Carnegie Mellon University

COVID-19 Student Organization Guidelines

The following guidelines are established for student organizations to maintain a dynamic and robust Carnegie Mellon experience that also prioritizes the safety and health of all members of the campus community. 


Knowing Key Definitions

Organizations are groups that are described by the following or related characteristics, and therefore are required to adhere to university expectations:

  • Recognized by a department or governing body on campus
  • Generally understood to be an official group, i.e., supported or endorsed by dept/college/etc.
  • Using university space and/or resources
  • Using university, JFC (Joint Funding Committee), or activities fee funds
  • Hosted or promoted by an organization
Activities include, but are not limited to, students coming together for events, recreation, social gatherings, rehearsals, recruitment functions, performances, practices, religious observances, makerspace work, relationship/community-building and/or to provide services to the campus community.
meeting is generally understood to be when two or more people come together for the purpose of, but not limited to discussing the goals of the organization, making decisions, talking through an agenda, brainstorming, developing plans, holding elections or voting on organization business and/or engaging with your members.

Being Accountable, Together

Student Pandemic Safety Ambassadors (SPSA)

Two Student Pandemic Safety Ambassador (SPSA) should be established for all student groups and organizations, including governing bodies, college-based organizations, Residential Education student staff (RAs and CAs) and athletic teams, regardless of if they intend to host in-person activities. Each organization president plus one other executive member will serve as a SPSA. At least one SPSA must be in Pittsburgh. Any student who is found responsible for violating A Tartan’s Responsibility will not be eligible to serve as an SPSA.

SPSAs need to be onsite for the entirety of the in-person gathering. Organizations are welcome to train as many influential, integrity-filled leaders to serve as SPSAs for their group. Email the names and Andrew IDs and they will be added to the Student Pandemic Safety Ambassador Canvas course.

Attendee to SPSA ratios are as follows:

o   1-11 attendees = 1 SPSA

o   12-25 attendees = 2 SPSAs

o   26-38 attendees = 3 SPSAs

o   39-50 attendees = 4 SPSAs

  • Attend training to become knowledgeable about campus expectations
  • Act as an internal organization resource
  • Enforce expectations and requirements
  • Be present at the entirely of any approved in-person activities hosted by their organization
  • Offer feedback on campus expectations, suggest additional resources, etc.

All SPSAs will be required to complete the Student Pandemic Safety Ambassador training in Canvas to become knowledgeable about campus expectations. SPSA training is for student leaders planning to serve in this important role. Advisors and staff who support student groups are welcome to take the course as well.

SPSA training includes:

  • University Pandemic Safety Officer (PSO) base content combined with specific content regarding gatherings, processes and consequences related to student organizations.
  • Bystander intervention education centered on communication strategies and how to effectively intervene if inappropriate or concerning behavior is occurring.
  • De-escalation techniques to demonstrate specific approaches to utilize when engaging with organization members or other campus community members.
  • Organization-specific resources for room capacities, links to forms, space reservation resources, best practices for virtual programming and technology recommendations.

Meetings & In-Person Activities

The university has established guidelines in accordance with CDC, PA and ACHD guidance and community health best practices. These baseline considerations, including the capacity and physical distancing expectations, should be applied to all in-person activities.

All student organization meetings should be held remotely because meeting functions can be adequately accomplished in a remote format. This will include but not be limited to executive board meetings, general body meetings, committee meetings, floor meetings, training and onboarding meetings.

Indoor Expectations

  • 60 square feet/person baseline
  • 100 square feet/person in shops and/or physical exertion
  • 10 feet physical distance for activities with physical exertion or when eating

  • 6 feet physical distance for all other activities

Outdoor Expectations

  • 50 people max, inclusive of SPSA(s)
  • For outdoor facilities that have capacities and allow for proper physical distancing, maximum attendance will be capped at 10%.
  • Student organization events with greater than 50 individuals will require staffing by a staff Pandemic Safety Officer (PSO) or Community Pandemic Safety Ambassador (CPSA). Organizations seeking events of this size should email to set up a meeting with a member of the COVID Student Activities review team in advance of submitting their IPAR for consideration. 

  • Additional outdoor spaces including tents, porches, and the stage provide more opportunities to gather outside. Many of these spaces are reservable for approved in-person activities and some have chairs available for use as well.

Review the requirements for hosting in-person activities

The 2021 In-Person Activity Request Form (IPAR) is available in the Student Pandemic Safety Ambassador Canvas course.

Organizations will need to plan further ahead than in a typical year to move through the various stages of the approval process. Noting that the processing time for In-Person Activity Requests can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the request and a variety of other factors, we strongly recommend submitting your IPAR two weeks in advance. The thoroughness of the request and the organization’s timely communication throughout the process directly influences the efficiency of the review and approval process. Please plan accordingly.

In Canvas you will find helpful Best Practice documents tailored to assist your organization’s IPAR submission and approval as well as the Outdoor Stage Rider.

For each in-person activity, organizations will register their activity using an In-Person Activity Request form which will route through an approval process. Student organizations that provide services to the campus community will also complete this process. Organizations will need to demonstrate the “value add” for the requested activity to be held in person. Additionally, organizations will need to outline how the experience will be accessible for students who are not in Pittsburgh and are remote for the semester. As part of the first in-person activity request, organization leadership will attend an advising meeting to review the plans for their in-person activity in more detail. Subsequent requests may require an advising meeting on an as-needed basis. Every IPAR utilizing the stage will require an advising meeting with all SPSAs present. Approval must be obtained prior to the organization hosting the in-person activity.

In-Person Activity Request (IPAR) Process
  • Step #1: Train Your SPSAs
    Confirm that you have a minimum of two Canvas trained SPSAs, including the SPSA who will serve onsite at the activity. IPARs submitted without meeting that requirement will not be considered. It is recommended that you have more than two SPSAs to ensure coverage. To submit SPSA candidates to be added for Canvas training, email names and Andrew IDs to COVIDstudentactivities@andrew.cmu.edu
  • Step #2: Submit Your IPAR
    Complete your organization’s IPAR answering all questions fully, and submit it as a word document to COVIDstudentactivities@andrew.cmu.edu. Organizations are encouraged to make tentative space reservations prior to submitting their IPAR.
  • Step #3: IPAR Review
    Your Organization's IPAR is assigned to a Reviewer who will guide you through the approval process. Review of your first IPAR submission will include an advising meeting with your reviewer.
  • Step #4: IPAR Approval & Notifications
    The IPAR Approval Team receives your Reviewer approved IPAR and makes final comments before approving or denying the IPAR. The team will reach out to your organization with the outcome and any updates expectations. Similarly, if you made reservations to utilize an on-campus space, the appropriate reservationist be notified by the team that your activity has been approved and your reservation will be changed from ‘tentative’ to ‘approved.’
  • Step #5: IPAR Implementation
    Organizations who have received IPAR approval must strictly adhere to their plans as well as any additional requirements added during the process. All in-person activities will need to track registration, record attendance, and comply with CMU’s minimum requirements whether the event is being hosted on or off-campus. To discuss implementation strategy with a staff member, email COVIDstudentactivities@andrew.cmu.edu to set up an advising meeting. If you need time-sensitive support, call the SLICE office at 412-268-8704  during normal business hours or the After Hours Consultation Line at 412-268-8705 when SLICE is not open, noting that this line is only staffed the weeks approved In-Person Activities are occurring.
The virus knows no boundaries and individual choices that are made, whether on or off-campus, could have serious impacts on members of the CMU community. Therefore, all events taking place at off-campus locations, whether at a rented venue, off-campus residences, parks, etc., must adhere to all university standards, including but not limited to facial coverings, capacity maximums and physical distancing. This stance supports the expectations outlined in A Tartan’s Responsibility. Furthermore, these events must comply with any additional expectations as outlined by the location or venue.
Given the increased risk of transmission for activities involving physical exertion, this set of activities requires more stringent expectations. Singing, brass, and woodwind playing outside is now possible with specific mitigation strategies. Groups should email COVIDstudentactivities@andrew.cmu.edu  for more details before beginning their IPAR.

Students who are participating in club sports can engage in drills and practice(s) without physical contact. A physical distance of 10 ft must be maintained between participants. Similarly, performance-based groups such as dance organizations must maintain 10 ft of space between participants at in-person activities. Use of shared equipment will need to be approved. Organizations, including club sports, will not be permitted to participate in competitions, regardless of location.
Student organizations are not permitted to organize or to sponsor in-person volunteer experiences occurring off-site at a community partner's location. Students are encouraged to consider volunteer activities that can be conducted on-campus with CMU community members joining together under an a Approved In-Person Activity Request or to seek out virtual volunteering opportunities which can also be found on the SLICE website.

Virtual volunteering with children under the age of 18 requires particular care to protect the safety of the minors involved. Student organizations seeking to conduct virtual volunteer activities with minors such as tutoring or mentoring should do so with community organizations who have already-established virtual volunteer programs. Student organization volunteers should follow all of the community organization’s requirements regarding clearances, trainings, etc. If the community partner does not require clearances, Carnegie Mellon requires you to still complete the clearance process. Students should contact Child Protection Operations within the Office of Human Resources to complete the required background clearance process. The Office of Human Resources can support students through this process.

Note that CMU students who are located outside of the United States will not be able to renew or request new clearances due to the requirement for fingerprinting. Pennsylvania clearances are valid for five (5) years.  Students who had obtained all required clearances in prior years and whose clearances are still valid can utilize those clearances regardless of their current location.

All questions regarding how to safely interact with minors should be directed to the Office of Child Protection within the Office of Human Resources.

Due to the current guest and visitor protocol, no minors will be allowed on campus. Relatedly, student organizations will not be able to host guest lecturers or performances for in-person activities. This policy also applies to instructors and coaches for student organizations. For student organizations whose membership includes non-CMU-affiliates, these members will not be allowed to participate in in-person gatherings, regardless of whether they will take place on or off-campus. All non-affiliate participation, including alumni, partners of current students, and community members, should occur virtually.

Rare requests for exception to this policy will be directed to the department that supports that student organization. Following a review of the request, if endorsed, the department would utilize the exception approval process outlined in the visitor protocol to request approval.

In support of community health best practices, organizations will refrain from:

  • Providing food or beverages, including alcohol, at in-person gatherings. Individuals are permitted to bring their own food or drink, with the exception of alcohol. Overall, food consumption is discouraged.
  • Organizing transportation to an off-campus location. Each individual should make their own transportation arrangements. Only members of the same household should share transportation.
  •  Any group travel, regardless of destination including local, domestic and international travel.
  •  Generally selling food or other items for fundraisers and giveaways are discouraged. However, pre-selling food or other items for fundraisers with safe distribution practices may be achieved by submitting an IPAR and receiving approval.
  • Unfortunately, tabling is not compatible with university risk mitigation strategies and also excludes students not physically coming to campus. As a result, tabling is not permitted.
  • Hosting in-person volunteer opportunities on-site at a community partner’s location.

Spaces & Shared Equipment

As part of the campus mitigation plan, buildings are reset with a de-densified furniture layout that includes newly posted capacities. Spaces that have commonly been used by student organizations, including the Cohon University Center and classrooms, will have limited availability this semester due to the repurposing of non-academic spaces for classroom use and to accommodate enhanced cleaning protocols.

Located in numerous buildings across campus, Student Government-recognized student organizations and Greek chapters operate from a wide variety of spaces.

  • All student organization spaces have been de-densified and are posted with approved capacities.
  • Student organization spaces have QR code-linked forms on their doors which students will use, if approved for access, to log their entrance for contract tracing purposes.
With the dramatic reduction in in-person activities, access to storage spaces will be granted on an as-needed basis by the SLICE (Student Leadership, Involvement, and Civic Engagement) Office. Organizations can request access through the Student Organization Space Access Request Form. Greek storage that is located within their chapter houses will be handled with their Housefellow on a case-by-case basis for closed facilities and via one resident having hard key access in chapter houses that remain open. Offices and conference rooms, which have historically been used primarily for meetings, will be closed. Access can be approved by SLICE as needed.

To support the CMU maker ecosystem, there are several types of makerspaces and shops on campus. In accordance with the guest and visitor policy, makerspaces in the residence halls will be closed. Tech Spark, the centralized common makerspace on campus, will continue to be open with modified procedures for use by partner courses and student organizations. Student organizations will be encouraged to utilize Tech Spark as frequently as possible, however Tech Spark does not anticipate enough capacity to absorb all student organization makerspace needs.

To ensure that maker organizations have thoroughly developed protocols and policies that mitigate risks unique to their work, these organizations will complete a  Makerspace Activity Request. The plan must be reviewed, discussed with the organization leadership, and approved prior to the organization accessing their space and returning to operations.

As part of the Makerspace Activity Request, student organization shops will adhere to the following expectations:

  • Student organization shop managers, in addition to the training required for this role, will also be trained as SPSAs.
  • No new builds will be allowed. Maintenance of equipment and completion of current projects will be the focus of the organization's efforts.
  • Reservations will be made to utilize the space and/or utilize equipment to ensure physical distancing and capacities adherence.
  • Student users will wipe down equipment before and after use.
What is the difference between an In-Person Activity Request (IPAR) and a Makerspace Activity Request (MAR)?
  • To determine if your organization should be completing an IPAR or a MAR consider these questions about the specific work you are wanting to perform: What will we be “making?” What tools will be used? Will we need to use any hazardous materials? Do we need to utilize our shop to conduct this work? If you will need access to your space to utilize power tools and hazardous materials your request will go through the Makerspace Activity Request process. This form is a combination of the Return to Lab that faculty/staff had to fill out for their labs/shops and the In-Person Activity Request form.
  • Secondly ask, “What could be done in TechSpark versus your shop?” TechSpark is already set-up to support the university’s minimum safety expectations, if your activity is better suited for TechSpark use an IPAR. Note that the IPAR process is typically faster and less extensive than the MAR process. Given that no new builds will be approved this year organizations are strongly encouraged to utilize TechSpark whenever possible.
  • Finally, If you are planning an in-person activity that is not in your shop or not “making” in your shop (i.e. shooting a video for training purposes that doesn’t require any power to be used), then you can move forward and fill out the IPAR.

Are you still unsure which form to use? Email a brief description of your activity and we can clarify which process to utilize.