Community Message and Forums Archive

This page is an archive of the messages that have been sent to the community regarding COVID-19, as well as a video archive of the community forums hosted by senior staff in July 2020.

Monday Messages from Laura

Monday, August 31

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Families,

Welcome! 
Welcome to this first official week of Fall Term. Some of you arrived in the past two weeks; others just today; and still others are joining us remotely from around the world. It’s an extraordinary time to be a college student, but I can already feel us drawing energy and inspiration from one another as we come together across distances.  

I am happy to report that, because the vast majority of you have adhered so closely to the Commitment of Shared Responsibility and because the systems we have in place have all worked precisely as they were intended to, campus reopening was a relatively smooth process. Thank you all for your continued cooperation.

This is the first in a series of messages that I plan to send on Mondays with the purpose of keeping everyone informed of the state of COVID-19 on campus, our response and prevention efforts, and the creative ways we are all adapting around this pandemic. 

COVID-19 Update
Last week, three cases of COVID-19 were discovered through the arrival testing process and we were able to quickly isolate those students while providing them with the care they needed. The Vermont Department of Health conducted contact tracing for them, and anyone who was identified as a close contact has been notified. There will likely be more cases in the coming weeks and months, but the rapid response and containment of these initial cases was a successful test of the College’s ability to maintain a healthy campus with little disruption. I am also pleased to share that none of the students who have tested positive are seriously ill at this time. 

Our early arrivals had their Day Seven test last week, and the results were all negative, so all houses have completed their quarantine. The arrival testing process is currently under way for students arriving today.

As a reminder, you can always find the most up-to-date numbers on tests conducted, positive results, and active cases on our COVID-19 Information Page. If anything more urgent arises, expect an email from us. 

A Feat of Organization and Cooperation
These past few weeks on campus have been choreographed down to the minute—from student arrivals and testing, to food delivery and quick adaptations in quarantine housing.

If you received your COVID-19 test last Thursday, you saw that approach in full effect as we conducted the largest and most complex testing operation yet. Under the direction of Dr. Randy Anselmo, Bennington staff and faculty volunteers processed a total of 338 tests and then sent them off by courier to a Boston lab where they were processed and reported back to us over the weekend. The day went by without a hitch, despite the fact that an unexpected rainstorm required the quick rearrangement of the entire physical operation. 

Among the many people who made these efforts possible, I would like to thank Student Life; Health Services; Buildings and Grounds; Human Resources; Campus Safety; IT; Dining Services; Bennington College staff volunteers; Southwestern Vermont Medical Center staff; the Bennington Rescue Squad; Dr. Randy Anselmo, for his tireless leadership; and all of you, for your collaborative and optimistic spirit—even in the rain.

Creating in Quarantine
One of the things I knew about Bennington College long before my arrival here was its proud tradition of turning toward the most urgent crises of the day; of students innovating around challenges through art, political action, science, and culture. These are extraordinary times, but Bennington students are doing what they have always done in moments of great upheaval: they are coming together to create. The new obstacles presented by this pandemic are fertile ground for Bennington thinkers and makers, and I’m energized by the passion you’ve demonstrated in just the first few days of fall term. 

One example of this is The Campus Mural Project, a collaborative project in which students work within their house communities to create a large work of art that expresses their collective hopes for the coming year. Once completed, all house murals will be connected—and digital contributions from remote learners will be integrated—to create a 50+ foot work that embodies the aspirations of Bennington students in this moment. So far, the murals are already shaping up to be surprising, provocative, and wholly original. I can’t wait to see the final product.

Photo credit: Nirmohi Belvalkar

I look forward to highlighting more of the creative ways you are working, playing, and living together. If you have something that delights or inspires, please let me know at president@bennington.edu

Again, I want to thank you all for your cooperation and patience in these early days. I can’t wait to see many of you around campus and to get to know this community as the term unfolds. 

It’s going to be a great year,

Laura Walker
President

Past Community Messages

August 27, 2020 | Second Case on Campus

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Families,

In the interest of keeping everyone informed during this campus reopening period, I am writing to let you know that a second student has tested positive for COVID-19.

As with the first, this second case of COVID-19 was discovered during the mandatory arrival testing phase. The affected student has been placed in quarantine and the Vermont Department of Health has begun the contact tracing process. As before, the student had limited contact with others while awaiting test results, and anyone who may be considered a close contact will be informed. 

Because we believe that transparency and communication are paramount to our collective success in the coming weeks, I want to remind you that you can always find the latest numbers on tests conducted, positive results, and active cases on our COVID-19 Information Page. It will be updated daily and I encourage everyone to visit it for the most up-to-date numbers. You can also expect to hear from me every Monday with a broader look at our COVID-19 strategy. And, of course, if anything warrants more immediate attention, we will send out email alerts as needed. 

I want to thank the staff who continue to execute our COVID-19 Preparedness Strategy so deftly; our students, for your adherence to these safety measures and your collaborative spirit; and everyone in this community, for the conscientiousness and care you’ve shown for one another as campus reopens.

Be well,

Laura Walker
President

August 26, 2020 | New Quarantine Policy

Dear students, faculty, staff, and families,

As we joyfully welcome students back on campus during this pandemic, we are forging an ever stronger sense of community built on empathy and compassion. In response to feedback from all of you and the lessons we are observing around the country, I am writing today to inform you of an update to one of our student arrival policies.

Beginning August 31, all students arriving to campus will be asked to quarantine in their designated rooms until their COVID-19 tests come back negative. We anticipate that this will take 24-48 hours. Accommodations for meals and restrooms will be made for all students quarantining in-room; everyone affected by this change will receive additional details.

We believe that this more conservative approach is right for the health of all students and the well-being of this community. It will also help alleviate student anxieties and cultivate an environment of trust among peers as new relationships are forged. As you know, the Bennington College COVID-19 Preparedness Strategy was designed to be flexible, to adapt swiftly to shifting needs and emerging information, which is precisely what we are doing today.

In the case of the one positive COVID-19 test we informed you of yesterday, the contact tracing team from the Vermont Department of Health was immediately in touch with the person who tested positive and they identified everyone who came in close contact with the affected student (also quarantining in-room). The vast majority of the affected student’s housemates did not come in close contact, however, and are not required to quarantine under the guidelines set by the Vermont Department of Health.

Our objective is to minimize both viral exposure for everyone and anxiety for students. We are committed to cultivating a healthy community that shares responsibility for each other; we also want each student to feel nurtured and welcomed as the school year begins—this year more than ever. We will continue to respond to the health needs and community concerns as the weeks unfold. Our adaptability and cooperation is central to a successful fall term.

Thank you again,

Laura Walker

August 25, 2020 | COVID-19 Update

Dear Students and Families, Faculty, and Staff,

I wanted to let you know that, as of this morning, we have one confirmed case of COVID-19 on campus out of 535 tests conducted. This was not unexpected and we have been preparing for this scenario. I am pleased to report that all of our COVID-19 Preparedness systems worked as planned. The student has been isolated and is receiving care; the House Chairs and other students in the House have been notified. 

Upon receiving the positive result, our comprehensive response plan was initiated, and Health Services contacted the student with the result. The student was then moved into one of our dedicated isolation spaces by Campus Safety, and contact tracing commenced by the State of Vermont. Health Services will provide care for the individual student, and Student Life will be checking in as well. Meals will be delivered to the isolation space. As a reminder, all students on campus are currently in quarantine in their residential houses, so exposure was already limited. The student’s housemates have been notified, offered support services, and asked to protect the privacy of the individual student. Buildings and Grounds has notified the housekeeping staff for additional cleaning protocols of this house and the transportation vehicle, and to ensure that the risk to our staff is as low as possible. 

I know that this is an anxious time and the presence of the virus can feel alarming, but the good news is that the policies we have implemented to detect and contain COVID-19 did precisely what they were designed to do. We expected this first round of campus arrivals to be challenging, but we were prepared for it. 

There will likely be more positive results in the weeks ahead, and we will respond with the same robust agility to each. Anyone who is suspected of having been exposed to COVID-19 will be personally contacted, but we will not send out campus-wide emails with each new case unless it presents a broader risk to the community. You can always find current information about the number of tests, positive results, and policies on our COVID-19 Information Page, and feel free to send us your questions at any time. Students with concerns about their own physical or emotional well-being should reach out to the Office of Student Life. I will be in touch with regular communications throughout the term. 

I am encouraged by the eager and thoughtful engagement with which our students have been arriving to campus and settling in. It is a testament to this community’s care for one another and your adherence to the Commitment of Shared Responsibility that we are so overwhelmingly healthy today. It bodes well for the coming months and for our eventual full return to campus life.

Thank you and be well,
Laura Walker

 

August 24, 2020 | What You Need to Know for the Start of Fall Term

Dear Bennington Community,

Students have begun to arrive on campus and anticipation for the start of fall term is palpable. It has been a thrill to welcome many of you to campus—some of you for the first time—and feel the energy return to our buildings and green spaces.

I am writing to give you an update on the key pieces of our COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that may affect your daily lives. Whether you are on campus or studying and working remotely, I hope you will familiarize yourself with the details below.

You will hear more from us in the weeks ahead, as we adapt to changing circumstances and continue to address your questions. You can always find current information on the refreshed COVID-19 Updates and Information Webpage—your dashboard for day-to-day changes within our community. I am pleased to report that, so far, all COVID-19 tests for faculty, staff, and students have been negative 

I am confident that with close communication, flexibility, and a commitment to our collective health, this term will be a success. 

I look forward to seeing and hearing from you in the weeks ahead,

Laura Walker
 

Testing: 

  • Student arrival testing was held on August 19, 20, and 21, and will continue on August 27, 31 and September 7. 
  • So far, 534 tests have been administered to students, faculty, and staff. All were negative. 
  • All students will be tested on the day they arrive (Day zero), and Day 7 after they arrive. While Vermont requires all students to get a test on Day 7, and students from high-prevalence areas to get a test on Day zero, we are opting to have all students take both tests—which will hopefully increase the chances of a smooth start of term. 
  • Students are also encouraged to get tested before they leave home, if possible.
  • Students will be contacted directly by Health Services if their result is positive with instructions and next steps.  
  • For future reference, all COVID-19 information that is specifically for staff and faculty can be found on the new FAQ for Staff and Faculty page. 

 

Start of classes **UPDATE***

  • Classes will now begin remotely for Tuesday and Wednesday, September 1 and 2. In-person classes will begin on Thursday, September 3. This change was made to ensure that we have the COVID-19 test results for the students arriving on August 31. If there are any unexpected delays in processing tests, we will adjust and will be in touch as soon as possible.
     

Daily screenings:

  • All students, faculty, and staff will be required to complete a daily temperature and symptom self-screenings. Please confirm that your temperature is within a range that does not exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Please also confirm that you are free of any new respiratory illness (fever, new/worsening cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, chills/muscle pain, or new loss of taste or smell).
  • For now, faculty and staff should continue to use the Health Screening google form; students should reach out to Health Services if they experience any symptoms.
  • The College will be transitioning to CoVerified, a COVID-19 Campus Management Platform, which is available on the web and as an iOS phone app. The College is in the final testing phase and CoVerified should be ready by the end of this week. CoVerified is secure and confidential, and does not track users location or movement. Only Health Services, Human Resources, and the Dean’s Office will have access to this information.  
  • If you develop symptoms and log them, someone will reach out to you with instructions (students will hear from Health Services; faculty will hear from the Provost and Dean’s Office, and staff will hear from Human Resources). The app will also allow you to schedule appointments for rolling testing when that begins, receive test results, and log test results that you may have from elsewhere. If you test positive, CoVerified will allow you to report close contacts and it maintains your privacy if you choose to do so. 
  • Information and instructions on using CoVerified will be shared as soon as it is ready. If you have questions, students should feel free to reach out to Health Services, staff to Human Resources, and faculty to the Dean's Office. Please also see the App tutorial and Parent guide.

 

How the College will report cases on campus: 

In order to be transparent and also protect individuals’ privacy, we will share the total cases, active cases, recovered cases, and total tests conducted on campus on the COVID-19 updates webpage. We will not be confirming details about specific cases. 

The state of Vermont will be conducting contact tracing and will be in touch with members of the community believed to be at higher risk of having contracted COVID-19 from someone who later tested positive. Alison Tartaglia, Director of Student Health Promotion, is the College liaison to the Vermont Department of Health for student contact tracing. Health Services will also contact Human Resources and/or the Provost and Dean’s office, as appropriate; those offices will be in touch directly with staff or faculty, including to answer any questions specific to the work of the office.

If a student was believed to be infectious while in class, the faculty member will be told what class, but not the individual student’s name. The faculty member does not need to notify the students in the class. The contract tracing process will determine which students need to be notified. 

Students who test positive for COVID-19 may choose to alert their families or emergency contact. The College will not share health information about specific students with family members unless a student is under 18, has given permission, and/or is severely ill and unable to communicate.

Rolling testing

There will be rolling testing to help identify asymptomatic cases throughout the term. The rolling testing will be conducted by Broad (pronounced to rhyme with “road”) Institute of MIT and Harvard. The frequency of the rolling testing will be responsive to the number of cases on campus. More information to come. 

An Adaptable Plan 

Our re-opening plan is designed to allow us to be flexible. Like opening or closing a spigot a little at a time, we can and will adjust policies based on how things are going. Factors that will influence those decisions include things happening both on campus (e.g., how well the community is adhering to the Commitment to Shared Responsibility, the number of cases on campus, if there are cases of community spread, the number of quarantine and isolation spaces available, the speed of test results) and off-campus (such as the local hospital’s capacity, and the state’s capacity for contact tracing). 

Adjustments may include things like: increasing or decreasing indoor dining capacity, switching to pick up service for the Dining Hall, Library, and Bookstore; a temporary transition to all remote instruction for a week or two, specific courses temporary transition to remote learning, and/or an additional quarantine by house community.

Will will continue to be in touch as things progress. All community members can help by adhering to the Commitment of Shared Responsibility to help reduce the risk of spread. 

I will be writing to you frequently with updates of COVID related news. In the meantime, enjoy the summer weather. 

 

August 18, 2020 | Open call to serve on the CSR Violation Panel

TO: The Bennington Community
FR: John Bullock, Acting Provost and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs
       Oceana Wilson, Acting Dean of the College and Dean of the Library

We are about to embark on a term unlike any other in the history of the College. We have heard from many of you about both your excitement and your trepidation. There have been many questions from students, their families, staff, faculty, as well as those in the surrounding community, about steps we are taking to ensure the safety of those on campus this fall. Among the many health and safety measures we are implementing to ensure our success, one of our most important is the Commitment of Shared Responsibility, our compact to each other that our individual actions and behaviors will be aligned to protect the health and safety of every member of the College community.

With respect to enforcement of the specific guidelines, we are confident that the community will pull together in this moment of mutual dependence. We anticipate that most CSR infractions will not be willful, but rather a lapse into older pre-pandemic patterns of behavior. In these cases, which we anticipate will be the vast majority, the issue will be addressed in a way that focuses on education and restorative practices. However, the College is required to address more serious infractions in accordance with the Mandatory Guidance for Residential Campus Learning, issued by the State of Vermont. The College defines a serious infraction of the CSR as acts that are egregious, willful, and/or repeated.

The mechanism by which serious infractions will be addressed will be as follows: faculty violations will be addressed by the Acting Provost; staff violations will be addressed by Human Resources; and student violations will be reviewed by the CSR Violations Panel. This panel will be composed of students, faculty, and staff. Because of the need to address these situations in a timely manner we are enlisting a group of fair-minded students, faculty, and staff willing to serve in this capacity and thereby play an active role in protecting the safety of the community. If you are interested in being part of this group and meaningfully contributing to the health of the community and the success of the term if called upon, or if you have any questions, please email us at provostanddean@bennington.edu.

Sincerely,

John and Oceana

August 15, 2020 | Instructions to faculty and staff for obtaining your COVID-19 Test Results

TO: Faculty and staff
FR: Health Services

For employees who participated in COVID testing, please note the following instructions for obtaining your COVID-19 test results.

Log into Aegis Labs patient portal. Refer to the Laboratory Request print out given to you during your testing. The requisition number is an 8 digit number, located in the upper right corner of your Laboratory Request with a barcode above it. Enter the requested information. If the test is complete, the report may be viewed, downloaded or printed. If the test has not been completed, no report will be available, but you can check again later.

COVID-19 Test Results Q&A

I was not provided or I lost a Laboratory Request print out. How do I get another?
Contact Health Services to request a copy.

Why are my results not ready yet?
Result times have been averaging 24-48 hours from the time the lab receives specimens (usually the morning after your specimen was collected). Higher demand due to increased COVID-19 activity in other parts of the country could slow down the result times periodically.

What should I do and who do I contact if my results are positive?
Contact Human Resources and your primary care physician. Please refrain from coming to campus until you have been cleared to return.

What should I do if my results are inconclusive?
A number of factors can lead to an inconclusive test. This does NOT mean you have COVID-19. Your test should be repeated, though. Contact Health Services to arrange for a repeat test.

My test ID number is not valid or I'm experiencing issues with the website, who do I contact?
Contact Health Services.

August 10, 2020 | COVID-19 and the Bennington Community

At the August 10 meeting of the Bennington Select Board, College leadership shared this overview of the College's COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.

May 18, 2020 | Bennington College Fall 2020 Plan

Read the message from Interim President Isabel Roche

April 3, 2020 | COVID-19 Relief Fund

Dear Students,

I know that these past few weeks have been incredibly trying for all of you. The shift to remote learning and separation from one another—coupled with the broader anxieties of this moment—are testing all of us. Your lives have been upended by this global health crisis and I am acutely aware of the material, academic, and emotional hurdles you face today.

This is a challenging time for everyone, but for some students in our community the financial strain caused by these changes is especially daunting. To help alleviate the extraordinary burden and unforeseen expenses some of you face, I am writing to share that we have expanded our emergency assistance efforts to create and launch the COVID-19 Relief Fund. The Fund, which will be made possible through the generosity of Bennington alumni and friends, will allow us to offset some of the costs associated with this crisis, including providing modest grants to our highest need students to help defray unexpected costs they have incurred related to COVID-19.

As you may know, the College established this year an emergency travel fund for international and domestic students with demonstrated financial need. These funds have been fully depleted in providing emergency travel grants for students to get home. Donations to the COVID-19 Relief Fund will be used to support additional emergency travel needs as well as address additional areas of hardship, including:

  • Food insecurity for students not living in campus housing
  • Internet access for remote learning
  • Student medical expenses related to contracting COVID-19

Eligible students will receive an email today directing them to a simple application to apply for a COVID-19 Relief Fund grant. We recognize that this will not address the needs of all students but must first focus on the most critical needs the fund can support at this time.

And to all of our students—whether or not you will seek emergency assistance—please know that we are here to support you.

-Isabel Roche

March 27, 2020 | Establishing a COVID-19 Relief Fund 

Dear Bennington alumni, parents, and friends,

These past few weeks have been some of the most trying for all of us — as individuals, as a community, and as a college. I am touched by the concern and support so many have shown for the Bennington students whose lives have been upended by this public health crisis, and for the faculty and staff who are working tirelessly to support them in this unprecedented moment. 

Throughout it all, our extended Bennington community has been characteristically generous and compassionate. Many of you have asked how you can help in this moment of crisis, and I am so grateful for your concern. 

For our students' safety and in the interest of public health, we have had to make extraordinary changes in how we educate our Bennington students and, as of Monday, all instruction will be remote for the remainder of the spring term. This is an anxious time for us all, but for some students in our community, the shift to remote learning has created an especially challenging financial burden.

To address the most urgent needs of our students and to provide additional support for faculty as they begin to teach in this new way, we have established the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a special initiative of the Bennington Fund. The College is incurring significant new costs associated with this crisis — from expanding technological support for students and faculty to emergency travel funding for students — and this Fund will allow us to continue to assist students with unforeseen expenses, and students and faculty in the transition to remote learning. 

Our longer term priorities — like rebuilding the Barn, and keeping momentum on the Barn Challenge — have not changed and remain critical as well, but the urgent need of this moment calls for a commensurate response. 

If you can, please make a gift to the COVID-19 Relief Fund today. We are deeply grateful to those of you who have already made donations to support our students and faculty in this time, and to everyone who has reached out to help. The Bennington community is stronger today than it has ever been, and our connection to one another — while distant and physically separated at the moment — is reaffirmed by your kindness, compassion, and generosity. 

With gratitude and well wishes to all,

Isabel

March 27, 2020 | Change in COVID-19 testing & student isolation information

To: Students, Staff, Faculty
Fr:  Dr. Randy Anselmo, Director, Student Health Services

I am writing to update the community that we currently have a student in isolation for possible COVID-19 monitoring. While the student has no identifiable risk factors for having contracted COVID-19, their symptoms were consistent enough with it to warrant this step. Following the revised guidelines from the Vermont Department of Health (VT DOH), the student has not been tested; and current practice is to treat people who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 as though they have COVID-19. 

The VT DOH’s revised advice is that COVID-19 testing is no longer recommended unless an individual’s symptoms are severe enough to require hospitalization, and we have adapted our strategy in light of that advice. 

This may mean that students who don’t actually have COVID-19 will have to go into isolation; we will likely not be updating the community every time, but wanted to share now, given the change in guidelines and any concern on campus. 

What happens in isolation
Students in isolation will receive the same treatment as is currently recommended by the CDC for confirmed COVID-19 until medically cleared to leave isolation.

Isolation will be carried out in one of many rooms on campus that have been designated for this purpose, with a private bathroom and meal delivery. I will be checking in daily with all students who are in isolation, providing medical care as needed, and arranging transfer to the hospital for anyone with symptoms that suggest the need for a higher level of care than can be provided on campus. Once these students have been released from isolation, you can be assured that they have been medically cleared and are able to resume communal living in student housing. 

Guidance for other students
All students who are placed in isolation will be asked to identify “close contacts.” Those individuals will be contacted directly with information and instructions. If you are not contacted, you were not identified as meeting the close contact definition and should continue standard social distancing and prevention guidelines.

Close contacts will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. If they do not have symptoms, the student can self-isolate in their assigned room. Housing staff will be in touch with the student to assign them a specific bathroom for use and arrange for meal delivery. If a student becomes symptomatic during self-isolation, they should contact Health Services right away for an assessment and advisement regarding their situation.   

Facing isolation can feel very daunting, and one’s first impulse may be to keep quiet about symptoms in order to avoid it. However, it is critical - and ethically imperative - to the health of the community that students with respiratory symptoms report their symptoms and comply with our request that they isolate according to best practices.  
 

The best prevention and protection from COVID-19 continues to be to prevent exposure to the virus. We ask all community members to continue to seriously observe these prevention guidelines and thank you for your continued partnership to keep our community healthy and safe. 

March 27, 2020 | Change in Hours & Meal Delivery Model

TO: Students on campus
FR: Meredith McCoy, Associate Vice President for Institutional Initiatives
Steve Bohrer, Director of Dining Services
 

Dear Students,

We want to begin by saying just how grateful we are for all of you and the energy you bring into the dining hall each day. Your spirit and smiles make coming to work a joy and are also the reasons we are doing all we can to keep you safe and well-nourished. With this in mind and in alignment with the State of Vermont Office of the Governor Executive Orders, we want to make you aware of some additional safety measures to the dining program. 

  • Dining services will move from a take-out buffet service to a to-go boxed meal beginning Saturday (3/29) at lunch.  
  • Dining hours of operation will be limited to 2 blocks of time each day - lunch and dinner 12:00pm to 1:00pm for lunch and 5:00pm to 6:00pm for dinner/breakfast. 
  • Dinner meals will include breakfast items for the following day. 
  • Meals will be pre-packaged and ready to go on tables (vegan and dietary restriction meal boxes will be labeled) just outside of the entrance to the dining hall during the 2 blocks of time. 
  • You are not required to swipe your card.
  • Students on the Flex-7 meal plan should pick up their meal at lunch each day.  
  • We ask that you follow the honor system and only take your meal and not those designated for those with dietary restrictions.

As we move to this model, it will be important to know of dietary restrictions in order to provide meals to meet those needs.  As a proactive measure, no meals will be made with nuts or shellfish. For those requiring dietary restrictions, please complete this form and we will do our best to provide a variety of options; however, all food preferences may not be able to be met at each meal.  

Yours in health and safety.

 

March 24, 2020 | Campus Employment Update

TO: Staff, faculty, and students

FROM: Oceana Wilson, Acting Dean of the College and Dean of the Library
Faith McClellan, Associate Dean of Work-Integrated Learning

We write to follow up on Friday’s communication about campus employment with more detailed information on our transition to remote employment for students for the remainder of the Spring 2020 term.  We know that many students rely on the income earned through campus jobs and we are committed to continuing to provide work for students.

With the College’s shift to remote learning and a significantly reduced population on campus, the work needed to support students, faculty, and staff as they carry out their work both on and off campus is different. All in-person work has been discontinued for the remainder of the spring term. We have transitioned as many positions as possible to remote work and have added a number of new positions that provide additional support to faculty, students, and staff. 

Here follow the next steps, designed to maximize student access to jobs in an equitable manner, all while streamlining the transition process for students and supervisors:
 

  • Within a week, there will be remote work openings listed on Handshake for close to 200 students. Some of these are current positions transitioned for remote work, while others are new remote positions--and still more will be created in the coming weeks. All students are welcome to apply for remote jobs, regardless of their location, for the remainder of the term. 
  • All students need to submit a “fast track” application on Handshake, even if they wish to continue the job they currently hold. Only resumes are required; we are not asking for cover letters or interviews. 
  • Students with prior experience in a particular role may receive priority due to prior knowledge of the position. We are also prepared to add new openings in cases where new applicants can help to meet a department need. 
  • All positions will be posted on Handshake by the end of day Friday, March 27. Positions will be updated on a rolling basis for the next few weeks in an effort to maximize opportunities to students. 
  • Because our goal is to provide access to jobs to as many students as possible desiring work, hiring will typically be limited to one job per student. If we find that additional work is available, students will be notified and can then apply for more hours. Additionally, if students seek to apply for two jobs with fewer than 4 hours each, we will consider this.
  • All students will of course be paid for hours already worked.  Students or supervisors who are having trouble entering hours on TimesheetX should contact helpdesk@bennington.edu
  • Students who have been working this spring may access ADP to set up direct deposit or update their mailing address in order to receive wages from this past pay period. Any questions related to paychecks, payrolls, I9s/W4s, or related issues can be directed to payroll@bennington.edu.

Campus supervisors will soon receive information on the details of how to list positions, and students can expect that their applications will be rapidly moved forward to hiring decisions. It is our hope that many students will be up and running in positions at the start of next week. 

In the meantime, please be in touch with us directly at campusjobs@bennington.edu with any questions or concerns that you may have, as we know how critical campus jobs are to your financial and personal well-being. 

 

March 23, 2020 | Update on Staff Operations

To: Staff
From: Heather Faley, Director of Human Resources

I am writing to provide you with two important updates related to the health crisis. Please reach out to your manager or to Human Resources if you have questions about this information.

Massachusetts Stay-in-Place Order

Today, the State of Massachusetts announced a temporary Stay-at-Home order that requires businesses that are not deemed essential to close their physical workplaces as of Tuesday, March 24 at noon until Tuesday, April 7 at noon. This means no employees are to work from any Massachusetts location unless the business has been placed on the exceptions list. 

Although Bennington College is not a Massachusetts employer, we know some of you live in the surrounding Massachusetts communities and are likely wondering how this order will affect you and your work. While not required to do so, the College has decided to follow the Massachusetts Order for our employees who reside in Massachusetts. Similar to the New York Order we informed you about yesterday, we view this as a prudent measure.

Essential staff working at educational institutions in the following areas are exempt from this order: Buildings & Grounds, Business Office, Campus Safety, Dining Services, Health and Psychological Services, Human Resources, Post Office, and the President’s Office.

If you are a staff member living  in Massachusetts who works in a department not listed above - please refrain from reporting to work on campus as of Tuesday, March 24 and until April 7, 2020. If you have not yet done so, you should shift to working remotely as of Tuesday. Please reach out to your manager if you have questions. 

Vermont Department of Health Update on Monitoring Your Health

The Vermont Department of Health has updated their guidance on monitoring your health. The Department of Health indicates that Vermont is now experiencing community spread of COVID-19, which is why they are encouraging social distancing. This will help slow the spread of the virus and protect people who are more vulnerable. The Department of Health indicates that if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and mild illness, you can stay home and treat your symptoms. They further indicate that not everyone needs to be tested. If you are sick or concerned about your health, contact your health care provider to find out if you should be seen for an evaluation and considered for testing.

Resources and Support

Please contact Human Resources if you are experiencing financial hardship or need assistance and support in any way. Additionally, please use the resources of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as needed.

If you have questions, please contact hroffice@bennington.edu.

 

March 22, 2020 | Preventative Measures & Social Distancing On Campus

TO: Students
FR: Dr. Randy Anselmo, Director of Health Services
Ali Tartaglia, DrPH, Director of Student Health Promotion
Natalie Basil, Dean of Students

As we prepare to move into a new phase of a smaller campus population and remote teaching, learning and advising, we want to reiterate the importance of using preventative measures and social distancing during this time of crisis. At the speed at which COVID-19 is spreading, every day counts, and we cannot wait “until things get bad” to take the necessary steps.

Thus far, the campus has not had a confirmed case of COVID-19 and we must delay the spread of this virus to campus as long as possible. We also must protect those individuals whose role on campus is deemed essential (e.g., buildings & grounds, campus safety, dining services) to support having students living on campus. Once the virus comes to campus, we must do everything possible to mitigate the exponential spread.

Current guidance from health officials, epidemiologists and historians, indicates that because this virus spreads in density, social distancing along with hand and respiratory hygiene are imperative to slowing the spread and “flattening the curve” in order to reduce the surge of medical need that will overwhelm our local and regional medical community. You play an important and imperative role in this movement.

We are sharing these guidelines and ask that you please take them very seriously. These instructions are written for students remaining on campus, but we strongly recommend all students adhere to social distancing and hygiene recommendations.

  • Students should keep 6 feet (2 meters) between them and other people regardless of the health of each individual. Visibly healthy people can be carriers and spread the virus.
    --No gatherings (social or academic) in house common rooms or campus facilities that do not allow 6 feet (2 meters) of distance between individuals. In most cases, this will be no more than 6 people depending on the size of space.
    --Campus Shuttle vans will limit the number of riders per trip to 2 people and 1 driver. The Campus Shuttle will be available on Saturdays only. Commons Dining will be open but students must take food to go and not congregate in groups or spaces that do not allow 6 feet (2 meters) of distance between individuals.
    --Students should limit hosting other students in their individual rooms and keep 6 feet (2 meters) of distance between individuals.
    --While faculty and staff may be in their campus offices, students should avoid walking in and instead call or email to schedule appointments to meet remotely.
  • Students will limit travel into Bennington to once per week and should use social distancing measures such as avoiding crowded areas and all events. This also applies to students with personal vehicles on campus and should limit the number of passengers in the vehicle to 1 other person who sits in the back seat rather than the passenger seat.
  • Students will not travel outside of the towns of Bennington or North Bennington, into other states or internationally. Students who do so are not permitted back on to campus or into campus housing.
  • Students who are ill - including cough, sneezing, sore throat, fever - should avoid in-person interactions with others and not be in common and public spaces.
    --Call Health Services, rather than walking in, to schedule an appointment and receive instructions.
  • No guests will be permitted on campus or in campus houses.

Our understanding of this virus is evolving as is the spread of this pandemic. We are in difficult and unsettling times. As such, new guidance is being issued rapidly and you should prepare that:

  • Campus operations may decrease further as health issues develop in Bennington and surrounding areas and impact staffing on campus.
  • In case of emergency or growing public health concerns, the government may impose limitations on public movement and businesses may close. Plan for what you may need in the event you are unable to leave campus and your house for any period of time.
  • In accordance with Bennington College’s 2018 agreement with the Vermont Department of Health, Greenwall may be used as a Public Point of Distribution (POD) site for the purpose of running mass clinics and/or distribution activities for disease prevention and/or control.
  • If you decide at any point to return home, you must notify Christine Winget, provide her with your travel itinerary, clean out your room, and return your room key.

Our campus is operational, but will need to look and feel very different in order to protect you, those who care for you and the broader community. This is guidance we are all taking seriously, even in our own homes, and we understand how constraining it feels. We are developing ways to stay virtually connected as a community but we must act and act quickly for the health and safety of our entire campus community.

Staying Connected
For information on how to stay connected, engaged and supported in this moment, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Psychological Services
For students living on campus who cannot go home to be with family for support during this stressful time, the Psychological Services Office is closed for face-to-face sessions, but therapists are available to speak to students for therapy on a confidential therapy platform. To make an appointment, please email Health Services. Our emergency on call therapist will also be available. You can contact the on call therapist at any time by calling Campus Safety.

For students off campus, please feel free to reach out to April Stein, Director of Psychological Services, or your clinician on campus for help finding support in your area.

March 22, 2020 -- Update on Staff Operations

To: Staff
From: Heather Faley, Director of Human Resources
 

Thank you for all that you are doing to keep our community as healthy and safe as possible as the situation around COVID-19 continues to unfold. We appreciate the support that you’ve shown one another and your patience as the College continues to assess and reassess our response to this unprecedented health crisis. 

Of utmost importance to us is supporting your health and well being, as well as making you aware of new developments as quickly as possible. We are working hard to keep pace with this rapidly evolving situation and write to provide you with critical new information and updates.  We apologize for sending this over the weekend but feel it is important to disseminate this information as soon as possible, as we know that you continue to have questions and concerns. 

New York State Stay-in-Place Order

New York State has implemented a Stay-in-Place Order effective Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 8:00 pm. The Order requires a 100% reduction of the in-person workforce in any business location for businesses that are not deemed essential. This means no employees are to work from any workforce location unless the business has been placed on the exception list. 

Although Bennington College is not a New York employer, we know some of you live in the surrounding New York communities and are likely wondering how this order will affect you and your work. While not required to do so, the College has decided to follow the New York Stay-in-Place Order for our employees who reside in New York. We view this as a prudent measure.

Essential staff working at educational institutions in the following areas are exempt from this order: Bookstore, Buildings & Grounds, Business Office, Campus Safety, Dining Services, Health and Psychological Services, Human Resources, Post Office, and the President’s Office.

If you are a staff member who works in another area of the College - a department not listed above - please refrain from reporting to work on campus as of this date and until further notice. If you have not yet done so, you should shift to working remotely as of Monday. Please reach out to your manager if you have questions. 

Change in Operations

The majority of students will have left campus by Monday evening. At that time, we anticipate that we can begin reducing the number of on-campus staff in Buildings & Grounds and Dining Services. These offices are working to develop initial staffing plans that will allow the College to maintain only the most essential and critical services on campus - those that are necessary to allow students to remain in a healthy  living and learning environment. Managers will be in touch directly with their respective staff members to provide information on these changes.

Alternate Work Arrangements/Time Away from Work

New Federal regulations have been passed that will provide leave time for eligible employees who are unable to work (or who can’t work from home) because of a school closure due to a COVID-19 crisis. As these regulations were just recently approved, the College - like many other organizations - is  working to learn how these changes apply to our staff. We will provide an update on this provision early next week.

In the meantime, the following options remain available to assist with meeting your personal and family needs:

  • Employees may request a temporary schedule change including an adjustment to your work hours or work schedule. Requests should be submitted to your manager.
  • Eligible employees with individual health concerns may request a workplace accommodation by contacting Human Resources.
  • Employees may continue to request the use of accrued vacation and leave time.

Monitoring Your Health

If you are sick at all with any cold or flu-like/COVID-19 symptoms, including  a fever or respiratory-illness symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath, please take preventative measures - stay home and contact your primary care provider and/or SVMC ExpressCare for screening and recommendations. Employees who are absent due to symptoms that are consistent with the flu and COVID-19 will be required to present a note from a doctor prior to returning to work. Please do not return to work until you receive medical clearance from your doctor and have been free of fever for 24 hours. Human Resources will follow up directly with the employee and the employee’s manager to secure a return-to-work note prior to the employees’ return to campus.

The College has temporarily altered its sick time policies in order to assist employees who need to be out of work and new Federal regulations have been implemented to provide additional assistance in these instances. Additional information about the Federal regulations will be forthcoming next week. 

In certain circumstances, time away from work may be covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act. An employee should consult with Human Resources on FMLA matters. Please continue to report your absences through ADP

Buildings/Space on Campus

The work of the College is continuing. However, only a select number of buildings on campus remain open for use. Please review the most current information on services and space here.

Resources and Support

Please contact Human Resources if you are experiencing financial hardship or need assistance and support in any way. Additionally, please use the resources of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as needed.


If you have questions, please contact hroffice@bennington.edu; we will do all that we can to respond to your inquiries throughout the weekend.

March 20, 2020 -- updated shuttle schedule

TO: Students
FR: Ken Collamore, Director of Campus Safety

Today and tomorrow, Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21 the local shuttle will continue as scheduled: tonight until 9:00 pm, and tomorrow from 11:00 am-9:00 pm. 

After tomorrow, the shuttle will have an updated schedule. These changes are in accordance with the continued health concerns, and efforts to implement social distancing and to limit exposure for our community and the larger Bennington community. 

Shuttles will only run on Saturdays; there will be no shuttles Sunday through Friday. 

Every Saturday beginning March 28, 2020, two shuttle vans will run concurrently from 10:00 am-6:00 pm. The second shuttle is to offset the two passenger limit per trip and provide ample time for all students to have an opportunity to ride the shuttle.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email me.

Thanks to everyone for the community-wide sense of responsibility to everyone's health and safety.

 

March 20, 2020--A Note About Student Departures

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

We are all adjusting to the new realities of the public health crisis we are in, and the uncertainty and change that is inherent to it, and I want to thank you for your care and flexibility during this incredibly difficult time. We have aimed over this past week to communicate our decisions to the community as quickly and clearly as possible, but we know that there are questions about some of these decisions. It is for this reason that I write to elaborate on the rationale behind some of the very tough choices we––like most residential colleges around the country––have had to make.

As we have continued to monitor and assess the steady increase in the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Vermont, our region, nationally, and globally––as well as the projections for its growth in the coming weeks––we are guided above all by our responsibility for the health and safety of Bennington students, faculty, and staff. The decision to shift to remote learning was made because we need to significantly reduce the on-campus population. Every public health official and epidemiology expert has been urging social distancing, and we have seen individual institutions, businesses, towns, and now states, mandating this action in the name of slowing the growth of the virus. Keeping the campus full or even half full presents a danger not only to you––our students, faculty, and staff––but also to the broader community, as it will strain the already limited healthcare infrastructure in our region. It is for this reason that we need every student who can leave campus to do so.

We determined the number of students who could safely be housed on campus in close consultation with state and local health experts. More than half of our students petitioned to remain on campus, and we had to set a high threshold for approving requests to best protect those students whose only option is to stay on campus––and to protect those staff members who cannot work remotely and will be providing these students with essential services and support. Please know that these decisions are extremely difficult, and being made with care and consideration for each and every student––and for all students and the larger Bennington community at the same time. For those students who are leaving campus this week, we truly appreciate your understanding of the need to help protect both the students who must remain and the larger community.

For those students who have not been approved to stay at Bennington, and for whom leaving campus presents specific difficulties, we are doing everything possible to help you, ranging from emergency travel grants to campus storage for your belongings to free transportation to Albany International Airport and Albany-Rensselaer Train Station. We will keep working with each of you as you prepare to leave campus.

We at Bennington College are as connected today as we have ever been. The compassion and empathy exhibited by this community as this crisis unfolds has been inspiring.

With gratitude,
Isabel

 

March 13, 2020

announcing the transition to remote learning -- read the full message

March 12, 2020

Sharing the FAQ -- read the full message

An update for families -- read the full message

 

March 11, 2020

Sharing that we have a student who is currently being tested -- read the full message

 

March 10, 2020 (Survey)

To: All students
From: Zeke Bernstein, dean of research planning and assessment

In light of the presence of the novel coronavirus in our local community, and as at many colleges and universities in affected areas, we are planning for the possibility of moving some or substantially most of our courses into an online setting. This might involve video conferencing, exchange of information or assignments via email or digital drop-boxes, or other forms of online teaching and learning.

As we prepare for this possibility, we want to assess whether you have the technology that you would need for this transition. Please take a minute to fill out the very brief survey linked here:

https://forms.gle/WjvTixybgByQeUgT9

As the situation evolves, we will be in touch with more details and information in the coming days.

March 9, 2020

Read the message

March 8, 2020

Read the message

March 5, 2020

Read the message

March 2, 2020

regarding AWP -- read the message

February 12, 2020

Read the message. 

January 29, 2020

Read the message.

students walking on campus play video
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July 17 Forum with Senior Staff