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Skidmore College

Fall planning update from President-elect Marc C. Conner

Dear Members of the Skidmore Community,

I’m pleased and honored to be sending out my first weekly update to you all. Below, I write about the considerations and next steps involved in planning for the fall semester, a new website focused on our reopening planning process, and the decision about our fall study abroad and international programs.

As planning for a fall reopening continues, administrative action teams representing all areas of the College are working hard to find ways to safely deliver an in-person Skidmore education to our students. We are committed to bringing as many of our students back to campus in the fall as we safely can. The top guiding principle in all our decision-making is the health and safety of our entire community — our students, staff, faculty and the Saratoga Springs community. Our second principle is to provide to all our students the intensive, fully engaged, in-person Skidmore education of which we are rightly proud. It is my sincere hope that we can work together to bring our students back to campus and engage in that education this fall.

Skidmore plans to begin classes two weeks early, the week of Aug. 24, and end in-person classes by Thanksgiving Break. Students will complete their exams, projects and other work remotely in the two weeks following the break. This is consonant with what most of our peer institutions are planning as well.

To bring all or nearly all of our students to campus, we’re looking at how we can expand our residential life options in light of state and federal safety guidelines. We’re exploring additional teaching spaces that can accommodate social distancing and safety measures. We’re looking into athletic competition and co-curricular activities to figure out how we can offer a rich college experience to all our students. We’re also engaging consultants and experts to help us provide whatever is needed to bring our college together in person in the fall.

We are exploring a range of options for residential life that can accommodate the best practices of social distancing, hygiene, cleaning protocols and safe communities. Similarly, we are exploring ways to create safe classroom environments so in-person instruction will be possible, including new spatial arrangements, personal protective equipment, plexiglass shields, cleaning protocols and more.

We have offered significant preparation support to our faculty, ranging from academic technology to instructional design to shared pedagogy workshops. Support for staff will help us all understand what practices can best promote a healthy and safe working environment for all at the College.

The challenges are great and, now more than ever, creative thought truly matters. Again, our commitment is to bring as many of our students to campus as we can in accordance with health and safety guidance provided by the county, state, federal agencies and best practices, and to continue to provide those students with one of the best liberal arts education experiences in the country.

The reopening planning process will include more communication and collaboration, including regular updates on guidance and policy, and opportunities for questions and answers with administrative leadership. We have also launched a new website focused on our planning process. The website, which will continue to evolve and expand, will centralize information, updates and decisions about our planning process. It includes a form to submit questions and comments and the frequently asked questions (FAQ) section will be built as questions are received and new information develops.

As some of you know, Skidmore has made the difficult decision to suspend all fall 2020 international off-campus study programs due to ongoing risks related to COVID-19 when traveling abroad and due to travel restrictions that will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Skidmore held out longer than most of its peer institutions in making this decision, out of a desire to see students take part in these experiences and out of support for our London program. But, as I have emphasized before, the health and safety of our community and our people is our top priority. Affected students are encouraged to consider spring 2021 as an alternative, and the Office of Off-Campus Study & Exchanges can provide assistance. Domestic programs in the U.S. remain active and are not affected at this time.

It is clear that this will be a fall semester like no other, but we will get through it together. Success in this endeavor will depend on all of us working as a community. I’m looking forward to partnering with you all in the challenge.

Sincerely yours,
Marc C. Conner