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Skidmore College
Fall 2020 Planning

Fall semester update from President Conner

Dear Skidmore Community,

In this second week of the fall semester, we continue to see good news about our COVID-19 health and safety efforts on campus. In addition, we launched the Racial Justice Initiative on Tuesday with the release of specific goals the College will seek to accomplish throughout this academic year to address the realities of racial injustice locally, nationally and globally. While it has been my task to initiate and articulate this effort as a strategic priority of the College, I invite and encourage all members of the Skidmore community to join in and support this work so we may take on this challenge together.

After first announcing the Racial Justice Initiative on my first day as president on July 1, I spent much of the summer speaking with students, staff, faculty and community members about the most meaningful steps the College can take toward building a community of trust in which everyone feels welcome, safe and supported, from the classroom to downtown Saratoga Springs. Their work and input informed the 12 projects outlined in the document shared with the Skidmore community Sept. 1. These projects, alongside ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion work at Skidmore, will set us on a path to healing old wounds and addressing new concerns. Together, we can strengthen our institution and set an example for the change we want to see in society.

I also want to wholeheartedly commend our students and our entire Skidmore community for your continued commitment to maintaining a safe in-person fall semester. After two weeks of COVID-19 testing on campus, the results have been extremely encouraging. More than 2,600 tests of students and employees were conducted in each of the first two full weeks since Aug. 16, and more than 600 were conducted so far this week, for a total of more than 5,800. Only two of those tests came back positive, and they were both in the first round of tests. Despite encountering some technical issues with the CoVerified app, participation in testing has remained steady, and cooperation from the entire campus community has been superb. Test results are typically received late in the day after the samples are collected, so updates to the Dashboard occur a day later. No tests are conducted on Saturday and Sunday and that is reflected in the Dashboard.

Of course this is highly encouraging, but we all know this could change literally overnight. We are seeing college campuses shift to virtual instruction seemingly every day, and we simply must remain vigilant in all our actions. Any act of carelessness could threaten the health and safety of our campus community and unravel the experience we have been fighting so hard to achieve this fall. We have received reports of large groups gathering without taking the required precautions, and we are prepared to impose sanctions, up to and including suspension, if such behavior continues. I continue to visit off-campus houses to encourage safe social practices; our Safe Skidmore Ambassadors shifts continue to be effective reminders and praise-givers for on-campus safety; and student affairs is working hard to help conjure safe social interactions and activities for our students. This is a key stretch coming up.

So, please continue the exemplary behaviors you have been demonstrating in properly masking and distancing, and keep finding creative and responsible ways to socialize safely, from virtual meetings to outdoor gatherings. Once again, we are all in this together, and we’re off to a great start. Let’s stay the course as we make our way through this semester, week by week, together.


Marc C. Conner