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Vassar
Together

Introduction and Values Statement

This planning and guidance is subject to change in response to local public health conditions and local, state, and federal guidelines.

Vassar invites students to return to campus for the Fall 2020 semester. Developed by the VassarTogether committee (a broad campus-wide group of faculty, administrators, staff, and students), this report describes practices and protocols to safely return to campus, while ensuring that students and faculty who do not return to campus can continue to learn and teach. Central components of this plan involve face masks, physical distance, and sanitation; testing, contact tracing, and protocols for isolation; and self-quarantine. In addition, we identify community standards that will support a safe learning community.

Key Values

We start by identifying key values that are the foundation of our planning for a safe resumption of in-person classes in Fall 2020:

  • We are committed to creating and sustaining an ethical learning community;
  • We will prioritize the health of our community, paying explicit attention to the inequalities that contribute to vulnerabilities during this pandemic;
  • The Vassar community is global and we are enriched by the multiplicity of experience and culture that constitute our global campus;
  • Our living and learning practices must emphasize and create modes of cooperation, mutual care, and interdependence.

Teaching, learning, and living together under our current conditions means embracing a spirit of experimentation, which is to say a willingness to try, revise, and try again. This will be a collaborative effort between faculty, students, administrators and staff. We encourage the entire Vassar community to embrace a spirit of collaboration, openness, curiosity, and inquiry as a way of helping us understand what it means to collectively create a learning community in this historical moment. No student or faculty members will be required to return to in-person teaching or learning as a condition of enrollment, financial aid, or employment.  Human Resources will extend Vassar’s temporary Telework program, so that employees whose roles and responsibilities allow may continue working from off campus.

In recognizing that we cannot all share the same physical learning spaces in ways we are accustomed, we affirm these commitments to the Vassar community: We will learn where we are and with what we have. We will teach where we are and with what we have. We will work where we are and with what we have. We will offer our support and compassion to each other in these endeavors.

SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus first identified in 2019, causes the potentially life-threatening disease COVID-19. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), its primary mode of transmission is through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks; spread is most likely when people are in close contact with each other. This is why wearing masks and maintaining physical distance from others are currently among the most effective methods of preventing the spread. The protocols we outline below are anchored in the emerging scientific understanding of the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and are informed by the CDC, New York State Department of Health, and the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health. As knowledge of the disease changes, these protocols will change as needed. This planning and guidance is also subject to change in response to local public health conditions and local, state, and federal guidelines.

In the midst of a global pandemic, with its devastating effects on society’s most vulnerable, Vassar College affirms our commitments to both our educational mission and to prioritizing the health and safety of our community and the larger communities within which we live and with whom we have valued relationships. With the pandemic likely to persist beyond Fall 2020, the College must adapt to these new conditions that unsettle many of the longstanding practices of the residential liberal arts. Under these challenging circumstances, the value of a liberal arts education seems more important than ever, so we as a community must discern our way forward together, developing new pedagogies, practices, and protocols to support our enduring commitment to learning together.