It is after much deliberation that I and the senior team—with input from faculty, students, administrators, staff, and alumnae/i—have come to the following difficult decisions about how to proceed at Vassar, given the COVID-19 pandemic we are facing. We know that circumstances may change, and we will continue to provide updates.
Therefore, effective March 23 through April 10, Vassar will move all classes online for distance learning, and where possible, employees will be able to work remotely. These efforts are being taken with the goal of reducing the probability of spreading COVID-19 on campus. After this three-week period, we hope to return to regular classroom-based learning again; however, we cannot predict the path of the pandemic, and we will reevaluate this decision by April 6.
Additionally, last night the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention designated continental Europe a Level 3 area. Consistent with our travel policy, we are working to bring all Vassar students currently studying there back to the United States.
Throughout our discussions, we took account of the variety of suggestions expressed by students and parents and we focused on our commitment to provide excellent higher education and, at the same time, mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the related health risks that it poses to members of our community. We sought an approach that was consistent with our values, which include protecting all members of our community, with particular attention to those who are most vulnerable and may experience health, financial, or other hardships.
Students are expected to delay their return to campus and participate in distance learning from their off-campus locations; however, students who are registered to be on campus during Spring break may stay on campus if they choose to and participate in distance learning from their campus location. If being off-campus presents a significant financial or other hardship, students may make a Request to Reside on Campus through the Office of the Dean of the College (see form here). The Request to Reside on Campus is due by Saturday, March 14 at midnight EST, and students will be told whether the request has been approved by end of day on Monday, March 16. An email from Dean Alamo will follow this communication with specific references to the institutional support resources available to students through the Dean of the College area including guidance about personal belongings.
● Distance Learning: Our faculty are dedicated to pursuing Vassar’s educational standards during this difficult time. Faculty are working on additional details about their courses, including how course materials will be made available, and more updates from the Dean of the Faculty will be forthcoming.
● Graduation: We are committed to making certain all seniors who complete their coursework graduate on time. Our deans and our faculty will work with students on individual plans as needed to accomplish this.
● Tuition and Room and Board: Vassar will credit what a student would have paid for room and board during the time that the student is not able to be on campus. Vassar will not be refunding tuition, as our classes will continue.
● Employees: Beginning March 23, a temporary “Telework” program will be available for those employees whose roles and responsibilities allow for working from off-campus. We are also working on temporary changes to the college’s leave policies to support employees with higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. In the coming days, Human Resources will communicate with employees about how to participate in these programs.
● Athletics: Following their spring break travel schedules, we are suspending all regular season winter and spring-sport competitions until April 10th. This includes competitions for the following teams: baseball, men’s volleyball, men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s rowing, men’s and women’s rugby, women’s golf, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s track and field. Student-athletes on these teams will be permitted to return to campus should they opt to do so to continue practice activity in the hope of resuming games on April 10th. This college will re-evaluate this decision by April 6.
● Student Employment: We are exploring ways to provide alternatives to students who are off-campus during this time and who are therefore unable to perform their on-campus jobs.
● Special Circumstances: We have set aside resources for students who want to return home and who have significant financial hardship.
● Health, Mental Health, and Advocacy Services: All student counseling and support services including the Counseling Service, Health Promotion Education and Support, Advocacy, and Violence Prevention (SAVP) will continue to operate,although these departments may shift the way in which they deliver their services. The Vassar Health Service will be open and available for appointments or consultation.
● On-Campus Dining: For students on campus, Gordon Commons will reopen on Saturday March 21 at 11:00am, with all food served; no self-serve stations will be available during this time. Please refer to the dining website, dining.vassar.edu, for up-to-date hours and locations.
● On-Campus Events: In-person events are suspended until April 17; organizers may conduct them online (our Computing & Information Services team will be available to help). We are suspending all gatherings of more than 50 people, effective immediately.
● Other Facilities: The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, the Thompson Memorial Library, The Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve and the Wimpfheimer Nursery School will remain open.
● Admission Visits: We have suspended all admission-related campus visits and our Admitted Student Open House events. These cancellations include all daily campus tours, information sessions, and admitted student overnight visits.
The decision to reduce activity on campus was not an easy one to make; however, it was a measure that we took to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. At the same time, I am aware that living through times of uncertainty such as these can make us anxious about the future. We are not alone. Colleges and universities are working hard to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. I am comforted by the many communications I have received from students, parents, alumnae/i, and colleagues—who are ready to support our community and its mission through these challenges. Vassar is a courageous and fearlessly consequential community, and we will get through this.
Thank you for your support,
Elizabeth H. Bradley