Norwich University Students, Parents, Alumni, Employees and Friends
This past weekend we welcomed about 500 students back to campus in the first phase of a six-phase schedule of arrival days in advance of the start of the fall semester on August 31st. The process was highly organized, and included COVID-19 testing for every student with results returning as quickly as within 24-48 hours. As of Monday, there were three positive test results. Those students were immediately notified by the Green Mountain Family Practice and have been quarantined according to our policy. The Office of Communications will be complying with Vermont Department of Health reporting guidelines under my direction.
I want to commend all Norwich staff and faculty members who volunteered this weekend to welcome students to campus and all those employees who have worked so diligently to prepare for our students’ arrival in these uncertain times. I witnessed an extremely smooth operation, from traffic flow and initial student health screening, to move-in, parent and family departure and COVID-19 testing. Thank you for all you have done to date, and all that you will do in the days ahead to enable our students, and our fellow employees, to be back on campus and to ensure their health and well-being throughout the fall semester.
We have five more arrival days beginning this Sunday: Sunday, August 16 for Provisional Battalion Rooks, Corps and Civilian Student Leaders; Wednesday, August 19 for Rooks (last name A-L); Thursday, August 20 for Rooks (last name M-Z); Friday, August 28 for Residential Civilian New Students and Early College Program Students; and Saturday, August 29 for Commuter Students and all Remaining Upperclassmen.
We are aware of reports of students breaking the rules this past weekend during our first arrival day. The students on Saturday were reportedly socializing in the front yard of their house not maintaining physical distancing and not wearing masks. Upon learning about this, I went to the house and spoke to the students. I have met with the student who hosted the event, accepted his explanation that all attendees had been living locally for more than two weeks and had followed Vermont standards of behavior and quarantine, explained the importance of perception even when following rules closely, and asked for the student’s help in maintaining a positive relationship with on- and off-campus communities. Our meeting was productive and we will use it as a teaching moment for all.
Moving forward, please let me be clear: infractions against our Maroon and Gold Behavior Contract will not be tolerated. Our re-open plan is highly developed to work within an extremely complex environment. We are testing every student on day one and then again on day seven to account for any incubation period. After that, we have committed to conducting 700 tests per week, which is more rigorous than necessary for a campus our size. We are installing four temperature sensors around campus; three of them are available for anyone to check their own temperature, and one large sensor will be installed at the dining hall to monitor the population.
Based on data from tests and from the passive sensor at the dining hall, we will target the weekly tests to higher-risk groups of students or employees. So, our testing protocol will be data-driven, agile and targeted to yield the most useful results. Any student who tests positive for COVID-19 will work with health officials on quarantining and recovery procedures. We have two buildings set aside for quarantining and isolating any student who tests positive for COVID-19. All students, faculty and staff members planning to come onto campus are required to complete a daily health screening before arriving.
Further, I have made it clear to our entire community that anyone who is unwilling to comply with our Maroon and Gold Behavior Contract may be asked to leave. We are embarking on a complex approach to maintain a safe campus and community. Students are expected to remain on campus except for individual special circumstances. As such, and in order to promote mental and emotional health and wellness, we need all of our campus land and facilities for our students to be able to exercise and move about. This includes the Shaw Outdoor Center trails (not Northfield Town Forest trails), the rugby pitch, Sabine Field, and the athletic fields on campus.
Also, in response to Northfield community concerns, until further notice campus-based students are no longer allowed to work out off campus including exercising on Central Street, Main Street, Wall Street, Water Street, Dole Hill Cemetery and the RT12/Smith Hill/Dole Hill Route. Students exercising indoors within six feet of one another are required to wear masks. Masks are not required when exercising outdoors when students are maintaining a distance of six feet or greater from one another.
I will be presenting at this week’s Selectboard meeting on August 11th to continue to inform the Northfield community about our fall semester restart plans. Daphne Larkin, our Director of Media Relations and Community Affairs, will be communicating routinely to Northfield and central Vermont communities via social media, Front Porch Forum, and our weekly column in the Northfield News.
If you have any questions, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Yours in Service,
Norwich Together, Norwich Forever!
Mark C. Anarumo, PhD
Col, USAF (Ret) President