August 19, 2021
Even though it is technically still summer, as the first day of classes approaches, for those of us on the academic calendar, that is when it feels like autumn arrives. As the fall semester begins, I write to update you on various matters at the Colleges.
The pandemic and the COVID-19 delta variant continue to cast a long shadow over the world. Geneva has largely been spared the challenges that many other areas faced and continue to face. Nonetheless, it has required us to come up with a carefully considered approach to creating a safe campus space that supports both the community and individuals as each person considers what is best for themselves and for each other. The relatively high rate of vaccination locally and in New York State, along with the relatively small size of our college community and our strong ethos of mutual support, has led to our particular approach. Throughout this year, we have strongly encouraged and incentivized vaccination for our students and employees rather than forcing anyone to do so as a requirement for being a member of the community. This approach, to my mind, is consistent with the Colleges’ general principle of relying on critical thinking and education of our community to achieve our goals, and is in keeping with our general liberal arts philosophy. I would not have taken this approach if I had not believed that we would be able to achieve a high vaccination rate, comparable to that of those schools that chose to use the approach of a mandate combined with exemptions. I have not been disappointed by the community’s response. As of today, more than 96% of our students are vaccinated, and we continue to provide opportunities and support, including two upcoming on-campus vaccination clinics for additional members of the HWS and Geneva community to become vaccinated. We continue to stay vigilant regarding campus health and safety, including utilizing the tools of regular testing of unvaccinated students and currently an institution-wide masking requirement. Nonetheless, we are thrilled to be able to offer a significantly enhanced campus experience to our students and employees this year, including our full range of campus activities and increased mobility for our faculty, teams and others traveling in representation of the Colleges.
I have been thinking often over the past year about how to assist our community and our society to move beyond all-or-nothing thinking by developing the ability to respect gray areas and nuances, and toward the rejection of “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” approaches to difficult issues. Thanks to a generous gift from one of our alumnae, we are able to do more programmatically in this area: Dean of Students B.B. Barile and Vice President for Diversity Equity and Inclusion Khuram Hussain are jointly taking the lead on a project to move students toward the “gray” of open, adaptive and complex understandings of ourselves and our world. Our first-year students, along with their community assistants, will be introduced to a range of educational opportunities designed to support their capacity to engage across intellectual, cultural, racial and social differences and improve their abilities to both participate in constructive discourse and avoid unproductive conflict. These skills and dispositions are not only valuable for critical inquiry in college classrooms, but also essential for productive participation in wider campus and civic life.
Another such meeting point has been enabled by a new fund, the Stern Family Forum, created by Honorary Trustee Herbert J. Stern ’58, P’03, LL.D. ’74 and Trustee Samuel A. Stern ’03. Proceeds from this endowed fund will give our new Provost and Dean of Faculty Sarah Kirk, in conjunction with Professor of Philosophy Eric Barnes who is also the head of our Debate Team, and other steering committee members, the means to support one or more annual institutional forums that will enable constructive campus discourse on substantive topics. I’m grateful for our alums, parents and other supporters who make so many things possible for our students and community members.
The local, state and national political scenes continue to hold many points of relevance for higher education, much of which could serve as worthy topics for such campus discussions. Other topics seem straightforward in requiring our community’s support. Earlier this week, I joined with the other New York Six Presidents in calling for the Federal Government to commit to doubling Pell grants. Our group has also advocated strongly for reducing barriers to international students, as they significantly enrich the culture of our campuses, and we hope to welcome more from a wide variety of nations to the Colleges in the years to come.
We made several exciting announcements over the summer that show the forward direction that the Colleges are taking. I am very excited about our new Master of Science in Management and Certificate in Management postgraduate opportunities and am eager to welcome our first class of master’s students to campus next week. My deep thanks to Professor of Economics Tom Drennen for developing these initiatives and for agreeing to direct our new management program. This new program creates the possibility for motivated students to complete both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree within four years, thus adding significant value to the HWS experience. In addition, our announcement of adding 12 new and renewed sports over the next five years, along with the launching of varsity E-sports this fall, has been met with a high level of anticipation and enthusiasm by alums and prospective students alike. We continue to work on additional initiatives to add value, depth and enjoyment to the HWS experience.
As we prepare for a semester of both fun and serious activities, classes and events, we hope to see many alums and parents here on campus over the coming months. We look forward to welcoming you for Homecoming and Family Weekend Sept. 24-26, for an athletics or other school event, or just for a stop-by while you are in the area enjoying all that the Finger Lakes region has to offer. We will also be back out on the road over the months to come, for both alum receptions and other get-togethers and for our admissions team to visit high schools and college fairs across the country. And we are continuing to prepare for the 2022 Bicentennial of Hobart College, with announcements to follow of salient times to visit campus for festivities.
As I begin my third year at the Colleges, it is truly hard to believe how much has happened since I first arrived in the summer of 2019. Throughout both the high and low points, the HWS community has been inspiring and encouraging. Thank you for your continued support and caring.
Joyce P. Jacobsen