Office of the President
Subject: Together Again: Fall Semester Protocols - A Message from President Clark to Students
Let me start by saying how much we have missed you, and we cannot wait to welcome you back to campus in a few weeks!
Let me also reassure you. We are adhering to our original plan to have the majority of our classes and student activities conducted in person and on campus. The class schedule you have now will be your schedule come September 1.
Of course, we are closely following federal and state public health guidance around the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, and we are carefully monitoring conditions in our region of the state. As always, your safety and that of our entire BSU community is our highest priority.
Vaccinations & Attestations
We are confident in our ability to safely bring our community together again in part because of how responsibly you have acted. Our students have overwhelmingly responded to the requirement that they be vaccinated if they are attending in-person classes, living in residence halls, conducting research on campus, participating in any on-campus activities, or visiting campus for any reason. To date, through our attestation/verification efforts, we are very proud to report that 90% of all BSU students are fully vaccinated and the remainder are either partially vaccinated (but will be fully vaccinated soon) or are working through our exemption process.
Vaccination attestations are verifiable. BSU has access to the Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS) database and can verify student vaccinations. This is a process that we have already undertaken to sample and confirm the accuracy of attestations that we have received. Thus far, every sampled student response has been verified as accurate. Needless to say, we are extremely pleased with the spectacular response of our BSU students who so clearly want and need to be back on campus and in our classrooms in September. A high vaccination percentage for the campus is what makes our return possible.
For those of you who have not attested, you must do so now as we are past the August 1 deadline. The attestation takes just a few minutes and can be accessed via the student attestation form. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and the single most effective means of both preventing individual infection and controlling the pandemic. We also are pleased to report that of faculty and staff who have attested to their vaccination status, 98.5% are fully vaccinated.
If you have obtained a medical or religious exemption from receiving the vaccine, you will need to take a mandatory weekly COVID-19 test through the Wellness Center. Our tests are conducted through a simple, self-administered nasal swab that takes only a few minutes to complete. If you are vaccinated and have attested as such, you will not need to undergo weekly testing. Our Wellness Center will be in touch with next steps.
In light of the increase in positive COVID-19 cases associated with the Delta variant in our region (Plymouth County and Bristol County are regions of substantial and high transmission respectively), and with the goal of ensuring the safety of our campus community, effective August 23, BSU will be mandating that all members of our campus community (including vaccinated students, employees, and visitors) wear a mask in indoor public places. (There is one exception to the masking policy which I describe in the next paragraph.) This is an element of the “layered prevention strategies, such as wearing masks,” that the CDC states “are needed to reduce the transmission of this variant.” This policy will continue through September 30, at which time we will reevaluate this policy based on the vaccination status of our campus and updated public health information. Masking is not required when students are outdoors, and students do not need to wear a mask when they are in their own residence hall room, showering or brushing their teeth, and when eating or drinking in our dining facilities. As was the case last semester, students that have a medical condition that precludes mask wearing must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS@bridgew.edu) to secure an appropriate accommodation.
The MSCA faculty/librarian union has recently objected to an indoor masking policy for its members absent impact bargaining on that issue. Consequently, faculty and librarians will not need to mask under the mandatory policy until such time as impact bargaining hopefully concludes. For the safety of faculty and librarians, and for the safety of our students and the university community, I have strongly encouraged MSCA members to wear masks indoors during this interim period of negotiation.
Learning & Working Spaces
In classrooms and labs, BSU has arranged desks and seats to provide for 3 feet of separation between students, as is the protocol for K-12 schools in Massachusetts. Further, the university has been working diligently during the summer to clean and disinfect classrooms, residence and dining halls, and office spaces, and will continue to perform maintenance on mechanical equipment to ensure our buildings meet the highest required safety standards.
In the fall, classrooms that are utilized will be cleaned and disinfected daily. Restrooms in buildings where classes will be held will be cleaned and disinfected routinely throughout the day, while restrooms in buildings without classes will be cleaned and disinfected a minimum of once per day. Please see the Cleaning & Disinfecting policy on the Fall ’21 Return site for additional information about residence halls and common spaces.
We recognize how stressful the past 17 months have been. All of us have felt the pressure, anxiety and sadness of living through a global pandemic. In addition to doing everything possible to protect your physical health, BSU also has extensive resources to help you deal with feelings of loneliness, concerns about relationships, coping with anxiety and depression, or problems with sleeping and eating. Support is available through the Wellness Center (508-531-1331), and all services are confidential and provided at no cost to you. There also are online resources to help you through this difficult time. Please visit the Health & Wellness website for more details.
For additional COVID safety information and updated FAQs, please visit the Fall ’21 Return website. Please direct any questions you may have to Covidfirstname.lastname@example.org and we will respond as soon as possible.
We are truly looking forward to your return to campus! By taking some simple steps that protect yourself and others in our community, we will succeed together in having a great semester and protecting the health and safety of all our BSU Bears.
Enjoy the remaining weeks of summer and I will see you on campus soon!
Frederick W. Clark Jr., Esq.