From Van Pelt to Pottruck, students returning to Phila. will have limited campus access


Students returning to Philadelphia will have to abide by the Student Campus Compact, despite the closure of on-campus housing.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

With the closure of on-campus housing this fall, students returning to Philadelphia to live off campus will have limited access to buildings on campus.

The Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center will only be open to graduate and professional students beginning in October, while the Pottruck Health and Fitness Center will be closed until further notice. Starbucks and Amazon@Penn at Class of 1920 Commons will be open. Counseling and Psychological Services and Student Health Service will provide both telehealth and in-person services.

Five out of 12 College Houses will be open for students accepted to live on campus due to “significant housing or personal hardships.”

The Student Campus Compact, a set of social distancing and public behavior guidelines to limit the spread of coronavirus, will still apply to all students returning to Philadelphia. Students must also use the PennOpen Pass, a daily symptom checker that gives students a “Day Pass” to enter Penn buildings.

College Houses

Students approved to return to campus will live in Harnwell College House, Rodin College House, Harrison College House, Mayer Hall, or Du Bois College House, Vice Provost for Education Beth Winkelstein wrote in a Wednesday email to resident advisors and graduate associates. 

Students will be assigned to lower levels in the High Rises, as best as possible, to support use of stairs instead of elevators to limit spread of coronavirus.

Typical first-year houses — the Quad, Hill College House, and Kings Court English College House — will be closed, while the status of Lauder College House, Gregory College House, and Stouffer Hall remains unknown, Winkelstein wrote.

A team of partners from Penn Student Intervention Services, Student Financial Services, Penn First Plus, Penn Global, the undergraduate schools, and the Provost’s office reviewed students’ housing exception requests earlier this weekend, and Penn Residential Services began notifying students of their decisions on Wednesday.

“The vast majority of requests were granted and I am proud that Penn has been able to support our students in this way,” Winkelstein wrote.

Dining Halls and Retail Dining

Class of 1920 Commons, Gourmet Grocer, and Starbucks at 1920 Commons will be open this fall, Business Services Director of Communications and External Relations Barbara Lea-Kruger wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian on Thursday.

All food will be pre-portioned in takeout containers and there will be no self-serve stations, Director of Business Services and Hospitality Services Pam Lampitt previously told the DP. Students will not be permitted to eat inside the dining halls.

Houston Hall

COVID-19 testing will be available for free in the Hall of Flags in Houston Hall for all students living on and off campus throughout the semester. Penn will administer the lower nostril, less-invasive nasal test option on campus.

To promote social distancing, Penn will not be able to accommodate walk-ins. Students can schedule a test through an online platform which will be sent via email, Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé wrote in an email to the DP on Wednesday.

“There are different links [to schedule a COVID-19 test], all of which are dynamic links that can be activated or deactivated based on our staffing levels during certain days and times,” Dubé wrote. “We started sending out targeted invitations to specific groups earlier this week as we are ramping up operations.”


Credit: Kylie Cooper

A sign in front of College Hall reminding visitors to wear a face covering.

Off-campus students must begin quarantining in their residence immediately after the test and until they receive their results, which will take 24 to 48 hours, according to the Wellness Services COVID-19 FAQ.

The University will continue to test both symptomatic and asymptomatic students throughout the semester, according to the FAQ. 

Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center

Beginning October, study spaces in Van Pelt will become available for graduate and professional students only. Van Pelt will operate under limited capacity and a web-based reservation system, Penn Libraries Director of Strategic Communications Mary Ellen Burd wrote in an email to the DP on Wednesday.

All students will be able to check out books from Penn Libraries regardless of where they are learning from this semester. Students can have books mailed to them or use the no-contact “PickUp@Penn” option which allows students to retrieve their books from a no-contact pick-up location outside Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, Burd wrote.

Students will not be able to check out laptops or other equipment, according to the Penn Libraries COVID-19 FAQ.

Pottruck Health and Fitness Center

Penn Campus Recreation is suspending their reopening of Pottruck and other fitness facilities until further notice, Senior Associate Athletic Director Scott Ward wrote in an email to the DP on Tuesday. During the next few weeks, Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics will work with the University to evaluate if it is safe to open any recreational or intercollegiate facilities during the fall semester, he wrote.

Before Penn closed on-campus housing on Aug. 11, Ward told the DP in late July that Penn Athletics planned to reopen Pottruck under a phased approach by properly distancing facility equipment and requiring students to reserve time slots to use campus fitness facilities.

Counseling and Psychological Services & Student Health Service

CAPS visits will be conducted primarily through telehealth, although in-person services will be available for students who need an in-person consultation at 3624 Market Street.

SHS is open for telehealth and in-person services at 3535 Market Street, which are available by appointment only.

Amazon@Penn at Class of 1920 Commons

Amazon@Penn services will be available with no or limited seating at the Amazon@Penn location, Lea-Kruger wrote in an email to the DP on Wednesday. Hours of operation may be modified.

— to www.thedp.com

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