Return to Campus Plan for Fall 2020

Messiah University is in session this fall with flexible in-person and remote learning options, health and safety protocols and student care and support.


Living together in new ways

students in masks walking near a residence hall

Living together in new ways during COVID-19: undergraduate student success and engagement 

Student status policy

The University has plans in place to make the campus as safe as possible for all. At the same time, we understand that there are members of our community—especially those with certain chronic health conditions—who have determined that congregating on campus is not the best circumstance for them right now. Therefore, students who are not comfortable or able to attend Messiah University in person this fall are welcome to enroll in classes and engage through remote participation in regularly scheduled courses. Essentially, there are three broad categories of students this year:

1. The Residential Student. The residential student resides in campus housing and participates in the on-campus and in-person educational experience. While this residential and academic experience will have necessary modifications for health and safety, in-person attendance in academic courses and campus activities (within safety and health constraints) will be the expectation and the norm.

2. The Commuter Student. The commuter student resides off campus locally (within 50 miles of Messiah University) and must fulfill one of the following criteria: living with a parent(s) or immediate family member(s), is married, is over 23 years old, or is classified as having independent status by the Office of Financial Aid. While there will be necessary modifications to campus life for health and safety reasons, in-person attendance in academic courses and campus activities (within safety and health constraints) will be the expectation and the norm.

3. The Fully Remote Student. The fully remote student resides off campus for the duration of the fall semester and does not travel to campus for academic courses or campus life activities. The student regularly participates in courses with the expectation of regular remote attendance in synchronous course sessions.

Student Move-in Plan

To reduce congestion and close contact with others, the on-campus housing move-in process for both new and returning students will look different this year.

New & Transfer Residential Students

The moving in of incoming new and transfer students will be spread out and staggered over three days: August 20, 21 and 22. In early July, students will receive an email with a link and instructions  to sign up to arrive on one of these three days, indicating either a morning or afternoon arrival time and informing the University of how many guests will accompany them. Student are strongly encouraged to limit their guests to two family members or caregivers. There are 90 slots open for each morning and each afternoon on each of the three days, allowing 180 students to move in safely each day. In mid-July, incoming residential students will receive an email from Housing with their fall housing assignment and a specific check-in time that is within their chosen arrival date and time frame.

Returning Residential Students

The move-in process for returning students will take place from Aug. 21–24. Returning students will receive an email in mid-July with instructions on how to sign up for a move-in date and time. Returning residential students will be limited to two guests to assist them.

Early Arrival Residential Students

Students (both new and returning) that need to arrive to campus early (prior to Aug. 20) for University-sponsored reasons or due to special circumstances will be provided special instructions through email by the University unit sponsoring their early arrival (e.g., fall athletics, Multicultural Student Programs, International Student Programs, Teacher Education Program) or from Housing.

Read important information for all new and returning students re: self screening and temperature checks prior to student move-in

Welcome Week and orientation plan

All new first-year and transfer students will experience a modified Welcome Week and orientation to our campus community. Every effort is being made to create a safe and healthy experience while maintaining Messiah’s strong commitment to belonging in community. Student leaders and orientation leaders will be available to assist as needed throughout Welcome Week.

New and transfer students will arrive on one of three days: Aug. 20, 21 or 22. Upon arrival, students will check in with the Office of Student Involvement & Leadership Programs in Hitchcock Arena in Sollenberger Sports Center on their respective check-in time (assigned for morning or afternoon). During check-in, students will receive a Welcome Week packet with schedule, a Messiah University protective cloth mask, and a Welcome Week t-shirt. They will also pick-up their residence hall and mailbox keys (residential students) and take care of other important start-of-the-semester matters. Residential students will be directed to their respective residence hall to get moved in and settled. Activities for students and families will follow, with families expected to depart campus at the conclusion of their respective time frame (morning or afternoon). In the evening, students who arrived that day will celebrate together with President Phipps at Orchard Hill.

Commuter Student Services

Commuter Student Services will continue to operate out of the Office of Student Involvement & Leadership Programs located on the upper level of the Larsen Student Union. In late July, commuter students will receive an email with start-of-the-semester information for both returning students and incoming new and transfer students. 

The Charles Frey Commuter Lounge located in the lower level of Mountain View Residence Hall will remain open, but with a reduced maximum occupancy due to COVID-19 health and safety parameters. To create additional space for commuter students, the rear, lower level of Hostetter Chapel will function as an annex to the Commuter Lounge. Details about the use of both spaces will be communicated via email and during orientation (for new and transfer commuters). Commuter parking remains unchanged.

Residence halls and campus programming

Residence Hall Living

Life in the residence halls will look different this year. Due to federal and state guidance on COVID-19 mitigation, it was determined that the safest way to house our students involved decreasing our housing capacity within the residence halls to limit possible exposure. To do that, some students from the apartments (as well as juniors in the residence halls) were offered to reside at nearby Oakwood Hills apartments for the coming year. As such, Oakwood Hills will serve as an extension of our on-campus housing offerings this year. This move allowed some students previously assigned in our traditional residence halls to move into apartments, creating significantly less condensed living on each residence hall floor.

Students living in on-campus housing will have the expectations and guidelines related to life together in the season of COVID-19 thoroughly reviewed and explained to them during Welcome Week and orientation.

COVID-19 Guidelines for Residential Living

In compliance with Messiah University initiatives to maintain the health and well-being of our campus community and to comply with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Pennsylvania Department of Health COVID-19 parameters for institutions of higher education, the following parameters have been established for all residential students. 

Communal Living: Defining “Family”

Residence Hall Floors: Extended Family

For traditional residence halls, Messiah University needed to reduce the number of students living on the same floor. Each traditional residence hall floor is now considered an “extended family” of sorts with whom residents will share much of their out-of-class campus time in proximity with one another. The ideal is that this “extended family” will be an insulated unit with reduced risk for exposure to the COVID-19 virus. For the first two weeks of the fall semester, protective cloth masks must be worn while in the common areas of a floor (e.g., hallways, lounges, bathrooms as appropriate) or in the building (e.g., hallways, stairwells, laundry rooms). If the campus remains COVID-19 free after this two-week period, masks do not have to be worn by “extended family” residents while on their respective floor. Except for when in their own room with roommates, students must continue to practice social distancing on their floor communities and wear a protective cloth mask if this distancing cannot be maintained.

Apartments/Houses/Bathroom Groups: Nuclear Family

Students living on a traditional residence hall floor will have one dedicated sink, shower and toilet assigned to them by Residence Life staff, which will be reserved for their shared use with four or five other students on that same floor. Students within this “nuclear family” are expected to only use these assigned bathroom fixtures and clean them after each use (please see next section). While the ideal is that the student will only use this dedicated sink, shower, and toilet assigned to them, it is understood that there may be rare instances when a student cannot wait if one of these items is in use by another member of their nuclear family. Students living in the apartments and in special-interest houses are considered a nuclear family with those in the same apartment/house.  

Cleaning and Hygiene Expectations

Messiah has aligned expectations based on CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfecting. Students are responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of their living spaces, including common floor living areas, bedrooms, and bathrooms.   

For bathrooms, students are expected to use disinfectant spray or wipes to thoroughly clean their sinks, showers, and toilets (especially flushers) after each use. Sinks could be an infection source and residents should avoid placing toothbrushes directly on counter surfaces. Totes can be used for personal items so they do not touch the bathroom countertop. Students are required to take their personal toiletries to and from bathroom in residence hall bathrooms.

For common floor living areas, after each use students are expected to spray and wipe down with disinfectant non-fabric furniture, furniture arms, tables, chairs, study kiosks, and other non-fabric surfaces where they have been congregating.

In addition to student self-cleaning, regular cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects frequently touched will be provided by dedicated Campus Events staff assigned to specific floor communities and common apartment areas. Where self-cleaning is expected, the University will provide cleaning caddies and supplies.

Mask Wearing

Protective cloth masks are expected to be worn in the public lounges of residence halls and other common spaces (e.g. study rooms, floor lounges, laundry rooms, stairwells) when a Falcon Wingspan (approximately six feet) cannot be maintained between individuals. As stated above, after the first two weeks of living as an extended family, the wearing of protective cloth masks will not be required by residents while on their individual floors (assuming the campus is COVID-19 free). Once visitation is safe to resume (see below), the wearing of protective masks will be required of guests throughout the duration of visitation.


Information on COVID-19 expectations will be clearly posted in floor hallways, lounges, laundry rooms, bathrooms of residence halls and in apartment sections. This signage will include, but not be limited to, reminders on symptom monitoring and reporting, and hygiene and respiratory etiquette (i.e., frequent handwashing; avoidance of face touching; appropriate use of hand sanitizer, hand wipes, or hand soap for students, staff and visitors; coughing/sneezing into tissue or crook of arm). The signs will also encourage practicing Falcon Wingspan social distancing (approximately six feet) and limiting contact with those not in a student’s nuclear or extended families.

Building Entrances and Exits

Building, floor, and apartment entrances may occasionally have their entrance doors propped to allow for contact-less entry, specifically during move-in and move-out days. Hand sanitizer will be provided at residential entrances, as available. To minimize close contact with others, foot traffic in some buildings may be one-way only. Directional signs should be followed.

Elevators, Stairwells, Common Hallways

Given their small interiors, building stairwells and elevators should be used by individuals one at a time whenever possible. Continued mask wearing and social distancing should be practiced. Where possible, tape and floor decals will mark common hallway spaces to assist in flow of traffic and maintaining the six-foot Falcon Wingspan.

Residence Hall Public Lounges, Study & Recreation Rooms

Only residents of the building are permitted to use their respective lobbies/basement lounges and study rooms (with the exception of the Fishbowl) for the first two weeks of the semester. If the campus remains free of COVID-19 cases after that, all residential students are permitted in the lobbies/lounges of each building (but not floor lounges). Residents are free to use these spaces when a six-foot Falcon Wingspan is able to be maintained while there. Students should also be mindful of other residents who also wish to use these spaces, limiting their time to an hour or less. Maximum safe occupancy may be limited and posted where applicable. While using these spaces, students are to practice safe social distancing and wear protective cloth masks. Students are expected to use disinfectant spray and wipes to clean surfaces of any common furniture (study desks, chairs, game equipment, etc.) that they have used immediately afterwards.

Laundry Rooms

Only residents of the building are permitted to use their respective laundry room. Students are free to use the laundry room when a six-foot Falcon Wingspan is able to be maintained in the space. The wearing of protective cloth masks is necessary when using the laundry room. Separate laundry practices will be in place for students in quarantine due to COVID-19.

Residence Hall Floor Lounges

Floor lounges are open to residents of the extended-family floor community only. The wearing of protective cloth masks is required if a Falcon Wingspan (approximately six-feet apart) cannot be maintained. No non-floor members are permitted to congregate there (see Visitation parameters below).

Residence Hall Kitchenettes: Keep It Clean, Keep It Open

The use of residence hall kitchenettes is a privilege. If residents keep it clean and disinfected, they can remain open. Refrigerators, stoves, ovens and microwaves will be available for use in floor lounge kitchenettes if residents demonstrate the ability to adhere to cleaning and disinfecting requirements. Sinks are to be used for the washing of dirty dishes only. However, because sinks can be a source of infection, residents should avoid placing cleaned dishes directly on counter surfaces. Students are expected to put their cleaned dishes back in their rooms and spray and wipe down with disinfectant all areas of the sink after each use. This should be done immediately following usage of the sink. There is to be no storage of dishes, plastic or silverware, cups, etc. in the kitchenette area. For health and safety reasons, residents should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, or eating utensils. If needed, students are strongly encouraged to use disposable food service items (preferably recyclable products).


Federal and state guidance on reopening safely instruct institutions to limit visitors and non-essential personnel in residential spaces. Ideally, the nuclear and extended family units should remain closed to others, but this is challenging in a community such as ours. For this reason, a phased approach to visitation will occur to better ensure the health and safety of all.

For the first two weeks of classes, there is no visitation. Students must not enter a floor or apartment or house if they do not reside there. If the campus remains free of COVID-19 cases after two weeks, visitation will resume with modified parameters outlined below.

  1. Residential students may visit fellow residential students. Both the hosts and visiting residential students must wear protective cloth masks during the duration of the visit.
  2. Until further notice, no off-campus visitors are permitted in university residences, including commuters and student family members.
  3. Residential student visitors cannot have had COVID-19 symptoms nor been exposed to someone with the virus within two weeks prior to the visit.
  4. Residential student visitors must remain a Falcon Wingspan apart and should not share furniture together with another person at the same time (futons, couches, chairs, room beds, etc.). Furniture should be cleaned and disinfected immediately after use.
  5. Residential student visitors are not permitted to be in floor lounges.
  6. No floor bathroom use by residential student visitors. Residential student visitors may use the public restrooms located in the main building spaces.
  7. There is a maximum limit of three individuals in a traditional residence hall single or double room; four individuals in a traditional residence hall triple room.
  8. Residents in apartments are limited to three additional residential visitors at a time with the ability to maintain a Falcon Wingspan apart. As always, no visitation in bedrooms by the opposite sex.
  9. Each special interest house will be provided with a maximum occupancy related to residential student visitors.
  10. Resident assistants are considered essential personnel and will perform walking rounds throughout floors and buildings, per usual, but wearing protective cloth masks as they do. Adjustments may be made as necessary for health and safety reasons. Other authorized campus employees will also be permitted access to residential spaces on an as-needed basis with health and safety requirements in place.

If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the campus community, visitation may be restricted or eliminated to mitigate the spread of the virus. If this occurs, applicable guidance will be communicated to residents in a timely fashion.

Traveling Off Campus

Residential students should only leave campus when necessary. (Note: students are able to leave campus for off-campus jobs, internships, clinicals, etc.) The more residents travel off campus, the greater the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and introducing it to our campus community. If students are aware of exposure to someone with COVID-19 while off campus, they should contact the Engle Center to inform them and receive guidance.


In support of self-monitoring and reporting requirements, any resident who has an exposure to COVID-19 or who registers a fever of greater than 100.4 or experiences other symptoms of the COVID-19 virus will be required to contact the Engle Center for Health and Counseling Services, self-quarantine and follow their directives. In some cases, students will be required to remain in their rooms in quarantine with meal and laundry service delivered or be isolated in Smith Apartments A or B until they are cleared to resume normal activity. Remote learning will be available in these situations.

Messiah University COVID-19 Life Together

Code of Conduct Addemdum: Expectations for Student Behavior

The following COVID-19 expectations for student behavior have been established with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and applies to all Messiah University students. These statutes are also closely aligned with, and serve as an important addendum to, the expectations for community life as expressed in the Messiah University Community Covenant and Code of Conduct. All students voluntarily agree to uphold these expectations by virtue of attendance. The following COVID-19 Life Together expectations have been established to ensure the health and welfare of the entire community and are subject to change. Any changes will be communicated via mass email and reflected in the online Student Handbook, which can be found here: Students are expected to abide by the most up-to-date expectations as published on the website.

Our COVID-19 Life Together

As a community of Christian scholars, we continue to embrace the life and teachings of Jesus as exemplary and instructive for how we are to live in relationship with God, His creation, and our neighbors, especially in this season of COVID-19. His call to love others further motivates us to live out best medical recommendations designed to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, such as social distancing and mask-wearing. Although limiting ourselves from others for this season may seem contrary to His relational design, these practices actually fulfill His high calling to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In our context, we must broaden this golden rule to do unto others as you would have them to unto you or your high-risk grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, professors, supervisors, and others.

An Essential Commitment

For the health and wellbeing of our entire community—including students, employees and all of our families and friends—it is vital that we faithfully abide by the COVID-19 Life Together expectations as a common steadfast commitment. We must do this together—as a community—toward protecting one another, particularly the vulnerable in our community. We must all commit to this to keep our campus COVID-19 free and remain open to provide residential education. If we don’t work together in this common commitment, it’s not going to work, lives may be lost, and the college will be forced to return to the online learning environment that was created to finish out the Spring 2020 semester. If you feel that you cannot put these expectations into practice, you should consider the Fully Remote Learning option available or defer your enrollment at Messiah University until the pandemic is over and these expectations are lifted. It is that important.


  1. Symptom Monitoring/Self Screening

It is expected that all community members will consistently practice symptom monitoring. All students are required to take their body temperature daily before leaving their close-contact unit* (see below) at the start of each day. A record of this temperature is to be registered via the Falcon Health COVID-19 Check In application in FalconLink no later than noon each day of the week, including Saturdays and Sundays.

  1. Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette

It is required that all community members will consistently practice physical distancing, protective mask wearing, frequent handwashing and hand sanitizer usage, and shielding others when needing to cough or sneeze. This means specifically that students will maintain a “Falcon Wingspan,” equivalent to approximately one to two arm’s length when around other people, including traversing campus, visiting buildings, and attending class. Classrooms and campus eating establishments have been designed to promote this necessary distancing. Residential students have been assigned to residences with specific floor/apartment assignments limiting the number of people on a floor or section. *These are considered close-contact units or an “extended family.” Residence hall students are expected to abide by bathroom assignments and visitation parameters established for close-contact units.

It is required that students wear masks when outside of their living spaces. Exceptions include when eating or exercising outdoors with adequate physical distancing. COVID-19 Testing

It is expected that community members will agree to regular COVID-19 testing as instructed by the Engle Center.

  1. Quarantining/Isolation Practice

As a result of COVID-19 testing, and/or becoming symptomatic, some community members may be required to enter quarantine or isolation as directed by the Engle Center medical personnel. Being quarantined will mean completing coursework remotely during the time you are quarantined/isolated. The University has reserved residential spaces on campus for quarantine purposes.

  1. Contact Tracing

Community members who test positive for COVID-19 are expected to participate in contact tracing interviews to mitigate the spread of the virus within our community.

  1. Guests

Students will not be permitted to host guests from off campus, including family members, during the season of these COVID-19 expectations.

  1. Leaving Campus

Residential students are required to follow guidelines established for leaving campus including, but not limited to, using discernment about whether or not leaving campus is necessary, whether or not to visit certain locales, practicing physical distancing and mask wearing, and not being tourists to COVID-19 “hotspots.”


To encourage our compliance and communal health, students who consistently follow through on these expectations will be entered into random drawings for incentive prizes.


Students are encouraged to hold one another accountable to these COVID-19 Life Together expectations. As stated above, they are in place to promote the health and wellbeing of the Messiah University community, and beyond.  All community members are encouraged to follow the redemptive, relational model found in Matthew 18:12-17 which promotes one-on-one accountability within the balance of individual and community care. Students should encourage one another to follow these expectations, set aside defensiveness, and consider these effective interventions as a high regard for their wellbeing and that of others in the community. Students who consistently fail to adhere to these expectations will be referred to the Student Conduct process and will face sanctions ranging from reprimand to suspension of enrollment. 


Questions regarding these expectations should be directed to Doug Wood, Associate Dean of Students, at or the Engle Center for Counseling and Health Services.