8/06/2020 - Campus Temporarily Closing to Visitors
Dear Campus Community,
I am writing to let you know that Vassar’s campus will be closed to visitors from August 8 through at least September 7, pending consultation with county health officials. We are taking this action to help ensure the safety of students and local residents alike. Faculty, including emeriti, administrators and staff will still have access to Vassar’s campus; only outside visitors are asked not to enter.
As you know, students will begin arriving for the fall semester in staggered groups over a three-week period starting this Saturday. All students will be tested for the COVID-19 virus before they arrive, and they will be tested two additional times before classes begin. And, students from states on New York State’s travel advisory list will be required to quarantine for 14 days before being allowed to attend classes at Vassar.
Our Community Care plan calls for the campus, including the Ecological Preserve, to remain closed to non-essential visitors starting August 8 and continuing through the first week of September, or longer, pending county health guidance. We have formulated this plan in consultation with county health officials, who believe it is best for the safety of the community, Vassar students and employees.
The Poughkeepsie Farm Project, Community Gardens and Vassar Golf Course will remain open as usual, but cordoned off from the rest of the campus. In addition, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center will be open to the public on weekends, with access from an entrance on Raymond Avenue, just off campus. The Wimpfheimer Nursery School and Infant and Toddler Center will also open to enrolled families towards the end of August as planned.
Students will continue to work remotely with community organizations and with the Poughkeepsie City School District through the Vassar Urban Education Initiative. Vassar also recognizes its importance as a resource in the community and is working on plans to continue to support local businesses through deliveries, an expanded on-campus restaurant presence and more.
If you have any questions, please contact Wesley Dixon (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Sociology
6/29/2020 - A Message From the President Regarding Plans for the Fall
I am writing to share the news that Vassar is inviting all students back to campus for the fall. Based on our faculty survey, we anticipate that the majority of faculty will teach at least some of their courses in person, although all classes will also be available remotely to accommodate students and faculty who may feel it is necessary to study or teach that way.
These are uncertain and perilous times, which deeply affect our students, families, employees, and communities. Most unnerving is the truth that this pandemic will not end soon, and no one can predict when it will end. Amid this uncertainty, we need to act. We will be doing all we can to reduce risk—through daily monitoring, extensive testing, immediate contact tracing, and self-quarantine and isolation—and we will work hard to give students the experience of being part of a community bound by an important and united purpose to show there is a path forward, a way to grow in a time of uncertainty.
In New York State, and particularly Dutchess County where we are located, the incidence of COVID-19 is extremely low, achieved through strict norms of wearing masks, social distancing, and a careful opening up of the economy. As you likely know, I have been serving on Governor Cuomo’s New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Committee and have participated in the development of the Guidance for Higher Education. We will follow this guidance as well as recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and all state, regional, and local public health guidelines. In several areas, we will exceed these guidelines to align with our mission of providing the highest quality liberal arts education in a safe environment that promotes caring for the community and meaningful learning. We will also keep a watchful eye on the federal, state, and local public health requirements and adapt our plan as needed.
We are committed to doing everything we can to keep our community safe and healthy on campus this fall. This is not a decision we reached lightly, and we appreciate your patience and feedback, all of which has helped to inform our plans. For this to work, we need to commit to each other, to live and work together as a community, recognizing our interdependence and caring deeply for every person’s health and well-being.
Our thinking and planning for the fall is intimately connected and shaped by this important historical juncture. We are experiencing global outrage at the persistent racism in this country—present since its founding and with us still. At Vassar, we are called to do better. We must be vigilant in addressing the structural and cultural factors that perpetrate and sustain racial injustice. In the fall, we will renew our commitment to each other using a community care model that emphasizes restorative practices, social accountability, and deep community engagement. These commitments can transform the way we live together as we recognize and accept our interconnectedness and work together to protect the health of everyone in the spirit of inclusion, equity, and anti-racist practice.
We will begin a phased return to campus starting on August 15 with students moving in in small groups. In mid-July, students will receive notification of dates for their move in. Currently, New York State is requiring that anyone entering New York from various states or international settings need to self-quarantine once in New York; however, we know these guidelines will likely change throughout the summer. We are following this issue closely and are planning for how we might accommodate these students in accordance with all public health requirements. Classes will begin August 31, and will proceed through November 20, when we will have a one-week break for Thanksgiving. During this 12-week period, students must stay on campus (other than for emergencies and in exceptional cases) to limit exposures to COVID-19. We will be arranging for vendors and Arlington businesses to be supported with on-campus services. After November 20, we expect students will leave campus (with exceptions as always for students who cannot get home), completing the last week and a half of fall classes, study period, and final exams remotely. The spring semester will begin again on campus in late-January. Efforts will be made to accommodate students who cannot get home over the winter break on campus, although most facilities will be closed for a 10-day window in December.
Classes and other activities
Our faculty have been working steadily on shaping their courses to enable the personalized and creative curriculum that Vassar students have come to know. We are equipping classrooms with needed technology to support hybrid classes that are taught both in person and remotely. We are also investing in classes that can be given outside when appropriate with adequate technology support and accessibility using tents and awnings. Indoor classrooms will be reconfigured to ensure 6 feet of distance between students and with faculty. While in the classroom, students and faculty will be required to wear masks or face coverings at all times. Other gatherings including student organizations and activities may be possible, but it will be critical to keep 6 feet of physical distance at all times and to consider how meetings can take place online when possible. Other activities will be intentionally designed to include and engage students remotely. The athletic department is working with our Liberty League colleagues and following NCAA guidelines to develop a plan to return to sport. We anticipate that decisions about conference competition will be forthcoming from the Liberty League in early July. We await those decisions as well as further NCAA guidance before we finalize our plans regarding intercollegiate athletics. Other group excursions (e.g., class trips) from campus, which are carefully planned, supervised, and approved may be possible—with added testing for participants—as we gain more experience on campus.
Students must have a coronavirus test (specifically, an FDA Emergency Use Authorized COVID-19 molecular assay for detection of SARS-COV-2 RNA) taken three to five days before you arrive. If it is positive, you must stay home until you have tested negative for COVID-19 and inform Health Services right away so we can support you in your future safe move to campus. Students will be required to have evidence of a negative test result either submitted ahead of time or presented at the time of move in. If this is a hardship or such a test is not available in your vicinity, please let Health Services know, and we will work together to find a suitable alternative, including a possible test on campus.
All students will also be required to be tested on campus within the first days of move in and tested again several days later. Any student who tests positive will be supported by our health professionals, isolated until no longer infectious, and expected to cooperate with contact tracers by providing detailed information about their interactions with others. People who are determined to have had significant exposure to anyone with confirmed COVID-19 will be required to self-quarantine, again supported by our staff. The College is working on a plan for subsequent, periodic asymptomatic testing to take place throughout the semester.
Living together safely
We will use a combination of regular self-health assessments, physical distancing, hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting, masking, testing, contact tracing, self-quarantine, and isolation to sustain the health of the Vassar community. Some of these measures may be enabled or supported by new technology. The utmost priority has been given to data privacy and information security, and no shortcuts will be taken to bypass our standards and policies in these crucial areas. Students will be asked to maintain a 6-foot distance from others whenever possible, and to wear a mask or face covering at all times other than when they are in their room or apartment. In the houses, students will generally live in singles and doubles and will not need to wear masks or face coverings in their rooms. The Office of Residential Life is working to make housing assignments that lower density when possible. Shared bathrooms will be marked for 6 feet of distance and students will coordinate usage to reduce density; bathrooms will be cleaned by facilities operations twice per day, and additional cleaning and disinfectant supplies will be available for students’ use. Students may socialize with each other but must keep 6-feet of distance from each other and wear a mask indoors. Outdoors, a mask will be required while in transit (walking) but masks can be removed if one is 6 feet distanced from others and stationary outdoors. Dining will be grab-and-go style for at least the first part of the semester, until we have more experience with these new ways of being together on the campus.
Students living abroad
We recognize that students living abroad may face particular challenges. For those who are more comfortable studying remotely or cannot attain a flight or visa to return to campus, we will make special effort to accommodate time zone differences as much as possible. Faculty will work to make the remote learning robust and meaningful regardless of where in the globe our students reside. For those who return to campus, self-quarantine may be required during the first two weeks in the US, and we will work to accommodate these students as needed and according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
The stakes are high
It is entirely the choice of students and their families whether or not to return to campus, and we will actively support all students regardless of whether they choose in-person or remote learning. Students who choose to return to campus must abide by our community care expectations.
This is a very serious undertaking. We will require each student who chooses to live on campus to sign a community care pledge, which commits one to uphold the expectations of the community so that we mitigate the risk of COVID-19 on our campus. This should be understood not as curtailing freedom but rather as committing to be responsible to each other. Disregard for these expectations endangers the entire community.
Students who fail to uphold the community care pledge will be engaged by the Community Care Team, comprised of students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The Community Care Team will emphasize education, bystander intervention techniques, and restorative practices. Students who travel beyond campus without appropriate approval may be asked to self-quarantine and undergo additional COVID-19 testing. Students who continue to disregard the community care pledge, and therefore the health and safety of others, may be required to leave campus and complete the semester remotely.
Similarly, we expect all members of the Vassar community—including faculty and all employees—to uphold the community care expectations in order to ensure everyone’s health and safety. We will continue to have some administrators and staff work remotely to reduce density on campus. The Dean of the Faculty and individual supervisors of employees have been asked to ensure everyone understands that this behavior is essential and that appropriate consequences will ensue if guidelines are not followed.
We have a challenge ahead of us; coronavirus will be a threat to the world for an extended and indeterminate period of time. Learning how to live together and pursue our education while also staying safe and healthy is critical for all of us and the broader community. Additionally, the pursuit of higher education is integral to young adults’ futures and the public’s long-term wellbeing, especially in light of this social, financial, and public health crisis. To be successful, we will all need to work together, and we all must do our part.
I know that for many of you the coming semester will not be all you had hoped it would be. We are here to support you, and we recognize and respect that everyone must make the choice that best suits their needs. I want to be sure that everyone understands the situation as well as possible, and makes the best choice for themselves in the face of this ongoing pandemic. Please know that I, joined by the faculty and administrative team, am committed to doing the best we can to make your time at Vassar as meaningful and safe as possible.
We know you will have many questions. Our VassarTogether committee is finalizing detailed plans for the fall. Once that work is complete, we will post it to a special website devoted to addressing every facet of our return. This will be available to you in the third week of July. In addition, Dean Alamo and I are planning on having another Student Forum in early July when you and your families may ask questions and provide input. In the meantime, I hope you and your loved ones are finding a safe and healthy way to get through this daunting time. I look forward to working with you in the year ahead.
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
6/18/2020 - College Announcement on Fall Study Abroad
Dear Students and Colleagues,
Today I am writing to inform you that Vassar has made the difficult decision to suspend all study abroad for the fall 2020 semester. Due to considerations for student health and safety, the Vassar College Policy on Student Travel prohibits College study abroad to locations with a U.S. State Department/United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) travel advisory of level 3 or above. Therefore, the current CDC global level 3 warning and Department of State global level 4 advisory preclude the operation of study abroad programming. In addition to these advisories, the following factors make study abroad for the fall 2020 semester unfeasible:
- Unreliable access to evacuation services, due to in-country conditions and travel restrictions
- Possibility of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Potential in-country quarantine requirements
- Uncertainties of future conditions/health care systems and facilities in various countries
- Disruptions to the academic integrity of programs
- Impact upon quality of cultural immersion including loss of residential and host family interactions
- Significant delays in passport/visa processing
- Travel restrictions in and out of various countries
While this was a difficult decision, we considered information from many resources very carefully, consulting not only with advisory information but with external expert resources and peer institutions as well. We believe that making this decision now is important for providing ample time for students and faculty advisors to work together to adjust academic plans to the greatest extent possible.
Vassar remains committed to global learning and we hope to be able to resume study abroad in the Spring 2021 semester, if conditions have improved sufficiently. We will continue to monitor public health conditions and official travel advisories, and we will maintain regular correspondence with our global study abroad partners as we all assess the feasibility of resuming study abroad programming.
The Office of International Programs will follow up directly with all students who had been planning to study abroad this fall. Please visit the COVID-19 section of the Office of International Programs’ study abroad FAQs page for more information.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Office of International Programs at email@example.com.
Dean of the Faculty
6/16/2020 - A Message From the President on Dutchess County Phase II Re-Opening
As you have heard, New York State has been opening up, and Dutchess County is now in Phase 2 of re-opening. Unlike many other states, which opened up without a formal plan, New York has moved judiciously and in an evidence-based way. To date, the state has not experienced an uptick in the incidence of COVID-19 cases, and in fact, despite enormous testing, less than 10 new cases daily are being found in Dutchess County.
What does this mean for higher education? As you know, I am part of the Governor’s NY Forward Re-Opening Advisory Committee and have been working closely with state regional and local officials to review guidelines and prepare the plan for higher education. At this point, higher education is allowed to have personnel involved with construction, facilities, cleaning, office work, and research back on campus following a set of health and safety guidelines.
As a result, we are preparing the campus to meet the New York State guidelines, and on July 12, an additional 75-150 non-faculty employees will begin working on campus. The returning non-faculty employees include, but are not limited to, Safety & Security and our Facilities staff, who are working tirelessly to ready the campus for the return of more employees and students. Faculty are also allowed to return to campus to do research, as are some administrators who need to prepare for the fall. As we continue to follow guidelines to keep density low on campus, many employees who are able to perform their work remotely will continue to telework. Supervisors will be in touch by July 1 about non-faculty employees’ schedules for returning to campus. Faculty who wish to return to work before July 12 should be in touch with the Dean of Faculty office for health and safety guidelines. After July 12, please follow the guidelines in this memo.
Thank you all so very much for supporting each other through these difficult and exhausting times since mid-March. In this new phase, we will need to continue working together to ensure our own and everyone else’s health and safety.
Employees who will be on campus for work starting July 12 can anticipate the following guidelines, consistent with national, state, regional, and local public health requirements to keep the community healthy and safe. These guidelines are consistent with those being developed by VassarTogether. Additional guidelines will be forthcoming as we prepare for greater numbers of employees and students expected on campus in mid-August.
New Mask Protocols
- Everyone is expected to wear a mask or mouth and nose covering, except: when in private/unshared rooms or offices; or when stationary outdoors and able to remain 6 feet from anyone else, or if running or biking for exercise. While in transit (walking from place to place inside or outside), we are expected to wear a mask or mouth and nose covering. The College will provide masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) as needed for employees to safely conduct their job activities on campus.
- We are increasing the use of masks and face coverings because, as the campus repopulates, people are apt to come within 6 feet of one anyone throughout the day, sometimes without notice. A mask or nose and mouth face covering is the recommended protection when we must be closer than 6 feet to other people.
- For PPE and cleaning supply questions, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Daily Self-Health Screen Assessment
- Employees who experience COVID-19 symptoms must stay home and should consult health services and their own medical provider.
- As required by New York State, employees working on campus will complete a daily self-care assessment before the start of their work day, reporting any COVID-19 symptoms, close contact with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, and where they plan to work that day. New York State requires the College to review these assessments daily.
- As of July 12, the self-health screen assessment will be available electronically for completion on both computers and mobile devices.
- Employees unable to complete the assessment on a personal mobile device will be provided with alternative ways to provide the required information.
New Cleaning Protocols
- Common spaces will be cleaned and disinfected daily by Facilities (a log maintained by Facilities will be located in common spaces and in each bathroom indicating when they were last cleaned).
- Facilities will work at establishing collaboration with the end-users of each space where employees are working on campus to optimize cleaning for current needs.
- Bathrooms will be cleaned and disinfected twice daily by Facilities.
- Facilities will vacuum, dust, and dispose of trash in offices on their regular schedule.
- The College will provide cleaning materials for each office.
- Questions about cleaning of facilities contact Tommy Zadrima at email@example.com
Other New Health and Safety Protocols
- Physical distancing markers will be posted in heavily used spaces on campus.
- Small spaces (e.g., elevators) should be occupied by only one person at a time. All campus spaces should maintain occupancy of below 50% of maximum capacity. Buildings will be accessible with card access only; Gordon Commons, the Retreat, Powerhouse, the Library, and the athletic facilities will remain closed, although the Library will continue its contactless pick-up service.
- We are reviewing each HVAC system in all buildings and are optimizing the building systems where we can to meet the ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) guidelines. Opening windows for cross-ventilation is recommended when possible.
The return to campus will be coordinated through one’s supervisor in the coming weeks. I will continue to provide updates as the VassarTogether committee continues to develop recommended guidelines for the fall. As always, be sure to maintain good personal care and hygiene, including frequent handwashing.
We have experienced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am buoyed by the warmth, humor, and perseverance of our Vassar community. The example you have all set by caring and supporting one another is remarkable. I share your eagerness to be safely together again on campus and look forward to that day in the not so distant future.
With best wishes,
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
5/20/2020 - A Message From the President Naming Committee to Develop Plan for the Fall
I am writing to update you about our planning process for the fall semester. This week, we have formed an advisory committee, named VassarTogether, to develop implementation guidelines for a potential return to largely in-person classes on campus this fall. Members of the committee represent multiple areas in the college: health and wellness, safety and security, environmental health and safety, human resources, health services, athletics, residential life, the Engaged Pluralism Initiative, and faculty from a diverse range of academic departments and programs to ensure we plan comprehensively and wisely.
The committee is working to develop a novel approach to enable students to return to campus and enroll in mostly in-person classes safely. It is predicated on our region meeting Governor Cuomo’s New York State guidelines for reopening; on public health guidelines for Dutchess County supporting higher education on campus; and on the availability of sufficient COVID-19 testing for the campus community. Vassar will abide by all federal, state, and local guidance. As a member of the NY Forward Re-Opening Advisory Committee, I remain optimistic that our students’ return to campus in the fall will be possible. The health and safety of the campus community is and will continue to be our highest priority.
Life on campus will not look the same as it did pre-pandemic, but we believe it will still be enjoyable and meaningful. Our plan for an in-person fall semester is still a work in progress, and we are considering several approaches to keep our community healthy and safe. For example, it may include staggered drop-off days to limit density as we return. Students would be tested for COVID-19 on campus at least twice in the first 14 days. Anyone experiencing symptoms would be tested immediately. Students who test positive would be cared for in a separate dormitory area where food would be brought to the room and where the student could still access classes remotely. All students would take their temperature and report symptoms daily. We would also require that socializing be kept to a minimum in the beginning, with proper PPE (masks) and social distancing. As time went on, we would seek to open up more, and students could socialize and eat together in small groups. If any cases emerge, we would do contact tracing immediately with the local health department to identify anyone who may have been exposed and follow all NY State guidelines to provide recommended care. In all cases, we will follow Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) guidelines for proper public health safety.
Some faculty may continue to teach remotely as needed, and some students living on campus who have health risks (e.g., immunosuppression) would access classes remotely. We would also offer the option of staying home and taking classes online to anyone who for health or other reasons cannot return (e.g., international students, visa or flight issues). An additional possible feature of this plan is having students stay on campus through October Break, which perhaps would be a long weekend, allowing students to complete in-person classes by Thanksgiving Break. Students would return home and complete any remaining classes and exams remotely.
The plan allows for substantial interaction on campus for students; however, to keep both the campus and the community around us safe and healthy, the campus would be closed to the public for the fall, with the exception of some necessary functions. Additionally, students would not be able to leave campus to go into New York City, Poughkeepsie, Arlington, or anywhere off campus (except in extraordinary circumstances and emergencies).
We are working with the Liberty League and waiting for guidance from New York State and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to assess how to have athletic competition in the fall. We know how important this is to the life of the college and hope to find an approach that can work. Additionally, we have a variety of ideas for how to bring outside resources onto campus safely and continue to support Arlington businesses, even as students stay physically on campus; we will do everything we can to make that an enriching educational experience.
To keep density as low as possible and limit potential risk to employees, Vassar will continue its Telework program, so that employees continue to work from home, roles permitting, or work in shifts designed to minimize the number on campus at any given time. Employees including faculty who leave campus every day will be required to report symptoms, wear PPE, and social distance for the entire semester. We are continuing to explore options for the small number of students who reside off campus. Classroom density will be minimized, and faculty will not be closer than 6 feet to anyone else. Office hours may be held online or outside.
We are cognizant that science and public health guidelines may shift and require us to continue remote teaching and learning. In that case, we would reassess who needs to be living on campus due to vulnerabilities and hardships associated with studying at home, but all classes and activities would continue remotely. I am grateful to the faculty who are developing creative approaches to enrich the online instruction and tools available for remote learning so Vassar can deliver the highest quality, personalized education for which we are known. Many of you have shared encouraging, positive experiences in remote learning.
Lastly, we are mindful of campus culture and how it will feel to live on campus together safely. Vassar is a place of intellectual freedom and exploration. We will be attentive in the curriculum and beyond to nurture our culture of care and our collective commitment to a sense of belonging for everyone. With these commitments, although we will face challenges, we have the opportunity to learn, to care for each other, and to discover something new about ourselves and each other—the heart of a high-quality liberal arts education.
I expect you may have questions, as we all do at this point. We are still exploring different ways of making the fall work, and we expect to have a comprehensive plan in the next month or so. We apologize in advance for not having all the answers quite yet. Thank you for your continued engagement, and we will keep you informed as we develop these ideas further.
With best wishes,
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
5/13/2020 - A Message From the President
I am writing to let you know that the College has reached an agreement with our largest union on a set of measures that will significantly help us through the financial crisis caused by COVID-19. The agreement with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) calls for the college’s 254 maintenance, custodial, grounds, and dining employees to be furloughed for an average of 3 days per week starting May 18 and continuing through July 31 or later—a time when most students are not on campus and classes are not in session. The union also agreed to delay annual wage increases until June 30, 2021.
Furloughed employees are eligible for unemployment benefits, but sometimes there is a delay in the state payment of these benefits. To help people through that delay, the College will make an interest-free loan available to furloughed employees. Repayment of such loans would take place over pay periods upon returning back to work.
I am deeply grateful to the Local 200 of the SEIU for taking the lead on developing this agreement, and furlough time taken now will count toward any measures that individuals might be required to take later in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021.
Additionally, I am writing to let you know that we are giving administrators an early option to be furloughed between now and July 31, 2020, with approval of their supervisors and the appropriate senior officer. The operational needs of departments may mean that employees in a given role will not be furloughed at this time. If you are an administrator and want to understand how this applies to your role, please contact your supervisor to discuss if and how an early furlough may be an option for you.
While it is difficult to consider being furloughed, we wanted employees and supervisors to have the flexibility to make the best decisions possible for their individual and departmental needs. For many offices, a furlough in the spring and summer when we have few students on campus (particularly as summer programs are online or canceled) may make the most sense.
Furlough time by administrators taken now through the summer will be counted toward any measures that individuals might be required to take later in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021. As with the SEIU members, furloughed administrators are eligible for unemployment benefits, and sometimes there is a delay in the state payment of these benefits. To help people through that delay, the College will make an interest-free loan available to furloughed employees. Repayment of such loans would take place over pay periods upon returning back to work.
As I have mentioned in recent communications, we are still facing uncertainty about factors that will substantially affect our finances: student enrollment, the scope of financial aid needs of our students, and the effect of the economic downturn on our endowment. We do not expect to have a full picture of those factors until later this summer. We will therefore not know until that time whether additional furloughs and/or pay cuts will be necessary. Again, whatever time an employee is furloughed now will be counted toward any measures that individual employees might need to take later in fiscal year 2020-2021. Our hope is that furloughs taken at this time will enable the College to take less drastic measures to recover from the deficits related to COVID-19.
I want to personally thank the SEIU and the entire Vassar community for helping the College through this very rough time. Many employees have been on the front lines addressing the needs of the College since this crisis began. I am sincerely appreciative of the steps they have taken to help us address the financial uncertainty we face as we navigate the impact of the pandemic on our students, faculty, administrators, and staff.
Thank you everyone for your ongoing support and understanding. Although we cannot say when, I have deep faith that we will get through this, and get through this together.
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
5/03/2020 - A Message From the Board Chair
Dear Vassar Community,
These are unprecedented and very difficult times—throughout the globe, in our country, and at Vassar. I spend a fair bit of time checking in with other Board chairs and college governance professional associations, and can tell you that all colleges and universities are facing extremely challenging decisions about the fall, and some are facing even existential decisions. I am writing today to hopefully allay some anxiety while also trying to be realistic about the future.
No one can know how long the pandemic will last, how it will influence our enrollment and financial aid needs, or its impact on our fundraising and endowment value. We are preparing for a set of scenarios from a relatively brief shock to a fully changed landscape for higher education beyond Vassar. I can tell you that having worked with many CEOs and executives over my 40-year career, I can safely say that in President Bradley and the senior team, you have extremely competent, open-minded, creative, and dedicated leadership. President Bradley’s recent appointment to Governor Cuomo’s NY Forward Re-opening Advisory Committee is a testament to how many people in the state and beyond value her insights and capabilities to lead through this public health calamity.
What does this mean for campus?
Right now, it means we should not jump to conclusions, and we must explore multiple scenarios because of multiple changing factors. It is the obligation of College to consider options, and we are not interested in just going down one road, without considering others. We must be evidence-based in how we proceed, informed heavily by our estimated enrollment and financial aid numbers, which remain in flux for a few more weeks. See here for national concerns about higher education enrollment. Additionally, it means that we have to pull together and must focus on how we adapt to this shock in ways that retain what is the heart of Vassar—the ability to give the highest quality liberal arts education in a diverse and inclusive community. When we emerge from this—and we will emerge from this—we want to be stronger, ready to embark on the 5- to 7-year plan we had been working towards, and cohesive as the unique community that is Vassar.
Thank you all for the extra work you have put in this semester, even as you are balancing families, home life, health challenges, and any number of other pressures. President Bradley has told me many stories that illustrate the dedication and creativity of faculty, staff, and administrators throughout this crisis. I am awed by your strength and commitments.
The Board is in regular contact with President Bradley and we will be making decisions for the path ahead at the upcoming Board (Zoom) meeting at the end of May. Please be assured that we will keep our principles in mind—doing our best to protect the most vulnerable among us, designing responses to be as equitable as possible, and maintaining our commitment to our shared mission.
Please take care of yourself in these perilous times, and thank you again for all that you are doing to support Vassar and its students, faculty, and all employees.
Board of Trustees
4/29/2020 - A Message From the President Regarding Plans to Move Forward
I hope you and your family are safe and well during this daunting time.
Vassar has a vibrant culture that thrives on personal interaction and like you, we are very eager to return to campus life.
To that end, we are tirelessly working to have in-person classes resume on campus this fall. In my role as president, I am in regular contact with state and county officials who oversee our public health system, commerce, and regulatory environment, and I can assure you they are working day and night to get higher education and our business sector back for the fall. This strong group of officials have become national advocates for getting our country back to work, so we are in good hands. Yesterday I was appointed to the New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board, which is tasked with helping shape policies and protocols as the state plans its re-opening and rebuilding of the economy.
We here at Vassar are working non-stop to determine exactly how we can return to normal fall classes, and I want to share some scenarios with you.
Our goal is to resume on-campus learning for all students. This may necessitate creating new social distancing guidelines, classroom redesigns, or staggered classes. We are researching and identifying optimal ways to do this safely. Our planning includes both physical considerations, such as putting smaller numbers of students in large classroom spaces to accommodate social distancing, as well as pedagogical innovations, such as the possibility of increasing the number of closely-mentored experiences, such as intensives, offered—as opposed to large classes.
If, based on the state of the pandemic and the direction from the government, this is not possible by September, we are reviewing options to return at a later date to start the academic year, possibly October or later, or adding special terms (e.g., over winter break).
Because we are dealing with many uncertainties, a fall return to campus might not be possible. In this case, we would offer remote learning. Our faculty has acquired tremendous experience and insight into fashioning classes online so that the education is meaningful.
We want you to know that we remain committed to being back on campus as soon as we are allowed. We expect to have a clearer picture by early summer and will provide an update by no later than July 3, 2020. In the meantime, we are working diligently to create options that are aligned with our individualized and personal Vassar education.
Your health and safety are our top priorities, and we will be sure to have an educational program that allows us to fulfill our mission of delivering the highest quality liberal arts education, while safeguarding the health and safety of students, faculty, and all employees.
With very best wishes,
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
4/03/2020 - A Message From EPI and the President
In times of fear and uncertainty, we could all use a dose of hope. Last week, we left activity bags for employees and students who were working or living on campus. For week two, the Engaged Pluralism Initiative is launching a community rock and sidewalk art project.
We encourage those among us who are on campus to express love, gratitude, and hope with one another, by painting a rock and placing it somewhere on campus for others to see. Or, use some sidewalk chalk to share a drawing or positive message. Rocks, painting supplies, and chalk can be picked up from Gordon Commons starting today, at 5pm. You can also find your own small rocks around campus to paint. We would love to see your creations, so we invite you to take a picture and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Hopefully, the art and messages that are created will serve as reminders that even though we may not be gathering physically, we are still with each other in spirit and community. If you have any questions let us know, and if you are able to participate, we can't wait to see what you share!
With love and gratitude,
The EPI Team: Candice Lowe Swift, Cecilia Hoang, Henry Molina, & Primavera Ward
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
4/24/2020 - Commencement Ideas
Vassar is teeming with brilliant and creative minds, and as we come together as a community in support of the Class of 2020, we invite anyone with suggestions about what would make for an amazing commencement to send their ideas to CommencementIdeas@vassar.edu. Tell us what you think would make a great online commencement, and any thoughts you may have for celebrating this momentous accomplishment at a later date.
4/15/2020 - NY Governor’s executive order requiring face covering will go into effect on Friday, April 17
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an executive order requiring all people in New York to wear face coverings in situations where they cannot practice social distancing. This order will go into effect on Friday, April 17. Thank you for keeping our community safe. Call (845) 437-7333 for emergency assistance.
4/02/2020 - Important Announcement from the Office of Admission
Vassar College has modified its admissions policy, waiving a requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores, President Elizabeth H. Bradley announced. Read more
3/26/2020 - A Message From the President
I am writing to provide more detail about conversations we have had with the Deputy County Executive regarding whether Vassar could accommodate patients in some of our vacant buildings, should the situation here in Dutchess County become dire.
The County approached all colleges in the area and asked if it could create a plan for potential use of some campus buildings if needed. At this time, this is a very remote possibility; our government officials are planning for the worst in order to be prepared. Much more planning would take place before this became a reality; however, our employees would not be expected to work in these buildings in any way, and we would work to ensure the areas housing and caring for patients were contained and properly separated from students and employees. The health and safety of our students and employees remain a top priority.
We have also made clear to the County that Vassar stands ready to help. We know the health and safety of the Vassar community are inseparable from the health and safety of the communities in which we are embedded. We believe that collaborative and creative resource sharing, as well as broad-scale cooperation, will be needed to meet the challenges presented to us by COVID-19 in our area, and Vassar must contribute its share. We have a 1,000-acre campus with many buildings currently vacant. We believe we can provide needed resources to our community, while still maintaining a safe environment for students and employees.
As you may have read, Dutchess Community College (DCC) has given permission for a very large dormitory to be used, with 457 beds. That will be the first step if needed.
If more beds are needed, other colleges may participate. At Vassar, this would likely be at the Walker Field House and possibly Alumnae House, both on the edges of campus, with separate entrances, and a substantial distance from students, faculty, administrators and staff.
Additionally, the County asked if dorms might be used. If we were to do this, any dorm selected would be completely empty, have a separate entrance, and be carefully managed to limit cross-contamination. The County has told me that the patients to be housed on college campuses would be recovering or mild cases only. If a plan to use Vassar’s facilities begins to develop, we will share more as we learn.
I understand this is a time of great anxiety for us all. Even in these times, however, we remain true to our core values. We are committed to being fully engaged in the larger community and helping our neighbors when we can. If the worst happens, and more hospital beds are needed, we will be ready to provide what is needed to both protect our students and employees and to help our surrounding community.
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
3/23/2020 - A Message From President Bradley Regarding COVID-19
Dear members of the Vassar Community,
I am writing to inform you that the COVID-19 crisis has touched the Vassar campus in a very personal way. We have just learned that a Vassar employee has tested positive for the virus. Following guidance from health officials and our protocol, we have immediately begun “contact tracing” to determine which staff, administrators, students, and faculty may have come in contact with this employee in the last two weeks. The employee is now self-isolating for two weeks, and will not return to work until cleared to do so.
This employee has not been on campus since March 15 and would not have been inside many buildings, so we are hopeful that risks to anyone else on campus is minimal. Because of privacy concerns, we will not be releasing the name of the employee.
On behalf of the entire Vassar community, I have offered this employee and the family our sympathy, and we are doing all we can to provide our support.
In the meantime, please make certain that you are practicing social distancing and good hygiene, as these are our community’s best defenses against this virus. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
3/22/2020 - Important follow up re: NY Governor’s executive order
I am writing to clarify how the executive order issued by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday affects operations at Vassar. Based on the guidance we and other institutions of higher education in the state are receiving, Vassar is allowed to have employees on campus in order to support distance education; however, we must reduce on-campus staff to the minimum required to support it, and within that, only those whose duties cannot be performed off campus.
Therefore, only those employees who support distance learning, security, dining, and building/property maintenance (incl. custodial) and who cannot work from home should come to campus. Simply preferring to work from campus, even due to avoiding at-home distractions (e.g., children), is not an acceptable reason for coming to campus, according to the guidance we are receiving. As communicated on Friday, employees whose roles can be performed off-campus are required to begin “teleworking” as early as possible tomorrow (Monday).
If you are an hourly employee, please contact your supervisor to confirm what is expected of you under these new orders. If you are a supervisor of employees who are required to come to campus in support of the above-specified functions, please contact Human Resources to register those employees, so that we may track the college’s compliance with the orders: email@example.com or (845) 437-5820.
For anyone who must come to campus, please remember to take care of yourself and others. Wash your hands frequently, and avoid in-person meetings. If you are working in the same building as others, be sure to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet from others you may encounter.
Thank you once again for your continued dedication and flexibility, which is so essential to the college maintaining continuity. During this time, please consider that the support services typically available to employees and administrative offices may be either limited or modified to enable compliance with these orders. Thank you for your understanding.
As a reminder, for information about other HR policy changes due to COVID-19, visit https://humanresources.vassar.edu/covid-19/. For more information about teleworking, visit http://go.vassar.edu/telework/. Continue to check the college’s COVID-19 website for updates: https://www.vassar.edu/coronavirus-updates/.
Carlos L. García
Vice President for Technology and Human Resources
Chief Information Officer
3/21/2020 - Coronavirus Fraud Schemes
Cybercriminals will take any opportunity to increase their efforts to steal money and identities from individuals. During this public health emergency, there have been increased reports of new phone, email, and website scams that could lead to monetary loss, identity theft, data loss, or computer infection.
Some known examples of these threats are:
- Online or downloadable maps of COVID-19 cases that are vectors for computer infection including malware, spyware, and ransomware
- Phishing emails that pose as official notifications from NY State, the Red Cross, Federal Government, and other agencies
- Emails with malicious attachments that purport to have updated COVID-19 information
- Fake products or fake shopping links that will take credit card numbers and then use them fraudulently
- Phone calls that offer various services or products related to COVID-19 that will ask for personal information or financial information
- An increase in unsolicited marketing or sales emails, often selling questionable items or services
We recommend the following actions to keep your information secure and to assist the community in staying safe from online threats:
- Report all suspicious emails, websites, or phone calls to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Review our recommendations for safe computing. Remember, you can apply these to all of your devices.
- Always check the “From” address and “Reply-to” address on all emails you receive. Be mindful of checking mail on mobile devices—tap on the sender’s name and their details to ensure the “from” address is valid.
- Before you click, stop and think! Many malicious links are spread via social media. Think twice before clicking on links, especially if they are not easily traced to official organizations.
- We recommend using multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your Vassar and non-Vassar accounts, wherever it is offered. If criminals do obtain your credentials, it provides an extra layer of security. Find out more at https://servicedesk.vassar.edu/solutions/571021-vassarone-setting-up-multi-factor-authentication-with-duo.portal
- If you receive a suspicious phone call, ask the caller where they are calling from, and tell them you will hang up and call them back at their company’s official number.
References and additional information:
3/20/2020 - A Message from Carlos García Regarding the NY Governor’s Executive Order
I am writing in light of the executive order announced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo earlier today. As you are likely aware, the edict orders “nonessential” businesses to close, effective at 8pm on Sunday, March 22. We have been in touch with our elected representatives for additional guidance, as it is currently unclear how much of the order pertains to Vassar College. Several have indicated that many, if not all, of the services we continue to provide on campus may be considered essential—food service, residential support, health, and safety functions are all permitted to operate, for example.
We continue to support the educational mission through distance learning and provide necessary services to those who remain on campus. We realize that hearing the news of this order raises questions, and we are doing our best to get those answers soon. In the meantime, please know that the state’s requirement is on Vassar, not on you as individual employees.
We have already made significant progress in reducing the number of employees working on campus each day. Given this new information, employees whose roles can be performed off-campus are required to begin “teleworking” as early as possible this Monday, whereas previously the telework program was optional.
If your role requires that you work on campus, the rotating schedules your units have been developing will help to keep density low, so that employees on campus are able to practice required social distancing. This includes personal hygiene (wash your hands, don’t touch your face) and, importantly, keep six feet between you and other individuals. Please take this seriously, and please alert your supervisor if you feel you do not have the flexibility required to practice responsible social distancing.
Finally, I want to take another opportunity to express deep gratitude for the dedication and flexibility that everybody has brought to each day of this fast-moving situation. Without our collective contributions, the college could not be successful adapting to the changes and maintaining continuity. Thank you all—and please watch for additional updates and guidance in the coming days.
For information about other HR policy changes due to COVID-19, visit https://humanresources.vassar.edu/covid-19/. For more information about teleworking, visit http://go.vassar.edu/telework/. Continue to check the college’s COVID-19 website for updates: https://www.vassar.edu/coronavirus-updates/.
Carlos L. García
Vice President for Technology and Human Resources
Chief Information Officer
3/19/2020 - Update from President Bradley (video)
3/19/2020 - Update from President Bradley on Distance Learning and Commencement
I am writing to update you with some difficult news. We had hoped to resume in-person classes after several weeks of distance learning; however, it is now apparent that no more in-person classes will be possible this semester. We have made the decision to continue our educational mission via distance teaching through the end of the semester.
Throughout our deliberations, our top priority has been an abiding commitment to providing a meaningful educational experience while reducing the risk of COVID-19 among our community and beyond. It is frustrating and disappointing to have to do all this from a distance and forego the many important events that had been planned for this spring. At the same time, predictions for the massive incidence of COVID-19 are daunting. The path of this disease is not in our control, and we must take immediate and effective action to limit person-to-person contact. We will continue to allow students with significant hardships to stay on campus for the duration of the semester, but students will be required to self-distance or self-isolate, with only distant and online contact with others. Gordon Commons will be take-out only, and many buildings will be closed as Vassar will be operating with less than 25% of our full staff, following the executive order of our state governor. For students who have left belongings on campus, Dean Alamo will soon provide more information about how to collect or store your belongings. We know how stressful this is and we want to be sure you are able to retrieve everything that you left here and is valuable to you.
This news leads me to a more painful announcement, primarily for seniors and their families. After much reflection and consideration, I regret to let you know that we must cancel this year’s traditional commencement ceremony and graduation weekend. The degrees will be conferred, but we must delay the in-person ceremony and celebration, and we will plan for some type of commemoration at a later date—perhaps in 2021.
This has been a profoundly difficult decision to make. The collision of two significant, life-changing events—your college graduation and a global pandemic—have thrown these last months of the academic year into turmoil and disappointment.
Class of 2020, you deserve better. You have worked hard, and you are a fearless and talented group of gifted young adults who make our extended Vassar community proud. I know how devastating this news must be, to have this important moment that is meant to commemorate your hard work, dreams, and ambition taken from you when it is just within reach. Please take comfort in the knowledge that the friendships and bonds you have made here will weather the current storm and will ultimately be strengthened by your perseverance and shared sacrifices.
To your parents, I share in a deep sense of disappointment. I know watching one’s child cross the stage and receive that diploma is a cherished moment, one I have witnessed with two of my own children. But today, we are living in a difficult time in history, one that, while having taken away this one special day, can never erase the valuable accomplishments, inspiring dreams, and fierce determination your student takes into the world. I have delighted in knowing them during their time on campus; I will continue to learn from them in the coming weeks and months, and they will always be part of the wonderful community that is Vassar.
As I write, we are already hard at work on a plan for a virtual commencement, to take place this spring. Stay tuned for more details. We will explore the possibility of hosting an in-person commencement celebration for your class at some point in the future when the threat of COVID-19 is behind us. We look forward to hearing your ideas about what would make for a proper celebration and will be in touch for your input as planning begins.
I want to assure all students that the faculty, administrators, and staff are committed to you for the rest of the semester. In an effort to respond to directives from New York State and minimize the density of people on campus, we are working with a significantly reduced number of employees on campus. Our Dean of College areas (e.g., Career Services, Fellowships, Dean of Studies) will continue to support you in whatever ways they can online. The faculty, who are also adapting to being separated from you and the Vassar community, will also be available throughout the semester to advise and help you in the completion of your academic requirements.
To each and every student, I want to express my sincere gratitude to you and to the dreams you have brought to Vassar. You have made us who we are as a community, we look forward to working with you from afar for the remainder of the semester, and your impact will be felt here for years to come. Thank you for being part of this community and working so hard to make it even better. My heart is heavy imagining the campus for the next six weeks without you. I so appreciate the seriousness with which you are taking this, and the many sacrifices being made by all students, faculty, administrators, and staff to do what is right for the public’s health in this exceptional moment in history. Let us stay focused on the hard work that remains to be done, and when the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end, we will find a way to celebrate together again.
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
3/19/2020 - A Message From President Bradley Regarding Reunion
I am writing with some profoundly difficult news about Reunion this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must cancel the Reunion. I am so very sorry and disappointed, as I imagine you are as well.
New York State has been hit very hard with COVID-19 and experts predict it will only get worse from here. We have, by state mandate, kept only 25% of employees on campus, converted all classes to online, and canceled the in-person commencement ceremony. Given these extreme circumstances, we cannot prepare for and properly host reunion, and, most importantly, we do not want to risk furthering the pandemic and jeopardizing the public’s health.
Although we will be unable to welcome alumnae/i back to campus for reunion, we have been working closely with the AAVC and our team here on ways to keep our alumnae/i together even as we have to keep physical distance. A very special thanks to Steve Hankins ’85, P’13, ’17 and the AAVC Board for their leadership and encouragement during this crisis. Please stay tuned for follow up communications from your class leadership.
I want to take a moment and express my gratitude to the many alumnae/i and entire AAVC who have reached out to offer support. We have received so many kind emails, and I cannot tell you how much these have meant to me and to all of us, as we struggle to make the right decisions in these unprecedented times. Please know that we are deeply committed to keeping a strong connection between the campus and alumnae/i communities and remain forever hopeful that we will be together again soon, when the threat is behind us. Thank you for your support, and please be in touch with any questions or comments.
If you want to see the campus announcement about online classes and graduation ceremony, visit: www.vassar.edu/coronavirus-updates.
With a heavy heart,
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
3/18/2020 - Additional Temporary HR Policy Changes Due to COVID-19
Vassar is offering an additional temporary accommodation, Childcare Leave, to support employees who are ineligible to telework but have difficulty meeting childcare demands due to school or daycare closures. In order to be approved for this modified leave, the employee’s supervisor will need to confirm that the employee is ineligible for teleworking. This leave option is available through April 30 (unless circumstances lead the College to extend it) or until the employee’s school district or daycare is open—whichever comes first.
Requesting Temporary Childcare Accommodation
Hourly-Paid, Benefit-Eligible Employees:
Submit a Childcare Accommodation Request to Human Resources.
Payment: Your first week will be paid from your own accruals. Thereafter, you will receive 60% of wages from Vassar College. You may elect to supplement the difference (up to 40%) with your “sick bank” (CWA, Auxiliary, Non-union Staff) or your own accruals.
Administrators (including hourly-paid Administrators):
Submit a Childcare Accommodation Request to Human Resources.
Payment: There will be no change in your pay.
Non-Benefit Eligible Employees with Regular Work Schedule:
Submit a Childcare Accommodation Request to Human Resources.
Payment: Your first week will be paid from your own sick accruals (if you have any). Thereafter, you will receive 60% of wages from Vassar College.
As a reminder, telework and other types of modified leaves are available during this time. Click here to view the leaves and to find additional information on the Human Resources website.
3/17/2020 – Latest Updates from President Bradley
Here are our latest updates:
- Gathering size: The county guidelines limit gatherings to a maximum of 20 people, which we will implement effective immediately.
- Dining: In light of the new county guidelines closing dining facilities except for take-out, all dining will be “grab & go” style.
- Building closures: Details on which buildings will be open are subject to change. Please check the individual websites or our coronavirus updates page for the most up-to-date information; however, consistent with county guidelines, we have closed the athletic and fitness center (AFC), Walker Field House (including pool), and Kenyon Gym. The Libraries will close at 4:30pm and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at 5:00pm on Friday March 20 until further notice.
- Social-distancing: We all know we should be doing it, but what does it really mean?
- Maintain at least six feet between you and other people.
- Do not be in a group of more than 20 people.
- Enjoy the outside. With the weather getting warmer and the campus looking like spring, this is the perfect time to go for a walk, a run, or a bike ride. But do this alone or with a small group, and keep six feet between you and the next person.
- Give and receive love. Social distancing should not mean isolation. Humans are programmed to need each other, particularly in times of stress. While this is not the time for a group hug, remember you are cared for, that you are valued, and that you are loved. As social scientists know, even imagining a warm embrace can make a positive difference.
- Distance Life Fitness Program. At this time, the Athletics Department is working to make access to a selection of Life Fitness classes available online. The department is also exploring other third-party platform options to bring to the community. Please stay tuned to the Athletics website and our coronavirus updates page for more information.
- Returning Students. Some students have been allowed to stay on campus due to significant financial or other hardship associated with leaving (e.g., do not have a safe home to go to). Students who will be on campus as of March 23 are required to complete online surveys ahead of time to report where they have traveled, any exposures to COVID-19 they have had, and any current symptoms. Any students who have symptoms or have been exposed to confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be registered with Health Services and Residential Life and will be self-isolated—which means confined to a private room with private bath when possible with food delivered, and without physical contact with or presence of others. They may walk outside but may not interact with others. We understand these procedures to be consistent with the most current county health department guidance. Additionally, all students on campus will be asked to self-monitor daily for fever, cough, and shortness of breath and to seek immediate medical attention for any such symptoms.
- Employees Who Have Symptoms or Have Been Exposed: If you are not feeling well or have been exposed to a possible or confirmed case of COVID-19, please contact a physician, and do not come to campus.
- Telework. We have a Telework program that can facilitate you working off campus. You can request this through your supervisor. For more information, visit https://www.vassar.edu/human-resources/covid-19/
- Coronavirus Updates Website. For up-to-the-minute updates please check our coronavirus website regularly https://www.vassar.edu/coronavirus-updates/
- Volunteer opportunities in the community. Over time, volunteer opportunities to help in Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County are likely to become available. We will keep you posted on these, which may include distributing food, providing transportation, or if trained, working with the medical reserve corps. More on this in the future.
3/17/2020 - Important Benefits Update for Vassar Employees
Aetna Meritain members: Beginning March 23, no-cost coronavirus testing
If you are on the PPO or EPO plans, your co-pay will be waived. If you are on the High Deductible Plan, the test and associated office visit will be zero charge to you even if you have not met your deductible.
Aetna Meritain members: Optum RX allows early refills, encourages home delivery
If you are on a maintenance drug, you normally have to wait until you have used 75% of your supply before refilling. Optum is temporarily waiving this restriction so that you can refill early if you are concerned about any upcoming quarantine. (Dispensing limits on certain medications still apply.) You can also switch most RXs to home delivery: log in to www.optumrx.com.
Use your telemedicine benefit
If you are a benefits-eligible employee, you have access to physicians by phone and can avoid the wait (and contagion) at your medical center. 1199/SEIU members: use TelaDoc via your medical plan. All others: use HealthiestYou by downloading the app or calling (866) 703-1259.
Fidelity and TIAA: Campus reps move to phone consults
You can still book appointments with Ted at Fidelity or Eugene at TIAA by clicking the “meet” link at the bottom of our retirement plan website. You’ll have a phone appointment rather than face to face. Note: both Fidelity and TIAA encourage you to “stay the course” and not react to the market slowdown by getting out of equity investments. Both advisors do recommend your using this time to evaluate your investment mix for your time frame.
3/17/2020 - Campus Building Closures Update
As of Friday, March 20, until further notice, the updated list of campus building closures includes: the Athletic and Fitness Center, Walker Field House, the Library, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and Wimpfheimer Nursery School.
3/16/2020 - Vassar Students, Faculty, Administrators Brace for Some Big Changes
As the COVID-19 virus continued to change lives worldwide, Vassar’s Senior Officers were working with students, faculty, and administrators to prepare for the myriad changes triggered by the pandemic. Read more
3/16/2020 - Athletics and Fitness Center Closed Until Further Notice
In accordance with New York State mandates and in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, Vassar’s indoor athletic facilities (including the Athletics and Fitness Center, Kresge Pool and Walker Field House) will close at 8 PM tonight, March 16 and remain closed until further notice. More
3/15/2020 - Wimpfheimer Nursery School Will Be Closed March 16–20
Given heightened concerns regarding the continually developing situation surrounding COVID-19, the Wimpfheimer Nursery School will be closed March 16–March 20. We will continue to monitor and re-evaluate the situation as the week progresses.
3/15/2020 - New County Guidelines on Public Events or Gatherings
In accordance with new county guidelines, effective immediately all social, community, and public events or gatherings are limited to a maximum of 20 people.
3/13/2020 - Staying Healthy On Campus
- Stay informed.
- Recognize that everyone (including ourselves) is a potential source of the disease.
- Practice good health behavior as individuals and as a community.
- Contact Health Services or a physician if you have symptoms.
- We are keeping our areas clean.
3/13/2020 - Temporary HR Policy Changes
- Optional Telework program. Beginning March 18, teleworking will be available to employees whose supervisor determines that, due to special circumstances, their role can be performed off-campus. This program will conclude on April 10.
- Vassar’s leave policies are temporarily modified, effective immediately, to encourage employees to stay home when they are sick and to support employees who themselves or whose household members may be at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Available to employees through April 30.
- Vassar Employee Guide to Teleworking
3/13/2020 - Important Updates for Students
- Students who would have or had on-campus jobs this semester will still receive a paycheck.
- Vassar is committed to making accommodations to ensure that you have the ability to earn the credits you would have earned under normal circumstances.
- Residential Life is only able to facilitate the return of a very small number of items: personal identification (driver’s licenses, passports, etc.) and laptops w/chargers. No medications.
3/13/2020 - All Spring Athletic Events Cancelled
In response to the public health crisis concerning COVID-19 (2019 Novel Coronavirus), the Vassar Department of Athletics and Physical Education has cancelled all athletic events for the remainder of this academic year effective March 13, 2020, with the exception of selected events for teams still completing spring break trips. More
3/12/2020 - A Video Message from President Bradley
It is after much deliberation that I and the senior team—with input from faculty, students, administrators, staff, and alumnae/i—have come to the following difficult decisions about how to proceed at Vassar, given the COVID-19 pandemic we are facing. We know that circumstances may change, and we will continue to provide updates.
Therefore, effective March 23 through April 10, Vassar will move all classes online for distance learning, and where possible, employees will be able to work remotely. These efforts are being taken with the goal of reducing the probability of spreading COVID-19 on campus. After this three-week period, we hope to return to regular classroom-based learning again; however, we cannot predict the path of the pandemic, and we will reevaluate this decision by April 6.
Additionally, last night the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention designated continental Europe a Level 3 area. Consistent with our travel policy, we are working to bring all Vassar students currently studying there back to the United States.
Throughout our discussions, we took account of the variety of suggestions expressed by students and parents and we focused on our commitment to provide excellent higher education and, at the same time, mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the related health risks that it poses to members of our community. We sought an approach that was consistent with our values, which include protecting all members of our community, with particular attention to those who are most vulnerable and may experience health, financial, or other hardships.
Students are expected to delay their return to campus and participate in distance learning from their off-campus locations; however, students who are registered to be on campus during Spring break may stay on campus if they choose to and participate in distance learning from their campus location. If being off-campus presents a significant financial or other hardship, students may make a Request to Reside on Campus through the Office of the Dean of the College. The Request to Reside on Campus is due by Saturday, March 14 at midnight ET, and students will be told whether the request has been approved by end of day on Monday, March 16. An email from Dean Alamo will follow this communication with specific references to the institutional support resources available to students through the Dean of the College area including guidance about personal belongings.
- Distance Learning: Our faculty are dedicated to pursuing Vassar’s educational standards during this difficult time. Faculty are working on additional details about their courses, including how course materials will be made available, and more updates from the Dean of the Faculty will be forthcoming.
- Graduation: We are committed to making certain all seniors who complete their coursework graduate on time. Our deans and our faculty will work with students on individual plans as needed to accomplish this.
- Tuition and Room and Board: Vassar will credit what a student would have paid for room and board during the time that the student is not able to be on campus. Vassar will not be refunding tuition, as our classes will continue.
- Employees: Beginning March 23, a temporary “Telework” program will be available for those employees whose roles and responsibilities allow for working from off-campus. We are also working on temporary changes to the college’s leave policies to support employees with higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. In the coming days, Human Resources will communicate with employees about how to participate in these programs.
- Athletics: Following their spring break travel schedules, we are suspending all regular season winter and spring-sport competitions until April 10th. This includes competitions for the following teams: baseball, men’s volleyball, men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s rowing, men’s and women’s rugby, women’s golf, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s track and field. Student-athletes on these teams will be permitted to return to campus should they opt to do so to continue practice activity in the hope of resuming games on April 10th. This college will re-evaluate this decision by April 6.
- Student Employment: We are exploring ways to provide alternatives to students who are off-campus during this time and who are therefore unable to perform their on-campus jobs.
- Special Circumstances: We have set aside resources for students who want to return home and who have significant financial hardship.
- Health, Mental Health, and Advocacy Services: All student counseling and support services including the Counseling Service, Health Promotion Education and Support, Advocacy, and Violence Prevention (SAVP) will continue to operate, although these departments may shift the way in which they deliver their services. The Vassar Health Service will be open and available for appointments or consultation.
- On-Campus Dining: For students on campus, Gordon Commons will reopen on Saturday March 21 at 11:00am, with all food served; no self-serve stations will be available during this time. Please refer to the dining website, dining.vassar.edu, for up-to-date hours and locations.
- On-Campus Events: In-person events are suspended until April 17; organizers may conduct them online (our Computing & Information Services team will be available to help). We are suspending all gatherings of more than 50 people, effective immediately.
- Other Facilities: The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, the Thompson Memorial Library, The Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve and the Wimpfheimer Nursery School will remain open. [Update on 3/15/2020: Wimpfheimer Nursery School will be closed March 16–20]
- Admission Visits: We have suspended all admission-related campus visits and our Admitted Student Open House events. These cancellations include all daily campus tours, information sessions, and admitted student overnight visits.
The decision to reduce activity on campus was not an easy one to make; however, it was a measure that we took to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. At the same time, I am aware that living through times of uncertainty such as these can make us anxious about the future. We are not alone. Colleges and universities are working hard to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. I am comforted by the many communications I have received from students, parents, alumnae/i, and colleagues—who are ready to support our community and its mission through these challenges. Vassar is a courageous and fearlessly consequential community and we will get through this.
Thank you for your support.
3/12/2020 - A Message From the President
Yesterday (3/11/20), we accidentally published a video publicly that had not been intended to be released until after we had notified our community of our decision to move classes to distance learning for a period of time. We removed the video as soon as we learned of the mistake, but not before some people had seen and downloaded it. We apologize for this mistake, which we know caused undue confusion for some of you. Please know that was never our intention. This is a stressful time for us all, and we are sorry if we added to that.
3/11/2020 - Admission Cancels On-Campus Visits and Admitted Students Days
In response to growing concerns regarding COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), Vassar College has made the difficult decision to suspend all admission-related campus visits and our Admitted Student Open House events. These cancellations include all daily campus tours, information sessions, and admitted student overnight visits. While there are no known cases of COVID-19 on the Vassar campus, this decision prioritizes the safety of our community and also protects the health of the communities beyond our campus.
We want to assure prospective students and their families that being unable to visit campus will not have any impact on a student’s future application to the College. Vassar’s selection process is holistic and student-centered. We do not take into account “demonstrated interest” such as campus visits.
We also know that activities—from extracurricular engagements to standardized exams—have been interrupted in many communities. These interruptions are not limited to any one area, nor are they likely to cease anytime soon. We are extremely mindful of the global effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, and will take them into account as we review applications in the next admission cycle.
We are sorry that we will not be able to welcome you to our campus in the short term, but we hope to see you in the future. In the meantime, you can still get a sense of our community through our digital resources:
3/10/2020 - Event Limits Initiated
Beginning 3/11/20, all events sponsored by external groups of more than 100 people are cancelled until further notice. At this time, we are not setting limits on the size of events sponsored by and for the Vassar community.
3/10/2020 - Planning for Distance Learning and Remote Work
Planning is currently underway for implementing distance learning (which could occur on or off campus) and remote work. We recognize this is very complicated and will have different implications for different people in our community. Our goal is to facilitate the best possible learning atmosphere for everyone. We will provide an update on this later in the week.
3/07/2020 - State of Emergency Declared in NYS
On Saturday, 3/07/20, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency in New York State to help New York more quickly and effectively contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. At this time, there is no change to Vassar’s operations. The College continues to monitor the situation closely. Please check back frequently for the most up-to-date information on Vassar’s programs and procedures.
3/06/2020 - Campus Protocols Initiated
- High intensity protocol for cleaning heavily trafficked areas of campus has been initiated
- We have temporarily suspended Student EMS from 03/23–04/13/20 (EMS is already off duty during breaks). We will re-assess the need to close for the rest of the semester the week of 04/06/20
- The College is working on a plan for distance learning, should some students or faculty members not be able to attend class or should there be a need to make all classes remote
Travel Policy Updates
- Vassar’s Travel Policy.
As of June 15, Vassar College will permit college-sponsored domestic travel. All such travel must comply with state and local travel and health and safety guidelines.
As of 3/19/2020 Vassar is requiring the immediate return of all students participating in study abroad in any location to return to their home residences due to the U.S. Department of State raising its global Travel Advisory to level 4.
Frequently Asked Questions
When spring break ends, will students be permitted to return to campus?
Students are expected to delay their return to campus and participate in distance learning from their off-campus locations. Students who are registered to be on campus during Spring break may stay on campus if they choose to and participate in distance learning from their campus location.
How long will it be before Vassar returns to regular classroom-based learning?
We had hoped to resume in-person classes after several weeks of distance learning; however, it is now apparent that no more in-person classes will be possible this semester. We have made the decision to continue our educational mission via distance teaching through the end of the semester.
Are any options available for students unable to go home to stay on campus?
If being off-campus presents a significant financial or other hardship, students may make a Request to Reside on Campus through the Office of the Dean of the College.
The Request to Reside on Campus is due by Saturday, March 14 at midnight, and students will be told whether the request has been approved by end of day Monday, March 16.
If students wish to leave campus but do not have the funds to get home, will the college provide funding?
We have set aside resources for students who want to return home and who have significant financial hardship.
What if students do not plan to return to campus but have some belongings they wish to retrieve?
Currently, the office of Residential Life (email@example.com) is only able to facilitate the return of a very small number of items: personal identification (driver’s licenses, passports, etc.) and laptops w/chargers. Please note we cannot legally ship medication. That said, if your medication is still at the Post Office, they can forward your packaged medication to where you are.
If you need to refill your medication and your insurance will not cover your new prescription, consider downloading the Good RX app. The app offers discounts on prescription drugs, even without insurance.
Will I receive a room-and-board credit for the time I was not on campus?
Students who left campus housing prior to the end of break (even if your belongings remain on campus) will receive a refund of room-and-board charges on a prorated basis for the weeks remaining in the spring semester. This will be based on the amount that a family has contributed to the cost of education with a minimum refund of $1,900. If you have not already done so, please fill out the Confirmation of Residency Status form.
If I stayed on campus after break but have since moved off campus, will I receive a refund of room and board?
If you had originally stayed on campus and then decided to move off campus before the end of the semester, please contact Dean Inoa (firstname.lastname@example.org).You will receive a prorated credit based on the timing of your departure and your family’s contribution to the cost of education. The minimum refund amount will be adjusted for the time you spent on campus after the end of break.
I lived off campus but have since moved home. Will I receive a credit for the unused portion of the meal plan?
Off-campus students who moved home will receive a prorated refund of the off-campus meal plan. If you have not already done so, please fill out the Confirmation of Residency Status form.
Will I be charged tuition for the time I was not on campus?
Vassar will not be refunding tuition, as our educational services will continue unabated.
How will students be able to take classes?
All classes will take place online through April 10. This includes for the small number of our students who cannot return home because of financial or other demonstrated hardship.
How will the distance learning classes compare to regular classroom-based learning?
Our faculty are dedicated to pursuing Vassar’s educational standards during this difficult time. Faculty are working on additional details about their courses, including how course materials will be made available, and more updates will be forthcoming. Learn more about distance learning.
Will seniors be able to graduate on time?
We are committed to making certain all seniors who complete their coursework graduate on time. Our deans and our faculty will work with students on individual plans as needed to accomplish this.
Will students be paid for their campus jobs?
Vassar is committed to assuring that our students who would have or had on-campus jobs this semester will still receive a paycheck. We understand how important student employment is to our community—whether it helps pay for books, a winter jacket, or a portion of tuition. We also know how much pride many of you take in your campus jobs, whether you are a research assistant, a student photographer or one of the friendly faces that greets us all at the AFC.
Given the extreme circumstances in which we find ourselves, we will continue to pay all students who have or would have had an on-campus job for the spring semester. Payment will be based on the average hours you have worked so far this semester up to the maximum they can earn for the year. If you can perform your work remotely or on campus, continue to do so, we need you. Please touch base with your supervisor for details.
We know the disruptions of the COVID-19 outbreak have been significant. We hope that knowing you will continue to have income for your campus job will be one less source of anxiety and help make a decision to return home, where possible, easier.
When will students be allowed back on campus?
Please monitor the Vassar College COVID-19 website for updates.
What is the status of Vassar’s regional and club events?
Due to concerns arising from this unprecedented health crisis, all Vassar regional gatherings scheduled for this spring and summer are cancelled until further notice. This includes events organized primarily by the College, or those organized by volunteers. This applies to club events and class mini-reunions. Notices will be sent to individual registrants regarding each event currently on the calendar.
Vassar is pleased to offer a variety of virtual events open to local, national, and international audiences. Please see our events calendar for a full listing and to register for these programs.
Will Reunion be held this June?
Virtual Reunion 2020 will take place on Friday, June 5 and Saturday, June 6. We are working on plans to host an in-person Reunion in 2021. Please check our Reunion website for further information and updates.
What about the upcoming Vassar Travel Programs?
We sincerely regret that we have had to cancel the upcoming Dublin-Belfast trip in June and the Vietnam trip in October. We will be closely monitoring international developments regarding all subsequent trips. Individual travelers will be personally notified.
Can alumnae/i visitors come to campus?
Regretfully, we do not encourage visitors to campus at this time.
What can alumnae/i do to help?
Many of you have asked this question and have proposed wonderful and creative ideas for the AAVC and College to consider. Thank you! Please know that we read every single email and message we receive. Stay engaged. Send us your ideas on creating community in this time of heightened anxiety. Let us know how we can help reach out to members of your class, region, and affinity groups. While we know physical distancing is important, social isolation is not! If you feel inspired to offer support to our students while they are taking remote classes, reach back on VassarNet, and connect with them. Students will feel reassured hearing your voices.
Finally, we have established an emergency fund for students who are in need. Gifts to the Vassar Student Support Fund will help support students with unanticipated travel and other expenses during this difficult time. We thank you in advance for your generous gesture of support.
Please see the FAQs for the Telework Program and Accommodation Leave Requests.
What is the status of previously scheduled campus events?
In-person events are suspended until further notice; organizers may conduct them online (our Computing Information Services will be available to help). We are suspending all gatherings of more than 20 people, effective immediately.
What does Vassar’s change to remote learning mean for employees?
Beginning March 18, we will implement a temporary “Telework” program for those employees whose roles and responsibilities allow for working from off-campus. We are also working on temporary changes to the college’s leave policies to support employees with higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. In the coming days, Human Resources will communicate with employees about how to participate in these programs.
Will there be dining services for students who remain on campus?
For students on campus, Gordon Commons will reopen on Saturday, March 21 at 11:00am, with all food served; no self-serve stations will be available during this time. Please refer to the dining website, dining.vassar.edu, for up-to-date hours and locations.
Will any health services be available to students?
All student counseling and support services including the Counseling Service, Health Promotion Education and Support, Advocacy, and Violence Prevention (SAVP) will continue to operate, although these departments may shift the way in which they deliver their services. The Vassar Health Service will be open and available for appointments or consultation.
What buildings or other resources at Vassar remain open?
Gordon Commons (open only for take-out food), The Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, Skinner Hall, the Chapel, the Bayit and the Muslim Prayer Room remain open at this time pending further review.
Will Vassar’s office of admission be scheduling campus visits?
We have suspended all admission-related campus visits and our Admitted Student Open House events. These cancellations include all daily campus tours, information sessions, and admitted student overnight visits.
- Vassar College CARES Act Emergency Student Aid Funding
7/15/2020 - CARES Act Institutional Funding Report
7/01/2020 - CARES Act Emergency Student Aid 45-day Report
5/22/2020 - CARES Act Emergency Student Aid 30-day Report
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Information for People at Higher Risk and Special Populations
- Traveler’s Health at the CDC
- U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory Website
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Vassar Employee Guide to Teleworking
- World Health Organization
Take steps to protect yourself and others:
- wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth with unwashed hands
- avoid close contact with people who are sick
If you have cold-like symptoms, you can protect others by doing the following:
- stay home while you are sick
- avoid close contact with others
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands
- clean and disinfect objects and surfaces
Creating and sustaining a welcoming climate requires mutual respect for all. This means that discrimination and harassment are not acceptable at Vassar College.
Messages to the Vassar Community
- 6/18/2020 - College Announcement on Fall Study Abroad
- 6/16/2020 - A Message From the President on Dutchess County Phase II Re-Opening
- 5/13/2020 - A Message From the President
- 5/03/2020 - A Message From the Board Chair
- 4/30/2020 - A Message From EPI and the President
- As Employees Reach Service Milestones, Vassar Says “Thank You”
- 4/29/2020 - A Message From the President Regarding Plans to Move Forward
- 3/28/2020 - Safety Communication
- 3/26/2020 - A Message From the President
- 3/25/2020 - Postponement of the Service Recognition Awards Luncheon
- 3/23/2020 - A Message From President Bradley Regarding COVID-19
- 3/22/2020 - Important follow up re: NY Governor’s executive order
- 3/20/2020 - Message from Carlos García Regarding the NY Governor’s Executive Order
- 3/19/2020 - Message From President Bradley Regarding Reunion
- 3/19/2020 - Update from President Bradley on Distance Learning and Commencement
- 3/17/2020 - Message from President Bradley—Checking in and Updates
- 3/13/2020 - Message from President Bradley About Staying Healthy On Campus
- 3/13/2020 - Temporary HR Policy Changes Due to COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
- 3/13/2020 - Important updates for students from the Dean of College, Carlos Alamo-Pastrana
- 3/12/2020 - Message From President Bradley On Latest Efforts Responding to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
- 3/10/2020 - Message From President Bradley On Latest Efforts Responding to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
- 3/08/2020 – Admissions Remains Open
- 3/06/2020 – COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) Update
- 3/03/2020 – Information regarding COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) and Spring Break travel
- 2/04/2020 – A message from President Bradley regarding COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
- 1/27/2020 – A message from the Medical Director of the Vassar College Health Service