Students required to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines in University offices

Wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing are mandatory elements of the University’s return-to-campus plan. Units are encouraged to post specific safety requirements both on their office website, if applicable, and via physical signage in the office itself. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In order to maintain a safe learning and working environment for Penn State students and employees alike this fall, the Return to Campus Task Group has issued guidance related to expectations for student behavior and safety compliance when visiting University offices.

Previously, Penn State announced that wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing are mandatory elements of the University’s return-to-campus plan, and the Return to Campus Task Group released guidelines for enforcing these rules in a classroom setting. This new guidance reiterates that the same requirements and enforcement mechanisms also apply to students as they interact with University employees in office settings.

“Full compliance and buy-in to the University’s safety measures are essential to the success — and ultimately the longevity — of the in-person component of our fall semester,” said Danny Shaha, assistant vice president for Student Affairs. “There are new expectations and protocols for everyone, and we want to encourage proper behavior from the outset in order to uphold a safe environment for all members of our Penn State community.”

Units are encouraged to post specific safety requirements both on their office website, if applicable, and via physical signage in the office itself. This should include masking and social distancing, which are mandatory University-wide, as well as other expectations that may be specific to a particular office, such as directional guidance or the need to remain behind plexiglass partitions. When possible, these guidelines should be communicated to students and visitors in advance.  

If a student fails to adhere to the requirements, employees should take the following steps, in succession, as needed:

  • Remind the student in a firm, kind manner of the requirements, and that the reason is for their own safety and for the safety of individuals working in the office. Ask the student to comply. If the student has forgotten a mask, offer one to the student, if available, and remind them that face masks are required to be worn in all University buildings, as well as outdoors on campus when social distancing is not possible.  
  • Remind the student that noncompliance is a violation of University requirements and of the Student Code of Conduct and ask that the student comply.
  • Ask the student to either comply or to leave the office and the building immediately. You may consider providing the student with alternative methods of interacting with your office, if available and appropriate.

If a student ultimately refuses to comply, the employee should immediately file a report with the Office of Student Conduct and notify their supervisor. If the student’s identity is known or can be determined, the Office of Student Conduct will alert the student that they will not be allowed to return to that office until the matter is addressed through Penn State’s conduct process. At the office’s discretion, the student may be given alternative options to interact or receive services remotely as the conduct process transpires.

“We want employees to know and feel confident that they have the University’s full support — and the support of the Office of Student Conduct — in reinforcing Penn State’s safety requirements,” said Shaha. “Any referrals to the Office of Student Conduct will be addressed, and those found to be in violation of our expectations will be subject to action under the student conduct process.”

To help reduce the risk of virus transmission in office settings, Penn State will utilize plexiglass barriers, signage and various other measures, as appropriate, to provide for social distancing and other health and safety needs. Penn State also has purchased 500,000 cloth face masks and 1.5 million procedure masks that will be distributed across campuses to students and employees; several thousand additional hand-sanitizer stations will be placed in high-traffic areas; enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be employed in University facilities; and classrooms, common areas, study spaces, workspaces and other shared locations will be reconfigured with social-distancing principles in mind.

Unless otherwise informed by their supervisor, and in accordance with guidance from the governor, employees who are currently working from home should continue to do so until further notice.

Full COVID-19 student guidelines for University offices, which were developed in consultation with the University Staff Advisory Council, can be found on the Office of Student Conduct’s website. For the latest information about Penn State’s return-to-work planning, visit To learn more about the University’s response to the coronavirus and Back to State plans, visit

Last Updated August 06, 2020