Frequently Asked Questions

We want you to have all the tools you need to weather this crisis calmly and stay in the best possible health. If you need more, don’t hesitate to Get Help.


RISD will open in the fall with students on campus in a de-densified model. Core studio and shop-based courses will be held in person and other courses will take place online or in a hybrid online-plus-embodied version. Those students, faculty and staff that return to campus will be subject to a multi-layered regime of health and safety protocols.

Yes, these plans could change if COVID conditions change and RISD has a back-up plan if this were to occur. We would offer all courses online, with core studios and shop-based courses offered in person during the 2021 Wintersession and spring semesters under health safety protocols. Learn more.

There will be some students for whom returning to campus in Fall 2020 will be impossible. Whenever possible, and depending on departmental learning goals, accommodations will be made for these students to continue their studies entirely online.

Students may request to take fall semester fully online by emailing

More information on the process and what information to include can be found here.

If you cannot return to campus in the fall and choose not to accept the option of an entirely online semester, or prefer not to return, you will need to apply for a leave of absence. You can find more information on this process here.

RISD Employees experiencing discomfort with returning to campus for their duties should engage in dialogue with their supervisor or Human Resources about their specific concerns. RISD maintains an existing fair and equitable ADA process by which faculty and staff may request reasonable accommodations to perform the essential functions of their job, found here.

RISD reserves the right to make the determination regarding accommodations, and the employee may otherwise consider alternative leave options available to faculty and staff.

International students may apply to take the fall semester fully online following the process found here. For all other international student inquiries, including visa questions, please work directly with the Office of International Student Services.

Students may apply for a leave of absence and should consult with both Student Affairs and Student Financial Services before making a final decision. Learn more.

Health and Safety

For Fall 2020 the RISD campus will be occupied at significantly lower density levels. Core studio and shop-based courses will be held in person and other courses will take place online or in a hybrid online-plus-embodied version. Wherever possible, employees will continue to work from home to keep the density of our campus as low as possible. RISD will limit unnecessary visits from outside the community to help reduce health risks.

Comprehensive health protocols will be put in place including mandated social-distancing measures. Masks, which will be provided to everyone on campus, will be required in studios, classrooms and public spaces. Screening, testing and disinfecting protocols have been established and a new respiratory clinic—a care center dedicated to evaluating people who may have COVID-19—will reside in Thompson House. If a student does contract COVID-19 or comes in contact with someone who has the virus, we have extensive contact tracing, isolation and quarantine processes in place.

Students who test positive for COVID-19, but do not need to be admitted to the hospital for treatment, will be required to isolate and will receive care from Student Health Services. Employees who test positive for COVID-19 but do not need to be admitted to the hospital for treatment will receive care through their primary care physician and will be required to isolate at home and contact their primary health care provider.

While we hope that the measures outlined will mitigate any widespread outbreak of COVID-19, we are prepared for various scenarios in which an outbreak might occur and have planned how we should respond, including circumstances that might warrant closing the campus. Learn more.

All community members will receive training in public health guidance, and will agree to be part of a “social compact” that upholds that guidance in the interest of community safety and well-being.  Both the Student Code of Conduct and RISD employee policies will outline expectations for compliance.  Those who deliberately violate policies would face disciplinary action.

Screening and Testing

All community members should complete the daily COVID self-assessment through the MyRISD app or on before coming to campus. If an employee’s self-assessment indicates that they should be tested, they must contact their healthcare provider for a diagnostic test at a state testing facility. They should also immediately let their manager and HR know they need to be tested and quarantine at home. If a student’s self-assessment indicates that they should be tested, they must self-quarantine, contact Health Services to schedule a test and let their professors know they will not be in class.

All RISD community members living or working on campus during the fall semester will be expected to be tested prior to the start of the academic year or before resuming work on campus. In addition to this baseline arrival testing, RISD will test 50 percent of the population every two weeks during the semester. Students who have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive should receive a diagnostic test through the Respiratory Clinic at Thompson House.

If community members choose to not get tested, their ID card will be deactivated and they will not be permitted in any RISD buildings or exterior spaces during the fall semester.

Those who participate in the baseline arrival testing will form the pool for surveillance testing. Individuals identified for surveillance testing will receive notification by email with an appointed time frame for self-administered testing as described above. At the moment RISD plans to test 50% of the population every week through a combination of randomized sampling and targeted sampling of at-risk populations (dining, facilities, on-campus students, etc.). RISD anticipates increasing its surveillance testing capacity by mid to late September, although we cannot confirm the new volume of testing at the moment. Community members cannot volunteer to participate in surveillance testing. If a community member feels they need a test, employees can go to a Rhode Island testing center near them or students can contact Health Services.

If a community member’s test is negative, they will receive an email prompting them to securely login to the testing portal to view your results within 24 hours. If an employee’s test is positive, Employee Health Coordinator Karen Chase, NP, will contact them directly. If a student’s test is positive, Health Services will contact them directly.

The Broad Institute, a private, non-profit agency (affiliated with MIT and Harvard), will conduct the initial baseline arrival testing as well as the ongoing campus population surveillance testing.

Yes, if you are a non-exempt (hourly paid) employee you should schedule testing during your work hours, whenever possible. If non-exempt (hourly paid) employees take the test outside of their work time, managers should ask the employee to agree that they will be paid for the actual time involved in taking the test.

Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 will be covered by the RISD student health insurance policy and the RISD employee health insurance policy at approved locations. RISD will make options available to its on-campus faculty and staff for obtaining COVID-19 testing, where those employees do not have health insurance available to cover the cost of testing. Hospitalization and treatment for COVID-19 is covered like any standard medical treatment.

Employee Health Coordinator Karen Chase, NP, is a primary resource for managers and department heads. Employees with questions specifically related to the daily health screening can also contact her at

Students can contact RISD Health Services with questions about testing. 

Public Health Training

All students and employees are required to complete a virtual training before they can begin classes or come onto campus.

Students should check their email address for the link to access the training or write to with concerns/questions.

Employee training is available via the new learning management system, Canvas. Employees should log onto using their RISD credentials to complete the training.

Staff: August 29, the day that students begin arriving on campus
Students and Faculty: September 10, the first day of classes

If a community member does not complete the training, their ID card will be deactivated and they will not be permitted in any RISD buildings or exterior spaces until they do so.

Human Resources will work with managers to ensure that the training is available and completed by employees on their first day back from leave or furlough.

Printable PDF versions are available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.


Yes, non-exempt (hourly paid) employees should complete the training during work hours, if possible.


Yes, the Academic Calendar for AY 2020–21 has been adjusted to bolster RISD’s prioritization of public health. Learn more.

Core studio and shop-based classes will be taught in person; other studio classes will be taught partially in person and partially online. Learn more.

To view your current schedule and see how your courses are being offered, please use the RISD Course Modality Lookup Tool.

Yes, some departments and programs will continue to teach some or all classes online to help with the overall goal to de-densify the campus. Learn more.

Access to shops and labs will occur with social distancing practices in place. Deans and department heads will be in touch with faculty, students and staff about specific measures for their studios, classrooms and shops. In support of the de-densified studio classroom plans for Fall 2020, RISD will expand technical support to facilitate new requirements for in-person workshop use, including increased staffing, extended hours of operation, and, whenever possible, adopt a service center model for digital output of both 2D and 3D projects. Learn more.

No, all international study and travel courses, including the European Honors Program, have been canceled for Fall 2020.

Yes, the Career Center will deliver its advising, programming, and resources online throughout AY 20-21. Learn more.

Yes, these resources will be accessible through either virtual support, online and in-person appointments, or controlled-capacity entry to the physical spaces. Learn more.

RISD CE programs and classes will be primarily online for the 2020-2021 academic year. Moving forward, a limited number of classes will be hybrid and in-person located at the Westerly Education Center in Westerly, Rhode Island, and if it becomes feasible at Tillinghast Farm in Barrington, RI. Learn more.

The Teaching and Learning Lab will be offering resources and programming to support a more considered curricular transition to online and hybrid teaching next year. Learn more.

Support for the new LMS will be provided through Informational Technology Services and the Teaching and Learning Lab. Learn more.

The opportunity to cross-register with Brown University is available in the fall semester and will not be available in Wintersession or Spring (due to anticipated deviation in the Brown|RISD academic calendars). An exception will be made only for Brown University/RISD Dual Degree students in order to maintain progress in the program.

Campus Life

Students will move in over a four-day period based on a reservation system. RISD will require a quarantine period for all students arriving on campus. Learn more.

Students will be able to select a move in date and time the last week of July. Students will register on a day and a time on the Housing Portal. One person will be allowed in the building to help students move in.

Yes, all students will be required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival on campus. Learn more.

Yes, we have changed our housing models to align with social distancing guidelines. Learn more.

Campus dining will still be offered but with new policies in place to ensure the well-being and safety of students and dining staff. Learn more.

Students living off campus are encouraged to follow all public health requirements regarding social distancing and educate themselves fully about RISD’s policies with regard to screening before coming to campus. Off-campus students will have the option to purchase a meal plan if they wish, but they will be prohibited from visiting on-campus residences. Learn more.

We will be providing an online orientation that will occur during the quarantine period. Learn more.

At this time, we plan on offering online programming and potentially some outdoor events or programming. Learn more at and

The RISD Museum is in the process of evaluating the safest way to welcome students and visitors into its galleries in early September. Learn more.

RISD Weekend will be offered virtually in October and we will be moving reunions to June 2021 to coincide with Commencement. The 2021 Commencement ceremony will be a joint ceremony for both the Class of 2020 and 2021 on Saturday, June 5, 2021. Please visit the RISD Alumni FAQ page for more information.

Card access to campus spaces will be restricted to RISD community members. Family members are encouraged to follow RI Department of Health guidelines for out of state visitors, which may change over time. They will not be permitted in RISD facilities or housing aside from during move-in or move-out. Learn more.

Students may appeal to stay on campus over wintersession if they have demonstrated financial hardship or an inability to return home, and meals will be provided for those who are accepted.  Studios will only be open to those students permitted to take an embodied wintersession course (these would be students approved to do make up work).  There will be a new quarantine in spring for all residential students and all students who remained on campus over wintersession.

No, students who are approved for a fully online semester will not be charged for housing and meal plans while they remain off campus.

CAPs will be available for telecounseling throughout the fall term to support students.  We will provide continuous engagement opportunities for students, some virtual and some in-person, but following public health guidelines regarding social distancing and facial coverings.

Working at RISD

Generally, faculty and staff should continue remote work arrangements unless otherwise required by their essential job duties and until further notice by their supervisors. Remote RISD employees should continue to follow remote work policies. Some positions will be designated as on-campus, and RISD has established new, interim procedures in response to COVID-19.

RISD maintains an existing fair and equitable ADA process by which faculty and staff may request reasonable accommodations to perform the essential functions of their job, found here.

RISD has expanded leave benefits to include COVID-19-related illness for the benefit of employees during this period. Learn more.

RISD Human Resources will work with employees and managers around effective remote work arrangements, including guidance and resources related to policies, procedures and best practices. Individual needs for technology and IT support can be indicated in the Remote Work Arrangement Request Form in Workday.

RISD Human Resources will work with employees and managers related to ongoing compliance with the College’s documented policies and procedures for their safe return to work. In addition all community members are expected to participate in educational and training programs that provide public health protocols. Learn more.

Financial Impact

The financial impact on RISD from canceling on-campus activity in spring and summer, lost revenues from room and board, continuing education and many related institutional activities, and initial FY21 adjustments for increased financial aid support totals approximately $20.4 million.

RISD expects the financial toll of COVID-19 to increase by at least another $30 million in FY21. This is because a significant decline in enrollment is anticipated in the fall due to travel and visa restrictions and delays alongside the continued uncertainty of how the pandemic will progress. In addition, there are significant new costs involved in opening in a de-densified manner, including reprogramming classrooms, studios, housing and dining; investing in safety supplies and protection; securing additional student housing; increased cleaning frequency; and developing multiple platforms for teaching and learning. Further, RISD will lose revenue that it typically relies on to support core operations because the institution cannot host public events, conferences, on-campus Continuing Education classes and other revenue-generating programs.

As a result, the total financial impact from the spring, summer and next academic year will be at least $50 million. This is 30 percent of RISD’s total yearly operating budget and 10 times the $5 million deficit challenge the college faced during the 2008–2009 economic crisis.

The financial setbacks resulting from the pandemic present the most significant financial challenge in RISD’s history. Addressing our deficit of at least $50 million has required a multi-pronged strategy that includes adjustments in pay and benefits—including a one-year elimination of salary increases; a temporary, progressive salary reduction exempting anyone who earns less than $50,000 and having our higher earners take the largest percentage cuts (20% for the president and provost); and a one-year elimination of the institutional retirement contribution (with a a one-time employer contribution of one thousand dollars to each employee who has met the eligibility requirements for RISD’s contribution). The shared commitment of our employees in enacting this plan has allowed RISD to avoid layoffs and minimize the number of furloughs.

Yes. Before any other compensation reductions were discussed, President Somerson and Provost Kleinman decided to take a 15% salary cut. They have since increased their compensation decrease to 20%.

To maintain its accreditation, the RISD Museum must follow the American Alliance of Museums’ professional and ethical requirements. The museum also adheres to “industry-standard” policies laid out by the Association of Art Museum Directors. Both of these professional groups have long-held standards which clearly state that proceeds from the sale of museum objects may be used only for future acquisitions. Recently, those requirements have been slightly relaxed to also allow for such proceeds to be used for “direct care of collections,” defined as conservation and other expenses that might protect jeopardized collections. Proceeds may not be used to support general operations.

Losing its accreditation would seriously threaten the museum’s substantial foundation and governmental support. Likewise, individual philanthropy could be significantly diminished. Other museums would be expected to refrain from any collaborations and partnerships with the museum as would contemporary artists and designers. And, because those requirements are also incorporated in the accounting and tax rules applicable to the museum, its tax status could be jeopardized. 

In short, the RISD Museum’s reputation and viability – and that of RISD as a whole – would be dramatically and irreparably damaged if RISD sold objects in its collection to cover operating expenses.

An endowment provides stable, long-term funding to an institution. So that an endowment can remain a stable source of funding in perpetuity, an institution should only use the interest earned on an endowment fund. An endowment should not be used as a savings account or rainy day fund.

Currently, interest from RISD’s endowment provides 7% of RISD’s operating budget, covering expenses including financial aid, salaries and departmental support budgets. If RISD depletes the endowment to cover the current deficit, it will deplete that interest and therefore operating revenue for years to come. This would result in an even greater reliance on tuition.

The endowment also serves as a resource to support RISD’s outstanding debt of $195 million. Reduction of the endowment will negatively impact RISD’s ability to meet its financial ratio and debt covenant targets required by our bond rating agencies and banks to maintain the cost of that debt and future ability to borrow money to maintain our facilities.  

Borrowing from the endowment is an absolute last resort and something that RISD’s Board of Trustees will allow only if the financial picture worsens substantially beyond current estimates. 

The Board of Trustees approved a tuition and fee increase of 3.8 percent for the academic year 2020–2021. The total cost of attendance, tuition, fees, and room and board can be found on our Student Financial Services webpage.

Students will continue to have opportunities to work on campus, although many jobs may be remote. All student employment wages will be paid based on hours worked as normal.

RISD increased funding for need-based scholarships and graduate fellowships by 23 percent. This will allow the Institution to provide more than $29 million in financial aid to students in 2020-21. If your financial situation has been impacted due to Covid-19, please email

The Department of Education has just released final interim guidance regarding the funding for students through the CARES Act. RISD is reviewing this guidance and is developing a policy to provide this emergency funding to students. More information regarding the policy will be available shortly.

COVID Glossary of Terms

Quarantine​ is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others, to prevent potential spread of disease. Students quarantining on campus will not be permitted to attend any in-person classes or events, and may not have visitors, but they may engage in their classes remotely and go on solo walks to maintain good health.
  • Arrival Quarantine​ – All residential community members at RISD will need to quarantine initially for 2 weeks regardless of test result to account for any potential exposure during travel.
  • Close Contact Quarantine​ – Individuals who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 will need to quarantine for 2 weeks. Students will be able to stay in place if they are in single rooms or will be placed in special housing if they are in a shared room.
Isolation​ is used to separate people–either infected with coronavirus or being tested for such an infection–from people who are not infected. People who are in isolation should stay in place until it is determined that they may be around others. Students isolating on campus will not be allowed to leave their isolation room, will have all meals and other services delivered to the room, and the student will be contacted by Student Health Services daily for a health check.
  • Test-Pending Isolation​ – Symptomatic individuals who are being tested for COVID-19 and waiting for results must isolate. Residential community members will be moved temporarily to isolation housing; students living off-campus should isolate at home. A negative test means one can leave isolation; a positive test means that isolation will continue.
  • Test-Positive Isolation​ – Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 but do not need hospitalization will be required to isolate. Those isolating will be allowed to return to classes/work upon meeting the RIDOH guidelines for ending isolation​.
Reproduction Rate​ (R​0​ or R-value) indicates the average number of people that one person with COVID-19 is likely to infect in a population without any immunity (from previous infection) or any interventions. If the average R​0​ in the population is greater than 1, the infection will spread exponentially. If R​0​ is less than 1, the infection will spread only slowly, and it will eventually die out.
Positivity Rate​ indicates the percentage of tests that come back positive for COVID-19 out of all tests conducted. In general, a high positivity rate indicates that not enough testing is being conducted to understand the true spread of the disease; a positivity rate of 5% or below is generally regarded as “good.”
Physical Distancing​ – the need to maintain a safe distance of no less than six feet between yourself and others. The term “social distancing” is sometimes used and carries the same meaning as “physical distancing.” Physical distancing should be practiced in combination with other ​everyday preventive actions​ to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks,​ avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, and frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Baseline/arrival testing​ – the testing that will happen at the beginning of the semester of all students and employees who will be on campus. It is the means by which we will create both a testing baseline and the surveillance testing pool.
  • Surveillance testing​ – the systematic screening of a sample of the population,including asymptomatic individuals, to identify cases.
  • Diagnostic testing​ – when a symptomatic person is tested, to determine if they are positive for COVID-19.
  • Cloth face covering​ – a fabric mask that covers the nose & mouth with at least two layers of fabric, not vented; it is the preferred method of protection at RISD.
  • Disposable/Surgical mask​ – a disposable mask that creates a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment; a single-use face covering that must be discarded after use.
  • N95 (medical grade)​ – Professional respirators, c​alled N95 respirators, are medical devices designed to prevent exposure to tiny droplets that can remain suspended in the air. Health care workers who wear them undergo a fit-test to find the right make, model, and size to ensure a tight seal. N95 respirators are currently in very short supply and should be reserved for health care providers and first responders.
  • N95 (construction grade)​ – Construction grade N95 masks, or standard N95 masks, are occupational masks that filter tiny droplets but do not have as tight of a seal as medical grade N95 masks.
  • Vented dust mask​ – a face covering used in some shops to protect the user from dust particles. Not sufficient for viral protection because it does not protect others from exhaled particles of the user. Must be used in combination with a cloth face covering.
De-Densification​ is the intentional reduction of population density on campus. Only individuals who must be on campus for class or work should be on campus.
Self-Screening ​is a method of regularly assessing one’s health based on a pre-set list of symptoms. At RISD, this must be conducted daily ​before​ coming to campus via the MyRISD app or at Faculty/supervisors may ask students/staff if they have completed the daily self-assessment on any given day.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)​ ​is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses​. The CDC does not consider a cloth face covering to be PPE; however, for COVID-19 purposes, a medical-grade N95 mask would be considered PPE. Information on who should wear PPE can be found on the ​CDC website.
Contact tracing​ – the process of identification of persons who may have come into contact with an infected person. It is also the subsequent collection of further information about these contacts to determine if they will need to quarantine because they are considered a close contact of that infected person. All members of the RISD community are encouraged to use the ​Crush COVID​ app and/or keep a journal of daily contacts.
  • Hybrid​ courses incorporate a blend of both in-person and online forms of instruction. These courses may include synchronous and asynchronous modalities, with the potential for different pathways through the course. The ratio of in person and online delivery will vary depending on multiple factors such as the role of three-dimensional material engagement, the use of specialized facilities and equipment, the centrality of group dialogue and critique, and the nature of the assignments and learning goals. The course syllabus will include a clear description of the course delivery structure.
  • In-person​ courses involve the physical presence of both the faculty member and the students during class hours. De-densificaton and health protocols may require modifications to some aspects of in-person courses, and it is common practice for in-person classes to ask students to complete class-related activities/tasks online or remotely (eg., stream films, do research, engage in chat forums, blogs, etc.). The course syllabus will include a clear description of the course delivery structure.
  • Online ​courses will be delivered virtually. These courses may include synchronous and asynchronous modalities, with the potential for different pathways through the course. Course materials may take multiple forms, such as videos, discussions, lectures, and critiques, but instructional engagement occurs in an online environment. The course syllabus will include a clear description of the course delivery structure.
A Learning Management System (or LMS) is a centralized online platform for instructional materials and asynchronous interaction, which allows faculty and students to engage meaningfully in teaching or learning in online or hybrid learning environments

Close contact​ is the term used for individuals who have been ​within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.