March 15, 2021
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,
It was a year ago almost to the date – Friday, March 13, 2020 – that we sent students home for what we had hoped would be spring break but that quickly turned into the first phase of a global pandemic. The global, national and local loss of life and illnesses we have witnessed affects each of us in ways that are personal and profound. That loss, though, has been accompanied by stories of heroism from front-line workers and everyday people who have stepped up to volunteer and reached out to neighbors to lend a hand. We have seen tragedy beget hope, and with that we will be stronger.
Here on campus, it’s worth noting the sheer amount of work we have accomplished together to keep moving forward, and the resilience we have demonstrated individually and as a community to push through what at times seemed like insurmountable hurdles. In a review of the Colleges’ past, we have a history of facing similar challenges with this same determination and fortitude – the flu of 1918, world wars, depressions and recessions. There is no doubt that our recovery from this pandemic will be challenging and that it will require our collective good will and continued adherence to safety protocols, but as we have done for the past 12 months, our community has the strength and will to meet and overcome the challenge.
We are especially bolstered today by the continued low prevalence of new COVID cases on campus and locally. Since last Monday, Hobart and William Smith administered 726 tests resulting in 2 positives (.2% positivity rate) with another 11 students recovered and now out of quarantine or isolation. We currently have 5 students in quarantine or isolation, down from 39 on March 8. This means that the persistent efforts of everyone in our community to wear face masks and practice social distancing and hand hygiene are working.
As we communicated last week, there are growing opportunities for members of our community to be vaccinated with new State regulations granting vaccination status to all faculty and most staff as well as student employees (staff and student employees are eligible starting March 17). President Biden also recently mandated that all adults will be eligible for the vaccine starting May 1, and we hope that New York might announce an even earlier eligibility for all. With everyone becoming vaccinated in the next few months, campus in the summer and fall will be more like pre-pandemic times. As we plan for the future, the Office of the President will be sending a message this week to graduates and their families with details on Commencement, including the in-person ceremony with graduation speaker and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden on May 16, as well as for the postponed 2020 Commencement on June 6.
As a reminder, students are invited to participate in a wide range of intentional self-care and wellness activities this week. Details on everything from food truck visits to meditation have been communicated to students via email and can be found on the Colleges’ calendar. Resources for mental health are also available on our website and we encourage all employees and students to use them.
Joyce P. Jacobsen
Provost and Dean of Faculty
Vice President for Campus Life