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Planning for the Coming Academic Year

Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

Congratulations on the successful conclusion of this most unusual academic year! I am grateful for and inspired by your collective efforts to help us make our way through this tumultuous period, and I am thrilled to see indications that the worst of COVID-19 is behind us. Through our continued vigilance, I am hopeful that we will continue to keep the number of cases on campus low, and life will feel closer to normal before long.

I write now to share with you a number of updates as we move into the summer and look toward the new academic year. As we continue to plan for the year ahead, we will ensure that our work supports the College’s mission while taking into account concerns and observations you’ve shared with us throughout this period of modified operations, including through the check-in survey that staff members responded to last December. Our planning will continue to be guided by the principles that have informed our thinking throughout the pandemic:

  • We will hold paramount the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff members
  • We will continue to deliver to our students the highly engaged, intellectually enriching educational experience that is foundational to all that we as a College do.
  • We will make decisions about College finances and operations with empathy, compassion, and humanity and work to maintain operational continuity and retain employees to the greatest extent possible.

Returning to Work on Campus

Our Return to Campus Work Committee has been providing guidance to senior staff that will inform our approach to returning staff members to campus before the start of the 2021–22 academic year. Please note that this information pertains to staff members only. Provost and Dean of the Faculty Sarah Willie-LeBreton will share a separate process for faculty and instructional staff in the days ahead.

We anticipate that most offices and departments will return to some form of on-campus work before the start of the fall term. For now, those of you working remote and hybrid schedules should continue to do so. We plan to share more details within the next few weeks. In the meantime, I hope this overview will help with your own planning efforts:

  • We will begin a phased return to campus on July 26, prioritizing offices/departments that are needed on campus to prepare for the start of the semester.
  • We will continue to return employees to campus through Aug. 16
  • Staff members will receive more detailed information from their managers about their specific return-to-campus date by Friday, June 25.

Remote or Hybrid Work

Some areas of the College have been able to work in a hybrid and/or remote fashion while maintaining or even increasing efficiency and effectiveness. In certain limited situations, it may make sense for them to continue doing so. We also recognize that hybrid and/or remote work may carry additional benefits, such as greater flexibility for staff members and supporting our commitment to sustainability through the reduction of Tier 3 emissions associated with commuting to work. In determining whether some areas continue to operate in a hybrid and/or remote manner, our primary focus must be on ensuring that those areas can continue to appropriately support College operations.

Ultimately, the President’s Staff will determine whether administrative areas operate in person, remotely, or according to a hybrid model with guidance from the Return to Campus Work Committee and based on the roles and responsibilities of the office/department. You will receive more information closer to your department's return-to-campus date.

We have designed this schedule to give you adequate time to plan for the transition back to campus. Given the circumstances, we encourage managers to be flexible with staff members this summer during this phased return back to campus.  

Information Session on Returning to Work on Campus

To help answer your questions, we will host an informational session for staff and faculty members via Zoom on Thursday, June 17, from 11 a.m. to noon ET. If you plan to attend, please register in advance. You may use this form to submit your questions by Monday, June 14, at 4 p.m. ET. You will also be able to ask questions using the chat feature during the session.

Labor Day Holiday and Changes to the Academic Calendar

After careful consideration and analysis, we are making a slight modification to the 2021–22 academic calendarThis year, Labor Day will be considered an alternate holiday; there will be no classes on that day. An additional day of Monday instruction has been added to the academic calendar. 

The majority of College offices and departments will be closed on Labor Day, although some may be open with modified hours of operation. Staff members who work in departments that are open may choose to take the holiday on that day or on an alternate day before the end of the 2021 calendar year, with approval from their supervisor. 

We believe that this change will have numerous benefits. It will coordinate our academic calendar with those of Bryn Mawr and Haverford, and it will better align our calendar with those of local school districts, giving parents greater flexibility when planning for child care.

Carrying Forward Accrued Vacation Time

College policy caps the maximum balance of vacation time a staff member may carry at 240 hours. However, due to the demands brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of you have been unable to take accrued vacation time off during the past 15 months and are therefore either approaching or have reached the 240-hour maximum accrual limit. Effective July 1, we are raising the cap to 280 hours, allowing staff members to carry forward an additional 40 hours of earned vacation time. Please note that this additional time must be used by June 30, 2022. We hope that this change will allow staff members to use this accrued time to help alleviate some of the stress of the past year. The 240-hour cap will go back into place effective on July 1, 2022. If you have questions about your vacation balance or this change, please contact Human Resources.   

Vaccination Status Form

Let me remind you that we are now requiring all faculty and staff members to fill out the College’s vaccination status form in MySwarthmore. Doing so will provide us with an overview of the vaccination rate on campus and help us plan for the fall semester. We’ve provided detailed instructions on how to fill out the form, but if you have additional questions, please contact Human Resources

Thank you again for your flexibility and patience. Even though we seem to be emerging from the grip of the pandemic, we are still navigating circumstances none of us have ever faced before. We may stumble along the way, but we will learn from those missteps and adapt. We remain committed to doing what is in the best interests of our students, faculty, and staff members as we continue to carry out the mission of the College. 


Val Smith