On Tuesday, July 7, 2020, the Vermont state government released their guidelines for the opening of institutions of higher education. Based on these guidelines, we are now ready to move forward with our opening plan.
The COVID-19 virus is still present in our nation and poses a significant threat to all of us. We are Norwich, and will not shy away from the challenge of delivering our unique experience to our student body as we prepare them to lead in a complex world. While we are committed to opening for Fall 2020, we must do so while ensuring the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and community. In this memo I will share with you our operational parameters for re-opening our campus. Next week we will host live Town Hall sessions to answer your questions and address your concerns regarding Academics, Financial Aid, Student Life, and ROTC.
The decisions around returning to campus are complex and based on public health and safety guidelines from the State of Vermont and the federal government. Our goal is to provide the highest quality educational and campus experiences while protecting the health and safety of our community.
We have been working on these plans since early May. Drafts of these scenario plans have been reviewed by administration leadership and the Board of Trustees. After careful consideration and vetting of all possible models for safely and effectively delivering academic instruction during the ongoing coronavirus, we believe the initiatives listed below reflect the most pragmatic, safe, and effective way to re-open campus on a restricted basis for the Fall 2020 semester.
To meet State requirements and ensure appropriate physical distancing standards, we will operate on-campus housing at a reduced capacity. We are finalizing our list of students who will be guaranteed housing, but for now have reserved on-campus rooms for Rooks, First-Year Civilian students, Cadre in the Corps of Cadets, Residential Life leaders, and ROTC contracted (and pursuing) cadets as required by the Department of Defense. For all other students, including Civilian and non-contracted Corps of Cadets, we will prioritize housing based upon the student’s academic program and class year. We are working aggressively with the academic departments to identify which programs require students to live on campus and we will notify students very soon on their housing options.
Key aspects of the re-opening framework as developed today:
- The semester will start as currently scheduled with the first day of classes on August 31. We will maximize class time prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. Residential students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving and will conclude the last two and a half weeks of the semester and final exams remotely. Faculty will build these dates into their syllabi.
- All courses will be available for remote delivery. Some courses that benefit from direct access to campus facilities will happen in-person, with appropriate health-related precautions: some examples include select courses in the professional programs, laboratory or field work, and clinical instruction. Students who attend the semester on campus should expect a hybrid model for teaching and learning in their course schedule, meaning a mix of in-person, online (asynchronous), and remote (synchronous) instruction.
- For students who remain at home, either by choice or because of housing restrictions, instruction will occur via an array of some mixed, asynchronous online course and synchronous remote courses. Students will be able to access remote services such as tutoring, writing support, digital library resources, reference librarian support, and advising.
Fall Schedule and Arrival Days
- Students will arrive to campus over a three-week period to keep density low during move in as well as to facilitate proper quarantine protocols. Students traveling from within Vermont will not need to quarantine upon arrival. All other students will quarantine for a minimum of 7 days provided they test negative on the COVID-19 test. Additional exceptions may be granted if students are traveling from states or counties will low rates of infection. We will provide further clarity on these areas as soon as we are issued clearer guidance from the State of Vermont. Students should be accompanied by no more than two adults, and should plan to be dropped off and not bring their guests into residential halls or barracks. The arrival schedule is as follows:
- August 8-9: Corps Regimental Command Teams and Staff Leaders, Corps Battalion Command Teams and Staffs, Cadet Training Corps Leaders, Upper Class Unit Leaders, Provision Battalion Rooks (Drill, Band and Cavalry), and required specialty units (Ranger Challenge, Rangers, Mountain Cold Weather, etc.), Civilian Orientation Leaders and Resident Advisors (regardless of if they ‘must’ quarantine).
- August 8 arrival is for students whose last name begins with A-L;
- August 9 arrival for students whose last name begins with M-Z.
- August 19-20: Upper Class students (Corps non leaders, civilian residential students) who must quarantine (most out of state students and all international students must quarantine), all Rooks and Freshmen Civilian Students (regardless of if they “must” quarantine or not).
- August 19 arrival is for students who last name begins with A-L;
- August 20 arrival for students whose last name begins with M-Z.
- Please note that any new student that is arriving alone via airplane will be required to arrive on August 19th regardless of their last name.
- August 28: Non-quarantine group. New commuters and flexible pathway students together with any Upper Class student who does not need to quarantine because they either live in the state of Vermont or came to and quarantined in Vermont at least 14 days prior to August 28, their arrival date at Norwich. This applies to all in state residential students and commuter students.
- COVID-19 testing will be in place for students, faculty and staff. All students on campus (residential and commuter) will be given a COVID-19 test on arrival day unless they provide the University with proof of having undergone a test within 48 hours of arrival with a negative result and traveled directly to campus in their personal vehicle without any prolonged stops. All students will be given another test approximately 7 days after their arrival.
- All Norwich employees will have a COVID-19 test prior to the arrival of students, and then again within 7 days of student arrival.
Maintaining Healthy Environments
- We will make the on-campus experience as traditional as possible, with some modifications to ensure a safe environment.
- Classrooms and other teaching facilities will provide safety and health for faculty and students alike. To enable physical distancing, all classrooms will be reduced to 50% of previous capacity. Our classrooms will require faculty and students to wear face coverings at all times.
- Students will have access to on-campus facilities; physically-distanced study spaces; some facilities, like Kreitzberg Library as well as fitness and recreation spaces, which will have reduced hours of operation and lower occupancy limits.
- All students will be required to sign the Maroon and Gold Health Safety Pledge currently in development, pledging to follow all physical distancing and health and safety protocols, including regular mandatory COVID-19 testing and health screening checks.
- All students and employees will be tested multiple times throughout the semester. We will carefully monitor regional and local trends and administer tests as the situation warrants and according to public health guidance. `
- Contact tracing will be performed in collaboration with State health officials. Our goal is to identify and isolate infected individuals within 24 hours of a positive test.
- Every member of the university community and visitors will be required to wear cloth face coverings/masks in classrooms and labs as well as in all public areas. All should arrive with at least one mask for their usage upon arrival to campus, preferably black in color. All students will be provided with two masks upon arrival. All students, faculty, staff, and visitors will be expected to wear masks while on campus, except alone in their private office.
- There will be masks available for anyone that does not have one. If a medical condition prevents you from wearing a mask, we will work with medical professionals and Human Resources to identify a solution for your return to campus.
- An extensive public health campaign will be initiated in partnership with student, faculty and staff leadership groups around hygiene, face mask usage, health monitoring and testing/tracing/physical distancing. Living and learning on campus is a privilege that will be lost for students who do not adhere to these guidelines. Employees will adhere to these policies or risk disciplinary action.
- Health screening and monitoring measures, as developed by the University in consultation with health professionals, will be required for all faculty, staff and students. A strict ‘stay home when ill’ policy will be in effect at all times. This means an on-campus student can self-quarantine and attend class remotely whenever he/she feels she may be putting classmates at risk.
- We will institute new, extensive sanitizing and increased cleaning for all areas of the campus and repeatedly for high touch surfaces in common areas. We are also working to increase air ventilation in all buildings.
- Students who are on campus will be living in double quarters. Residence halls will operate at reduced density including no triples or quads. Crawford Hall and Ellis House will have reserved space for isolation and quarantine.
- Dining will also operate at reduced density in multiple locations to increase dispersion, with grab and go meal options available to all students.
- We realize some families do not think it is fair to pay full tuition for an online course experience. Though it actually costs us more to deliver an online course, we respect the perspective and understand the frustration some students and families will feel towards a semester online while living off campus. To help address this disappointment, we have established a Norwich University annual grant of $4,500 available to all students who remain at home.
- If students do not reside on campus, contracts for Fall 2020 housing and meal plans will be cancelled by the Office of Student Affairs without penalty, and financial aid will be adjusted to reflect reduced room and board costs for students who were scheduled or previously required to live on campus.
Student Services, Athletics and Fall Events
- Student Support and Campus Services, like the Academic Achievement Center, Student Health Center, and Counseling and Wellness Center, will continue to be available to all students. Some capacity will be prioritized for servicing remote students. Our Information Technology infrastructure, library and archives, and other vital resources for our students’ success, will all be available to everyone as well.
- Regarding fall sports, we are in negotiations with our affiliated athletic conferences and are advocating for some level of competition for all sports. We will post the final decisions as soon as they are available.
- The suspension of campus events will remain in place this fall to ensure we do our part to limit opportunities for the virus to spread.
While our commitment to student success has us hard at work preparing for hybrid campus-based and remote instruction this fall, we are mindful that some of our students may require temporary reasonable accommodations due to their health or other factors. Students with an underlying medical condition should speak with their medical provider respective to their personal decision to return to Norwich University this semester. We have developed an expedited process for accommodation requests. We ask that appeals be submitted as soon as possible to the Office of Student Affairs, preferably by 24 July 2020.
Responding to the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 crisis has been difficult for students, faculty and staff alike. I would like to express my appreciation to the Task Force for stepping up to address the uncertainty with thoughtful planning and recommendations for the way forward this fall, and would like to thank our entire Norwich family for your patience and support as we navigate this unprecedented time.
To answer questions or concerns our Norwich students, families, faculty, staff, and alumni may have regarding academics, financial aid, student life, facilities and services, and extracurricular activities, we have scheduled a series of live town halls the week of July 13th. These events will include live town halls with Q&A that I will host from my home while I am in quarantine 13-19 July. Dates and times for each session, including links to submit your questions, will be distributed to the entire Norwich community on Friday, July 10.
Please note, this is not a “new normal.” We look forward to remaining true to our mission and operating as the Norwich community we all know. The key to our success in the meantime is flexibility, understanding, and full cooperation. Planning is ongoing as we adhere to the changing guidance from the State and Federal health authorities. Norwich University is a resilient community and Vermont is one of the safest states in the nation respective to this pandemic. We are all trying to do what is best to achieve our mission while prioritizing the physical and mental health and well-being of every member of the Norwich community. Together we will meet this challenge with creativity, rigor, and a continued commitment to student success.
Norwich Together, Norwich Forever!
Mark C. Anarumo, PhD
Colonel, USAF (Ret)
158 Harmon Drive
Northfield, VT 05663
Telephone: (802) 485-2065