily basis to comply with health guidance and educational and conduct-related efforts—will be reflected in lower COVID rates in the future weeks.

We need your help—every single one of you—to help keep our community safer.


As of Friday, Duke University’s comprehensive COVID-19 testing program has administered 5,765 tests to the undergraduate and graduate students who have returned to campus since August 2. Many more graduate and professional students will undergo their arrival tests over the next two weeks. Additional ongoing testing of asymptomatic students begins today.

We can report that the testing process identified 11 students as positive for COVID-19 as of last Friday (including the four who were announced last week). Those students are now in isolation and receiving support from Student Health and the isolation logistics team until cleared by medical staff.

As of Friday, another seven students were placed in quarantine on-campus and 66 were asked to quarantine off-campus. We ask students to quarantine when they have had contact with individuals who have tested positive either here at Duke or elsewhere. These students will need to stay away from others until Student Health determines if they have contracted COVID-19.


Overall, undergraduate compliance with wearing face coverings and several of the other Duke Compact expectations has been very high. Thank you to everyone who has adjusted to wearing face coverings continuously, washing hands often, reporting symptoms daily, and participating in testing protocols. The collective effort you’re making for yourselves, your peers, and our broader Duke and Durham community is precisely what we’d expect from every member of the Blue Devil team.

It has been more challenging for students to maintain a social distance of 6 feet and to gather in groups of less than ten people. Spreading out and reducing the total size of groups is absolutely critical to our community safety efforts. We recommend eating and hanging out outside on the lawns and plazas, where you will have better opportunities to engage with friends while staying apart. Thanks for working with us and for helping each other remember, too.

Many students, DSG, neighbors, community members, and faculty, have all raised concerns about the enforcement of COVID policy expectations. We assure all members of the Duke community that enforcement is indeed a part of Duke’s response and that our enforcement efforts are nuanced and hold students progressively accountable.

  • Since undergraduates have returned to campus, several hundred students have received verbal reminders, warnings, and other interventions from Residential Life, Student Affairs, and the Compliance Team (C-Team). The vast majority of these interventions have been reminders to stay distant and in smaller groups. We appreciate all the ways students have responded after talking with our teams.
  • Since August 2, the Office of Student Conduct has received approximately 100 reports of COVID-related conduct violations involving students on and off-campus; some number of these are multiple reports for a single event or violation. We are following up with all cases on and off-campus, working closely with Durham Police, community leaders, and local property managers to respond to the off-campus reports.
  • Since Friday, two dozen students have been referred for formal educational interventions and training for less severe infractions of the Duke Compact.
  • Finally, the Office of Student Conduct is currently addressing seven instances involving more flagrant misconduct and persistent non-compliance by individuals or groups of students. Consistent with individual student privacy regulations governed by federal law (FERPA), the Office of Student Conduct will not release identifying information for individual students who are formally sanctioned. If found responsible, these students and student organizations face a range of possible sanctions, including: disciplinary probation, suspension to be served in an upcoming term, immediate suspension or removal from campus, or permanent dismissal from Duke.

Again, we want to thank the thousands of students who take the needed steps to keep themselves and others safer. Your safety and that of the Durham and Duke community remain our top priorities, and we are in this together.

Thank you and go Duke,

Gary G. Bennett
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Mary Pat McMahon
Vice Provost for Student Affairs