Spring semester plans replicate fall protocols with new modifications

The following is a developing story. Check back for updates.

After weeks of deliberation, Vassar has announced its plans for the upcoming Spring semester.

Arrival and the remaining semester will look much like it did in the fall, albeit with some changes, such as a break period. The College will begin a staggered move-in schedule between Feb. 3 and 5, continuing for two weeks as students get tested and self-quarantine. Some approved students may arrive before Feb 3. Classes begin Feb. 17. Move-in dates will be released by the end of November.

“The College tried to balance the public health concerns with what we heard students most wanted,” said President Elizabeth Bradley in an emailed statement. “The result is we are delaying a few weeks, but we will start on campus rather than remotely because students told us they did not want to start remotely.”

Students must present evidence of a negative FDA-authorized COVID-19 test to Health Service, taken within seven days prior to their arrival. Those arriving from states on New York’s travel advisory list will be subject to a COVID-19 monitoring period per the state’s guidelines during the campus’ collective quarantine. All other campus guidelines from the fall apply, including social distancing, remaining on campus, curbside delivery only and interval testing.

Classes will stretch to May 24, with study period running between May 25 and 27. Final exams end on June 1. Commencement is to follow on June 6, with a decision on the feasibility of an in-person event based on state guidance to come. All parts of the plan, including campus phases, are subject to change according to local, state and federal directives.

The College had previously presented four possible plans. Plan A entailed students returning in late January and potentially beginning some classes exclusively on Zoom until warmer weather arrived. Plan B included students studying remotely until the end of February, with in-person classes running through early March to May. Plan C would have had students move in mid-to late-February, with classes starting in-person March 1. Graduation would have taken place by mid-June. A fourth plan entailed a mid-February move-in launch, classes starting late-February and then concluding in time for graduation on May 31.

After discussion and feedback among the VassarTogether committee, students, faculty, administrators and staff, and a faculty vote per Vassar’s Governance rules, the new plan balances concerns about cold weather and outdoor classes, mental health and summer opportunities.

“The later start date was selected in order to minimize the effect of the colder weather on our strategy of holding outdoor classes, as well as our sensitivity to the mental health effects of losing the outdoors as a resource during the coldest months,” a Friday statement from President Elizabeth Bradley reads. “We balanced that consideration, however, with the need to consider student and faculty plans for the summer, particularly internships, summer jobs, and faculty research.”

The inclusion of a shortened, on-campus spring break responds to student feedback on strained mental health and burnout without an October Break. “We hope that having a time period free of classes will support students in the upcoming semester.”

While the new plan doesn’t attend to all concerns and circumstances among the student body, Bradley expressed that it is meant to prioritize student and community safety. “The calendar may not satisfy every request, but given that we are in a pandemic, this calendar is the one the faculty thought was the most appropriate,” she said.

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