With more students coming back to campus next month, Northwestern University is telling them what they need to do, and what they should expect even before Winter Quarter classes begin.

A message to NU students from Provost Kathleen Hagerty and other university officials comes with a warning: “While we are confident in our preparations for winter, returning is a choice you must make considering your health and that of your family.”

Northwestern is reopening on-campus housing to first and second year students, as well as allowing fraternity and sorority houses to reopen.

First and second year students were barred from campus in the Fall Quarter and frats and sororities were closed, in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

With extensive testing for the coronavirus, NU’s positivity rate for students, faculty, and staff has hovered in the 1% range, far lower than Evanston as a whole, which itself has had lower rates than the City of Chicago and suburban Cook County.

Returning undergraduate students will have a “two-stage modified quarantine” from Jan. 3-17. Undergrads will have to remain in their rooms, off-campus or on, until they receive two negative COVID-19 tests. Classes begin Jan. 11, but they will all be held remotely for the first week.

Most classes will still be held remotely once the modified quarantine period ends, although there will be more in-person and hybrid offerings than there were in the fall.

As the quarter proceeds, undergraduate students will have to be tested weekly for the virus. The University says, “If after several reminders of their obligation to be tested, students do not comply,” they will be referred for possible disciplinary action.

Violation of University health and safety regulations, including not wearing masks, “could result in removal from campus.”

Graduate students, most of whom live off-campus, will need to receive one negative COVID test before any in-person activity connected to school, and will be tested either weekly or every other week during the quarter, depending on how frequently they will be on campus.

The message to students ends with “Nine months have now elapsed since the pandemic first disrupted our lives, and it continues to take a toll on us.”

The provost and her colleagues tell the students that whatever they do next quarter, from coming to Evanston to learning remotely from their hometowns, “know that you are cherished members of our Northwestern community.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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