Guiding principles, health and safety protocol for the fall semester
Dear Members of the Skidmore Community,
With the official start of the fall semester now just a few weeks away, we are looking forward to having our entire student body back on campus and to restoring a fully in-person Skidmore experience, including classes and academic events, athletics practice and competition, co-curricular activities, celebrations, meetings, and social gatherings.
While this is an exciting time, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to evolve in challenging ways: the more contagious Delta variant is a growing concern, and national vaccination rates remain lower than hoped for. Once again, the College’s top priority in all our planning continues to be the health and safety of our entire campus community.
Consequently, the College has established a detailed set of guidelines for how we will live, work, learn, and socialize together this fall semester, including guidance for masking, social distancing, visitors, gatherings, and dining. We have created new “status levels” for the campus for the fall: “green” designates a “low to moderate” rate of COVID transmission in Saratoga County, as categorized by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and “yellow” indicates a “substantial to high” county rate. These status levels will determine which guidelines are in place at any given time.
We have reserved a “red” category as an unlikely possibility for a major outbreak on campus. This “emergency” category would impose further restrictions, such as precluding outside visitors on campus. More information about this category will be forthcoming.
These guidelines will provide clarity and consistency as the College takes thoughtfully measured steps to protect our community while moving forward with fully in-person academics, events, and experiences.
To provide students, faculty, and staff with additional information about our return-to-campus and fall term preparations and allow for real-time questions and feedback, the College will host the following forums on Tuesday, Aug. 24:
Key takeaways from our fall guidelines include:
- During “substantial to high” transmission, everyone will be required to mask when in indoor classrooms, indoor public spaces , and at indoor events, regardless of vaccination status.
- During “substantial to high” transmission, general visitors (not members of the Skidmore community) will only be permitted indoors if attending a priority event, as defined by the College (please refer to guiding event principles below) and will continue to be permitted in outdoor settings. All visitors will be required to wear a mask while indoors, regardless of the status level.
- The transmission rate will be an important factor in determining whether large events — indoors or outdoors — should be held in person. Whether it is a priority event, as defined by the College (please refer to guiding event principles below), will also be a key factor in such decisions.
Events and activities
To help us all decide which events and activities can be hosted in person (indoors or outdoors) and which we might consider transitioning to a virtual format, the following guiding principles establish the categories of events and activities we should seek to prioritize to best fulfill Skidmore’s academic mission. Taking precedence will be:
- Academics and academic-specific events above all others, as the College seeks to — first and foremost — facilitate a safe, in-person environment for instruction and research;
- Co-curricular events and athletics, recognizing that students need to have a "full college experience" to the greatest extent possible;
- Key College events that fall outside a specific academic or co-curricular context but still have significant/high importance to Skidmore and the overall Skidmore experience; and
- Student social experiences that facilitate engagement, entertainment, socialization, and community-building among students and are important to students’ overall health and wellness.
Event and activity organizers should work with the appropriate President’s Cabinet member to safely plan priority events in accordance with the current campus guidelines.
A meeting is defined as a gathering held to conduct the day-to-day work of the College. Examples include departmental meetings, faculty meetings, staff meetings, team meetings, and meetings with vendors to discuss business/College matters. Key points regarding meetings include:
- Meetings with 60 or fewer participants are permitted under both status levels, as long as the appropriate masking, distancing , and food guidelines are followed. During “substantial to high” transmission, all participants would be required to be masked at all times, and food would not be permitted.
- Large meetings, with more than 60 participants, must be held virtually during “substantial to high” transmission. Meeting/event organizers should not take unnecessary risks by holding a large in-person meeting if a virtual meeting would suffice.
Utilizing outdoor spaces
The College is once again making outdoor tents available in select campus locations, this time to encourage use of outdoor spaces for outdoor dining, social activities and events, and as gathering spaces for clubs and organizations. These covered spaces will provide another way for our campus community to gather together safely while making the most of our beautiful campus environment.
Please take the time to carefully review our fall semester guidance, as each of us has a critical role to play in keeping our community safe and healthy. Also, please remember that Skidmore is a mask-friendly campus, and masking is always welcome and encouraged. It is expected that all members of our campus community act with care and respect at all times.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to these efforts. We have proven our strength as a community throughout this pandemic, and together, we have much to look forward to this fall semester.
Marc C. Conner