A Message from President Bradley on the Importance of Community Commitment

Dear All,

As students and employees are arriving back to campus, I am writing to underscore the importance of our community commitment to each other’s health and safety this semester.

COVID-19 can be extremely serious and even lethal, and everyone needs to work together to reduce spread. Our ability to continue an in-person learning environment depends on our success in doing so. The most important “to do’s” to keep us all safe are:

  • If you live on campus, stay on campus (other than for emergencies and in exceptional cases, which must be approved by our Director of Case Management, Erika Pappas at EPappas@vassar.edu). If you do not live on campus, maintain social distancing, and avoid large gatherings and public spaces. Avoid unnecessary traveling. This will help limit exposures to COVID-19.
  • Maintain 6 feet of distance from others at all times while on campus.
  • Wear a mask at all times, except when alone in your room or private office, or stationary outdoors with 6 feet of distance from everyone else.

Remember, if you are within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more of someone who tests positive, you may be considered a close contact and thus may have to self-quarantine for 14 days. Also, if you are eating (unmasked) inside with others in a relatively small space in which you cannot maintain 6 feet of distance, and one person tests positive, you may all be considered close contacts and be self-quarantined. If you are not a close contact, you do not need to do anything different. Please do not socialize within 6 feet during these early weeks, as we test everyone multiple times to ensure we are healthy.

We can help each other. Please remind others in ways that are supportive and effective, and when you are reminded, please say “thank you for reminding me.” Recognize we need each other to accomplish our goals of staying healthy and safe together. Check out our short video on how we can develop a culture of shared accountability and acceptance of these new norms.

Due to the seriousness of COVID-19 risks, students who ignore these safety expectations may face consequences up to and including being required to leave campus and study remotely, and in egregious cases, may receive additional sanctioning. Similarly, employees who violate safety expectations may have corrective action up to and including termination. Please if you feel any symptoms, check in with Baldwin Health Services.

I also want to remind everyone that we are reopening in phases. Phase 1 is from now through September 7. We have let the community know that, during this time, the campus is closed to non-essential visitors. The Poughkeepsie Farm Project and golf course are open but cordoned off from campus, and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center (FLLAC) is open to the public on weekends, accessed only from Raymond Avenue. By the end of Phase 1, we hope to open the Library, indoor athletic facilities, and the FLLAC to students.

From now until August 31, all students are being tested for COVID-19, and students may spend time within their assigned house or apartment or go outdoors for fresh air and exercise. Food is available as grab and go at multiple locations and times. lease stay 6 feet away from everyone at all times (even when eating outside), and wear a mask. Do not congregate in groups inside. Outdoors, groups must be fewer than 10 with everyone maintaining 6 feet distance at all times.P Social distancing and masking are two of the most effective methods of reducing COVID-19 spread.

Students may attend class in person beginning August 31. If you arrived from one of the designated states with a travel advisory, you may attend classes in person as long as you have met the New York State 14-day quarantine guidelines. COVID-19 testing is also available on campus for all employees who live on campus, or who work in dining, safety and security, residential life, health services, sports medicine, and facilities operations. Information about scheduling for this will be forthcoming. All other employees are also encouraged to be tested regularly. I go regularly to Rite Aid on 709 Main Street, and it is fast, easy, and free. Sign up for an appointment online at their website.

If all goes well (i.e., COVID-19 cases are at a minimum and contained), Phase 2 will begin September 8. During Phase 2, people may gather in small groups (10 or fewer), and facilities such as the FLLAC, the Library, and the indoor athletic facilities will be open to the campus community under new guidelines. Although outside visitors may use the campus to walk dogs and exercise during Phase 2, our buildings will only be open to Vassar students and employees throughout the semester. Emeriti faculty may also use the Library beginning in Phase 2. Students must not leave campus throughout the semester (other than for emergencies and exceptional situations approved by Director Pappas).

Finally, we will begin reporting the number of new COVID-19 cases on campus on a special dashboard each week, beginning this week. We have tested 481 students so far, and we have had four students test positive for COVID-19. These numbers are in keeping with expectations in these early days. All are in isolation and being cared for in another part of the campus in a private room and bathroom; none of the students is symptomatic. Per our protocol, we have conducted contract tracing, and five additional people determined to have had close contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19 will move to our self-quarantine areas on campus for 14 days. Please keep an eye on the VassarTogether webpage for weekly updates on the number of tests and positive cases.

Remember, “We Precedes Me.” I am asking for your help. Please do everything you can to help us all implement these health and safety protocols so that we can continue in-person learning and living together on campus. I am confident that by taking this ethos to heart we can uphold the community expectations that will help keep all of us healthy and safe this semester.

See you soon,

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President

Poughkeepsie, NY 12604