COVID-19 Updates, From the President

Monday Message from President Walker—March 29, 2021

The following message was sent to Students, Families, Faculty, and Staff on March 29, 2021.

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

It finally feels like spring. I am happy to report that we have no cases of COVID-19 on campus and faculty, staff and select students are beginning to get vaccinated; most of us will have access to vaccines in the coming weeks! There is reason for hope and optimism.

At the same time, though, new cases are affecting younger people at high rates. Vermont had a record high number of positive COVID-19 cases on Friday. We all know that we can't let down our guard now.

Today I want to reflect on what I have heard and seen in the community since last weekend’s social gathering. I am grateful to students who took the time to reach out with thoughtful feedback; and I’m grateful to Campus Safety and Student Life for their constructive self-reflection on how we can learn from this experience and improve.

As I said last week, the quarantining and testing measures that followed the event were enacted to keep our campus safe and were in accordance with public health guidelines. Many students and faculty reached out to let us know that they were relieved by the response, and some thought it should have gone even farther.

I’ve heard from some of you who have asked that students have more input in how decisions like these are implemented. Moving forward, I am committed to working with students to ensure that your input is reflected in the process for public health communications and implementation when possible. Some of you shared your concern with the tone of our initial email and the broad brush that it painted. Others asked for clarification of some Vermont state guidelines at this rather confusing stage in the pandemic; we will do our best to clarify them.

All of us—faculty, staff and students—want to live in a safe, compassionate and mutually respectful community; you have all taken extraordinary steps over the past thirteen months to protect one another. Students have been in their rooms taking classes on zoom, and have sacrificed social interactions. Essential staff have been on campus for more than a year to keep campus running smoothly and administrative staff have worked many long hours; faculty have reimagined every course they teach to ensure consistently rigorous and inclusive experiences for students; and those among us—young and old—who have conditions that make us especially vulnerable to COVID-19 have been sequestered in our homes for an almost unfathomable amount of time. Sacrifices have been made by everyone and messages like this one are not reflective of our values.

I have heard over and over again from every corner of the campus that confronting one another about masking and distancing is difficult and awkward. There is no playbook. We are learning together as we go, so let us be patient and direct as we do. And let’s do it with empathy, kindness and humor.

We are turning a corner, approaching warmer weather, broad vaccination access and a new chapter in the life of our community. But we can’t stop taking precautions now. Let’s all hang in there and take care of each other in the meantime.

Thank you,

Laura Walker