Survey: If They Return to Grounds, Students Pledge to Practice, Enforce Safety Measures

Professor standing at a podium with an empty classroom while on zoom

About 87% of students concurred with the idea of taking larger courses online and meeting in person for smaller courses. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

A recent survey of University of Virginia undergraduate students scheduled to return to Grounds in the fall found that an overwhelming majority agreed to practice safety behaviors to protect against the spread of COVID-19 and would hold their peers accountable to do the same.

About 92% of students who responded to the survey “agreed” or “somewhat agreed” to practice safety behaviors such as frequent hand-washing, masking and social distancing. And 86% “agreed” or “somewhat agreed” to hold their peers accountable on those measures.

The survey, sent to 12,300 undergraduate students on May 3, received a 73% response rate. Surveys for graduate students and faculty have also been distributed.

The results are among many factors being considered by the Fall 2020 Committee, which is developing recommendations for the next academic semester with the guidance of health and safety experts and input from across the University community.

“I'm very grateful for so many students taking the time to complete the survey amongst finals and other challenges occurring during this pandemic,” said committee member Ja’Mel Reed, a rising fourth-year student. “This was a great start to the student involvement and input on the future of decisions regarding the potential return in the fall. I’m excited to continue to gather more input from undergraduate students, as well as other groups at UVA, in order to ensure that we are representing as much of the University and Charlottesville populace as possible.”

Among other questions, the survey of undergraduate students presented three hypothetical scheduling scenarios and asked if students could adapt to them. The scenarios included:

  • A fall semester of two seven-week “modules,” allowing some courses to be taught for the full semester and some in the seven-week intensive format.
  • Delaying the start of the semester by approximately one month.
  • Starting the semester with most or all instruction online and transitioning to in-person instruction as conditions allow.

About 71% of respondents “agreed” or “somewhat agreed” that they could adapt to those scheduling scenarios.

“It’s important to note that the Fall 2020 Committee is exploring a wide variety of options and the scenarios we’re looking at are changing based on the latest information we have available from health and safety experts,” said Archie Holmes, vice provost for academic affairs and a member of the committee. 

As a result, Holmes added, the surveys for graduate students and faculty asks different questions.

On the potential for weekly schedule changes to mitigate risks, students overwhelmingly said they would prefer to take a large course online to accommodate smaller courses in person, with 87% of respondents indicating some level of agreement.

The Fall 2020 Committee is expected to deliver its recommendations in coming weeks and President Jim Ryan will update the University community about fall plans by mid-June.

Media Contact

Wesley P. Hester

Office of University Communications