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New campus policies allow some in-person events and meetings to resume

August 14, 2020

Updated, February 23, 2021:

Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) has issued a new order (#13) that increases the number of people allowed at in-person events as of February 10, 2021. As University of Wisconsin–Madison continues to implement our new COVID testing protocols, we will maintain the university’s current limits of 10 people at indoor events and 25 people at outdoor gatherings for any university affiliated event on or off campus. These university event attendance limits will be reviewed and a decision will be communicated on or around March 8, 2021. The current and previous PHMDC orders may be viewed at


As UW–Madison students return to campus for fall classes, new policies will guide how and where students and employees can gather for in-person events and meetings that fall outside of the formal classroom experience.

These policies seek to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 to the campus community while allowing some in-person activities to resume. The policies align with the university’s Smart Restart plan and the Public Health Madison & Dane County Current Order and CDC guidelines.

Whenever possible, the university recommends that events and meetings continue to be held virtually; it is highly recommended that in-person events also allow for virtual participation by attendees who choose not to or are unable to participate in person.

The new campus events policy for schools, colleges, divisions and departments can be found here. It includes a requirement that each unit designate who has the authority to approve events. The new campus events policy for registered student organizations (RSOs) can be found here.

If event organizers believe they will not be able to follow all of the current campus policies, CDC guidelines or PHMDC orders, they may request an exemption from their vice chancellor, academic dean or research center director. RSO’s will need to obtain an exemption from the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. Before an exemption is provided, event organizers will need to verify health and safety precautions will be met.

As of August 14, the PHMDC restrictions cap indoor gatherings at 10 people and outdoor gatherings at 25 people, with limited exceptions. Additionally, per the university’s policies, campus attendance will be limited to a venue’s capacity, which should be adjusted for 6 feet of physical distancing per attendee. As a standard operating assumption, 113 square feet should be allocated per attendee to maintain physical distancing. Hosts are encouraged to consider outdoor venues, when possible, to facilitate physical distancing.

Event hosts will be responsible for assessing the health risks of the activity and making appropriate modifications. They must provide — and require attendees to use as appropriate — face coverings, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies at each event. They also must register attendees and take attendance, among other requirements.

The campus policies apply to all programs, activities, meetings, or gatherings, regardless of their location on or off university property. If a campus unit reserves space for or sponsors an event on campus that is hosted by a non-university entity, the non-university entity must follow these policies. These policies do not apply to formal classroom experiences.

Any university employee or visitor who fails to abide by the policies may be directed to leave the event and may be subject to additional follow-up measures by the supervisor or appropriate campus administrator. The event may be canceled or prevented from continuing if campus policy is not followed. Non-compliance by a student or RSO should be reported via this specialized form.

The policies cover academic year 2020-21 but may be modified as new information becomes available from national, state and local public health agencies. Campus units may establish more restrictive policies as deemed appropriate. The most current university event policy can be found at the Smart Restart website. Questions may be referred to: