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Expectations for Gatherings, Meetings and Events


Capacity limits and restrictions for meetings and events have been lifted. Northwestern requires community members to wear masks, regardless of vaccine status, in all indoor campus environments, even if they can socially distance, except when in a private office, personal residence or residence hall room, or when eating or drinking. Masking is optional outdoors, though certain outdoor events may elect to require masking based on the number of attendees and location of the event.

Because of the significant numbers and diverse types of events on campus, there is not a centrally managed process for registering visitors and events at this time. Instead, schools and units who host visitors and events can determine the optimal approach for their context in alignment with the guidance below. Please note, the guidance may change over time.


Updated August 16, 2021

  • Given the current status of the State of Illinois’ reopening plans, there are no capacity limits nor restrictions prohibiting gatherings, meetings or events on campus.
  • During the academic year, in-person on-campus events should prioritize use of available space for academic purposes and student gatherings. 
  • Attendees at University events are expected to adhere to applicable University safety protocols that are in place at the time they visit campus. These may include protocols regarding masking and other expected community behaviors. It is the hosts’ responsibility to convey the current expectations to guests they invite to campus.
  • Testing is available for visitors to campus, at no charge, during normal business hours at the Jacobs Center or 345 Superior. Visitors who are tested at one of these locations will be able to show proof of a negative test result on their mobile phone within 20-30 minutes.
  • All intercollegiate athletics events will follow NCAA and conference rules and guidelines and expectations of the University’s Department of Athletics and Recreation.
  • With respect to attendees’ vaccination status, schools and units may:
    • Require that visitors or attendees at an event be vaccinated or receive a negative COVID-19 test within a specified timeframe, e.g., 48 hours, before the event.
      • Limiting attendance only to vaccinated individuals is not permitted as some individuals may be unable to receive a vaccine because they are members of a protected class.
    • Schools and units that plan to require vaccination or a negative test for an event should not collect nor store individuals’ protected health information. Instead, some or all of the following approaches can be leveraged:
      • Outline language in the event registration and/or on a website that includes a “COVID-19 Safety Acknowledgement” that uses language such as, “Northwestern is closely monitoring developments related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and will follow local, state, and University guidelines for this event. All attendees will be required to have been fully vaccinated or have received a negative COVID test within 48 hours of the event start, as well as comply with all other University safety protocols that are in place at the time of the event. Participants unwilling or unable to abide by these requirements should not attend.”
      • Include a question or checkbox in event registration requiring participants to acknowledge and agree to comply with the “Safety Acknowledgement.”
      • Display the “COVID-19 Safety Acknowledgement” at the sign-in or entrance of an event.
      • Rely on the “honor system” after conveying the expectations to attendees.
      • Check for proof of vaccination or a negative test upon arrival at an event.


Those hosting visitors or events should also weigh the following considerations:

  • It remains a best practice to have an event registration that captures attendees and their contact information, should it be needed for contact tracing or other follow up.
  • Options to minimize contact during registration, food service, and eating and drinking may be warranted, based on the type of event. Additionally, hosts may consider whether to avoid serving food or provide grab-and-go options.
  • Events held in other cities or states may be subject to additional or different local requirements, which hosts should monitor.
  • The approach towards verification of vaccination or recent testing may be influenced by:
    • The number of individuals in attendance
    • The space in question
    • The length of the event
    • The percentage of attendees who are Northwestern students, faculty, or staff

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