Office of the President
Subject: Spring 2021 Plans - A Message from President Clark
Dear faculty, librarians and staff,
After several weeks of campus-wide planning, I am writing to inform you of Bridgewater State University’s plans for the spring 2021 semester.
I am very proud of how the entire BSU community has managed through the fall semester. Your dedication to the success and wellbeing of our students, during a particularly trying time in their lives and your lives, is truly admirable.
From the outset, BSU has prioritized the health and safety of our campus community in its planning and operations, and we will continue to do so with regard to the spring, seeking to strike the appropriate balance between safety, education and community. Below, I have outlined our spring 2021 plans, highlighting any significant changes to our operations. In this planning, we have sought to learn from the experience of the fall semester by listening carefully to what our students, families, faculty, librarians and staff have told us about what has worked well and what may need some improvement. Our plan reflects your valuable input.
Spring 2021 Calendar
For public health reasons, and as recommended by the All University Committee, we will start the spring semester one week later and eliminate spring break. Spring classes will begin on Wednesday, January 27, 2021 and we will hold classes during the week of March 8th. The semester will end on time, and we are scheduling an additional “wellness day” by cancelling classes on Friday, March 12, 2021.
The delayed start will enhance the overall health of the campus community by eliminating one winter week of classes when students are largely confined to indoor spaces. The elimination of spring break also mitigates concerns about bringing COVID-19 back to the campus after a week away. We are cognizant of the importance of students having a “mental health” break during the spring semester, which is the reason behind adding an additional day off for students on March 12th and, per the request of the Student Government Association and approved through academic governance, strongly encouraging faculty not to assign additional coursework on a wellness day.
The March 12 wellness day is also an opportunity for our campus community to catch its breath. This will be a campus-wide “meeting-free” day, with the exception of any emergency situations that may arise, where staff have the opportunity to catch up without the interruptions of Zoom and Teams calls. The Division of Human Resources and Talent Management is planning several wellness-related activities for that day as well.
Most classes at BSU will continue to be held remotely, while certain science labs, studio and performing arts, and selected seminar and capstone courses will blend on-line and in-person instruction. Based on feedback from students and families, and in partnership with college deans and the faculty, BSU is significantly increasing the number of synchronous online offerings. This means that many more courses will replicate an in-person classroom experience with faculty and students being together synchronously via Zoom or other platforms. We are also committed to delivering the offerings in the modality, either synchronous or asynchronous, identified at registration.
Based on our positive experience with students living in the residence halls this fall, BSU will continue to allow all students wishing to live on campus to do so.
Many students living on campus have told us that they find it much easier to concentrate on their studies by living on campus, even when most of their classes are online, and have enjoyed being able to socialize with their fellow Bears, though in much more limited numbers.
Students with a demonstrated hardship may be able to move into their residence halls beginning on January 21, 2021.
COVID-19 Testing & Contact Tracing
Our existing COVID-19 testing and tracing protocols and procedures will remain in place for the spring semester. BSU will retain its successful affiliation with the Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has been turning around test results to us in less than 24 hours thus allowing BSU to react quickly in isolating students with a positive test result and quarantining any potentially affected members of the BSU community.
Residence hall students will be tested at the time they move into their residence hall and (at least) every two weeks thereafter. We will continue to conduct randomized testing for students taking hybrid classes and make testing available at no cost to everyone in the BSU community.
In the interest of public health and the safety of its employees, BSU has emphasized “de-densifying” the campus and, at this time, plans to continue maintaining only a minimum number of employees on campus at the beginning of 2021. This may change if effective treatments or vaccines are developed and deployed on a large scale, but with the rise of COVID-19 cases across Massachusetts and the United States, the university will operate under a guideline of 25% office capacity. For those positions that have been identified as eligible to telecommute and the work performed remotely is being accomplished effectively, a telecommuting workplan can be continued.
If there is a critical business need and a department identifies a peak period, which may require an office to consider operating at the 50% office capacity (as permitted under the Governor’s current guidance), it can be requested through the office of Human Resources & Talent Management (HRTM), but will only be allowed if all safety protocols can be fully adhered to while doing so. Returning employees should continue to utilize staggered reporting and departing times, alternating schedules, days, and times, and telecommuting/remote work options.
The continuation of telecommuting workplans for employees in high-risk categories (over 65 and/or with underlying health conditions) should also be considered, where feasible. There may also be other circumstances precluding an employee from returning to campus where an alternate work option may need to be considered, such as having a vulnerable family member within the household or other conditions limiting their ability to be on campus. Please contact HRTM for guidance on telecommuting.
Employees who work in a position that has been identified to work on campus and falls under the high-risk categories may request consideration for a telecommuting workplan via a confidential process through HRTM and the Office of Equal Opportunity.
It is vital that all of us remain vigilant in following public health guidelines, including staying home if you are sick; maintaining physical distancing of six feet; wearing masks or face coverings at all times except when in our private offices or eating in one of our dining halls; limiting the size of any social gatherings; and assisting with COVID-19 tracing procedures.
All members of the BSU community have access to COVID-19 testing at no cost. Testing for employees occurs on a walk-in basis on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the Dunn Conference Suite.
Please continue to check the COVID-19 website for new information.
I want to again express my gratitude to our faculty, librarians and staff. None of us could have imagined working through a pandemic this academic year, but you have done so with grace, determination and courage. As I have said before, we cannot let this pandemic define us. The faith that I have in every member of our BSU family is embodied in these simple, yet powerful words: “We’ve Got This!”
Frederick W. Clark Jr., Esq.