Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff Members,
Welcome to a new academic year at Swarthmore! The start of the fall semester is one of my favorite times of the year because it brings renewed energy and excitement for what lies ahead. I’d like to extend a special welcome to our new community members — those joining the faculty and staff, as well as our first-year and transfer students. We’re thrilled that you’re here, and we look forward to getting to know each of you in the weeks and months ahead.
I hope many of you were able to enjoy our first Garnet Day of the new academic year. We introduced Garnet Days last spring as a way for us to come together, enjoy one another’s company (and refreshments!), and celebrate the community and the spirit of Swarthmore. I look forward to seeing you at future Garnet Days.
Let me share a few notable campus updates with you. I will be relatively brief here, as you will hear more details on each of these items in the coming weeks.
Last spring, we undertook Swarthmore Forward, a Collegewide strategic planning initiative that will help set the course for the next chapter in Swarthmore’s story. As a reminder, the planning process is focused on three broad areas:
- The curriculum and our pedagogical practices
- The student experience within and beyond the classroom
- Preparation for leadership in a multiracial democracy and global society
We are also working to ensure that our institutional priorities of sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the forefront of our planning efforts.
This fall, we are moving into the Community Consultation phase of the initiative, during which students, faculty, and staff members will have opportunities to participate in the planning process and offer ideas and aspirations for the College's future. As the Working Groups and Steering Committee resume their work, they will share more specific information about their plans for consultation and collaboration with the rest of campus. You may also visit the strategic planning website for more information and ways to get involved in the community consultations this semester.
The Land Acknowledgement Task Force that I convened concluded its work during the spring semester and sent me a report that includes a series of recommendations to consider. I want to thank the members of the task force for their dedicated and thoughtful work:
- Daniel Balauro ’23
- Denise Crossan, Director of Community and Strategic Initiatives; Director of Social Innovation Lab
- Shay Downey ’22
- Carr Everbach, Professor of Engineering; Faculty Coordinator, Environmental Studies — Task Force Co-Chair
- James Fenelon, Lang Visiting Professor for Issues of Social Change, Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility; Professor of Sociology — Task Force Co-Chair
- Alisa Giardinelli, Assistant Vice President for Communications
- Edwin Mayorga, Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Educational Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies
- Oswaldo Morales Solorzano, Sustainability and Engaged Scholarship Fellow, Office of Sustainability
- Lei Ouyang, Associate Professor of Music; Chair, Music Program in the Department of Music and Dance
- Andrea Packard ’85, List Gallery Director, Art and Art History
- Christy Schuetze, Associate Professor of Anthropology
- Kevin Webb, Associate Professor of Computer Science
I look forward to sharing more details and next steps with the entire community in the coming weeks.
Get Out the Vote
I am grateful for the work of our Get Out the Vote (GOTV) Committee, chaired by Special Assistant for Presidential Initiatives Pam Shropshire, to increase voter participation in our community. In 2020, more than 75% of our eligible students voted, up from 69% in the 2016 presidential election. In the 2018 midterm elections, more than 56% of eligible students voted, up from 21% in the previous midterms.
This year’s midterm elections are two months away, and the deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania is Oct. 24. Students can choose to register in Pennsylvania or in the state of their permanent residence. Individuals may only vote in one place. Please note that where you register to vote will not affect federal financial aid such as Pell Grants, Perkins or Stafford loans, or your dependency status for FAFSA.
Regardless of where you plan to vote, the GOTV Committee has extensive information on its website to help guide you through the process. You can also contact the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a brief reminder, given the College’s non-profit, tax-exempt status, Swarthmore is subject to federal, state, and local laws and regulations regarding political and campaign activities and the use of College resources for political purposes. As you engage in the electoral process, please bear in mind our political activities and campaign policy.
I’m pleased to share some new and exciting developments on several sustainability initiatives. First, earlier this month, Director of Sustainability Elizabeth Drake announced a new Air Travel Carbon Fee on all air travel paid for by the College. The $11 fee builds upon our existing Carbon Charge Program and is designed to both influence travel behavior and fund new ways to reduce emissions on campus.
This summer, based on a recommendation by the Zero Waste Working Group, the College also adopted the 2022 Zero Waste Plan [pdf]. The Plan establishes new goals that will lead to our becoming a zero-waste campus by 2035. Our Zero Waste Plan is deeply tied to our pursuit of environmental and social justice. It also demonstrates Swarthmore’s commitment to addressing the climate crisis and the disproportionate impacts of waste on underserved and low-income communities. The plan lays out strategies for embedding zero waste into our campus culture, reducing our per capita waste production, and diverting as much recyclable and compostable material away from our trash as possible.
And you have no doubt noticed the large fence surrounding Mertz Lawn. This is the site of our future geoexchange well field, which is central to our energy plan and key to our commitment to reaching carbon neutrality by 2035. As we have shared in the past, we know that this work brings with it some disruption to campus. Though we are taking measures to ensure that noise levels are not overly disruptive, when the drilling begins later this month, it will be noisy at times. And while all paved paths, including Magill Walk, will remain open and accessible, pedestrian traffic across Mertz lawn will be restricted for much of the year. We appreciate your patience as we make progress on this critical initiative.
Dining and Community Commons
The geoexchange plant connected to the wells will be housed in the basement of our new Dining Center, scheduled to open just after fall break. The Dining Center, which is Phase 1 of the Dining and Community Commons project, is more than a building; it is a complete reimagining of the dining experience at Swarthmore. I am confident you will find the space simply stunning, and I know all who continue to work so hard on the project cannot wait to open the building to the campus community.
As a brief reminder, once the Dining Center opens, we will begin work on Phase 2 of the project: the renovation of Sharples into Sharples Commons, a space where students can gather, socialize, and build community in ways not possible in our current facilities. We expect Phase 2 to be completed and the entire Dining and Community Commons project to open in Fall 2023.
Planning for Commencement is already underway. Last year, when I announced that the 2022 ceremony would take place on Mertz Lawn, I noted that we would explore additional locations for May 2023, given the geoexchange work referenced above. We are close to finalizing a location for this year’s ceremony that can accommodate the size of our graduating class and their family members and friends and meet our accessibility standards. I expect to share more information on the location of Commencement by early October.
COVID-19 and Monkeypox
This summer, the COVID-19 Planning Group (CPG) worked with medical and public health professionals on several policy updates. These changes are consistent with the evolution of our approach to dealing with COVID-19 that began last spring by further easing some requirements while also maintaining measures to help keep the community healthy and safe. That includes the move to optional masking. While masking remains optional, we should all respect the individual choices of our friends, peers, and colleagues. And should you be asked by another member of the community to mask indoors in some situations — for instance, if a faculty member asks students to mask during a class — you should honor that request.
You may also be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently authorized a new booster shot specifically targeting the Omicron subvariant BA.5. While we do not plan to require this new booster, we strongly encourage community members to stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CPG meets regularly to evaluate our policies and practices. As a reminder, anyone experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or those who are identified as a close contact, must take a COVID-19 test. Please visit the COVID-19 information site for more details. You may also email questions and comments to COVID19@swarthmore.edu.
We are also paying close attention to monkeypox, which, according to the CDC, is a rare disease with symptoms similar to smallpox, though much milder and rarely fatal. Extensive information on monkeypox may be found on the CDC’s website, including information on symptoms, prevention, and current case data within the United States.
The Worth Student Health Center staff has additional information on monkeypox. While there are no known cases on campus, students with questions or concerns about a possible infection should contact the Health Center at 610-328-8058 or email@example.com.
Students, faculty, and staff members who are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 or monkeypox must refrain from coming to work or going to class and should contact a medical professional.
Winter Break Schedule
As previously announced, I am pleased to extend the winter break for staff once again. We have added four days to the traditional winter break, which gives staff more than two consecutive weeks off. The break will run from Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, through Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, with normal operations resuming on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. I hope you are able to use this additional time to relax and enjoy the company of your loved ones.
I understand that some of you must work during portions of the winter break due to the responsibilities of your positions. As a reminder, benefits-eligible, non-exempt staff members who work on a College-observed holiday will be paid time-and-a-half for any hours worked. Exempt staff whose positions require them to work during this two-week period may make alternative arrangements for time off with the approval of their supervisors. Please consult with your supervisor if you have questions about your schedule. If you are a benefits-eligible staff member and have additional questions regarding eligibility for holiday pay, please see the employee handbook for further explanation or contact the Human Resources team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your attention to these announcements. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk more about these and other important initiatives as we move through the academic year. For now, I wish you all the best for a stimulating, rewarding, and fun fall semester.