Fall 2021 Campus Experience
Following up on a successful ’20–’21 school year in navigating the pandemic and providing a high-quality, in-person learning experience for students, we are looking forward to the new academic year.
The College is instituting a universal COVID-19 vaccine policy. This means all students, faculty, and employees will be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have a medical or religious exemption. Universal vaccination is the most effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19, and this universal vaccine policy will bring the vaccination rate in the college community to nearly 100 percent.
The science at the moment tells us that the vaccines work really well at preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that, for highly vaccinated institutions of higher education, vaccinated individuals may be indoors without masks. Our vaccination policy has created for us at Vassar a very safe environment in which to teach, meet and gather together, with close to 100% vaccination for the Fall semester.
Vassar is committed to keeping the campus safe and healthy for everyone this coming academic year, and the universal vaccine policy will help us do so. Vassar has reviewed the latest CDC guidance and given the campus’ high vaccination rate, below are the current protocols for campus.
**Please note that the protocols may change if the CDC or public health guidance from New York State is updated.
Everyone must mask indoors, unless alone in a private space, in their rooms with their roommates or in bathrooms, while seated and eating (e.g., in Gordon Commons, Retreat), or while undertaking strenuous exercise (e.g., during athletic or intramural practices).
Students in dormitories who are vaccinated may be in groups of up to 15 people without masks while stationary if all students in the group are in agreement about unmasking. If moving around or singing together inside, all students must be masked.
Indoor masking requirements are a bit more relaxed in the following instances:
- Vaccinated speakers invited to campus to give a lecture may unmask to give their lecture as long as they remain six feet or more away from the audience. All members of the audience must continue to wear masks.
- Vaccinated faculty, students, or invited guests in class who are giving a presentation or lecture may remove their mask while they present as long as they remain six feet away from everyone else in the class. Otherwise, all must continue to mask in classes.
- Vaccinated employees, including faculty, may unmask indoors with other employees in groups of 15 or less, as long as everyone in the group agrees.
- Vaccinated students when inside their residences and dormitories may unmask in groups of 15 or less, as long as everyone in the group agrees.
- Other than in the instances of points 1 and 2 above, in groups of any size indoors that include both non-employee students and employees including faculty, masks continue to be required regardless of vaccination status.
We will continue to require masks (other than for the presenter/lecturer who is vaccinated and remains six feet away) for all students and faculty in classes.
Vaccinated non-student employees may remove masks in gatherings of up to 15 people, if all in the group are in agreement about unmasking. Employees who have filed with Human Resources (HR) for vaccine exemptions must continue to mask indoors at all times. This is consistent with the NY HERO Act, now activated by the Governor of New York State.
This decision is consistent with the Public Health Alert published by the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health and guidelines required by the NY HERO Act.
Offices that need masks to keep on hand, may request them by submitting a ticket to Facilities.
Visitors are allowed on campus; however, residence halls and campus buildings other than the Library, Francis Lehman Loeb Art Center, and the administrative areas of Main are on card swipe access and are only open to invited guests on a limited basis. Invited guests must mask indoors regardless of vaccination status. All visitors on admission tours must have proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. All overnight guests must fill out the overnight guest registration form and have proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours of the visit.
Invited events are allowed, with the following guidance:
- For all events (indoor or outdoor), the host must make clear in the invitation that vaccination or evidence of a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within three days of the event or negative rapid antigen test the day of the event is required for speakers and the audience.
- Events should be hosted outdoors whenever possible, and masks are not required for outdoor events.
Events hosted indoors should be limited to the seating capacity of the room, and masks are required for everyone at all times except when eating a meal. Guests may remove masks only when seated for a meal.
Touchless deliveries will be allowed on Campus. Businesses must provide touchless delivery methods, wear a protective mask, and not enter campus buildings unless approved by Campus Activities (e.g., Tasty Tuesdays).
Students in Off-Campus Housing
Students living in off-campus housing continue to have meals through the campus dining plan and must abide by the same community standards as those students living on campus.
The Office of Residential Life continues to work on the party registration process with a goal of permitting registration beginning the weekend of September 24th. Dean Inoa will email students this information by Friday, September 17th, which will also include general guidelines and reminders about how to safely gather in the apartment areas.
We have both indoor dining and Grab-n-Go options during the initial three weeks of the semester and will adapt this practice based on conditions at the time. Students and employees may remove their masks when seated and eating; please mask when moving around Gordon Commons or the Retreat. Grab and go options will be available in the Retreat, Express, meals to go (beginning Sept 4th), and at the food truck.
A Vassar ID is required for anyone choosing to dine at Gordon Commons. Some exceptions will be provided for Vassar-sponsored programs where participants have provided proof of being vaccinated.
October and Thanksgiving Breaks and Off-Campus Travel
We will continue to monitor epidemiological trends and decisions regarding testing requirements related to these breaks will be forthcoming. We strongly encourage students to limit non-College sponsored off-campus travel as much as possible and to be tested when they return. Students should also continue to mask indoors when they leave the Vassar campus.
All students must arrive with a negative pre-arrival test done within 72 hours of arrival and will be tested between days 4-7 after arrival. This is consistent with public health recommendations for a two-phase entry testing at the start of the academic year.
Unvaccinated students will be tested twice weekly throughout the semester. Students with symptoms will be tested. Students may request a test from Health Services at any time if they suspect they may have been exposed. Employees who are unvaccinated and working in student-facing functions are encouraged to be tested regularly.
Westchester Medical Center will set up testing at the Aula twice per week (Tuesdays and Fridays 1-5pm), beginning September 24. This testing (which is by appointment or walk in) will be available for students and employees, including faculty, who are contacted by Health Services and recommended for testing. In addition, the Aula is available for students and employees, including faculty who wish to be tested optionally. Please note that the CDC does not recommend routine testing for asymptomatic, fully vaccinated people. Please see this FAQ for information on contact tracing and how to access testing on campus.
Students who are symptomatic or who are unvaccinated close contacts should continue to test through Health Services by calling 845-437-5800.
Daily Health Attestation
Unvaccinated students and as required by the NY HERO Act, employees, will complete a daily health attestation. Anyone with symptoms will be tested and should stay home until they have a negative COVID-19 test result or are cleared by Health Services.
Isolation and Self-Quarantine
Students testing positive (regardless of vaccination status) will be isolated in designated areas on campus or in a nearby hotel. Students who need to isolate or self-quarantine will be provided a daily allowance for food through Grub Hub. Additionally, the College will provide medical coverage at the hotel as well as a concierge service to help with any student needs.
Contact tracing will be undertaken immediately by members of the Vassar College Health Service. Any unvaccinated or vaccinated and symptomatic close contacts with exposure per the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) will be tested and will self-quarantine in the nearby hotel. Vaccinated close contacts who are asymptomatic will be tested within 3-5 days of exposure and need to wear a mask in indoor settings for fourteen days or until they receive a negative test.
For more information, please visit our Contact Tracing FAQ.
If we have 100 or more active COVID-19 cases among students, we will discuss other options, including remote learning, for campus. In the event that the College cannot control the prevalence of COVID-19 on campus, the College will collaborate with the Dutchess County Health Department to protect the health and safety of students and employees.
Most buildings will remain closed to the public and will be Vassar ID swipe accessible.
The Library will be open to the public during work hours and will be swipe accessible in evenings and on weekends. Main (floors 1 and 2), College Center, and Gordon Commons will be open to the public during work hours and will be swipe accessible in evenings and on weekends.
In general, we will have larger gatherings outdoors when possible. All audience members will continue to mask during any large indoor gatherings per the college’s current masking policy. The size of indoor gatherings will be restricted to the posted seating capacity.
When these are recommended and available, we will facilitate students obtaining vaccination boosters for COVID-19.