CSU community encouraged to keep gatherings small

As Labor Day weekend nears, Colorado State University is urging the university community to keep social gatherings small.

It’s all part of an ongoing campaign to encourage the community to practice public health behaviors amidst COVID-19. Launched in August, the campaign features print and digital messaging across all university campuses with an illustrated CAM the Ram demonstrating the behaviors.

The latest thrust of the campaign shows CAM interacting with a small group of people. The campaign’s first installment focused on how face coverings can help slow the spread of COVID-19, pulling data from a July survey that found 91% of students are motivated to practice health behaviors.

Jenn “JR” Rieskamp, community liaison specialist between Off-Campus Life at CSU and Neighborhood Services at the City of Fort Collins, has first-hand experience seeing students practicing health behaviors. Looking back at the past six months, Rieskamp said off-campus students have generally done a good job of keeping gatherings small.

“I’ve gone on ride-alongs with Fort Collins police officers,” Rieskamp said, “and I’ve seen students doing the right things.”

Cody Frye, executive director of Campus Recreation, has seen similar instances on campus.

While Frye hasn’t been on campus in the evenings as much as in previous years, he said he hasn’t seen the large groups of students playing sports on the intramural fields, just a couple of small groups playing catch. “Typically in the first week of classes, we’d see the fields full of drop-in sport groups,” he said.

Responsible social gathering tips from Off-Campus Life

Keep your group small, with less than 10 people.

Wear a face covering and encourage guests to do the same.

Avoid games or activities where people touch the same items.

Show guests where they can wash or sanitize their hands.

Stay home if exposed to COVID-19 or feeling sick.

Maintain a six-foot physical distance at all times.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Avoid sharing snacks and drinks.

Rieskamp said Off-Campus Life is opening its Party Registration System, which will now provide some COVID-19 specific education around gatherings.

The system, a collaboration between CSU and the City of Fort Collins, was initially designed to allow students and community members to register their gatherings to mitigate noise issues. Now in the era of COVID-19, registration will also require people to complete and provide a contact tracing guest list.

“We know that you want to see your friends, and we know that you want to have fun,” Rieskamp said. “We need you to do it in a way that is safe for you, your guests and our community.”

Social norms marketing

A “Keep Gatherings Small” message displayed on the video board at Canvas Stadium. Photo by Colleen Rodriguez

The ongoing campaign was developed by more than two dozen faculty, staff and students across campus as part of the Social Norming Taskforce, co-led by Jody Donovan, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, and Laura Giles, associate executive director of housing and dining services.

The taskforce used a social norms marketing strategy to develop the campaign, which focuses on correcting the misperceptions that people have about their peers and their attitudes and behaviors.

“We’re focusing on what we CAN do — we CAN keep our gatherings small,” Donovan said. “I’m really proud of our students, staff and faculty because the CSU Ramily has stepped up to follow the public health guidelines and is committed to keeping our community healthy.”

The Social Norming Taskforce came out of the Student Life Recovery and Continuity Workgroup, one of the groups executing President Joyce McConnell’s COVID-19 recovery plan. Workgroup co-chairs Karen Estlund, dean of Libraries, and Blanche Hughes, vice president for Student Affairs, led the charge for the subcommittee. Giles said that support for the campaign has been positive.

“Keeping your gathering small is another example of Rams Take Care; Rams Take Action,” Giles said. “Together, we can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Each person’s choice to follow public health guidelines can truly make a positive impact for themselves and others.”

COVID-19 recovery

For the latest information on the CSU’s pandemic recovery plans, visit covidrecovery.colostate.edu.