From the President

Monday Message from President Walker—January 25, 2021

The following message was sent to Students, Families, Faculty, and Staff on January 25, 2021.

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Families,

Field Work Term is drawing to a close and we are all eagerly anticipating Spring Term. At the forefront of everyone’s minds today are questions about arrival logistics, vaccinations, and our plans to stay safe as this pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world. The following is an overview of those considerations. For more detailed information for students and their families, faculty and staff, I encourage you to visit our COVID-19 Information page. 

Campus is Still Mostly Free of COVID-19

Despite national trends, we have managed to keep the virus at bay here at Bennington, with no student cases after fall arrivals, and 10 employee cases since Thanksgiving. As of today, there are no active cases on campus, although one employee who works remotely has contracted the virus. These numbers are a testament to your adherence to the Commitment of Shared Responsibility and for that you should be proud. But the pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better and we are going to need more of that Bennington compassion and discipline in the coming months. As positive rates continue to soar around the country, keeping these more transmittable strains out of our community will require renewed vigilance. 

Student Arrival

Students arrive on campus February 13-14. Each student will receive a COVID-19 test upon arrival and will need to complete an in-room quarantine until receiving a negative test result.  Once students receive their negative arrival test, they will then move to an in-house quarantine where students are expected to wear a mask at all times and to maintain 6 feet/2 meters of physical distance, and wash their hands regularly. The second test for all students will occur on Monday, February 22; students will be released by house once all cohabitating students have received a negative test result. As a reminder, we are asking all students to please fill out this form indicating their plans for Spring Term by January 28, 2021.

We sent out a more detailed message to students and families about this process including more on arrival times, dining, and living arrangements on January 21. Additionally, we are hosting a Spring Term Question & Answer session tomorrow, January 26, at 4:30 pm ET for students and families. Please register to attend and feel free to send us your questions.

Vaccines

Vaccines are one of the most effective tools we have today for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and they will be critical to our strategy for keeping this community safe this term. Currently, vaccines are only available in Vermont to those over 75 who live, work, or access primary care in the state. We do not know when the vaccine will be available more broadly for faculty, staff and students, but it is our intention that COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory for all Bennington employees and students. At this time, Bennington College is not authorized to distribute the vaccine to members of its community, but we will keep you apprised of any policy changes. (Faculty and staff who wish to be exempted from this mandate for health or religious reasons may submit an accommodation request.) Students who do not have qualifying health conditions for an early vaccine will likely have to wait even longer, based on their age group. If you have an underlying health condition that makes you particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and you have the opportunity to be vaccinated in Vermont or another state, we urge you to avail yourself of this life saving tool. 

You can find more information about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines at the CDC and details about Vermont’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy at the VT Department of Health.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Wednesday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day and, to mark the solemn occasion, Bennington student Lika Torikashvili has invited members of this community to send her pictures of themselves holding a sign with the words #WeRemember. As a fellow at the World Jewish Congress, Lika will compile our photos to be shared on social media with the international community as the world stands in solidarity with history, justice and peace. You can send your pictures to likatorikashvili@bennington.edu.

Thank You

I want to thank you all for your patience and flexibility as we navigate another term together under the constraints of a pandemic. Your cooperation and care for one another has made all the difference, and we are hopefully approaching the final stretch. From wherever you are learning, teaching and working today, I can’t wait to kick off another term with this incredible community.

Laura Walker
President