By the end of last spring, most of us were both exhausted and hopeful that the world had turned the corner from the pandemic. While huge progress has been made, particularly on our campus with regard to vaccines and the willingness to mask, prudence encourages us to remain vigilant and careful as we return to in-person activities. This continues to be a moment of dramatic inequality and reckoning across many indices with different implications for each of our lives. The conversations we undertake, in and out of class, with each other and our students; the grace and sensitivity we show; and the way we care for each other will inform the future and reverberate for many years. The health and safety of members of this community continues to guide our decision-making. Without naïveté but with the hope of new beginnings learning from our recent past, we begin again.
Welcome to a new academic year and another year to make a difference.
Important Facts in Preparation for the Fall Semester:
I write to provide an update on the College’s progress on vaccines and to share some reminders as we approach the start of the academic year. If you haven’t yet read President Smith’s message from Wednesday, I urge you to do so.
I am very pleased to share that our vaccination rate for faculty and staff members is more than 91%, and growing daily. Only a handful of individuals have been granted medical or religious exemptions, and, as you are all aware, those who are unwilling to share their vaccination status with us or who have refused to be vaccinated have been given the choice of resigning or taking a leave of absence. More than 94% of students are fully vaccinated. By October, we expect 99.5% to be fully vaccinated. The most significant defense against contracting the disease, and significant illness from it, is vaccination.
As a reminder, those of you who have been vaccinated are required to upload your vaccination card to MySwarthmore as confirmation of your status. This should be done immediately but no later than Sept. 17.
The very few faculty, staff, and students who have received a vaccine exemption will be required to test weekly. Vaccinated faculty members are not required to undergo testing but may obtain testing kits. More information on this is included below under the heading "Testing."
Faculty members are prohibited by College policy from demanding or even asking that students share vaccination status with them.
As we approach the beginning of classes, I’d also like to clarify the mask etiquette for classrooms and office spaces on campus.
Despite the large vaccination numbers on campus, with the evolving nature of the virus, we find ourselves again in a moment where masking provides an important layer of protection. Because of challenges with conducting critical in-person conversation and instruction while masked, we recognize that there may be certain pedagogical circumstances in which it is necessary for those attending or instructing classes to lower their masks when speaking; it is within College policy to allow for this temporary lowering of masks. In addition, fully vaccinated students and instructional staff members who are engaged in physical education, dance, music and theater may go without a mask during these classes. It is expected that masks will be repositioned over the nose and mouth when students and faculty are not actively speaking or after the specified exceptional activity. Language teaching may require clear masks so that faculty members can see mouths. We will continue to consult with our public health and infectious disease experts to determine whether this policy will remain in effect.
We affirm our commitment to returning to an in-person learning experience for our students and expect that classroom instruction will be conducted in person. However, we also recognize the flexibility that Zoom has given us and encourage instructional staff members to use this mode of engagement for secondary instructional activities, such as office hours, guest lectures, and department and program meetings. The expectation is that the primary instructional activities will continue to be delivered in person.
In this spirit, the Committee on Faculty Procedures has decided that faculty meetings will take place by Zoom through mid-October, and it will reevaluate whether to return to in-person meetings at that time.
- Office space: Please wear your mask as you enter the spaces of others. People may unmask at their own discretion while alone in their office.
- Public spaces: Please continue to mask in public spaces in all College buildings. You may unmask when in outdoor spaces on campus.
- Visitors/vendors/guests to campus: While we encourage faculty members to continue to invite guest speakers by Zoom this fall, visitors are allowed on campus. All vendors/volunteers/guest lecturers must be vaccinated and will be asked to complete a form indicating their vaccination status. Please review the vendor policy before inviting outside individuals to campus.
- Large-scale events: It is common to hold receptions and group gatherings at this time, including large staff meetings. At this point, we advise you to minimize the numbers of such gatherings indoors and to avoid serving food and beverages to encourage participants to remain masked.
- Off-campus classroom activities: Faculty members interested in engaging students in off-campus activities may continue to do so, so long as all health and safety protocols and College masking policies are followed.
Fully vaccinated faculty and staff members are not required to undergo weekly testing, though the College is making COVID-19 test kits available to anyone who wishes to take one. To pick up a test kit, please visit the Swarthmore College Post Office in Parrish Hall during normal operating hours. We encourage you to pick up test kits in the morning between 8:30 and 11 a.m. or in the afternoon between 2 and 3:45 p.m. to avoid the Post Office’s busiest times. If you are unable to pick up a test kit during normal business hours, you can get one after hours at the Department of Public Safety, located at Benjamin West House. Regardless of where you pick one up, you must have your OneCard to pick up a test kit. For more information, please visit the Faculty and Staff COVID-19 Testing Information page.
In the case of illness or a positive test
Faculty members are permitted to hold classes by Zoom in the event of their own illness or a positive COVID-19 test, though faculty are reminded to use their best discretion when making this call. Anyone who receives a positive COVID-19 must immediately notify the COVID-19 Employee Test Team (CETT) at CETT@swarthmore.edu and Terri Maguire in Human Resources at email@example.com so that the appropriate contact tracing may be initiated. Please review the College’s Faculty & Staff Contact Tracing, Quarantine, and Isolation policy.
Travel (domestic and international)
As the College resumes its academic activities, more sponsored travel opportunities will become available in the U.S. and abroad. As of July 1, the College has lifted restrictions on domestic travel. International travel for faculty or staff members within the provost’s portfolio must be preapproved by the provost. All College-supported requests to travel internationally will be reviewed by the International Travel Risk Committee, which will provide recommendations. Faculty and instructional staff members who seek permission to travel internationally for College-sponsored activities, including sabbatical research, must complete this request form.
Travelers are expected to make themselves aware of and abide by all state or local restrictions at their destination and upon return to campus, which may include quarantine and/or COVID-19 testing. Travelers must follow local directives regarding physical distancing, face coverings, and other health and safety precautions.
Personal protective equipment
Faculty and staff members who would like to have additional PPE, including masks, disinfecting wipes and sprays, or hand sanitizer may make the request according to the Central Purchasing/Distribution Program for Basic PPE Needs.
I understand that questions will arise as the situation evolves. We will continue to communicate regularly with as much timely notice as possible as we monitor the local, state, and federal regulations and stay in close contact with our infectious disease experts.
Together with you, I look forward to brighter moments ahead, and, at this moment, we look forward to welcoming students, staff, and faculty back to campus for the start of the academic year. If you have any remaining questions, please be in touch with the COVID-19 Planning Group by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.