Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science
November 03, 2020


By Philip Lehman

Here’s an SCS update on our approach to and status of Return to Campus arrangements for our the School of Computer Science and CMU.

 Return Plans

Approximately 90 Return to Campus plans plus amendments have been submitted and approved for SCS (the preponderance for hands-on activities, such as for robotic or biological work; the other colleges with large numbers are Engineering and MCS).  Research plans comprise about ⅔ of the plans across CMU.  The educational preparation plans (we had about 4 in SCS) expired at the end of the summer.  

In addition, we submitted an SCS-wide Administrative/Operational Plan about 2 months ago for people who needed to be on campus for non-research-project purposes.  We recently submitted an addition/amendment to the Administrative/Operational Plan with slightly relaxed restrictions for individuals returning to campus for a small number of hours, for 3 CMU-guided reasons (work productivity/proficiency, on-site collaboration needs with colleagues, expand/enhance service offerings to campus community).  SCS and CMU will continue to evaluate how those plans are functioning during November.

We’ve also had a small number of short-term plans for special activities.  Overall, about 600 people from SCS have been approved for return to campus.  This does NOT include one-time requests, which should still be directed to More information may be found on the SCS Return to Campus page.

Kudos are due to our CMU colleagues who have worked on the approval process and provided “Cleaning Consults” to advise, support, and coordinate on best practices and university cleaning.  We appreciate everyone’s work to keep the community safe and remind everyone (at every possible opportunity) to remain careful for each other.


Service Postures, End of Semester, Winter Break, and Spring Schedule

CMU has developed a number of "Service Postures," depending on regional and other health conditions. Plans are being finalized for the Service Posture after Thanksgiving.  As a reminder, there will be no in-person instruction after Thanksgiving.  Research plans may continue in labs.  More specifics will be out from CMU shortly.

A list of winter activities (mostly for January) in SCS and at CMU is forthcoming.  If you have ideas for this list, please get in touch with

Work continues about the specific scheduling and logistics for the spring semester, which will begin on February 1, 2021.

PSOs and CPSAs

As a reminder, we have 2 groups of individuals who have taken on roles with responsibility to help us with safety considerations and monitor status.

PSOs:  Each SCS submitted return plan has individuals in the role of Pandemic Safety Officer (PSO).  These faculty and staff members are helping ensure that their plan colleagues understand and follow safety protocols, have enough cleaning supplies, and so forth.

CPSAs: In addition, SCS has a group of Community Pandemic Safety Ambassadors (CPSAs) among more than 100 across CMU.  These individuals are taking shifts to walk through all of our SCS buildings: Gates, Hillman, Newell-Simon, Smith Hall, Wean, TCS Hall, and several buildings on Craig Street.  (On a recent walk, this was about 4 miles, including up and down stairs.)  They remind people who are not wearing face coverings, check for supplies, and look for any other situation that needs attention.  They are also a general resource for the PSOs and for others for COVID-related safety questions.  (If you are interested in helping in this way, please get in touch.)

All of these individuals are part of a CMU-wide community working to keep us safe.  Please thank them for their service.

In general terms:, our PSOs and CPSAs have observed that the campus has been very quiet.  The main issues and concerns have been replenishing supplies and reminding a small number of people on campus (mostly students) that they need to wear face coverings at all times (unless they are eating).


CMU has maintained a wealth of data about the COVID situation, including campus density (targeting at most 30-40% of pre-COVID density), cases, and supplies.  Case data may be found at the CMU Dashboard.

As Martial mentioned in the recent Town Hall, there is also a CMU situational dashboard to track supplies such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and building density.  It is not licensed, designed, or structured for general use, but some snapshots may provide insight into awareness of safety issues.  By way of example, there are snapshots below of overall campus density, example recent trends for two of our buildings, and PPE supplies.

This information--along with the quick daily surveys from CMU; thanks for filling those out--helps inform the decision making.

International Work

As a reminder, there are special considerations and a request process (new guidance forthcoming) for faculty and staff who are working other than on US soil.


Thank you

Thanks are due to the SCS teams working to think ahead to coordinate the various COVID-related precautions and activities.

Thanks also to our entire community--all of us--for working to keep each other safe.

Of course, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions or concerns.


Figure 1: Campus density map.  Blue is low 


Figure 2: Individuals on campus during the days shown (Nov 2 is partial).

The lines (generally top to bottom, scale on the right) are for Gates-Hillman, Newell-Simon, TCS.  The bars (scale on the left) show the total of those buildings.


Figure 3: Supplies of PPE (blue is good)