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 Spring 2021 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 distancing, and sanitation; testing, contact tracing, and protocols for isolation; and self-quarantine. We will continue the community standards that allowed us to support a safe learning community during the Fall 2020 Semester.
We start by reasserting our key values that are the foundation of our planning for a safe resumption of in-person classes in Spring 2021:
- 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 continue to 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 continues to be a collaborative effort among 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.
VassarTogether, the planning team that developed these protocols, focused on providing an on-campus learning experience that prioritizes campus community members and the larger Poughkeepsie/Arlington community’s health and wellness during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We concentrated on establishing basic physical health and wellness safety measures that will ensure compliance with both the New York State Governor’s executive orders, the New York State Higher Education Guidelines, and The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York guidelines for Creating Safe and Resilient Campuses. This Community Care Approach emphasizes making Vassar a safe campus community that provides a robust on-campus educational experience.
In order for this community care approach to succeed, students must remain on campus at all times during the Spring Semester in order to help minimize any potential spread of COVID-19. This restriction will be in place when students return to campus beginning on February 1, 2021 and will remain in place for the duration of the semester. Campus buildings will remain closed to outside visitors (local vendors will need to follow state health protocols, and other restrictions will apply).
Employees who can perform their jobs off-site may continue to do so, and those who travel to campus will comply with all testing, health screening, and PPE requirements. We know these measures err on the side of caution, but they provide some access to our campus to the broader community, help protect employees, and give our students the on-campus college experience they long for and deserve.
Campus Boundary and Community Responsibility
VassarTogether discussed in detail the need to weigh the safety needs of our campus with our institutional values and commitments to the broader Poughkeepsie community. The community care approach described below strikes a balanced and measured approach for the Spring 2021 Semester. As in the fall, the campus grounds, including the Ecological Preserve, will be closed to visitors throughout the Spring Semester. Signage will continue to remind everyone to follow the campus mask-wearing policy and other health and safety protocols. Access to College buildings will be limited by card swipe to students and employees only.
This successful approach from the fall, emphasizing the health and safety of both the campus community and the broader Poughkeepsie community, requires that students not travel off campus, including short trips into town. Students who violate this important requirement risk the possibility of being sent home to continue their studies remotely. As we limit access to our campus for the Spring Semester, please be aware of the following guidelines:
Campus Entry Guidelines
Touchless deliveries will be allowed on Main Campus through 11:00 p.m. Delivery guidelines (masks, no entry into buildings, etc.) and campus entrance/exit instructions will be distributed to local businesses. Vendors will be expected to utilize touchless delivery methods, wear protective masks, and not enter campus buildings.
Supply deliveries will be directed to Procurement, any questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Special arrangements will be made for science and food deliveries.
- Vendors must pre-register through Procurement, which will include include providing the vendor’s COVID-19 protocols and a main person of contact for the College. COVID-19 protocols should be sent to email@example.com.
- Appointments are required seven days in advance of coming to campus.
- The College will keep a daily log of any vendors on campus should they be required for contact tracing.
- Vendors should limit the number of their personnel on campus to no more than two, unless approved in advance by the College.
Vendors will follow all safety requirements of the College, including but not limited to wearing PPE and following appropriate social-distancing guidelines.
Contractors Working on Campus
Contractors will be expected to follow NYS health guidelines and will be expected to follow all Vassar safety requirements, including wearing PPE. They will be provided with contractor IDs or escorted by an employee at all times.
Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve
The Poughkeepsie Farm Project and Community Gardens will remain open as usual, but cordoned off from the rest of campus, while the Ecological Preserve will be closed to non-essential visitors. The Field Station and Barn will remain locked and off-limits to all but Vassar community members. Masks must be worn by all visitors, except when stationary and six feet from other individuals; or when performing grounds maintenance while social distancing from all other workers. All visitors and employees must have a mask close at hand to don when coming into close proximity with others. We have formulated this plan in consultation with county health officials, who believe it is best for the safety of both the community and the students. Signage will reinforce these restrictions.
Health and Safety
Campus Mask Policy
Everyone on campus—students, employees, and visitors—is required to wear a mask or face covering, except: when in private/unshared rooms or offices; when stationary outdoors and able to maintain a 6-foot social distance from others; or if exercising in a group of 6 or fewer people, and able to maintain a 6-foot social distance from others. Masks are required while in transit (walking from place to place indoors or outdoors). The College will provide masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) as needed for employees to safely conduct their job activities on campus.
Community Care Standards
Rather than establishing a set of specific behavioral guidelines, VassarTogether has developed community care standards around an ethos of looking out for one another—of bringing meaning to the phrase “we precedes me.” This ethos calls for all students and employees not only to be in community, but also to act in community. Community care means that we think both about the individual and the communal impacts of the things we do and how they contribute to minimizing the potential for the spread of COVID-19.
While these norms are written to the attention of students, we expect these standards to be followed by every member of our campus community, including but not limited to faculty, administrators, and staff. In particular, we look to employees as models for this behavior. Finally, we’d like to note that these standards are constructed to prioritize readability and accessibility: We envision these standards as living, breathing practices that both reflect and guide the heart of the community at Vassar.
Even more, community care asks us to think deeply about the ways we talk with and help each other uphold these norms and standards. Curiosity, education, and empathy should be at the center of these encounters as we continue to build a community that values and protects the health of all members, including those on campus and throughout the greater Poughkeepsie area.
Depending on the continued evolution of COVID-19 and the science of it, we may need to update these norms. In some instances, this might mean that some expectations can be loosened. In other cases, this could mean that we will have to enhance the norms and standards listed below. VassarTogether will communicate updates to the community as they become available.
Individual and Community Norms
All students returning to campus are required to sign the VassarTogether Commitment, as follows:
By returning to campus to be part of “VassarTogether,”I commit to bring meaning to the phrase, “We precedes me.” I take this opportunity to not just “be” in community but also to “act” in community. I understand that the College may have to shift its practices based on guidelines set forth by New York State and/or federal, regional, and local public health guidelines.
As a member of the Vassar community, I agree to the following commitments:
I commit to remaining on campus from my arrival date in February until I leave campus for the semester on/around June 1. I understand that compliance with this is crucial to the health and safety of the entire community. I understand that leaving campus will be permissible in the case of emergencies and in limited situations that require prior approval from the Dean of the College office and that those who are approved to leave campus will be subject to additional COVID-19 testing upon return. *For students living off campus, you may not invite students living on campus to your residence. You must complete the online health screen daily.
I commit to following all campus access policies, including the guest policy. I understand that no non-Vassar community member may enter campus buildings, including my house and dorm.
I commit to wearing a mask in compliance with the campus mask policy.
I commit to always maintaining at least six feet between myself and others when possible.
I commit to navigating spaces on campus safely, including using hand sanitizer frequently, wiping down surfaces when deemed necessary to do so, and following all building signage regarding capacity limits, traffic flow, and other safety measures.
I commit to undergoing COVID-19 PCR testing within three days prior to arriving on campus, three times within four days of arriving on campus, and additional testing as required.
I commit to cooperating with contact tracing initiatives, including, but not limited to, self-attesting to my health through the mobile app as required, potentially daily. I understand that I am encouraged to self-monitor for symptoms every morning.
I commit to self-quarantine and isolation if it is deemed necessary for me to do so. I understand that the College will provide a separate residential space for students who are symptomatic or determined to have COVID-19, as well as a separate space for close contacts or individuals who might be positive.
I commit to processes connected to the Community Care Team (CCT), including engaging in restorative conversations when invited to participate in such. If I notice a behavior that is concerning, I will follow the intervention guidelines as laid out by the CCT.
I understand that public health conditions might require the College to shift to remote learning on very short notice and that I will be responsible for my transportation and the removal and/or storage of my personal belongings if the closure of residence halls is required.
Other General Norms
- All community members will follow guidelines set by the Health Service regarding PPE, social distancing, and the like—recognizing that such benefit the community by keeping everyone safe.
- All community members will assume best intent: When someone is not following safety precautions, assume first that there may be a valid reason or unintentional oversight. Offer to assist others in following the standard (ask if they need help acquiring/making a face covering, finding an optimal space for their gathering, etc.), and when reminded yourself, respond with “thank you for reminding me.”
- Remain up to date on standards. These standards will be updated and changed over time. It is expected that all community members will stay educated in order to follow all norms.
Use of Physical Spaces on Campus:
- Classroom spaces have been furnished to accommodate social distancing; no new furniture should be brought into classrooms.
- Academic buildings will be open via card access for students during business hours and with approval. Faculty will have access to academic buildings at any time, weekdays and weekends, after hours.
- Employees will have access to the academic buildings during the workday (offices, classrooms, labs, etc.). Card access in the evenings/weekends to academic buildings will be restricted to those who apply for that access because of specific needs/requirements.
- Avoid having multiple individuals in narrow halls or rooms where a six-foot distance is not possible. Please look for and respect the traffic/directional and distancing markings for entry, exit, and movement down hallways.
- Use sanitizing wipes to clean all chairs, tables, and surfaces upon entry into a classroom or shared space. If possible, wipe again before leaving.
- Avoid sharing office water coolers and coffee machines across offices.
- Please leave doors open and, if possible, open windows to maximize air circulation in classrooms and other meeting spaces.
- Use hand sanitizer before entering and upon exiting elevators. There should be no more than one person in small elevators and no more than two people in freight-sized elevators. Limit touching buttons with bare hands when possible.
- In stairwells, use hand sanitizer prior to entry and avoid touching handrails. Use sanitizer upon exit, after opening crash bar doors.
- All buildings will be card-access only. In order to limit density in buildings, people should keep their entry into buildings on campus to a minimum.
- Bathrooms in academic and administrative buildings are limited to one occupant at a time. Before leaving the bathroom, please be sure to clean up any mess and wash your hands. Individuals waiting to use the restroom should stand at least six feet from the door so that others can safely exit.
Social Interactions on Campus:
- Indoor spaces such as the Library, the Old Bookstore, the Affinity Centers, and the Villard Room will be open immediately; however, until all students have received two negative on-campus PCR tests, they may only be with their roommates in those spaces.
- Students may gather in groups of up to 10 people outdoors, masked and keeping six feet of social distance.
- Faculty and other employees should refrain from having students in their homes.
Teaching and Learning
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
The Lehman Loeb galleries will be open to students and accompanying faculty on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., as well as Thursday evenings from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Accommodations may be made for occasional curricular access on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The Lehman Loeb will be open to the public only on Saturdays (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) and Sundays (1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.). Access will be only via Raymond Avenue and the sculpture court; admission will be limited to no more than 25 percent of full capacity, a maximum of 75 visitors at a time. Please check the FLLAC website for hours and additional information.