FAQ for Students

Last updated on September 21, 2020 at 4:19 pm ET.

Health and Safety Practices and the Commitment of Shared Responsibility

General Prevention Measures

We encourage all community members to take measures to protect themselves to prevent the spread of these viruses as outlined below:

Both the influenza virus and the novel coronavirus have similar recommendations for prevention and protection:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. 
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home and away from public places when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, cough down into your elbow, and never into your hand.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Additionally, it is recommended to get a flu shot if you have not already done so this season. The closest place to campus to receive a flu shot is Hannaford’s Pharmacy.   

What is the Commitment of Shared Responsibility?

The Commitment of Shared Responsibility is an agreement signed by all faculty, staff, and students of Bennington College, outlining the required health and safety protocols and behavioral expectations.

How will the Commitment of Shared Responsibility be upheld?

Our goal is to keep all members of the community safe and healthy. In the same way we are asking all members of the community to share cleaning responsibilities because it would be impossible for Buildings and Grounds to clean every surface after every time is it touched, we are asking all members of the community to help in the upholding of the Commitment through direct and respectful dialogue with each other. In acknowledgement that there may be situations, due to power differentials or other dynamics, that could cause someone to feel unable to engage in direct dialogue, community members may also share concerns through an online form and will be provided with guidance on navigating next steps. 

We anticipate that most 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. 

If there is a major violation of Commitment by the staff, students, or faculty, the College is required to act in accordance with the Mandatory Guidance for Residential Campus Learning, issued by the State of Vermont on July 3, 2020 as follows:

 “Institutions shall enforce this contract, and immediately remove any student who violates major public safety components of the contract (such as quarantine requirements) from campus for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Because of public health, existing judicial processes must err on the side of public health and remove a student from potentially further endangering the community by immediately removing the student from the campus. Faculty and staff who choose not to wear a face covering or follow existing public health safety standards shall face immediate disciplinary action.”

(*New Content* 9/1/2020)
The mechanism by which major 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, which is composed of students, faculty, and staff. 

What if I want to live in campus housing but I don’t want to sign the Commitment of Shared Responsibilities because I don’t agree with it?

No student will be permitted to live in campus housing without signing and adhering to the Commitment of Shared Responsibility. The Commitment of Shared Responsibility is being given to students in advance to allow each student an opportunity to consider and decide if living on campus under these terms is what they want to do.

What are the health monitoring protocols for students, faculty, and staff?

All students, faculty, and staff will be required to self-screen and certify the results by completing the daily health screening to confirm that their temperature is within a range that does not exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit and that they 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). If anyone is unable to obtain a thermometer due to significant financial constraints, they should contact Student Life (students) or Human Resources (staff/faculty).

What are the expectations for wearing masks?

All staff, faculty, and students must wear cloth face coverings in any public or shared space on campus, including outside spaces where 6 feet / 2 meters distancing is not possible. Students and faculty should wear masks in classrooms. All participants should wear masks for advising sessions and other meetings with students, faculty, and staff. When outdoors, and more than six feet apart from one another, people may use their discretion, but everyone should carry masks with them, in the event they are needed.

Will the College provide masks?

The College will provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all essential staff whose job responsibilities require it. All other members of the community are expected to bring their own cloth face coverings. (Masks are available for purchase in the Book Store, and you can make your own per CDC instructions.)

Is there a plan to provide and implement wash stations on campus for enhanced hygiene?

In addition to handwashing available in all campus restrooms, we will be distributing hand sanitizer stations throughout campus to promote frequent hand sanitization.

COMMIT

(*New Content* 9/1/2020) What if I have a concern about someone not complying with the Commitment of Shared Responsibility?

Our goal is to keep all members of the community safe and healthy. In the same way we are asking all members of the community to share cleaning responsibilities because it would be impossible for Buildings and Grounds to clean every surface after every time it is touched, we are asking all members of the community to help in the upholding of the Commitment. 

Direct dialogue between members of the community at the time of the incident will almost always be the most effective way to address a concern. We also understand that there may be situations, due to power differentials or other dynamics, that could cause someone to feel unable to engage in direct dialogue. 

In situations where direct dialogue was not possible, community members can share concerns through this form.

If the situation is an emergency contact Campus Safety by dialing 767 (SOS) on campus or 802-447-4250 from any non-campus phone. 

Testing and CoVerified 

When is student arrival testing?

August 19, 20, 21, 27, 31 and September 7. 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. Students are also encouraged to get tested before they leave home, if possible.

What happens if I test positive?

Students who test positive will be contacted directly by Health Services if their result is positive with instructions and next steps.  

Daily health 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).

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.  

What is CoVerified?

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 will the College 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.

Will there also be rolling testing?

Yes. 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. 

What is the overall plan for adjusting the re-opening process, should there be cases on campus or in the area?

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.

 

Classes and Academics 

What is the College's Fall Term plan?

For an overview of the plan, please refer to this message, which was shared with the Bennington community.

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.

Why is the Fall term split into two seven-week blocks?

This is to promote student success in the face of significant uncertainty. One of the clearest messages students sent during the spring term was that it was exceedingly challenging to balance four or more courses in a remote setting. Given that some domestic students may want or need to attend their courses remotely for some or all of the term, we needed a structure that allows flexibility and for students to be able to focus on their work. By splitting the term, a full load for students will be two four-credit courses in each half-term. Faculty and administrators agreed that a split term would provide for the greatest flexibility for teaching and, therefore, would provide for the best outcome and experience for students.

What are the dates of the seven-week blocks?

The blocks will be September 1 through October 15, and October 20 through December 11.

How will the new calendar affect my courses?

The learning goals of courses will not change with this new structure, but the pace of courses will be accelerated, and they will meet for more hours per week than they typically would. Four-credit courses will meet for a total of eight hours per week for seven weeks, instead of four hours per week for fourteen weeks. Faculty are adjusting the design of their courses to suit the accelerated pace.

What does a hybrid course look like and why are we having them?

Hybrid courses are those that have students learning in-person and remotely simultaneously. We decided to offer most courses in this way to ensure access to as much as the curriculum as possible for students who will not be able to come to campus in the fall, as well as to ensure that any student who needs to temporarily stay away from their classrooms for health reasons will be able to continue working with their faculty and peers.

Will there be other changes to courses?

Yes, primarily to ensure the safety of students, staff, and faculty. Specifically, classrooms will have lower occupancy limits to conform to social distancing protocols. Some larger campus spaces, such as Commons Atrium, UpCaf, and Deane Carriage Barn, may be used as classrooms to accommodate courses with larger enrollments. Students and faculty will wear face masks during class sessions.

Will there be performance-based courses?

Yes. Courses in Drama, Dance and Music will be held. Faculty are keenly aware of the unique safety concerns around the activities that many of these courses would normally require and are adapting in a number of ways. It is, for example, difficult to sing or project your voice effectively when wearing a mask, so some performance-based courses will be more effectively taught remotely, even when the faculty and students are on campus. Activities in other courses may be adapted to be taught in-person in a manner that is consistent with safety protocols.

Will there be a break between the two seven-week blocks?

Yes, there will be a Long Weekend from October 16-19, between the two seven-week blocks, but, to maintain the safety of everyone in the campus community, students must stay on campus during that time.

Are we, like many other colleges, completing Fall term before Thanksgiving?

No, we are keeping our start and end dates as previously published on our Academic Calendar. We understand that some students will choose to return home for the Thanksgiving holiday and complete the remainder of their courses and work remotely.

Can I be on campus for just one of the two seven-week blocks?

Domestic students cannot study remotely for the first seven-week block and then come to campus for the second seven-week block because all quarantining and testing will be implemented before the start of the fall term on September 1. There may be exceptions, on a case-by-case basis, for international students who cannot arrive in August due to travel restrictions and delayed visa processing as a result of closed embassies. Students who choose to leave campus at any point in the term, including for Long Weekend or Thanksgiving Break, will need to complete the remainder of the term remotely.

Field Work Term 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic poses new challenges to the world of work. We know that these challenges impact each student differently, based on personal factors, location, and fields of interest. In light of this, the 2021 Field Work Term emphasizes a flexible timeframe and flexible options (particularly remote options) so that students may prioritize their health and safety while still having meaningful professional experiences. We are eager to be in conversation with you about your needs, preferences, and the field work options available to you.

The information below is also found on our Field Work Term & COVID-19 page. We know there is a lot to think about when considering what field work type and timeframe are right for you. We encourage you to meet with us to discuss options. Whether you are learning on-campus or remotely, you can book an FWT Advising Appointment here.

What are my options in light of the challenges COVID-19 presents? 

Flexible Timeframe and Options

To allow students to pursue a broad array of work-learning experiences, and in recognition of the challenges posed by COVID-19, students have the flexibility to complete their annual work experience during several possible timeframes. These include the winter and summer Field Work Term periods, the dates of which are found here. We know that many students will prefer to defer their field work to the summer, and this option will be approved for all students who request it. Students may also propose to complete their field work over the course of an academic year, through a campus job that meets the criteria of an FWT site. At any time in the year, students may also complete hours toward their FWT requirement through remote internships, or through short-term, paid remote projects known as microinternships.

International students please be advised that during the academic term, you are not permitted to work more than 20 hours per week across all jobs and internships, including on-campus employment. As always, you must consult with International Student Services to obtain Curricular Practical Training work authorization approval for any remote internships and microinternships, and the experience must be integral to your major course of study and registered and approved for FWT. International students must have CPT work authorization approval before they begin working. CPT cannot be issued retroactively. In addition, international students studying on-campus are eligible for work authorization (CPT) after they complete one full academic year (two semesters at Bennington). This means that first year international students are not able to accept remote internships or microinternships before Summer 2021.

There are also a range of field work options that students may pursue, based on personal and health-related needs and preferences, and recognizing that in certain sectors traditional internships are more competitive than usual. Alternatives to traditional internships include: remote or "virtual" internships, multiple microinternships, College-sponsored fellowships, online professional trainings, eligible on-campus employment, and independent study with a faculty member. Keep in mind that a well-crafted resume and cover letter are critical in a saturated internship market. Students are strongly encouraged to meet with us for feedback on application materials and mock interviews.

Remote Work or On-Site Work

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year we anticipate that the majority of students will complete remote FWT experiences and/or will choose to complete their field work in the summer. All students who prefer to pursue a remote field work experience are encouraged to do so; no special approval is required, and remote positions will be approved as long as they meet the standard requirements of a Field Work Term site.

Remote internships have become increasingly common. Check out our Remote Internship Guide for tips on landing a remote internship and making the most of your experience. In Handshake, you can use the "remote work allowed" label to search remote FWT positions and remote general internships. You can also use our new tool Parker Dewey to apply for paid, remote freelance projects known as "microinternships." (Note: Many microinternships are competitive, so we recommend scheduling a virtual resume and cover letter review appointment before applying.)

Additionally, there are many free online professional trainings that students can complete for all or part of their FWT hours. Professional trainings are a great way to enhance your resume in a challenging employment landscape. All Bennington College students can obtain free access to Lynda.com's trainings and courses by registering for a McCullough Library account. Other platforms such as EdX and Coursera offer some entirely free courses, and the ability to "audit" courses for free. See our Professional Training Option page for details on the types of trainings that can count for FWT, and how to log your hours.

If you are considering on-site work, please note that it is your full responsibility to research the health and safety risks and appropriate precautions, as the College is not able to make this assessment for individual worksites. This includes but is not limited to: researching the official safety recommendations specific to your location, consulting with your family and/or considering against personal factors, and discussing site-specific safety issues with your prospective employer. Details are available in the Release, Waiver, and Acknowledgement of Risk Statement, which all students sign as part of their Field Work Term registration. Though students may pursue on-site work experiences if they feel comfortable doing so after carefully evaluating the risks, they are encouraged to consider the flexible alternatives.

International Travel

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to new restrictions on international travel. Given the US State Department's current COVID-19 Traveler Information, at this moment Field Work Term experiences outside of the US will generally not be approved, except for in a student's home country. (Understanding that some international students may have special circumstances that justify completing their FWT somewhere other than the US or their home country, limited exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.)

International students wishing to travel home for FWT are strongly encouraged to speak with International Student Services to discuss potential concerns related to re-entry into the US. As always, students will be required to sign the Release, Waiver, and Acknowledgement of Risk Statement, and are responsible for researching and staying up-to-date on the visa regulations and health and safety information relevant to the country they are proposing to visit.

I prefer to work remotely for personal and/or health reasons. Can I do that?

Yes. We know that remote experiences are preferable for many students and employers at this time. Remote internships, microinternships, and online professional trainings will be approved as long as they meet the standard requirements of a Field Work Term site. Check out our Remote Internship Guide to understand the unique benefits and challenges of remote internships and how to secure one, and check out our Professional Training Option page for details on completing free online professional trainings for Field Work Term.

I want to complete an on-site work experience that I found on my own. Can I do that?

Yes, with important caveats. If you are considering an on-site work experience, it is your full responsibility to research the health and safety risks and appropriate precautions. This includes but is not limited to: researching the official safety recommendations specific to your location, consulting with your family and/or considering against personal factors, and discussing site-specific safety issues with your prospective employer. Details on the student's responsibilities are available in the Release, Waiver, and Acknowledgement of Risk Statement, which all students sign as part of their Field Work Term registration. No student will be required to complete on-site work, and remote work is an available option for anyone who prefers it.

I found an advertised Field Work Term position on Handshake that is on-site. Will I still be able to complete this experience despite the pandemic?

It depends. Field Work Term employers offering on-site internships have been advised of their responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy workplace according to official public health guidance. Depending on the state of the pandemic in the months ahead, some may choose to rescind their internships or convert them to remote. However, even for Field Work Term internships listed on Handshake, it remains the full responsibility of the student to research the health and safety risks and appropriate precautions when considering whether an on-site internship is right for you. See the question above for further details.

Are employers still offering internships?

Yes. Field Work Term internships from our network of employer partners are posted in Handshake for winter and summer 2021, and will continue to be posted throughout the year. These are in addition to hundreds of Handshake internship listings not specific to the Field Work Term program, microinternship opportunities, and positions that students may find through other online research or personal contacts.

That said, the internship market in many industries has become more competitive than before. We are here to support you in securing a meaningful professional experience in this challenging time. Students are strongly encouraged to make use of our online resources to guide you in searching, applying, and interviewing for opportunities, and to meet with us for further support.

I deferred my 2020 Field Work Term to summer 2021 due to the pandemic. Does that mean I need to complete two Field Work Term experiences in 2021?

In most cases, yes. Please note that you have the option to complete both experiences during the winter, summer, or over the course of the academic year. For example, you might choose to complete one 200-hour experience in the winter and one in the summer; or, an approved FWT-eligible campus job plus a 200-hour experience in the summer; or, two experiences totaling 400 hours over the summer. If you'd like help thinking through your options, schedule a meeting with us.

Are students studying remotely still required to complete a field work experience?

Yes. Students studying remotely may be particularly interested in pursuing remote internships, microinternships, or online professional trainings. Additionally, students are always encouraged to use their past experiences and personal connections to find a position in their hometown. As always, all of our office's resources—from Handshake, to our web resources, to advising meetings—are available to you whether you are studying remotely or on-campus.

What due dates do I need to know about? I'm worried that I won't have my Field Work Term plans figured out by the proposal due date. Will I be penalized?

All Field Work Term due dates for the year are listed here. The Field Work Term Proposal is intended to help you start thinking about the field work type and timeframe that would best serve your needs and learning goals, and to help our office understand your interests so that we can support you. You do not need to have a position secured by this date, and you will not be penalized if your Field Work Term plans change.

Are there any changes to the expectations for employers?

Workplace expectations for students and employers are outlined in the Student-Employer Agreement. The employer's responsibilities are largely the same as in previous years, though we have clarified the best practices for remote supervision.

What happens if my internship offer is withdrawn, or if I need to withdraw from my internship, due to circumstances related to the pandemic?

We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has created tumultuous circumstances in the world of work, and in many students' personal lives. If your internship is canceled or withdrawn, we will work with you to help you secure an alternative position or to consider a deferral of your FWT requirement. As always, no student will be penalized if they must change or defer their FWT due to health issues, safety concerns, or personal emergencies. The important thing is to communicate with us about any issues so that we may collaborate with you to navigate them.

Campus Spaces 

Recognizing that access to campus spaces is an important part of a students’ work, our goal is to make as many spaces as possible as accessible as possible—this includes VAPA, Jennings, studio spaces, labs, and classrooms.

In order to do this safely, there will be occupancy limits posted for each space to encourage physical distancing. Cleaning will be a collaborative effort between Buildings and Grounds cleaning staff and community members who use the space, as outlined in the Commitment of Shared Responsibilities, which asks users of shared spaces and tools to help clean and disinfect shared surfaces after use. Supplies will be provided to facilitate this.

What will VAPA's hours be? (*updated 8/20/20*) 

VAPA will be open from 8:00 am-midnight, Monday through Sunday. This will allow for the cleaning of the building and a refresh of air circulating throughout the space. There will be posted occupancy limits for spaces within VAPA. Users will need to actively participate in keeping spaces and shared tools clean.

How will social distancing in spaces work? Will there be sign-up sheets or reservations?

Occupancies for individual spaces will be posted based on social distancing guidelines. Users will be responsible for observing posted occupancies and other relevant guidelines for space use. We are working to determine the mechanisms for managing individual spaces, and they may vary; it may be up to individual studio users and departments to determine how best to manage their own spaces, labs, etc. in order to meet occupancy limits.

Will studios and labs have increased ventilation?

Mechanical ventilation will be increased where possible and appropriate; studios and labs generally already have ventilation levels that meet or exceed suggested air exchange rates. Actively ventilated areas of VAPA receive 100% fresh air, which eliminates any potential for distribution of “reused” air through the mechanical system.

Will students have access to spaces, even if faculty are teaching remotely?

Yes. We recognize that access to campus facilities is extremely important to all students at Bennington. As such, studio, performance, and lab spaces will be open for student work. They may be closed periodically to allow for proper cleaning, but most spaces will be accessible to students provided that social distancing measures and posted occupancies are adhered to.

Residential Life/Housing 

What to Expect When You Arrive

Student arrival to campus will begin August 21 and will be staggered to allow for COVID-19 testing capacity and physical distancing during move-in. Later this month, students will be contacted to choose a preferred day and time for arrival. In accordance with the State of Vermont’s travel restriction guidelines, students are permitted to bring two people to campus to assist with campus move-in.  

Arrival Quarantine & Testing

Every Bennington student will be tested for COVID-19. Students who reside outside of Vermont in high-prevalence areas will have a test within 48 hours of arrival and a second test after day 7 of their quarantine. Students from Vermont and others who are not required to quarantine will be tested after day 7 of their arrival to campus.  

We are planning to use the Residence Hall Quarantine model as outlined by the State of Vermont Mandatory Guidance for Residential Campus Learning for our initial arrival quarantine period (7-14 days). During this time, students will be asked to remain in their assigned house communities and only interact with others within their house communities. Once students have taken a COVID-19 test and received a negative result, they can interact with the larger campus and community. After the initial quarantine period, to help facilitate social distancing, students will only have card access to the house in which they are assigned. Students will be asked to use all mitigation factors—including wearing facial coverings, maintaining physical distance and hand-washing hygiene—in all scenarios in which they are interacting with others.

How does quarantine work when you have a roommate? 

Currently, for the arrival period, we are planning to use the Residence Hall Quarantine model as outlined by the State of Vermont in its College Restart Plan for our initial arrival quarantine period (7-14 days). This allows for individuals within the same house community to quarantine together. Our goal is to have as many students as possible living in single rooms, but students who choose to have or are assigned a roommate should use all outlined guidelines and best practices for prevention of spread—including good hand hygiene, cleaning, limiting interactions with others, and physical distancing as much as possible within their rooms. 

If a student is remote for fall term, will they get their room in their house which they selected during housing when they return in the spring? 

Student preferences for these new housing assignments will be honored to the best of our ability. However, in order to decrease the occupancy in houses, some students may need to be reassigned to other house communities. If a student is fully remote in the Fall 2020 term, but plans to return in the Spring 2021 term, we do our best to honor their housing preferences, but cannot guarantee that a space in their preferred house will be available. 

What are some ideas and options for how Bennington can create and maintain community without large social gatherings? Will you allow student input?

Bennington’s social life is constantly evolving and is shaped by student interest and involvement, and this will continue to guide its direction. We will need to think creatively together about how to do this, as many of our usual events in the ways they’ve been planned previously won’t be possible within the public health guidelines, but we are eager to work with students to discover what is possible. We were excited to see the ways that the students on PAC reimagined SunFest during Spring 2020 and are confident that this type of thinking is possible as we enter Fall 2020.  

In an effort to minimize the potential risks associated with COVID-19, along with giving access to events for students who are engaging in 100% remote learning, campus events should take place within the digital landscape whenever possible (Zoom/Google Hangouts/online chat rooms, etc.) This includes any events on behalf of/curated by College sanctioned programming bodies, clubs, organizations, or individuals. 

We will continue to monitor guidance from state and local officials regarding hosting events and gatherings on campus. Groups should be aware that any events that are permitted to be held in-person will need to adhere to reduced occupancy of minimally 50%.   

Arrival on Campus and Quarantine 

Student arrival to campus will begin August 21 and will be staggered to allow for COVID-19 testing capacity and physical distancing for move-in. Students are permitted to bring two people who meet the State of Vermont travel restriction guidelines to campus to assist with campus move-in. Students will be sent information regarding move-in dates and procedures later in July.

No student will be allowed to move into campus housing if they have a temperature above 100 degrees or are symptomatic. Currently, all out-of-state students who do not reside in low prevalence areas as identified by the State of Vermont must be tested upon arrival and then quarantined for 7-14 days, pending the result of a second COVID-19 test after day 7.     

Students will quarantine on campus within their house with other students assigned to their house community following state guidelines of a Residence Hall Quarantine model. During this quarantine, students may not interact with anyone not a part of their assigned house communities. Students will quarantine within their house community for a minimum of 7 days and, if they remain symptom-free, they will then be tested for COVID-19. If test results are negative, students are subsequently permitted to move about campus and interact with others outside of their house, following all guidelines noted in the Commitment of Shared Responsibility. If a student develops symptoms and/or tests positive for COVID-19, the student will be moved to an isolation house, and members of the house community will need to continue quarantine.

During the initial arrival quarantine period, dining services will provide “family-style” meals to each house community. Deliveries will be made at lunch and at dinner times. All meals will be nut-free and include vegan and gluten-free options. The dinner delivery will include breakfast items for the following day. 

Our goal is that as many on-campus students as possible can be in-person on the first day of classes. Students should also be prepared that they may need to be quarantined during the first few weeks of classes, depending on the outcome of their individual and house quarantine period.

Does everyone from out of state have to quarantine when they come to campus?

Currently, the VT Department of Health is allowing people to waive the quarantine rule if they are arriving by car (stopping only for fuel) from counties of equal or lower prevalence of COVID-19 than the State average (presently 400 cases per 1 million population). Those who arrive by mass transit (e.g. airplane, bus, train) or who have to stop overnight still need to quarantine. Those currently residing in VT do not need to quarantine, but still need to be tested on day 7 after arrival on campus

How long will quarantine be?

We plan to implement an accelerated quarantine of 7 days, with testing on day 7, and release from quarantine based on results. Results currently have a 24-48 hour turnaround time, but this could be longer with nearly 50,000 students entering the state at about the same time. The current plan is to have as many students as possible complete quarantine in time to attend in-person classes, which are scheduled to start on September 1.

Travel To and From Campus 

Will travel to and from campus will be limited?

In order to limit the campus exposure to COVID-19, we are taking the following measures related to travel:

  • Faculty who typically commute have been asked to stay on campus for the duration of the fall term or teach remotely.
     
  • We ask that all community members on campus to limit their travel to counties of equal or lower prevalence of COVID-19 than the State average (presently 400 cases per 1 million population).
     
  • The campus shuttle will provide limited service to the local area.
     
  • Students will limit personal travel to local areas and low-prevalence areas listed in Vermont’s Cross State Travel Information. If a student decided to travel to an area outside of the approved areas they must finish the term remotely. We understand that some students will choose to return home for the Thanksgiving holiday and complete the remainder of their courses and work remotely.

What International Students Need to Know  

This spring when colleges and universities in the US were closing campuses and shifting instruction and advising to remote platforms, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) made an exception to the physical presence rule and allowed students with F-1 visas to complete courses that had shifted to online delivery.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) distributed a summary of potential fall 2020 guidance on July 6. We are still waiting on the publication of the Temporary Final Rule and updated FAQs from SEVP, which should offer more specific details. Since we have heard from many of you who are confused about what this means, we explain below the potential guidance as we understand it at this time. 

We have broken this information into two main categories: information for students who are in the U.S. (or are able and planning to return to the U.S. and Bennington for the Fall 2020 term) AND information for students who are outside of the U.S. (that cannot/do not want to return to the U.S. and Bennington for the Fall 2020 term). 

Students currently in the U.S. or who able to and planning to return to the US and Bennington for the Fall 2020 term:

Bennington’s hybrid model and the physical presence rule:

  • Bennington has planned a hybrid model for the Fall 2020 term, with some of our courses being taught entirely asynchronous (online) and others being offered in person (for students who can be/will be on campus). Based on our current understanding of the SEVP guidance, it appears that the physical presence rule has been relaxed for students studying on campus at a school with a hybrid model. The guidance states that students at an institution with a hybrid model will be allowed to take “more than one class or three credit hours online”, as long as the PDSO can certify that "the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program." 
    •  We are currently awaiting further insight from our SEVP representative to better understand this guidance and exactly how many courses a student is expected to take in person and how many they are able to take online in the Fall. As we have more information we will share it with you. 

Bennington’s Fall 2020 curriculum and in person vs. online courses

  • For students studying on campus in the fall, courses that are fully asynchronous in the Curriculum are considered online courses by SEVP (here is an example).  
     
  • For students studying on campus in the fall, the following types of courses/course structures will all count as in-person courses based on SEVP’s definitions:
     
    • All courses where students are expected to come together at a specific date and time, at a specific location on campus. 
       
    • All courses where students are expected to come together at a specific date and time, at a specific location on campus, for part of the course and to be asynchronous for another part of the course (here is an example). 
       
    • All courses where students are expected to meet as a group in person, as a group on campus, for class, even in cases where the faculty member joins via  video conference. 

Since we often see some changes in the curriculum prior to the start of the term (cancelled classes, changes in faculty, etc.), we encourage you to review your program now to see if any of your courses will be fully asynchronous. You should plan to review your program again as we near the start of the term. We will work closely with the Registrar’s Office to understand changes as they occur and share that information with you.

Bennington’s two 7-week blocks and the full-time requirement:

  • Students will need to take at least 12 credits to earn full-time status and full-time financial aid. International students will need to take at least 6 credits in each block to meet the F-1 visa full-time requirement.

Students currently outside of the U.S. and unable to or planning not to return to the US and Bennington for the Fall 2020 term:

Bennington’s hybrid model and the physical presence rule:

  • Because Bennington College is offering in-person instruction in the Fall, students who cannot or do not return to campus are not able to maintain F-1 status. This is a shift from the guidance we received this Spring and Summer. For the Fall 2020 term, international students in F-1 status will not be permitted to take a full program online from inside or outside of the U.S. if their college or university is offering in person instruction. 
     
  • Unless there is an update to the guidance we received on July 6, if you cannot or do not return to Bennington College, your SEVIS record will be terminated. When a student's SEVIS record is terminated, their F-1 visa becomes invalid. When the student is ready and able to resume their education, they need to complete the Certificate of Finance (COF) and show proof that they have the funds to pay tuition, room, board, and personal expenses for their remaining terms at Bennington. After the Financial Aid Office has reviewed and verified the students COF, ISS can create a new initial I-20 document. After the I-20 document is issued, the student has to pay the SEVIS fee and use payment confirmation to schedule a visa interview. It is important to understand that with a new initial I-20, a student must complete a full academic year (two terms at Bennington) before they are eligible for work authorization (CPT or OPT). As you know, students use CPT to complete FWT’s off-campus in the U.S..

Travel Bans and closed U.S. Embassies and Consular Generals: 

  • There is currently a travel ban prohibiting anyone who has been in Brazil, China, European Schengen area, Iran, Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom from entering the U.S. If these or any new travel bans are in place at the start of the fall term, students who have been in these countries will not be able to enter the U.S. (Currently land borders between the U.S.,Canada, and Mexico, are closed to nonessential travel with a few exceptions. Students returning to attend educational institutions are one of these exceptions.)
     
  • U.S. Embassies are slowly starting to reopen, but the vast majority remain closed. If an international student is out of the U.S. with an expired visa they will not be able to return to the U.S. until they are able to renew their F-1 visa. New international students will not be able to enter the U.S. until they are able to secure an F-1 visa. 
     
    • International Student Services recommends that students who need to obtain or renew an F-1 student visa identify the US Embassy where they would like to apply for or renew their F-1 visa. Students can then review the U.S. Embassy webpage, email, or call for specific information about whether or not they are open, or have plans to open. 
       
    • If the U.S. Embassy closest to you is accepting emergency visa applications, you can call and ask if an F-1 visa application is considered an emergency, given that we are approaching the start of the new academic year.  

Range of potential options for students not able to/willing to return to the US for the Fall 2020 term:

Take a full online program from home through Bennington College:

  • Bennington College is exploring whether or not students who are not in F-1 status can legally take a full program of study online. When we have more information we will share it with you.

Study away at a U.S. College or University that is offering an online only program in the fall:

  • SEVP guidance states that “continuing F students outside of the United States, whose school of enrollment is only offering online classes, may remain in Active status in SEVIS if they are taking online courses and are able to meet the normal full course of study requirements…Only students enrolled at a school that is only offering online courses can engage in remote learning from their home country.”
     
  • Bennington is exploring the options to partner with U.S. colleges or universities that are only offering online courses so that Bennington students can enroll concurrently and maintain F-1 status, and stay on track to graduate on time from Bennington College. When we have more information we can share it with you.

Enroll in a Study Abroad program outside of the US:

  • Academic Services will work with returning international students their faculty advisors, and their Plan committees to explore options to study away if a student cannot or does not want to return to Bennington for the Fall 2020 term. Students should contact Xiomara Giordana if they would like to learn more or explore their options. 

Reissuing the Form I-20

  • We have been instructed to issue new Form I-20’s to each student certifying that the school is not operative entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the Fall 2020 term, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online courses required to make normal progress in their degree program (Plan). We will begin issuing new I-20’s to all international students, starting with students who are outside of the U.S. and able to and planning to return to the U.S. and Bennington for the Fall 2020 term this week. Please email iss@bennington.edu if you have a flight to the U.S. in the coming weeks so we can prioritize resending your form I-20.

Who do I contact about additional questions?

Students and families can contact International Student Services with questions and concerns regarding how the new guidance impacts their fall enrollment decisions. As more details are known, ISS will update international students via direct email, and we will update this website.

Dining 

We know that dining together is one of the highlights of the Bennington experience and that the array of options is critical to health and well-being. With this in mind, the logistics of dining may feel a little different to returning students, but Chef Steve and his team have developed a delicious menu for the fall and a plan to deliver it just a bit more creatively to ensure your safety.

During the initial arrival quarantine period, dining services will provide “family-style” meals to each house community. All meals will be nut-free and include vegan and gluten-free options. Deliveries will be made at lunch and at dinner times. The dinner delivery will include breakfast items for the following day. 

Once the quarantine period has been completed, the Commons Dining Room will open for student-only dining. The occupancy of the Commons Dining Room will be reduced and, therefore, not all students will be able to have in-person dining in the Commons Dining Room for every meal or every day. Student Life and the House Chairs will coordinate an in-person dining schedule. Students are always welcome to dine in their houses and outdoor seating will be increased to provide additional space. Roz’s Cafe will also be open for coffee drinks and pastries to-go.

Meal service at the Commons Dining Room will include plated meals for those eating in-person in the Commons Dining Room and will provide compostable to-go containers for those not eating in-person. Should a student need to be isolated during the term, meals will be delivered directly to their door until the isolation period has ended. We will work closely with each student during this time to ensure dietary restrictions are accommodated.

Campus Cleaning Protocols

Shared spaces and facilities will be cleaned daily using CDC-recommended practices in which all Buildings & Grounds cleaning staff have been trained. However, due to the impossibility of continuous cleaning, we will also rely upon community members to participate in cleaning high-touch surfaces and shared tools after use to ensure the safest environment for all. This is a component of the Commitment of Shared Responsibility, which everyone—all staff, faculty, and students—is required to sign before returning to campus.

What plans do you have for additional cleaning or "deep cleaning" of the facilities?

Shared spaces within academic and residential buildings will be cleaned by trained College housekeeping staff at least once a day following CDC-recommended practices. Cleaning protocols within other spaces will vary depending on frequency and type of use. 

What will the cleaning protocol be for houses and other shared spaces on campus?

Common spaces (living rooms, bathrooms, corridors, etc.) within student residential buildings will be cleaned daily utilizing CDC-recommended practices. Cleaning of individual dorm rooms will remain the responsibility of the occupants. However, we are happy to consult and provide guidance regarding cleaning practices.

Cleaning of shared spaces, such as labs and studios, will be a collaborative effort between Buildings and Grounds cleaning staff and community members who use the space, as outlined in the Commitment of Shared Responsibilities; users will be expected to help clean and disinfect shared surfaces and tools after use. Supplies will be provided to support this.

Campus Employment and Financial Questions

What kind of work opportunities will be provided?

Students studying on-campus in Fall 2020 will be given the opportunity to apply for low-contact, in-person jobs, which will become available to eligible students in Handshake starting mid-July. Many of these jobs will be different from what has been available previously. We have worked closely with all departments to source enough low-contact jobs to meet the number of work-eligible students (see details below). As in previous terms, to support an equitable process, students who wish to continue working in a previously held job must reapply in Handshake and be re-approved for hire.

How many hours can I work per week?

Our goal is for every student awarded need-based campus employment to be able to earn their full allocation in their financial aid award. Students with the typical work allotment of $1,150 would need to work between 7-8 hours per week to use that allotment during a term. Fall 2020 jobs have been restructured so that the vast majority of positions will offer 7-8 hours per week, allowing work-eligible students to hold one job to meet their allotment.

To help meet hiring gaps, work-eligible returning students who wish to obtain a second 7-8 hour weekly job (totaling 14-16 hours weekly) can now be approved to do so, after completing the two-question Google Form that was shared with all eligible students.

Can I still work if I don’t have a work allotment in my financial aid package?

With a goal of providing earning access to our neediest students, students without need-based work allotments in their financial aid packages will no longer be eligible to apply for work. We understand that this is a significant shift. If students have questions about their work award status, they may contact financial aid or review their aid award on My Financial Aid.

Can I work remotely?

The College is not able to approve any remote student employment after the end of the Spring 2020 term, due to budget constraints and employment laws. We understand that students and families rely on the work allotment in their financial aid packages to cover their costs. Given this, work allotments will be removed and replaced with comparable Bennington aid for all full-time students who are studying remotely. The addition of this aid in place of an allotment will reduce the amount owed on Populi for the term or, in some cases, result in a credit, which will be refunded to students. This aid will be disbursed on the same schedule as all other aid. Students and families should contact financial aid with questions about their individual packages.

Will there be a change in tuition and fees if a student is remote?

The same tuition and activities fee will be paid by all students whether in person or remote. Housing, meals, and the health center fee will not be charged for students who study remotely.

Will there be consequences if families need to retract the student re-enrollment before fall term starts?

No, students do not incur new costs until they arrive on campus and begin eating meals, living in housing, or taking classes. The student bill and student’s decision to enroll remotely are both due by August 1. Any prior balances will still be due.

What is the last day I can withdraw / take a leave without financial charges?

Students should make their decision to return to campus by August 1 to ensure housing, arrival schedules, and staffing are appropriate for the population. Academic charges for tuition will begin accruing after August 31. Housing and/or meal charges will begin accruing when a student arrives on campus. Once classes begin, the Refund and Withdrawal Policy will apply. Full charges are earned for the block after 20 days of attendance.

Will the 7-week/7-week structure change my total financial aid?

No, the flexible structure will not change the amount of a student’s financial aid provided they remain enrolled as a full-time student and earn at least 12 credits cumulatively during the term. Aid will be disbursed at the beginning of each 7 week block, based on the student’s enrollment for that block.

What if I am only taking one class in the first block?

Until the student is actively engaged in (at least part-time) studies of 6 credits or more, no financial aid will be disbursed. If the student leaves for any reason after taking only one course, the student will not be eligible for financial aid and will be responsible for the charges for that one course. Financial aid award letters are offered based on full-time enrollment for the term. Refer to the Withdrawal and Refund Policy for more information about timing of withdrawals during the term.

What happens to financial aid if the College shifts to fully remote learning during the term due to a spike in the virus?

Just as it was calculated in the spring term, student charges and financial aid will be calculated per day, based on charges and aid being earned-by-attendance. 76% of the financial aid a student receives is offered to assist with tuition. 13% is offered toward housing, and 11% is offered to assist students with meal plans. Aid will be adjusted (per day) in the area where there was a change. If the student remains enrolled in Distance Education after returning home, then 76% of their aid will remain eligible for the remainder of the term to assist with tuition. 24% will be adjusted on a per-day basis for meals (11%) and housing (13%) not earned-by-attendance. Charges on Populi will be adjusted at the same per-day rate used to calculate standard withdrawals.

What happens if we pay for the term and then only attend the first 7-week block?

Students who withdraw before attending any classes in the second block will receive a credit to their charges in Populi for that block. Any anticipated aid will be removed from the second block and future scheduled loan disbursements cancelled for the second 7-week block. Any credit from overpayment remaining on the account will be returned to the family, if desired, as per our Withdrawal and Refund Policy and federal regulations. Students may also keep credit balances of overpayments on account for future terms, if they choose. We are required to process PLUS loan refunds based on the initial method the borrower requested on the PLUS loan application. Outside Scholarships may need to be returned to the granting organizations if they were not earned-by-attendance. Students should work closely with the Academic Dean and Student Life Offices to verify their enrollment and attendance. Documentation and notification dates are essential for financial tracking.

Technology and Wi-Fi

The College has been in the process of a three-year, campus-wide network upgrade, which includes upgraded Wi-Fi access points in all student housing. The student housing Wi-Fi  upgrade was completed during winter Field Work Term 2020, and the spring 2020 term, after COVID-19 response, was spent tweaking the network configuration. While we can never guarantee that there will be no network issues, the College’s investment in the network over the past three years, including Wi-Fi  in student houses, will greatly improve the student experience and make us able to far better participate in courses delivered remotely from student housing.