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A message from President Marc Tessier-Lavigne on campus zones

Categories: Campus, Health & safety, Leadership communications, President

Note: Please see updated information about campus zones here and here.

Dear Stanford community,

As we continue to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, a major focus of our university’s work has been on how to maximize personal health and safety as members of our community physically return to campus over time. These efforts must now also align with recent guidance from the State of California that requires all institutions of higher education to “limit, to the greatest extent permitted by law, external community members from entering the site [campus grounds] and using campus resources, as the number of additional people onsite and/or intermixing with students, faculty and staff increases the risk of virus transmission.” The aim is to minimize interactions between nonessential visitors and those approved to be on campus for education, research and related purposes.

In accordance with this new guidance, we are writing today to share information about the establishment of new zones on Stanford’s main campus that will affect how students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and visitors access and interact with much of the campus. In designing the campus zones program, we sought to meet the needs of our Stanford community while preserving opportunities for the public to enjoy some of our lands.

These changes will become effective on Sept. 1, in preparation for the return of additional members of our Stanford community to campus as the autumn quarter begins.

Full details of this program, including a map showing the locations of the campus zones, are available in a Stanford Report story that has been published. We also encourage you to explore the frequently asked questions about the zones.

While this program will represent a significant change for our traditionally open campus, reducing the density of individuals to maintain appropriate physical distancing is essential for providing a safer and healthier campus environment. It also allows the university to increase the availability of outdoor classroom and social spaces that are needed because of the State guidance. We wish to stress that the zones will be temporary, and we look forward to a time when they are no longer needed.

Under the program, the center of campus will be designated as the Academic Campus Zone and reserved for students, faculty, staff and postdocs approved to be on campus for allowed educational activities. The Campus Zones, which encompass research facilities and student housing on the east and west sides of campus, along with the Athletics Zone and the Campus Arts Zone, will also be reserved for approved Stanford community members at this time.

We are establishing four different zones that currently have similar restrictions with the hope that the university will be able to relax these rules in some areas sooner as public health conditions improve. For instance, in the future we may be able to welcome visitors back to the Campus Arts Zone ahead of other zones.

Recognizing the important role Stanford’s campus plays in providing athletic and recreational activities for our neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Zones will remain accessible to the public. These areas include the Arboretum, the Dish area, the Sand Hill Fields and the Stanford Golf Course and Stanford Golf Learning Center & Driving Range.

One notable adjustment for students, faculty, staff and postdocs approved to be on campus is a new requirement that they visibly display their Stanford IDs beginning on Sept. 8, when a larger number of students – expected to reach approximately 6,300 for the autumn quarter – will return to campus. We appreciate that this requirement is unusual at Stanford, though it is common in our hospitals and in other work settings where public access is intended to be managed. We are very sensitive to concerns that this may be inconvenient or unsettling for some members of our community. The intention is to provide everyone in the Stanford community with a common means of visibly identifying their Stanford affiliation with the goal of minimizing any potentially uncomfortable interactions about whether a person or group of people is approved to be on campus during this temporary period.

You’ll be able to choose how to display your Stanford ID but recognizing that neck lanyards are already a common feature in our campus landscape, the university will be providing them to anyone who needs one to comply with this requirement. It’s also important to emphasize that the focus of the zones program is educational and health-promotional, not punitive. We’ll largely be focusing on signage that helps educate visitors about the temporary limits on access to campus. Safety personnel will be available in some of the areas in the campus zones that are currently most visited by members of the public to help educate them about the role of this program in supporting everyone’s health and safety, and to ensure we are all doing our part to comply with state and county guidance intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

You will soon start seeing new signage across campus that asks people to adhere to these zones and assists with navigating the changes. These signs are part of the STAY SAFE program that promotes physical distancing and safe behavior based on current public health guidance and evidence-based best practices.

Your feedback is important to the success of the campus zones program, and we welcome suggestions for how the program can be refined to better meet the needs of the Stanford community. Please send your ideas and questions to

We are all in this together – the Stanford community and our neighbors – and it will take a personal commitment and collective effort to safely resume teaching and additional research activities on campus. On behalf of Stanford, thank you for your understanding and participation in this effort to support the health and safety of our community.


Marc Tessier-Lavigne