Category: Community Messages Page 1 of 8

Mask Up: Now a State Requirement

The following message was sent to all university students, faculty and staff on Nov. 24, 2020.

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

Duke has for many months required a mask or face covering in all outdoor settings where social distancing measures cannot be maintained and at all times in shared spaces indoors.

Now it’s required across the state at all times.

A new executive order issued by Governor Cooper requires face covering be worn indoors and outdoors across the state. Law enforcement officers may now cite individuals who fail to wear face coverings, as well as businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the requirement.

The order includes the use of face coverings in outdoor areas where it is not possible to consistently be physically distant by more than six feet, including when exercising outdoors or indoors with non-household members.

On Duke property, this includes all indoor recreational facilities, as well as outdoor areas such as the Al Buehler and East Campus trails, the Duke golf course, Duke Forest, and other areas where people congregate. Student-athletes are excluded from the requirement while playing or practicing.

The order, which remains in effect through Dec. 11, 2020, was issued to help address the rapid increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations in North Carolina.  A number of counties across the state are seeing health care systems strained by the increase in COVID cases and infection rates are rising in virtually every county.

Duke has been fortunate and successful this semester thanks to the hard work and vigilance of our students, faculty and staff.  We strongly encourage you to apply the same vigilance as you celebrate the Thanksgiving and the winter holidays so we can, once again, be Duke United.

Kyle Cavanaugh,
Vice President, Administration

Message on COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Distribution for the Duke Community

In anticipation of FDA emergency use authorization, Duke is preparing to participate in an efficient and equitable distribution of the vaccine in close coordination with NC DHHS and local health departments.

The vaccine will be offered in a CDC-defined phased approach that prioritizes healthcare workers who are most likely to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus while providing care to patients – including staff within Duke’s clinical and research laboratories.

For details, view the full message posted on Duke Today.

COVID-19 Vaccines and the Duke Community

The Duke COVID-19 Vaccination Work Group distributed a message to faculty, staff and students about plans for distribution of vaccines when available.

While we are still some time away from FDA approval, planning at Duke is already underway for how we will distribute the vaccine:

  • Our Duke experts will review all available safety and efficacy data for any approved vaccine to ensure the science supports its broad use.
  • Based on CDC guidelines, vaccines will be offered in a phased approach that prioritizes healthcare workers who are most likely to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus while providing care to our patients, as well as long-term care workers and caregivers.
  • We are coordinating with the NC DHHS to help ensure that all North Carolinians have equitable access to vaccines, and that vaccine planning and distribution is inclusive.

A full version of the message is available on Duke Today.

Student conduct updates, Oct. 2

The message is being sent to all Duke undergraduate students.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Dear undergraduate students,

Wherever you are as we reach the halfway point in the fall semester, we hope you are well this Friday. We are writing to share some updates on conduct case volume and outcomes for individual students and organizations.

Over the past week, rates of COVID transmission have increased globally, nationally and here in the Durham area. We are likely to see some additional cases in our own community, but we are collectively working to keep those to a minimum. We appreciate that thousands of Duke students in Durham and around the globe are taking action daily to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We continue to appreciate the dedication and efforts we see in the Blue Devil community. We are proud of your leadership as students, we know you share our gratitude for the efforts of our extraordinary faculty and staff.

At the same time, we have seen a handful of situations where some students are flagrantly violating the Duke Compact and our expectations for health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because this conduct could easily lead to an increase in viral transmission on campus and in the community, these students have lost their opportunity to remain on campus. Some may even lose their chance to graduate from Duke.

We don’t want students to spread the virus to one another, to staff, faculty, or members of our Durham Community. We don’t want you to lose the opportunities for which you’ve worked so hard.

Some important reminders:

  • While North Carolina regulations have recently changed, all Duke students are still required to adhere to University requirements limiting informal gatherings indoors or outdoors to 10 persons or fewer.
  • We are aware that some students have disrupted local communities by hosting off-campus gatherings in apartments or rented properties. Students may face disciplinary action if they either host, or attend these events.


As a reminder, enforcement of Duke’s policies is a part of our COVID response. These efforts are nuanced and hold students progressively accountable depending on the severity of the violations. Since August 7, we have taken the following actions:

  • 21 — Administrative Action Hearings held (for individuals and groups) recommending interim actions such as suspension of activities, loss of campus privileges, remote learning, etc.
  • 4 — Campus organizations placed on suspension
  • 6 — Individual students issued interim suspensions for flagrant violations of COVID policy expectations and the Duke Compact pending an administrative hearing, including for hosting gatherings and failing to follow quarantine and isolation protocols to protect fellow students.
  • 104 — Sanctions implemented by either Office of Student Conduct or Housing and Residence Life – these actions are part of a student’s conduct record and in some cases reportable to graduate schools, study away programs, and employers
  • 293 — Students referred for educational interventions for less severe infractions of the Duke Compact – these outcomes are not part of a students’ disciplinary record
  • 9 — Pending cases under review for potential administrative action involving more flagrant misconduct and persistent non-compliance by individuals.

As a result of these violations, some students have lost their right to remain on campus and must work remotely for the remainder of the semester. Some also face charges that could result in their suspension or permanent expulsion from Duke.

The University updates the COVID testing tracker every Monday. We will provide another update on student conduct on October 30th.

We are in this together. Please keep supporting one another in doing this right.

Thank you and go Duke,

Mary Pat McMahon
Vice Provost for Student Affairs

Gary G. Bennett
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

President Updates Community at Midpoint of Semester

To the Duke Community,

We are now halfway through the fall semester. This may seem surprising, both because we started earlier than usual this year and because it feels like the first day of classes was a decade ago.

There are still challenges ahead, but we have much to be proud of at Duke. Thanks to the cooperation of the Duke community, our comprehensive testing program, and generally good adherence to our health and safety protocols, we have so far kept the rate of coronavirus infections relatively low.  This has enabled us to continue our semester as planned.

Read the full message on the Duke Today website.

Update on Duke’s Operational Plans

As the State of North Carolina moves to Phase 3 of pandemic restrictions on Friday October 3, we write to advise you that Duke University will not be changing campus safety protocols and practices.

For more details, see the story on the Duke Today website.

Message from President Price about Fall Sports at Duke

Dear Duke Students and Colleagues,

Early September is typically a time of great energy and excitement at Duke, as students and faculty challenge each other in the classroom, the campus is active with events and programs, and visitors come from all over the world to take part in our academic and cultural life.  Fall is also, of course, a very active time for our student-athletes, as well as for their fans and supporters on campus, in the community and around the world.

Over the past several months, the Atlantic Coast Conference, of which Duke is a founding member, has carefully assessed the prospects to continue intercollegiate sports in this most complicated of years.  An ACC Medical Advisory Group – which included physicians from Duke and other universities in the conference – worked over the summer to advise the member institutions on the risks and options for fall activity, and to develop comprehensive standards for testing, hygiene, medical monitoring and other practices that are essential for students to compete safely in team and individual sports.  After careful review, the ACC adopted those guidelines and committed to begin the season in all six fall sports (football, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, field hockey and cross country).

After consultation with our own medical faculty experts, Duke has decided to take further steps to mitigate the risk to the health and safety of our student-athletes, our communities, and the continuity of our educational and research missions.  In advance of the start of competition this week, and knowing that many have questions about intercollegiate athletics in these challenging times, I want to take a moment to inform you about the safety protocols that we have now put in put in place:

  • All student-athletes, related staff and coaches participating in football, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and field hockey, which have been identified as higher risk by the ACC Medical Advisory Group, will have daily COVID-19 testing for the duration of their seasons.
  • To protect against potential spread of COVID-19 in our residence halls and the broader population, student-athletes competing in those five sports will be required to temporarily sequester to designated residential areas following each home or away game until testing and medical monitoring confirms that they are cleared to return to the community.  Student-athletes will receive all academic, wellness and mental health support services, as well as access to Student Affairs staff.
  • All teams will travel by charter bus or plane and, to the extent possible, will depart and return to campus on the same day.  Only student athletes and essential coaches and staff will be permitted to travel to the games and, once on-site, Duke student-athletes, coaches and staff must strictly comply with distancing requirements, stay in areas separated from others, and not interact socially with members of the opposing team, spectators, or fans except for immediate family members.
  • As announced earlier, spectators will not be permitted at any Duke games.  Attendance from the visiting team will be limited to essential personnel as determined by the ACC.

We are immensely proud of our student-athletes and celebrate their dedication to academic and athletic success.  But we never lose sight of the fact that they are, first and foremost, Duke students.  Thus, student-athletes who choose for any reason not to participate in competition this year will continue to receive their scholarships, financial aid and other services, and they will maintain their academic and residential standing as well as their eligibility to participate in future athletic seasons.

I want to stress that these are our initial plans.  As with every other aspect of this global pandemic, we will remain vigilant and flexible, monitor outcomes, and prepare to make changes as we learn from our experiences and others around the country.  Our experience with fall sports will help inform planning for winter and spring sports as well.  If conditions warrant further restrictions, a pause or even suspension of activities, then we will not hesitate to take that action.  Every decision we make will be based, first and foremost, on safeguarding the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and the Duke community.

This has been and will continue to be a difficult semester in many respects; but in just as many ways it has been wonderfully inspiring.  I’ve been inspired by our dedicated faculty and staff, including those many who have been supporting Duke Athletics through these complicated times, in meeting successfully the numerous challenges posed by the pandemic.  And I have been inspired by way our Duke students, including our student-athletes, have stepped up to support and protect each other and our community so responsibly by adapting to the public-health demands of the moment. We are, on and off the field, a Duke united. For that, and for all you do, I am deeply grateful.


Vincent E. Price

Governor Announces Move to Phase 2.5

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper announced this week that North Carolina would move to “Safer at Home: Phase 2.5” of easing COVID-19 restrictions beginning on Friday, September 4 at 5 p.m.

Phase 2.5 will last through at least October 2. Governor Cooper and N.C. DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen explained that the state has used a modest approach to easing restrictions and that many of the state’s COVID-19 metrics are stabilizing or declining. Additional details on Phase 2.5 can be found here.

Attendance Restrictions Announced for Fall Sports

Due to the impact of COVID-19, Duke University will begin its fall sport program seasons without spectators at home events.

“To be sure, our venues will not be the same without our passionate, energetic fan base,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White. “Given the unique and challenging circumstances, this determination was reached with the health and safety of our fans, student-athletes, coaches and staff at the forefront. As this evolving process continues, it is imperative to be both adaptable and compliant in anticipation of hosting fans in the near future.”

Contests played on Duke’s campus will include essential game management personnel and broadcast media. Traditional parking lots used by fans on gameday will be closed.

Fans who have purchased season and single-game tickets for the upcoming football season or have seating and suite contracts in Blue Devil Tower will receive email correspondence regarding options.

Despite the attendance constraints for football games, Duke fans have an opportunity to support the team at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium with a “fan cutout” of an individual(s) or pet(s). Several different packages are available and include stadium location options, weekly prize drawings and the ability to have the cutout autographed by head coach David Cutcliffe. Images placed in the seats will help replicate the gameday atmosphere in the stadium as well as provide an enhanced visual presence for the television audience. Proceeds from sales will go directly to Duke Athletics to support our student-athletes during these unprecedented times. For more information, visit

Information regarding the virtual fan experience for football games at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium will be available at a later date.

The Blue Devil football team opens the home portion of the 2020 schedule against Boston College on Saturday, September 19. Amended schedules for Duke’s men’s cross country, women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball teams have yet to be released.

COVID Updates, Compact Compliance, & Enlisting Student Help

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

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