on this page:
General Topics
Academic Topics
Community Commitment
Staying Healthy
Student Housing
Support Resources
Ways to Help

General Topics

What has changed now that the quiet period is over?

Based on the results of our asymptomatic COVID-19 testing, the current COVID-19 cases in the Macalester community and COVID-19 cases in St Paul, we have cautiously relaxed some of our restraints beginning on September 17. The changes include: 

  • Hybrid instruction for first-year students and in-person co-curricular activities can resume as long as all of the principles of our community commitment are met. 
  • Labs and studios will be open for classes for first-year students only.
  • In addition, labs and studios may be open by arrangement with, and supervision by, the appropriate faculty member(s) to those students who need access to make honors projects or capstone progress, and who have completed the Mac Stays Safer training
  • Athletics will begin Phase 1 of its return-to-training protocol, which means teams will train together in small groups under the supervision of coaches and trainers following MDH and NCAA guidelines
  • Students can resume in-person jobs either on or off campus.

More information can be found in President Rivera’s September 14 communication “What’s Next as the Quiet Period Ends?”

How will the module system and updated academic calendar affect my financial aid?

Generally speaking, if you are enrolled full-time, the module system will have no effect on your aid. However, please review the Financial Aid COVID-19 FAQ for more specific questions relating to the 2020-2021 academic year.

What opportunities will there be for student employment in the fall?

There will be both remote and in-person student employment opportunities. We are reassessing all financial aid packages to make sure difficulty securing on-campus employment does not create undue burdens for students. A set of frequently asked questions about student employment for 2020-21 is available on the Student Employment website.

Will students be allowed to skip the fall semester and start in the spring? If I decide to take a Leave of Absence, what is that process?

The Leave of Absence process and policy for returning students can be found in the Student Handbook. The Leave of Absence form can be found on the website at Forms/Processes. Once you have submitted your form to the Office of Student Affairs, they will obtain the necessary signatures from campus offices on your behalf then process your request. An official notification that your leave has been granted will be sent to your Macalester email address.  If you have questions about the process or completing the form, please email studentaffairs@macalester.edu.

New incoming first-year and transfer students should not request a Leave of Absence.  Instead, they may either request a deferral here or reach out to admissions@macalester.edu to learn more about deferral options.

Will off-campus students be able to study on campus, use campus facilities for attending classes remotely, and get food at Cafe Mac and other campus locations?

Once the quiet period is over, off-campus students will be able to do all three. There will be designated areas for studying, eating, and gathering with physical distancing.

Will all students be able to use the Leonard Center?

Only athletes will have access to the Leonard Center during Module 1. We will be putting exercise equipment in other places on campus, such as residence halls and the Campus Center, for use by other students.  

What is the plan for COVID-19 testing? Face coverings? Quarantine and isolation?

The college, with significant input from the ID Task Force and local health organizations, continues planning to ensure the college has measures in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. That includes:

  • Testing: Students have been tested twice: first, upon their arrival on campus, and second, within the subsequent two weeks. College employees were also offered the same testing opportunities. For students living in campus housing, initial testing was a required step in their check-in process. More information about COVID-19 testing for students and other support services can be found on the Hamre Center’s website.
  • Face coverings: Macalester’s Mac Stays Safer community commitment and face covering policy requires everyone on the Macalester campus wear a face covering when indoors, and outdoors when six-foot physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Health monitoring: Daily health self-checks are the best way for each person to monitor their physical health. The college will provide a screening tool and community members will be asked to self-assess for symptoms each morning. 
  • Quarantine and isolation: Reducing the number of students in on-campus residence halls allows us greater flexibility to quarantine students in single rooms should they be exposed. Students who are diagnosed with COVID-19 will be physically isolated. Physically-isolated students and students in quarantine will receive regular phone contact from campus health staff. Residential Life and the Office of Student Affairs will help coordinate arrangements for remote learning for physically isolated and quarantined students who live on- and off-campus. In addition, meals will be prepared and delivered for isolated/quarantined students on the college’s meal plan. Students will remain in physical isolation or quarantine until cleared by medical personnel.

More information can be found in the Public Health Practices and Community Norms section of the Return to Campus Plan. 

If an off-campus student needs to quarantine, will they do that in their off-campus housing or on campus? If an off-campus student tests positive, will they isolate in their off-campus housing, or the college’s isolation space?

Students who live off-campus would isolate (if they test positive) and quarantine (if they are exposed to a person who has tested positive) in their off-campus housing. The only people who would quarantine or isolate on campus are students with on-campus housing.

Will Macalester’s athletic teams compete in fall sports?

Macalester will not compete in conference or non-conference athletic competition during Module 1. We hope to have more answers about competition in Module 2 by mid-September.

President Rivera provided a Fall Athletics Update on July 27. The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Presidents’ Council has decided to postpone the fall seasons for football, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, and volleyball to the spring. While our football team is not a member of the MIAC this year, the Midwest Conference has also announced that it will suspend league competition through December 31.

How will residence halls and dining spaces be set up for physical distancing? Will capacity be reduced?

Based on guidance during an in-person walk-through with representatives of the Minnesota Department of Health, we are reducing the number of students who live in the traditional residence halls. The reduced density allows more on-campus students to quarantine in place if they should become exposed to the virus.

There will be seating in Cafe Mac, but the number of seats will be reduced. Hours will be expanded so fewer people will be there at a time. A new floor plan has been designed with seating that promotes six-feet distancing. 

More details about changes to residence halls and dining spaces can be found in the Physical Modifications to Campus Space section of the Return to Campus Plan. Residential Life also shared additional housing information with students and families on July 6.

Where can international students find information and assistance? 

U.S. government policies and guidelines may affect international students in different ways. More information for first-year and returning international students is available on the International Student Programs (ISP) website. Students with specific concerns or questions should contact the ISP staff at isp@macalester.edu.

Are students able to travel in the fall, including for the Thanksgiving holiday?

In the interest of public health, we strongly discourage travel during the fall semester. Students who leave the Twin Cities at any point during the fall are expected to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to the Twin Cities. This means that students who go home for Thanksgiving should plan to complete module 2 remotely.

What support is being provided for students, faculty, and staff who have underlying health conditions? Whom do I notify as a student? Whom do I notify as a staff or faculty member?

Protecting the health of our community, particularly those who are most vulnerable, is at the forefront of our planning. We know there are staff, faculty, and students who will not be able to safely return to campus in the fall, and we are ensuring our plans take their needs into account. If you are a student who requires a health accommodation, please contact Disability Services at disabilityservices@macalester.edu for support and guidance. If you are a staff or faculty member who requires a health accommodation, please contact Bob Graf at rgraf@macalester.edu.  

Will students who have to stay home be provided a hotspot for internet? Or will students without reliable internet connection in their home location be considered for exception to move?

Whether you’re at home, living off campus, or living in a residence hall, please contact the ITS Help Desk if you’re having trouble with reliable internet access. Technicians will work with you to determine the best solution. This may be a hotspot, or partnering with you to work with your internet provider on a more reliable solution.

When will a plan for group gatherings – including athletic team practices, performing arts groups, etc. – be announced?

At this point, we can’t commit to a timeframe for announcing plans for group gatherings. These plans will be determined with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health, the NCAA, the Infectious Disease Task Force, and the college’s working groups.

Specific guidance for student-athletes is addressed in the athletics section of this FAQ.

What are the college’s regulations surrounding small group socializing?

The current guidance from the governor’s office is to limit social gatherings to no more than 10 people in a room indoors and no more than 25 gathered outdoors. This still requires staying six feet apart as much as possible and always wearing a face-covering at gatherings indoors.

How are spaces on campus being adjusted for physical distancing?

The Physical Modifications to Campus Space section of the Return to Campus Plan includes details on changes to classrooms, residence halls, dining services, general campus spaces, and individual workspaces.

What are we doing to mitigate risk in shared bathrooms?

Bathrooms are high-touch surfaces, and like other high-touch surfaces on campus, bathrooms will be cleaned frequently. In order to stay safer, don’t linger in the bathroom, wash hands thoroughly, and wear a face covering in indoor spaces.

We did consider adding seat covers to toilets, but ultimately decided against it. While a cover may help contain some droplets that result from flushing, ultimately that material ends up on the seat and now the next person must touch the contaminated surface. Seat covers also require people to use them, and there is a high likelihood that this will not occur consistently. Bathrooms have higher rates of ventilation than other areas of campus buildings. This increased ventilation means that any contaminated air will be removed from the spaces quickly.

When do you expect to have an update on spring study away? 

We hope to have a decision on spring study away by the end of Module 1. The Center for Study Away staff is communicating directly with affected students and has prepared information for those who were planning to study away in Spring 2021. This information can be found on the COVID-19 and Study Away page. 

Is the college permitting travel for employees?

Currently, the college’s expectation is that there is no non-essential, work-related travel — either domestic or international — for employees. 

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Academic Topics

How will Macalester conduct a Fall semester that minimizes health risks?

President Rivera’s Fall Planning Update includes a list of actions we are taking to support learning while observing best practices for physical distancing, enhanced hygiene, and other preventative measures. Additional information can be found under the Public Health Practices and Community Norms section of the Return to Campus Plan. 

Will first-year students be the only students who can attend class in-person during Module 1? Or will off-campus students be able to attend the in-person elements of hybrid courses once the quiet period is over?

The only students who can attend class in-person during Module 1 are first-year students.

If a first-year decides to defer to spring semester, will they still take a First Year Course (FYC) in the future?

Yes, in that case they would take a FYC in Module 3.    

When will you make a decision about Module 2, in terms of in-person or remote instruction?

We hope to make a decision by mid-September, but the timeline could change due to the pandemic’s unpredictable nature.

Will the library have reserve items to check out this year, such as textbooks and laptops?

The DeWitt Wallace Library will not be offering a physical reserves collection (print books, DVDs, or CDs) this academic year. This includes the MCSG print textbook reserve program. In addition, equipment and tech items have moved to the Digital Resource Center and can be checked out using TechCheckout. There will be no laptop checkout on campus this year. Students who do not have access to a laptop that meets their academic needs should reach out to Financial Aid via the Emergency Aid Program. If you have questions about the library or accessing library resources, use the library’s Ask Us! form.

What will the 2020-2021 academic calendar look like?

  • Fall and Spring semesters will each be divided into two 7.5-week modules. Modules 1 and 2 for Fall semester, and modules 3 and 4 for Spring Semester. 
  • There will be 10 official class times, called blocks, for the 2020–2021 Academic Year.
  • Students will enroll in up to two (four credit) courses per module. 
  • Students will enroll in a minimum of 12 credits to maintain full-time status and a maximum of 18 credits over the course of the semester. 

Will exceptions be allowed for courses to be taught across modules?

Some exceptions will be made: 

  • Five-credit language courses will be taught across two modules.
  • A decision is pending for students in music ensembles. 
  • Senior capstones and other courses are not exempted from the one-module limit. 

How will language courses fit within the module-block structure?

Only accelerated language classes will run for the full semester (across both modules). All other language courses will be taken in one module, and the second course in the sequence will be taken the following semester.

Will courses be offered in Summer 2021?

Yes. Module 5 will start on May 19 and end on July 10. Students will be able to take two extra courses (up to eight credits) in Module 5 at no additional tuition cost. The goal is to provide all students with an opportunity to make progress toward their graduation requirements or (for seniors) to explore subjects they previously were not able to fit into their schedules. 

We plan to offer a mix of remote and in-person courses to provide maximum flexibility so students can take advantage of these courses from wherever they may be next summer. In addition, we plan to offer courses not traditionally available during the regular academic year.

What have professors done to develop their online teaching skills and presentations? What will online learning look like?

Faculty and staff have invested a great deal of time, research, and reflection in order to prepare to deliver course material using online tools in ways that enhance instruction. They’ve been outfitted with new technology to make the remote teaching experience more effective.

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Community Commitment

What is the Mac Stays Safer community commitment?

Our individual and community health depends on our choices and actions. Our ability to stay safer is only as strong as our shared commitment to each other. View the Mac Stays Safer community commitment

The community commitment requires everyone to wear a face covering. What are the specific expectations and proper protocols?

You should always wear a face covering that covers both nose and mouth when indoors, and outdoors when six-foot physical distancing cannot be maintained.

How to wear your face covering correctly:

  • Wash your hands before putting on your face covering
  • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face
  • Make sure you can breathe easily

Clean your face covering regularly:

  • Add to your regular laundry and use warmest water setting for the cloth
  • Dry completely in dryer or in direct sunlight

Please see the Face Coverings policy for more information.

The community commitment makes references to pods. What is a pod?

Pods (or bubbles) are small, self-contained networks of people who limit their non-distanced social interactions to one another — in other words, they’re the small group of people with whom you share air without using face coverings. Medical Director Dr. Steph Walters describes them as a closed circle of close contact with whom you are within six feet of each other for 15 minutes or more.

How should I interact with people outside of my pod?

You should try to maintain a physical distance of six feet with people outside of your pod.

It is safest to avoid crowded places and gatherings where it may be difficult to stay at least 6 feet away from others who are not from your household or pod. If you are in a crowded space, try to keep six feet of space between yourself and others at all times, and wear a face covering. Face coverings are especially important in times when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Pay attention to any physical guides, such as tape markings or decals on floors, or signs on walls.

I want to hang out with my friends and classmates. What are the restrictions on gatherings?

Seeking human connection is normal, but we know that the more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. A good rule of thumb to follow for gatherings is “if it can be virtual, consider making it virtual.”

What are the expectations, in terms of each individual’s role in cleaning shared items and surfaces?

Cleaning is a shared responsibility and it is important that we all regularly clean shared items and surfaces that we use and touch.

Please note that cleaning comes before disinfecting. Cleaning with soap and water (or the EPA-approved disinfectant) removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Apply friction, using a reusable or disposable towel, then disinfect with the non-toxic EPA-approved disinfectant to remove microorganisms. Apply a fine mist and let it dry. Wash your hands with soap and water after using disinfecting products.

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Staying Healthy

What should I do if I feel sick or have COVID-19 symptoms?

Students who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should contact the Hamre Center for Health & Wellness at 651-696-6275 during office hours. Additional detail, including options for after hours advice, is available on the Hamre Center website.

Where can I find more information about COVID-19?

Our Government Guidance page includes links to information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Minnesota Department of Public Health, and Ramsey County Public Health.

What do I do if I have an urgent concern or an emergency?  

In case of a life-threatening emergency, call 911.

  • If you need care after hours, please visit Urgent and Emergency Care for resources. If this is an emergency, please call 911. 
  • Macalester Public Safety is available 24/7 to provide advice or respond to a concern. Public Safety will also connect with Student Affairs staff who can assist and follow up.

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Student Housing

Will students with a housing and dining contract for fall semester receive a refund if they choose to leave campus and study remotely for Module 2?

Room and Board refunds for on-campus or designated hotel housing following Module 1 will be prorated as of the checkout date with Residential Life. Once 60% of a semester is complete, no refund is available unless Macalester sends all students home.

Will students whose housing contracts were cancelled based on the August 10 announcement be allowed out of their housing contracts if they want to look for off-campus housing for the remainder of the year? Will they be exempt from needing to live on campus if they’re invited back for Module 2 or 3?

Yes. We will not expect a student who secures off campus housing to return to campus housing in subsequent modules.  Please notify Residential Life if you secure housing off campus so we can remove you from the list of people who need campus housing for Module 2.

When will the fall tuition and room/board bills be adjusted to reflect that our student is remaining home for distance learning? If we have not yet paid for fall and our student’s room/board contract has been cancelled, do we only pay tuition?

Billing will be updated the week of August 17. If your student is home for the full semester, you do not need to pay room and board. If your student is planning to return for Module 2 and would like to reside in on-campus housing, please wait to make a room and board payment until you have an updated bill.

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What decisions has Macalester made about competition?

Macalester will not compete in conference or non-conference competition during Module 1. Programs will remain in Phase 1 of our return to training protocol throughout the first module, including the use of face coverings and appropriate physical distancing. We hope to have more answers about competition in Module 2 by mid-September.

Can first-years engage in sports practices during Module 1 with those who are on campus after the quiet period? 

During Module 1, we will initially have separate training groups for on- and off-campus students. We hope to progress to full team training, though still in Phase 1 of our return to training protocol, based on advice from our team physician and MDH.

After the quiet period, will varsity teams be able to practice with coaches? If so, how does this affect all classes, both on and off campus?

Following the quiet period, teams will begin their Phase 1 training, meaning training sessions with appropriate physical distancing. On-campus and off-campus student athletes will be placed into separate training groups. Coaches will lead all training sessions, which will take place primarily during the 4:30-7:00 pm protected period. Training programs will also be developed for those learning remotely during Module 1.

If first-year students had a waiver to bring their car to the Drury, can they still bring their cars and keep them on campus?

Students who received waivers will still be able to bring their car. They will receive a permit that will allow them to park on campus overnight. 

Should we expect first-year student-athletes to move a second time to Drury Plaza when Mac is fully open? 

Should the college be able to add more residential students in Module 2, there is a possibility that students on campus may need to move to another room on-campus or to the Drury. More decisions around Module 2 are forthcoming.

Will athletes still eat in the LC?

At this point the eating location for student-athletes will remain in the Leonard Center. Students must have a meal plan or commuter meal plan to eat meals in the LC atrium. Scotty’s will take alternative payments and be open to all student-athletes. All students housed on campus are now required to have a meal plan. While some may have opted out when we were housing student athletes in the Drury, everyone with an on-campus room assignment will now need to sign up for a meal plan. 

What access will off-campus athletes have to the LC and other facilities on-campus?

Once the quiet period is over, there will be designated areas for studying, dining and gathering with physical distancing across campus. Athletes living off-campus will have access to the LC. The LC will continue to serve as a multi-purpose facility for social/study space, dining, and training. More guidance around the open spaces, study spaces and reservable spaces within the LC and across campus is forthcoming.

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Support Resources

How is Macalester working to support students during this time? 

We will ensure that all Macalester students have food and a safe place to live. The college will work with all students to ensure they have the technology they need and are able to fulfill their current academic commitments. We will continue to work individually with students and families if extenuating circumstances arise.

A new Emergency Aid Program is available to help students experiencing financial distress. This program comes in response to a general concern about unexpected expenses that can disrupt a student’s educational trajectory, especially students who have no financial safety net. COVID-19 has underlined the need for such a program. More information about this program, and the form students should use to begin the process, can be found on the Financial Aid website.

What resources are available to support virtual community and wellness?

Recognizing the value and importance of the learning that happens outside of the classroom…even the virtual one, the Division of Student Affairs has created an online hub for student engagement, community, and involvement. Resources are in place for students to connect and find community through student organizations, programming, chat rooms, and other virtual programs. There will be opportunities to engage in wellness activities such as yoga, fitness classes, and guided reflection. The online hub will highlight pathways to a variety of campus resources available to students through remote connections. 

What support resources are available for faculty and staff?

Employment Services shared a resource guide for faculty and staff. This guide includes information about COVID-19 testing and details about several Macalester benefits for faculty and staff including the Employee Assistance Program.

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Ways to Help

How can faculty, staff, and parents help Macalester students?

Thanks to those of you who’ve asked how to support students. You can make a gift to the Macalester Fund, which provides critical flexible support that can be deployed rapidly wherever it’s needed. Gifts will help our students with unanticipated expenses and help every campus department reimagine remote student support and programming. Any gift is appreciated.

What can alumni do to help?

Many of you in our thoughtful and generous community have asked how you can help. Thank you! Here are some ways to do that: 

  • Support Macalester students in a time of need. As the needs of our students, faculty, and staff grow and evolve, gifts to the Macalester Fund provide critical flexible support that can be deployed rapidly wherever it’s needed. Your Macalester Fund gift will help reimagine remote student support and programming by every department—from the Library to Health and Wellness to Career Exploration. Your gift will also help meet the rising student need for food through Open Pantry, provide support for lost student employment wages, and provide supplemental financial aid for students whose needs have increased during this crisis.
  • Be available to share career advice. During this tumultuous time, students could really use your career advice. Turn on your CareerHelper badge in MacDirect to show students you are open and willing to connect.
  • Hire a Macalester student. Have an opening at your organization, even for part-time work? Fill out this quick Google form and we’ll share it with students.
  • Stay connected and supportive. Show your Macalester pride—in conversations, on social media, wherever you are. Share your love for students and each other. This pride will help bring comfort and will also help prospective students see the community they will be a part of if they choose Mac. Reach out to friends and classmates through your local or class-year social media channels as well as through MacDirect, our online alumni directory.


  • For students or parents of current students: Have a question that isn’t answered in our FAQ or on this site? Please email us at healthresponse@macalester.edu
  • For alumni: Have a question that isn’t answered in our FAQ or on this site? Please email us us at alumnioffice@macalester.edu

Reviewed: 9/17/2020