In response to student criticism, Vassar College has reinstituted the COVID-19 dashboard, which will be updated with the number of positive student and employee cases every Thursday at noon.
“We will track the number of new and cumulative cases for students and employees,” President Elizabeth Bradley said in her Sunday email on Aug. 28. “Thank you for your continued engagement with our efforts to keep campus safe and healthy.”
Since the start of the 2020-21 academic year, the COVID-19 dashboard had provided daily updates to the number of new and historic cases for members of the College community to reference. Many students and employees ordered their pandemic-era precautions, such as masking and social distancing, around the severity of the campus caseload.
The administration had initially planned to discontinue updates to the dashboard, which it communicated in a series of emails over the summer, considering the state of the virus. Instead, Vassar originally planned to update the community about particular clusters or outbreaks as they arose. Many students criticized this decision.
Even with the return of the COVID-19 dashboard, students are still expressing concern for the loosening of isolation, testing and distancing protocols.
Melanie Burgess ’25 said she checks the COVID-19 dashboard case count every week. They said, “I think the new isolation policy is lazy and an excuse to spend less money.” According to Burgess, “Last year I tested positive for COVID and was sent to isolate in the hotel for 10 days. My roommate, however, did not test positive. This new policy basically just puts people at greater risk of actually contracting the virus.”
Burgess added that masking has also been a topic of discussion within the classroom. “Half of my classes have mandated masks and the others have not,” Burgess said. “My classes that require masks are in smaller rooms with a lot of people in them, and I would not feel safe in those classes if we did not have masks as we are all seated closely together.”
Even so, students are generally pleased with the decision to bring the dashboard back. “The decision to discontinue the dashboard felt premature considering the pandemic is not over,” said Charlie From ‘25. “It may be in its late stages, but nonetheless it’s more deadly and contagious than most common illnesses, and depriving students of a key source of information that was essential to their understanding of the pandemic on campus in earlier semesters was a misstep. I’m glad they brought it back….”
“I did pay attention to the dashboard, but not all the time,” said Miller Dauk ‘24. “Mostly around bigger events, holidays, or breaks. I’m glad they brought it back as it’s a useful tool for numerous reasons – especially for our immunocompromised friends.”
When asked about precautions amid the current caseload, they replied, “Most professors had mandated masks for the first two weeks, which I found to be a reasonable request. I noticed that some students within the first week didn’t adhere to professors’ concerns, and it confused me because not masking in this window after being asked seemed like a lack-of-respect thing. Their choice I suppose. After these two weeks I feel pretty comfortable on campus and in classes without masking.”
The Miscellany News reached out to the Vice President for Communications, Amanita Duga-Carroll, for insight into the College’s decision to resurrect the dashboard. “Students suggested that they would feel more comfortable if they had some sense of the number of cases on campus, and this seemed important particularly as we re-entered the fall semester,” she said in an email correspondence.
When asked if the current campus caseload matched the administration’s expectations, she added, “The caseload has been very much in line with what was expected.” According to the dashboard, as of Sept. 1, there have been 54 student cases since August 16—there had been 14 at the same time last year. However, the first weekly dashboard cycle published on the same day showed only six new cases, indicating a spike followed by a downward trend.