COVID-19 Reflections

December 1, 2021

Dear all,

When my travel was canceled this week due to new COVID-19 travel restrictions, I felt a little lost. I was to meet with many alums and Vassar donors in London and then give a talk on Climate Change and Global Health at the University of Edinburgh. So much preparation and anticipation, and then—cancellation and moving everything to Zoom. It has been disorienting.

Most likely, we have all had plans turned upside down and overhauled by the pandemic, with the omicron variant being the most recent curveball. As we continue to learn more over the next weeks, we will continue to implement the most evidence-based strategies to keep our campus community safe and healthy. Nearly everyone has been fully vaccinated. We have widely accessible, free COVID-19 testing on campus; we monitor COVID-19 cases carefully and perform extensive and immediate contact tracing to limit community spread. Please remember: if you have symptoms, be tested immediately and seek Health Services (and stay home if you are an employee).

Still, if you are like me, you experience moments of discouragement—as it sometimes seems pointless to plan ahead and the challenges associated with COVID-19 persist twenty months after the first shutdown. An insight we have learned is that pandemic-induced fears can threaten community in unexpected ways. As we seek greater protection, we can become more isolated, distrusting, and fearful of others.

What can we do to avoid this? We can reach out to others and continue to contribute to the social fabric that underpins our community. We can take care of each other. We can be a good friend. We can check-in with neighbors, grab a meal together, and be present with each other to build our social ties—the most profound source of strength in uncertain times. From the beginning of our response to the pandemic, we have benefited from the VassarTogether ethos and the norm of “we precedes me,” and we can continue this embrace of community as the pandemic persists.

We are watching the science closely and will in the weeks ahead make decisions about the spring semester in terms of vaccination requirements, testing, and masking. These decisions will be based on recommendations for higher education from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state and county public health guidelines.  Our decisions continue to be driven by our values: protecting the most vulnerable (considering vulnerabilities related to physical and mental health and overall wellbeing), promoting equity when we can, and pursuing our mission of providing the highest quality liberal arts education in a diverse and inclusive environment. Now that I am not traveling, I can attend the many events planned on campus this week and next, and I look forward to seeing you!

Thank you for your courage and your commitment to each other and to Vassar.

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604