Employees (Faculty, Staff and Administrators)
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.
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 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 extend throughout Spring 2021, the College must adapt to these 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.
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
Students, faculty/faculty families, and employees/employee families should have their IDs at all times while on campus. IDs are the only way to access buildings on campus. Signage regarding ID requirements will be prominently displayed at campus entries (sidewalk and roadway) throughout the campus, and a written message to the Vassar community will reinforce this policy.
All buildings will have card readers. Maps will show card reader locations throughout campus for easier access.
Masks and Hand Sanitizer
All departments will have masks and hand sanitizer available to give out as needed. High-traffic areas will also have hand sanitizing wipes available.
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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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.
Emeriti and Household Family Members of Faculty and Employees
Emeriti faculty and family members of employees may access campus buildings with an appropriate ID, but they may be limited to specific buildings during specific time periods. Emeriti, household members of faculty, employees, and students will follow employee/student guidelines upon entering a building.
The College will provide further guidance regarding protocols related to the following campus constituencies.
- Military Reservist
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
Testing, Tracing, Self-Quarantine and Isolation Policies
The College will conduct COVID-19 testing for the Spring 2021 Semester. We plan to implement Community Care Testing of all students and some employees based on a risk-based model of occupational exposure to students and other employees. The screening process will be conducted by authorized laboratory personnel. The College will also provide diagnostic COVID-19 testing at Health Services for students. On-site Community Care COVID-19 sampling and testing of students and employees will start on February 1, 2021 and continue through the end of the Spring Semester.
All employees who will be working on campus are encouraged to have a COVID-19 test prior to students’ return to campus in early February. However, only employees in certain categories will be required to undergo testing.
COVID-19 testing is 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. All other employees are also encouraged to be tested regularly. Rite Aid at 709 Main Street in Poughkeepsie offers a fast, easy, and free option. Sign up for an appointment online at their website. Many pharmacies and other locations locally offer fast, easy, and free options.
Students and employees living on campus: Please watch your email from Westchester Medical Center and from Health Services. You will be asked to schedule regular appointments for COVID-19 testing. These will be approximately every two weeks, and in some cases more regularly. Failure to continue testing as required can result in being asked to leave the campus and study remotely.
A communication to students with reminders for scheduling repeat testing appointments will be forthcoming.
As a reminder, whenever someone tests positive for COVID-19, Health Services and the local health department conduct contact tracing. Contact tracers reach out to everyone named by the person who tested positive as potentially close contacts. You must tell the truth to the contact tracers about whether you were within six feet of the person who tested positive, for how long, and whether you were both wearing masks. All contact information is kept confidential. Please remember that health information, including names of people with COVID-19 and their contacts, is confidential.
If you are deemed to be a “close contact” (e. g., having spent 10-15 minutes or more within six feet of someone who tests positive, shared bodily fluids, shared food or drink), you will need to move to self-quarantine and take all classes online or work remotely for 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.
If you do not hear from a contact tracer, and you are worried that you were in contact with someone who tested positive, please reach out to Bridget Romani in Health Services at email@example.com.
The College will assess the symptoms of the student population regularly and employees daily to identify emerging health concerns. Technology will be available to help individuals recall their previous movements to assist with contact tracing and will be used on a voluntary basis.
Vassar College recognizes the importance of having a robust case investigation and contact tracing plan to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 on our campus and provide support to our Vassar community. Contact tracing prevents further transmission of disease by confidentially identifying people who have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Contact tracing will work in tandem with efforts to increase testing, practice effective strategies to reduce transmission, and implement isolation and self-quarantine protocols.
Two contact tracers are needed to carry out this plan for our employees and students (30 contact tracers per 100,000). The Nursing Coordinator in the Vassar College Health Service is the team lead contact tracing supervisor. Utilization and training of the on-call nurses in the Health Service is an optimal plan as they have the knowledge needed and are already employed by Vassar College. The College will also have employees in the Office of Residential Life and the Office of Health Promotion and Education trained in contact tracing. In combination with the nurses in the Health Service, the College will surpass the recommended number of contact tracers needed for our campus populations (1.2 contact tracers).
The Nursing Coordinator will ensure that all contact tracers have completed the five-hour Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Contact Tracing Course. Contact tracers will be knowledgeable of best practices, empathetic, professional, organized, and handle confidential information with discretion and professionalism. Contact tracers will regularly check in with the team supervisor and report high-risk situations that require immediate notification and coordination with the local health department.
Self-Quarantine and Isolation
The College will provide separate residential space for the isolation of any student who is suspected or determined to be COVID-19 positive. In addition, the College will provide self-quarantine spaces for close contacts of known or suspected COVID-19 positive students. Any employee who is suspected or determined to be COVID-19 positive or a close contact of a known or suspected COVID-19 positive individual is required to immediately leave work and follow the directives of the local/state health department.
- If a student tests positive, they will be isolated in one of our buildings devoted to students with COVID-19. Students will be supported with daily contact from health services. We will also have on-site EMS personnel who will check on students in isolation during evening hours. Isolation will last for 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and county public health department do not recognize additional viral testing of students once they have a positive PCR test for at least 90 days after the positive test.
- Upon a positive test, all contacts of the student will be immediately traced. People deemed to be close contacts will be tested and self-quarantined for 10 days, and asked to monitor symptoms closely for 14 days. During self-quarantine, ordered food will be delivered and students may not have physical contact or leave their self-quarantine assigned rooms. Students in self-quarantine will receive a daily email or text, a weekly phone call, and support as needed from health services.
- Students in self-quarantine can also reserve a time with Safety & Security for a walk at the Farm & Ecological Preserve.
- Depending on the need, we may use hotel rooms for self-quarantine, as was done occasionally during the Fall Semester.
- If you are deemed a close contact, but you have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days and have recovered, you will not need to self-quarantine; however, based on current guidelines, you still need to self-quarantine even if you have had the COVID-19 vaccine.
- After-hours medical and mental health support is available through the Nurse Triage Line (accessed by calling Health Service) as well as through the services of an on-campus Emergency Medical Technician (accessed by calling the CRC).
The NYS Department of Health has issued guidance regarding isolation and self-quarantine. Students who consistently fail to follow these guidelines may be required to depart campus and continue their studies remotely for the remainder of the semester. Current guidance defines the following terms:
- Mandatory isolation: Person has tested positive for COVID-19, whether or not displaying symptoms of COVID-19;
- Self-quarantine: Person has been in close contact (within 6 ft, for over 15 minutes) with someone who is positive, whether or not displaying symptoms of COVID-19;
- Precautionary self-quarantine: Person is known to have proximate exposure to a positive person but has not had direct contact with a positive person and is not displaying symptoms. Students who are symptomatic but have not tested positive will also be self-quarantined.
The NYS Department of Health has also defined shelter requirements for isolation and self-quarantine spaces:
- separate bathroom for each individual (see below)
- access to sink with soap and water and paper towels
- cleaning supplies
- delivery of food
- supply of face masks
- garbage pickup outside room
- symptom monitoring
- nearby medical facilities
- secured from unauthorized access
- appropriate signage
The College has reviewed its proposed isolation and self-quarantine spaces with Dutchess County Behavioral and Community Health, which has approved the use of spaces on campus without private bathrooms, specifically the apartments, Terrace Apartments, Brewers Lane Townhouses, and South Commons units, as well as the Residential Quad annex spaces. Each of these spaces has a ratio of bedrooms to bathrooms of between 3:1 and 6:1. The spaces are acceptable with the acknowledgement that if a person in mandatory or precautionary self-quarantine shows symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, any students in the apartment or annex cohort would then extend their quarantine period for at least another 10 days after the individual has symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test.
Self-quarantine rooms are set aside for students who arrive without a negative COVID-19 test or who have been exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 case. Students in these rooms will share bathrooms with others in self-quarantine; in small groups, may be able to get grab-and-go food (or else it will be delivered); and may be able to walk outside. But generally, they are to remain in their rooms until their test comes back negative.
Additionally, isolation rooms have been set aside for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but whose symptoms are mild. Any student with serious symptoms will be asked to call their family and would be taken to the hospital. While in isolation rooms, students must stay inside until they are recovered and will be checked by our health professionals and the local health department daily.
Self-quarantine and isolation rooms will be available throughout the semester for any students who have been exposed to another person with COVID-19 or who has COVID-19 themselves. Self-quarantine and isolation rooms have a microwave and refrigerator. We recommend that you pack a separate bag consisting of travel-size toiletries, hand sanitizer, medications, pajamas, 2 sets of clothes, and charging cords for your devices in the event that you need to move to an isolation or quarantine room.
All of the student’s physical, wellness, nutritional, and health care needs will be supported while in self-quarantine or isolation. Vassar Health Services will check in on students daily and provide guidance. Vassar Health Services has medications available for a fee, and the local Rite Aid at 238 Hooker Avenue (845) 486-6166) will deliver medications to the campus. The student will electronically submit a food order form daily to Dining Services.
Enhanced Cleaning Protocols
Facilities Operations will undertake a rigorous cleaning schedule that pays special attention to cleaning high-touch and high-traffic areas on a regular cleaning schedule. The following cleaning protocols will also be implemented:
- All high-touch surfaces in public rooms, hallways, common spaces, and bathrooms will be cleaned and disinfected at the start of each day. There will be a second round of disinfecting of these spaces at mid-afternoon each day.
- All toilets will have chlorinated tablets to disinfect with each flush. All toilet stalls will also have signage reminding users to flush after each use.
- Every bathroom will have occupancy number signage to optimize social distancing. In most cases, this will be based on 50% fixture capacity. Bathroom exhaust fans will be functional to optimize airflow.
- Student rooms and common-use bathrooms will also be disinfected upon notification to Facilities Operations by the Health Service or the Office of Residential Life after a student has been relocated to isolation or self-quarantine.
- Students are responsible for cleaning their rooms on a regular basis during the semester. Exceptions will be made in cases of illness or exposure whereby a student’s room will be disinfected by Facilities Operations. The College will supply disinfecting supplies for all student residents through the Office of Residential Life.
As noted above, while Facilities Operations will take on the bulk of cleaning responsibilities, employees and students are encouraged to see cleaning as a collective enterprise that helps enrich our notions of community care and responsibility. Employees and students are especially encouraged to clean their workspaces and living spaces on a regular basis.
If there is an area of concern that you would like to see addressed or if you have questions about cleaning, you are encouraged to put in a work ticket through Facilities Operations as soon as possible by visiting facilitiesoperations.vassar.edu or calling (845) 437-7270 (8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; M–F)
Reducing Density and Return to Work Protocols
With the reduction of density being an important element of our success in Fall 2020, we expect to have fewer than 50% of employees on campus at any one time for the foreseeable future.
Employees will continue to comply with protocols that include three key components—Telework, Daily Health Screening, and a Campus Mask Policy—designed to maximize community health and safety, in accordance with New York State guidelines.
In order to maintain low density and social distancing within campus buildings, many employees will continue to have the opportunity to telework during the Spring Semester. Therefore, some student services will be available primarily (or exclusively) online and appointments will take place via videoconference (Zoom). Offices that are physically open on campus will generally not be available for drop-in appointments; in-person meetings must be scheduled in advance and follow the protocols limiting in-person meetings described in this document.
Daily Health Screening
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 whether they have had a positive COVID-19 test in the past 14 days. New York State requires the College to review these assessments daily. Any employee who experiences COVID-19 symptoms must stay home from work, and will be contacted by human resources or health services to provide support as needed.
Once students return, they will follow a similar protocol, completing a regular health self-assessment. Any student experiencing COVID-19 symptoms must not attend classes in-person and should contact Health Services for support and advice on proper care and whether testing and/or self-quarantine are warranted.
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.
Accountability: Responding to Instances Where Community Standards Are Violated
Our safety protocols are multilayered, encompassing testing, social distancing, mask-wearing, and enhanced cleaning. We recognize that there will be instances when a member of the community does not adhere to a community norm, either intentionally or inadvertently. In these cases, we ask that members in the community serve as the first “carefront” in responding to these violations. For example, if an individual is not wearing a mask you might approach them and offer solutions as to where they might acquire one.
Accountability for these standards is supported through the Community Care Team (CCT). The CCT is a highly collaborative group of students and employees, chaired by Dean Wendy Maragh Taylor of Student Growth and Engagement and with organizational support from Sarah Garijo-Garde ’20, Community Care Program Associate. Members of the CCT receive training in bystander intervention, restorative practices, and unconscious bias work. Members of the CCT meet with individuals who have been identified as potentially causing harm to the community to engage in a restorative conversation. All actions taken by the CCT are non-punitive in nature, and we offer coaching to those who are willing to “carefront” their peers or colleagues. The CCT also collaborates with campus partners such as Safety and Security, Student Conduct, and the COVID-19 Threat Assessment Team (CTAT).
If you notice instances of COVID-19-related harm being done to the community, please reach out to the CCT by filling out this form. Please note that the CCT is not an emergency response service. In particular instances that involve time-sensitive or emergent concerns, it may be appropriate to call the Campus Response Center (845) 437-5221) prior to or in addition to filling out a Community Care Assist form. Please also contact Safety & Security (CRC) at (845) 437-5221 for matters involving immediate harm or danger, especially if these situations include large gatherings where there may be impaired judgement, which could put the community at greater risk. As per the College’s standard process, Safety & Security may refer students to Student Conduct if they respond to an incident that had College violations. Students are also encouraged to maintain accountability among their peers. Resources such as the Community Care Resource Center on Moodle and CCT coaching on “carefronting” are available to support this expectation.
Adherence to community standards is expected to be taken seriously by all members of the campus. If a student continues to interfere with the living and learning environment of others or their behavior is egregious in causing harm to the community, they might be referred to Student Conduct. Egregious violations of student expectations and COVID-19 protocols will be investigated promptly by the COVID-19 Threat Assessment Team (CTAT) and may result in the immediate removal from campus housing, and students may be denied access to the College’s facilities. The CTAT will assess the level of risk to self and others, and this may result in a student being sent home and invited to study remotely, depending upon the severity of the risk (i.e., hosting an event that was not sanctioned by the College or an activity not in compliance with our community COVID-19 safety standards).
Similarly, employees who repeatedly violate safety expectations and policy directives are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination. Failure to follow these directives is insubordination. The CCT refers those cases to Human Resources and the senior officer of that area for further consideration.
Teaching and Learning
Because of the ongoing pandemic, the faculty approved a revised calendar for the Spring 2021 Semester. The entire calendar is located on Academic Calendar webpage. Key dates include:
- Classes begin on February 17, and will meet in person for those students and faculty who are on campus.
- A shortened, campus-based, mid-semester recess is scheduled from March 31 through April 4, instead of the usually longer spring break.
- There will be one Community Care Day without classes or scheduled meetings on Monday, May 3.
- The final day of classes is Monday, May 24.
- Study period will run from May 25–27.
- Final examinations will run from May 28–June 1
- The 157th Commencement will be on Sunday, June 6.
Guiding Principles for Fall 2020
Since 1865, Vassar faculty have worked together in support of the innovative and high-quality teaching and learning experiences that are the core of Vassar’s educational mission. While COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected our lives and will continue to do so, we also recognize that a legacy of racism “continues to manifest daily in acts that range from the micro to the horrific.”  We are mindful that our students are being asked to learn in conditions that make it difficult to succeed without support and care, and thus our teaching needs to be intentional and oriented toward building and sustaining community, trust, and a culture of mutual care. We are proud of the way we overcame the challenges of the Fall Semester, and of the way we came together as a community to learn, study, and care. We succeeded in our goals to be present, productive, inclusive, innovative, and ethically engaged. We will come together once again in the spring, having learned from the fall, confident that we will continue even more successfully.
As before, some faculty members will opt to teach their courses entirely online this spring. Likewise, travel restrictions, chronic illnesses, the need to self-quarantine, or the restrictions on the number of individuals who can be present at one time in any given classroom mean that not all students will be physically on campus or able to attend all classes in person. As a result, all Spring 2021 classes will necessarily be drawing upon remote and hybrid modes of teaching and learning at different times and in varying degrees.
We will continue following the set of guiding pedagogical principles we undertook for the Fall Semester. Many of the guiding principles overlap. Efforts undertaken in one area, such as using accessible design principles, also support the realization of other principles, such as building community, promoting student participation, and making our pedagogy more inclusive and responsive. Similarly, articulating learning goals and building efficient and effective forms of faculty presence and engagement not only support student learning but also facilitate faculty self-care.
The Fall 2020 conditions of teaching and learning were not easy. Nevertheless, the faculty embraced the challenge as an opportunity to develop practices and sensibilities that improved teaching and learning in any setting. In the fall, the faculty demonstrated the value of a liberal arts education by engaging students in the rich, personalized, robust, relevant, responsive, and creative learning that is the hallmark of a Vassar education. With restrictions on physical presence in the classroom still in place for the Spring 2021 Semester, we will continue to encourage self-guided learning to empower students to achieve academic success.
1 From Edward J. Maloney and Joshua Kim, “How Can we Talk about the Fall Right Now?” Inside Higher Ed, May 31, 2020. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/learning-innovation/how-can-we-talk-about-fall-right-now
Finally, we encourage faculty and students to embrace a spirit of experimentation, which is to say a willingness to try, reflect, revise, try again. Finding ways to engage students in this process not only ensures a more positive experience for all, but also helps us all to understand what it means to participate in a learning community at this moment.
Below is a brief overview of the principles that guided us through the fall and will continue to guide us through the spring.
- Inclusive, accessible, and responsive teaching and learning: Faculty will use inclusive pedagogies that value difference, foster a culture of access, and respond to issues of systemic racism, our public health crisis, and other barriers to learning and education. Mindful of students with varied abilities, learning styles, and situations, faculty will develop their in-class and online materials and assignments and have access to tools and technology that they need to teach their classes in a pedagogically appropriate manner.
- Student engagement and community building. . Faculty will intentionally structure student-to-student interactions that foster a learning community, both online and in person. Faculty will maintain scheduled class times for all synchronous teaching to minimize time conflicts with students’ other classes. Faculty will use courses as a basis of support, reinforcing a sense that we are all in this together.
- Faculty presence and engagement. A key component of a Vassar education is close faculty-student interaction in the classroom and the opportunity for students to meet with faculty outside of class. Faculty will continue to create opportunities for such engagements. Faculty will provide regular feedback on student work. Vassar’s regular grading policy will continue to be in effect for the Spring 2021 Semester, with extended deadlines for electing NRO and initiating WD.
- Self-care. Because these new conditions for teaching and learning are disruptive of traditional practices and require a variety of intellectual and pedagogical risks, faculty should commit to integrating practices of self-care.
Faculty Support and Preparation
Due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, some students will be in-person and some will be remote (either synchronously or asynchronously), or a fully online model may be necessary for certain courses.
We learned much from the Fall Semester—that learning experiences can be more accessible and more flexible, and faculty and students can explore new approaches to teaching and learning together.
In planning for the Spring 2021 Semester, we continue to seek to provide a classroom experience that prioritizes the health and safety of all members of the community, in what continues to be a highly uncertain and evolving environment. We recognize that all classes may have remote participants at some time during the semester, and that our faculty will be teaching in new ways, which will change classroom needs and design.
In response to public health conditions and New York State guidelines, our classrooms are configured to minimize density and to follow social distancing requirements, so that students and faculty maintain six feet of distance apart. As a result, classroom capacity continues to be 20% to 50% of normal capacity, depending on the specific size, shape, and furniture in each room.
We will continue to supplement traditional classrooms by using conference rooms, assembly spaces, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and outdoor tent classrooms as the weather permits.
Faculty and students will continue to gather for classes using a combination of in-person and remote instruction. Some examples of how the classroom experiences reflected these new limits in the fall and continuing into the spring are:
- Some students learn from a remote location (self-quarantine, remain home, international students) while others are in-person
- Large lecture is recorded with regularly scheduled class time used for small group work (a version of a “flipped classroom”)
- Half of the students are remote and half are in-person, alternating each class session, to reduce occupancy in classrooms
Many classrooms were outfitted with new technology to support remote learning/teaching and online pedagogy, including: microphones and high-definition video cameras to allow for both in-person and synchronous remote teaching/learning; support for asynchronous learning activities made possible through recorded lessons/classes. Improvements made during the fall will be in place for the Spring Semester.
The Vassar Libraries will continue their vital role in academic life at Vassar. In addition to the robust remote resources available at library.vassar.edu, the libraries will provide circulation services (check-out of books), course-reserved materials for online use, and research support for students and faculty, primarily through scheduled online meetings. Librarians are available to provide online instruction through Zoom, the creation of research guides or brief videos, or other methods as appropriate. We encourage faculty to contact liaison librarians to discuss resources available for their courses, as well as other ways that the libraries can support student research and coursework.
In addition, library facilities will continue to be accessible for students, with furniture reconfigured to facilitate social distancing. Students will be expected to follow mask-wearing protocols and six-foot social distancing guidelines when working in the libraries. Physical access to the libraries will follow a phased access approach, with limited hours in the early weeks of the semester, extending to longer hours if health conditions permit. The libraries will not be open to the public in Spring 2021; entrance to the libraries will be by card access only. TThe library is open until midnight Sunday through Thursday night and until 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Students and faculty are encouraged to visit library.vassar.edu/spring21 for information on changes to library services as well as options for supporting hybrid teaching and learning using the libraries’ resources.
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.
Students, Student Organizations, and Campus Programming
- Programming will include a hybrid of appropriate in-person and virtual programming to ensure that students and community members who are unable to return to campus can still participate in these endeavors.
- Students should utilize communal spaces responsibly and safely. Affinity spaces and community gathering areas will remain open (including house parlors and MPRs), as well as large gathering spaces (such as the Villard Room). Students are expected to abide by health and safety guidelines set forth by the College and relevant governmental authorities and respect the occupancy limits.
- Spaces will be used equitably. This includes spaces that are typically designated for a specific activity or group of students. The College will also work to create “flex” spaces to serve as casual and informal gathering spaces. For example, when not in use, the Villard Room might double as a gathering space with socially distant seating.
- Virtual Student Activities Resource Center (eSARC) will facilitate and support both virtual and in-person student events. Students will have access to host and attend virtual gatherings via Zoom. VSA student organizations will be able to acquire a license for individual Zoom webinars or panels through the eSARC event approval process.
- VSA/Student Activities: Registered and VSA-approved student activities of 10 people or less can begin (indoors) on February 17, if health conditions permit and College and governmental authorities allow. Event sponsors must follow policies and procedures for staffing support, social distancing, PPE, personal hygiene, and cleaning measures.
- The College will create formal channels for students to interact remotely and on a limited in-person basis with the Poughkeepsie community, including but not limited to Poughkeepsie restaurants and businesses (e.g., community vendors). Students may not leave campus; however, off-campus trips that involve minimal possibility of COVID-19 exposure and are supervised by a faculty member as part of a class for academic credit may be permitted, pending pre-approval by the Dean of Faculty Office. If there is an urgent need to be off-campus, please contact Director of Case Management Erika Pappas (firstname.lastname@example.org). Students may be required to self-quarantine and/or be tested upon their return to campus.
- In-person meetings, gatherings, and events will be permitted if they are aligned with College and county guidelines beginning on February 17, 2021.
- EMS room reservation system: Departments and student organizations will host/advertise their virtual events on the Campus Calendar using our virtual rooms. Please see “Reserving Space on Campus.”
- Masks, six feet of social distance, personal hygiene, cleaning between meetings, and following the capacity limits for each meeting room will be required for all gatherings.
- The Chapel is open weekday mornings for individuals only (no reservation necessary). To reserve the Chapel for events with 10 or fewer people, the event must be approved by the Office of Campus Activities and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices. Masks must be worn at all times.
- Only individually pre-packaged food is permitted at any gathering. Catering may be coordinated later in the semester through the CAO and as guidelines allow.
- We are not accepting requests for use of facilities by off-campus groups during the Spring Semester.
The rooms and spaces of the College Center including the MPR (if not used as a classroom) the Old Book Store (basement of College Center), the Villard Room, and the Rose Parlor will be open until midnight daily for informal socializing for students. As is true in all indoor spaces, masks and social distancing are required at all times (unless only your pod is occupying the space). Do not exceed the posted COVID-19 room capacity in any space. Doors and windows must remain open where possible, and food is not permitted.
Affinity Spaces such as the ALANA Center, LGBTQ Center, Women’s Center, International Student Services, and the Veteran’s Lounge will be open until 8:00 p.m., Monday–Friday. Please check in with the respective centers for slight variations based on staffing. Some centers use Google forms for reservations.
- The North Atrium will serve as the primary entrance area to the College Center.
- All seating areas in the College Center have been temporarily removed to limit density.
- The SARC office will be a virtual work space for the duration of the Spring 2021 Semester.
- CIS Help Desk will be open during regular business hours. Traffic flows from east to west with floor decals and a queuing system for entering.
- Post Office will be open during normal business hours. Traffic flows from west to east with stanchions and floor decals.
- Palmer Gallery will be closed for exhibitions for the Spring Semester and will continue serving as an auxiliary space for the College store.
- All seating areas in the College Center have been temporarily removed to limit density.
- Lost and Found: Items turned into the Information Desk will be posted virtually at VC Lost and Found. Members of the College community can submit a claim with a description of the lost item, and/or browse through the online catalog of items.
- The Retreat will be open for food service for students and employees. There will be a one-way entrance with check-in, floor decals for social distancing, and a one-way exit at the cash register.
- Seating areas adjacent to the Retreat will be adjusted for social distancing and limited to one chair per table.
Returning to dining operations during and after the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be as simple as a setting a date and carrying on business as usual. Not only will our operations be altered initially, some changes may be long term.
These plans were developed with guidance from the CDC, the NYS Department of Health’s “Interim Guidance for Food Services During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency,” Bon Appetit Management Company, and local authorities. The plans are especially sensitive to the following concerns:
- Physical distancing worries
- Avoiding heavily populated marketplaces and seating areas
- Avoiding shared condiments (ketchup, hot sauce, milk for coffee)
- Guests looking for more packaged and prepared foods
- Avoiding self-serve food
The second and third floors of Gordon Commons will be open for indoor dining beginning Thursday, February 25. Students must dine either alone or with members of your pod at the table, and occupancy will be set for 25% capacity at all times. To schedule a time to eat in Gordon Commons, use your Vassar app.
Students may not eat indoors in any public room with other students, other than within Gordon Commons where health and safety measures are in place. Indoor dining is a high-risk activity, and we want to minimize such risks.
To reserve seating in Gordon Commons, simply go to Vassar mobile app and tap dining. If you are unable to use your mobile phone, you can visit go.vassar.edu/gordoncommons from any browser. You will not be required to log in to make a reservation. Inside, spaces where you can sit are marked off and traffic flow will be carefully controlled for health and safety. Because density will be restricted, grab-and-go will continue to be an important option.
- All food will be taken out in containers until indoor dining is available:
- Hot food served into containers
- Cold food prepackaged
- Bottled beverages available at open food platforms
- Prepackaged service ware and individual condiments will be available
- Diners should be mindful of stanchions and directional floor decals throughout all dining locations to help minimize bi-directional foot traffic. These will direct students on how to enter and exit dining locations.
- Masks/face coverings will be required at all times in all dining locations.
- Students will be required to maintain six feet of distance whenever possible and especially when you are in line to pick up your grab-and-go meal.
- Students should also make sure to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before eating.
- Cashier stations will be equipped with appropriate plexiglass guards to protect employees and students.
- Signage will be provided in all dining locations to ensure that employees and students are maintaining the appropriate six feet of distance from others.
- Menus of daily food options will be made available online, via the Vassar App, in the vestibule, the lobby, and at food platforms.
- The Retreat will be open for food service for students and employees. There will be one-way entrance with check-in, floor decals for social distancing, and a one-way exit at the cash register.
- Seating areas adjacent to the Retreat area will be adjusted for social distance and will be limited to one chair and table per person.
Hours of Operation
Gordon Commons — accepted tenders: meal swipe only
- Monday–Friday, 7:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
- Saturday, 8:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m. & Sunday, 9:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Street Eats — accepted tenders: meal swipe equivalency, credit/debit, and VCash
- Monday–Thursday, 5:00–9:00 p.m. (in front of the College Center)
The Retreat – accepted tenders: meal swipe equivalency, credit/debit, and VCash
- Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
The Bridge Café — accepted tenders: meal swipe equivalency, credit/debit, and VCash
- Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
The Pop-Up Market at the Express — accepted tenders: Market Buck$, credit/debit, and VCash only
- Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m.
- Offering menus that are made from scratch using the freshest ingredients at the Grill, Deli/Kettle, Oasis, Home/Root, Brick, Kosher, Global, Coffee & Sweets (prepackaged), and Farmers (prepackaged)
- Street Eats—serving a variety of hot and cold entrees in a pick 4 program.
- Open-air coolers with freshly prepared cold prepackaged foods, beverages, sides, freshly baked pastries, and whole fruit.
- Open-air coolers with freshly prepared cold prepackaged foods, beverages, sides, freshly baked pastries, and whole fruit.
- Weekly specials for the Bowl—please check the dining website using the Vassar App.
Pop-Up Market at the Express
- Visit the Market to select from an assortment of grocery items, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, eggs, dairy products, and much more to bring back to your residence.
- The number of students allowed in the operation(s) will be determined by CDC, state, and local guidelines. This will not include dining staff as per the NYS guidelines.
- Managers will help monitor counts through the reservation system, POS, and being mindful of designated entrances and exits.
Dining staff and management will be trained in appropriate COVID-19 and College protocols prior to opening. These trainings and planning will include:
- Pandemic and COVID-19 training (social distancing, service style, proper use of PPE, personal hygiene, handwashing)
- Food safety during COVID-19
- Safety and sanitation in the workplace
- Food allergens & celiac disease
- Hazard communication
Like other employees at the College, dining staff and management will be required to complete a pre-shift health screening questionnaire, wear appropriate PPE (masks, face coverings, gloves, shields, etc.), and maintain six feet of social distancing whenever possible.
Physical Education and Recreation
Physical Education Classes
All physical education classes that require off-campus activities will be cancelled. All other courses will be offered with enrollment levels to be reduced as necessary based on physical distancing requirements within available athletic facilities.
Athletic Facility and General Recreation Usage by Campus Community
Use of the Athletics and Fitness Center and other athletic facilities on campus is governed by health and safety protocols in accordance with and subject to continuing approval from New York State and/or Dutchess County. All activity in the Athletics and Fitness Center, Walker Field House, Kresge Pool, and Kenyon Hall must be pre-scheduled, by appointment only. Drop-in workouts will not be permitted and access to locker rooms will only be provided for individuals utilizing the pool.
Athletic facilities will be closed to students between February 1 and the start of classes on February 17 to ensure all students complete their return to campus testing protocol.
The Department of Athletics and Physical Education is utilizing IM Leagues for all reservations of activities, which are subject to change throughout the year. Offerings for the Spring Semester will include: basketball (shooting only, not pick-up), badminton, the Fitness Center, indoor track, tennis, table tennis, squash (individual), and open swimming.
Campus members wishing to book a reservation spot for these offerings can access the appropriate information, including area protocols and available times, at https://www.imleagues.com/
As the semester progresses and as conditions permit, the department will explore opportunities to permit student pods to sign up for recreational activities together.
Questions regarding IM Leagues and/or inquiries about recreation opportunities can be directed to Mike Callahan, Assistant Director of Athletics for Sports and Recreation at email@example.com or at 845-437-7471.
Life Fitness Classes and Intramurals
Life Fitness classes and intramurals will both be offered in the Spring Semester upon return to campus. You must pre-register to participate in any activity. All information and offerings will be available at imleagues.com/Vassar/Registration. Additionally, individuals can download the IMLeagues iOS or Android app for all updates and information on Vassar’s Life Fitness classes and Intramural Sport offerings.
Participation in in-person Life Fitness classes and intramurals is governed by health and safety protocols in accordance with and subject to continuing approval from New York State and/or Dutchess County. Also, when possible, Life Fitness classes will be offered online.
Use of athletic facilities and participation in Life Fitness classes, intramurals, and general recreation are typically shared activities that bring together students, faculty, staff, administrators, emeriti, and family of employees in the same physical location. This sharing of space among different segments of the College community represents increased risk as well as a potential source of anxiety for different subsets of our community. In light of these concerns, schedules/appointments will be adjusted as necessary to provide opportunities for individuals to opt in or opt out of activities that include a cross-section of different campus populations.
The county health department may advise the College to shut down during the semester if there is a surge of positive COVID-19 cases in the local community or on our campus. In the event that the College is unable to control the spread of COVID-19, the College will collaborate with the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health (DBCH) to consider a variety of mitigation strategies that can help contain the spread of the virus on campus or, if needed, to close the College.
Mitigation strategies could include some combination of the following:
- Requiring self-quarantine for an entire residential house or part of campus
- Having a class or athletics team self-quarantine
- Cancelling some or all in-person classes and gatherings
- Limiting access to campus only to those with a Vassar ID
- Requiring some or all non-essential employees to work from home
- Increased Community Care testing
- Re-implementing grab-and-go takeout food options in dining
- Closing some or all academic buildings
Currently, isolation and self-quarantine remain among the most effective responses to helping slow the spread of COVID-19. Per CDC guidance, students who are sick or who may have been exposed are advised to isolate and self-quarantine and avoid travelling. Given this, our campus would be the best place for a student to complete their period of isolation or self-quarantine if they have tested positive or have been exposed to disease.
In the event of a shutdown, students who are not sick and who have not been exposed would be advised to leave campus. In order to minimize campus density and control the spread of disease, the College will use the following phased approach for emptying the campus:
- Students will be limited to no more than one guest to help them move out.
- Students with permanent residences within 3 hours of driving distance will leave first within the first days after the announcement.
- Students with permanent residences within 6 hours of driving distance will leave within the next few days after.
- Students taking domestic flights will have the opportunity to leave any time within the week after the announcement.
- Students taking international flights will also have a week from the announcement and may seek flexibility after that as needed and dependent on conditions at the College and in their countries of origin.
- Students who are unable to return home or for whom it is unsafe to do so may be allowed to remain on campus if it is safe to do so.
In the event that the College is required to shut down, classes may be cancelled for a short period of time before resuming remotely.