I write to provide updates on our ongoing planning efforts related to the reopening of campus and the safe return of faculty, staff, and students this fall. As indicated by President Anarumo in his June 16 letter to the community, the University currently intends to return to on-campus instruction this fall in accordance with forthcoming guidelines from the state of Vermont. As you know, significant planning efforts in support of an in-person reopening scenario have been underway for some time, and the academic colleges and operational units continue to weigh in with their plans. Today, I would like to share how we anticipate moving forward in operationalizing these planning efforts.
The Fall 2020 Reopening Task Force has at this time been reorganized into two bodies: a Steering Committee charged with creating a university-wide tactical plan for reopening campus, and a Protocol and Policy Workgroup charged with creating relevant protocols and policies in support of reopening. VP Greg Matthews will chair the Steering Committee and Faculty Senate Chair Cathy Frey will chair the Protocol and Policy Workgroup. Both groups are composed of members of the original task force and others who served on subcommittees in developing our plan to reopen with students in residence. Although many of the Task Force’s members will continue to be involved with either or both of these groups, I would like to express my gratitude to the original membership’s efforts to-date, specifically co-chairs Greg Matthews and Cathy Frey, Natalia Blank, Bizhan Yahyazadeh, Nicole DiDomenico, Dana Moss, Lauren Wobby, Paulette Thabault, Nicole Krotinger, Col Steven Wolf, Col Mike Titus, Tracey Poirier, Frank Moore, Frank Vanecek, Bill Clements, Dave Whaley, Steve Looke, and Rikki Winters.
As these groups move forward with their work to reopen campus thoughtfully and safely, we will continue to update you with information and details. I can in the meantime provide the following updates in a few key areas.
Community Expectations and Personal Commitments
As I described in my June 3 memo, Norwich’s Reopening Plan places primary importance on keeping the University and surrounding community safe and healthy and is aligned with principles articulated by the CDC as well as federal, state, and local guidelines. As we move toward the safe return of students to campus, I remind us that education is a shared enterprise, and we must each do our part in helping to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. This means each of us doing what we can to reduce interaction with others, promote behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19 (such as wearing masks and following physical distancing guidelines), and working diligently to maintain healthy environments through the regular use of soap and hand sanitizer. Norwich is equally committed to supporting this work by maintaining healthy operations through the daily cleaning and disinfecting of all university spaces, and ensuring we have policies and protocols in place and clearly accessible to the community for when someone does become ill.
Under the leadership of HR Director Dana Moss and VP of Marketing and Communications Kathleen Murphy-Moriarty, specific guidelines and information will soon be available online for the full community’s reference and use.
Employee Return to Work
As we await guidelines from the Governor’s office regarding how Vermont’s educational institutions will be authorized to reopen, employee work on campus continues to be restricted to those who have been authorized to do so by their supervisors.
All employees are reminded to complete the Vermont Protecting the Safety & Health of Workers module found in the KnowBe4 app on the Norwich Single Sign-On page. This training must be completed no later than the day an employee starts working on campus. A second module for supervisors will address specific responsibilities for supervisory staff and will be made available within the next two weeks.
As noted above, the academic colleges are busy preparing for how best to support Norwich’s teaching and learning mission once students return to campus. Faculty have been diligently preparing for myriad instructional scenarios balancing academic rigor and experiential learning with the health and wellbeing of all in our community. In particular, I would like to acknowledge and thank everyone for their support of and participation in last week’s faculty and staff webinar series – co-hosted by the Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning and the Academic Computing Team. Specifically, I extend my gratitude to Gail Poitras, Dalyn Luedtke, Faith Hester-Reyes, Justin Marriott, and Steve Grindle.
I would additionally like the community to be aware that in support of a safe and successful Fall term, the Academic Calendar has been adjusted to accommodate in-person classes beginning August 31, 2020 and concluding November 25, 2020, constituting 12.5 weeks of face-to-face instruction. After Thanksgiving break, students will remain off-campus and the last 2.5 weeks of the semester will be conducted in the online modality.
In support of the President’s Town Hall meeting today with students, I will be communicating with students this week regarding Norwich’s plans to reopen the campus for in-person instruction this fall. This communication will further detail plans for residential students to arrive in Northfield on a staggered schedule, from August 11 through August 30. Student leaders in the Corps of Cadets and athletes will constitute the first phase of arrivals, followed by upper class student leaders, Rooks, civilian first-year students, and international students in subsequent phases. Upper class students and commuter students will arrive last. Students will receive additional communication in coming weeks regarding details of the arrival process, including pre-arrival guidelines that require COVID-19 testing and results reported at least 48 hours prior to arrival in Vermont.
I look forward to being able to provide additional information to all of you in the coming weeks, and I thank you all – again – for your patience and understanding as we work together to provide the best teaching and learning environment for our students, faculty, and staff this fall.
Be well, stay safe, and Norwich Forever!
Sandra G. Affenito, Ph.D.
Provost and Dean of the Faculty
158 Harmon Drive
Northfield, VT 05663
Telephone: (802) 485-2025