From the President, re: Return to Campus Update

August 13, 2021

Dear Colleagues:

The new year is just around the corner, and our collective excitement is growing as we prepare for the return of our students. While I will share a fuller welcome back and update closer to the start of the new semester, I wanted to give you an update now on how things currently stand, as the Fall 2021 start of classes approaches.

We’ve kept attuned to the approach other educational institutions are taking in the New Haven area and are pleased that we are preparing in parallel. Like other nearby universities, the CSUs, and New Haven K12, we will be welcoming our students to mostly on-ground programs and opportunities. As such, we are in line with directives from the System Office and protocols established by the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Our top priority remains ensuring a safe and healthy return to campus.

Vaccinations: As you know, the System has required that students be vaccinated, and I am happy to report that our students are heeding this requirement. Our numbers are growing every day. As of Monday, 61 percent of our student body had responded to the vaccine mandate, and 92 percent of those students are fully vaccinated. The numbers of students requesting medical and non-medical exemptions are low. We have been working very hard to reach our students and ensure they are aware of the requirement to be vaccinated and upload their vaccine card. We have some more captive audiences in our new students, our residential students, and our student athletes that will ensure our response rate is even higher over the next two weeks. I expect that we can surpass 70 percent response and have every reason to believe that our vaccination rate will remain high. 

Students who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or have not yet provided proof of vaccination will have additional mitigation strategies in place. We will have a regular testing protocol for unvaccinated residential students similar to what we experienced last year. We will maintain quarantine and isolation housing to minimize transmission in the residence halls. Students who arrive without having taken action will be tracked and treated as unvaccinated until we connect with them (which we expect to happen quickly). Everyone who tests positive is required to report their positive diagnosis. Contact tracing will continue.

We await word from the System Office on specific vaccine requirements for faculty and staff. If you have not yet been vaccinated, I hope you’ll seriously consider doing so as soon as possible. We continue to offer a vaccine clinic on campus every afternoon, and no appointment is necessary.

Masks: The System has stated that masks will be required for all members of our campus (unless, again, there are approved exceptions that are health related). Please wear a mask when participating in any on-ground classes or meetings; masks can be removed in the privacy of your office and outdoors, unless in crowds where you cannot appropriately socially distance.

Social distancing: The year will start with smaller cohorts for events (e.g., New Student Convocation) to allow for distancing in Lyman and the Student Center. We will maximize outdoor opportunities, including the addition of a reservable tent next to Buley while the weather is mild.

Our Facilities team has helped calculate the maximum enrollments for each classroom or meeting room. While many spaces have had their full number of chairs put back in place, the caps on class enrollments allows for spacing as required.  Please make sure that your students distribute themselves within the classes to maintain appropriate social distancing.

Course delivery modalities: Our students registered for courses that were listed as on-ground, hybrid or online (synchronous/asynchronous) with the expectation that those were the modes of delivery they would receive. We are holding those expectations as a sort of contract with our students and, without appropriate cause, we are not going to change delivery modes at this late date. Of course, relevant exceptions will be made but we expect these to be literally exceptional. Should you seek such an exception the process entails a request, with strong rationale, being made to your dean. For newly acquired health reasons, requests can be made to Human Resources, who ultimately would be responsible for letting the dean know the resolution. In all cases the registrar and chair will need to be informed of any approved changes.

We can expect additional important information within days. Please be patient. While the start of classes is but two weeks out, these have clearly been complicated and difficult processes to navigate and negotiate. I know all of you understand and appreciate the labor involved in reaching even the point we are at, and your ongoing efforts and support are deeply appreciated.  

I am optimistic -- there is so very much to be looking forward to as we return to a greater semblance of a campus presence. The energy and anticipation for the new year are palpable. The football team and resident advisor staff are back, and we welcome the rest of the fall sport athletes this weekend. Everyone is working hard to be ready for a new year that is healthy, safe, engaging and fun.

All we can do is being done, and we know you'll all do your part to help keep our campus healthy and safe.

Sincerely,

Joe Bertolino
President