Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,
With the hope that you have had a safe, relaxing summer, I write to update you on Colgate’s plans for the beginning of the 2021–22 academic year. Classes begin on Aug. 26, and our commitment to community health — both on and off campus — continues to be the priority, even as we tailor our approach to meet current science and nearly universal vaccination of both employees and students. We anticipate a fall semester that more closely resembles prior academic years, with fewer COVID-related restrictions. But we are still keeping a close eye on global, national, and local infection-rate data and growing concerns about the rapid spread of variants.
At the end of the last academic year, the University announced that we would require vaccination for all members of the faculty, staff, and student body. To date, nearly 95% of our campus community has submitted proof of vaccination. A small number of individuals have registered for medical or religious exemptions; they will be expected to wear masks at all times and participate in mandatory weekly testing for the indefinite future.
Vaccination, which provides the best protection against the spread of COVID-19, is the foundation of our public health strategy. In light of our success in achieving such high vaccination rates, we will not require Gates of Reopening or universal quarantine for students as they arrive this year. We will, however, require face coverings for all employees, students, and guests on arrival day, Sunday, Aug. 22 — both indoors and outdoors, when physical distancing is not possible.
Next, we are asking, to the greatest extent possible, that students limit the number of family members or friends traveling to help with move-in. Some students are already returning to campus, either for our Division I athletics programs or for University-sponsored preorientation programs. We do expect, though, the vast majority of first-year students will move in on arrival day. All other students are welcome back to campus starting on Tuesday, Aug. 24.
All students must check in upon arrival. In recognition of current CDC guidance, we will require rapid antigen testing of all students upon arrival and again five to seven days later. Until second negative test results are returned, all students are expected to wear face coverings while indoors in public areas and anywhere that physical distancing is not possible, regardless of vaccination status. Public areas include dining and recreational facilities, shuttles, libraries, classrooms, residence hall common spaces, etc., but not within one’s own student bedroom, for example.
Per CDC guidance, this protocol has already been in effect on campus since Aug. 10, when Madison County upgraded its infection rate to “significant.” Should masking guidance relax in response to improved regional transmission rates, individual faculty or staff members may still require students to wear masks within the classroom or in a private office.
Any student who tests positive upon arrival (after a follow-up PCR test confirmation) will be required to isolate for 10 days, regardless of vaccination or symptoms. We are strongly encouraging all students to take advantage of widely available free COVID-19 testing before arrival. This will allow for 10-day isolation at home in case of a positive test. This semester, students who live within a 300-mile radius of Colgate will need to return home to isolate themselves as a result of a larger number of students on campus this fall and fewer quarantine and isolation spaces.
All faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to be tested prior to the start of the fall semester as well. Free COVID-19 testing is widely available, and Colgate is hosting employee testing clinics as well as making at-home test kits available.
We have reminded all members of the campus community that we are in this together, and we need to support each other. To keep the community safer, especially as we all travel back to campus from around the country and globe, where COVID-19 infections are increasing, we need to think about the campus as a whole and respond with individual, responsible actions and some self-sacrifice.
In keeping with this spirit — and with science and vaccination rates — the language we use in campus communications has changed. We have intentionally used words such as “expected” and “recommended.” While reporting incidents of concern was before and will continue to be an option via our website, we have removed the anonymous reporting form related to COVID-19 and Commitment to Community Health infractions. The University wants to move away from enforcement, to a place where members of the community do what is right for themselves as well as those around them. We will not forget all that we learned about caring for each other last year.
As I said to our community in a recent message outlining these plans, we have all been through a lot during the past year and a half, and we recognize that there are continued struggles within our community, as family members and loved ones deal with health issues and the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. I thank you for your support, encouragement, and participation in our public health efforts. We indeed live in extraordinary times, and we will continue to face these challenges and triumphs in the same way we always have. Together.
Laura H. Jack
Vice President for Communications
Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,