The Task Force recommends that the default planning model should be fully residential, with full in-person classes, though with the expectation that the University may need to adjust as needed to public health conditions.
The Task Force recognizes that the University has been balancing multiple public health threats, including spread of SARS-CoV-2; the ongoing health risks of COVID-19 to the campus and greater Hamilton community; the mental health of faculty, staff and students; the implications of faculty and staff fatigue; and the declining support for public health restrictions. As we are now in a phase of the pandemic where the widespread deployment of vaccines may continue to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the Task Force has shifted the emphasis of its focus to consider how to return to in-person, residential education that resembles pre-pandemic times. Epidemiological research supports that (i) vaccinations are effective at reducing the chance of contracting COVID-19, (ii) vaccinations reduce the likelihood of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among asymptomatic individuals, and (iii) vaccinations are effective against known variants of SARS-CoV-2. The Task Force is also operating with the assumption that vaccines will be readily available to all members of the campus community by August 2021; together, these factors have guided our planning.
If additional variants emerge that cause symptoms for vaccinated individuals, or if the CDC’s recommendations and guidance change, the Task Force feels confident that the flexibility the University exhibited in February and March 2020 would once again be deployed to return to a semester with modifications and restrictions, guided by the experiences with remote learning and physically distanced classrooms that we have gained during the current academic year.
As New York State continues to reduce restrictions related to infection control, the Task Force predicts a much different approach than we have seen for the past 13 months. Similarly, the federal government has focused its efforts into vaccination distribution and more readily available testing. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has also prioritized the full return to K-12 education by the fall. With these in mind, the Task Force recommends that the default planning model should be fully residential, with full in-person classes, though with the expectation that the University may need to adjust as needed to public health conditions. It is no longer reasonable to assume that the currently conservative approach by the New York Governor’s office will be in place by August 2021.
We recommend retaining the use of the Wendt University Inn for the fall semester.
While we understand the University was preparing to turn it over this summer for use as an additional University hotel, we believe it wise to retain its use as possible isolation or close contact quarantine space for those students who may not yet have been vaccinated. We also understand that several Off-Campus Study Programs may be canceled this fall due to ongoing travel restrictions and US State Department Warning Levels, and it may be helpful to have the Wendt as overflow housing for these students.
We recommend adhering to the academic calendar for the 2021-2022 academic year, that was previously approved by the Academic Affairs Board, with no modifications to arrival dates, breaks or recesses, or campus departures.