Winter Break and Spring 2021 Semester
October 19, 2020
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,
I write to deliver this week’s campus update as well as to provide our plan for the end of the Fall 2020 semester, winter break, and the Spring 2021 semester, including senior week and Commencement.
While COVID-19 is still a distinct threat throughout the United States and the rest of the world, we have been relatively spared here in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Cases have upticked lately in the county and several nearby colleges have recently experienced significant outbreaks, but our cases here at HWS have declined and we are cautiously optimistic that, with continued vigilance by all members of our community, we will be able to complete the fall semester without having to close campus. As of today, one student remains in isolation, another 11 in precautionary quarantine due to travel or contact tracing, and all 12 are scheduled to exit isolation or quarantine before the end of the week. We continue our weekly surveillance testing regimen in partnership with the Broad Institute and will work with them next semester as well. The senior staff and I continue to stay abreast of developments relating to health and safety and work closely with public health officials at the county and state level. We continue to monitor the situation as it evolves and will adjust our short- and long-term planning accordingly.
We are still planning for Fall 2020 in-person instruction to continue through Tuesday Nov. 24, after which Thanksgiving break will begin. After Thanksgiving break, the last three days of classes and final exams will be administered using remote learning techniques, with students thus able to stay home until the spring semester. Campus will remain open continuously through Dec. 12 to ensure that those students who need to be on campus will continue to have access to wireless technology, library facilities and dining, among other services. Students who travel to states on the New York State travel advisory list are encouraged to complete the semester from home given the State-required 14-day quarantine period.
Winter break will begin as scheduled on Dec. 12. Housing will remain open on a limited basis for students who have travel challenges, but campus dining will be closed and other campus services will operate on a greatly reduced schedule with most faculty and staff working remotely. Students who must remain on campus will have access to kitchen facilities. Winter sports teams will continue on whatever league schedules may be developed and will have access to the campus throughout their season schedules. During winter break, there will be a pilot J-term running Jan. 2 through Jan. 17, using remote learning techniques. The Office of Academic and Faculty Affairs will be in contact with students in the coming weeks with details regarding J-term courses.
Campus housing and dining will reopen Jan. 9 for students who need to quarantine before classes begin, based on travel quarantine restrictions as of January for those returning from listed states or countries. All other students would return to campus on the weekend of Jan. 23. As we did in August, all students will be asked to either submit proof of recent COVID testing or take a test upon return to campus. There will be orientation activities in the days immediately preceding classes for those students who are beginning at the Colleges in January.
Student Affairs/Residential Life will be in communication with students regarding the exact protocols regarding fall move-out, winter break, and spring return to campus. They are also working hard on planning campus activities for the upcoming months. If you have any follow-up questions or suggestions, please send them to Fall2020@hws.edu.
As we did this fall, we will follow a schedule for the spring that tightens the semester so as to limit travel to and from campus once students have returned. Spring 2021 semester classes will begin one week later than originally planned, on Monday Jan. 25. We will forego a spring break week, and conclude classes on Friday Apr. 30, followed by a reading period May 1-3 and final exams May 4-7. Campus will remain open throughout and, based on information faculty have provided to the registrar, the majority of classes will begin as in-person, with some hybrid, and less than a quarter as fully remote. When an FDA-approved vaccine becomes available in sufficient quantity so that we can provide vaccinations to faculty, staff and students, we will pivot to full in-person instruction for all courses, regardless of the form in which they began. We will continue to follow our current systems regarding wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, and increased hygiene protocols until such time as both the State of New York and we ourselves deem them to be modifiable.
While move-out day for most students will be May 8, seniors will stay through graduation. Senior week, including formal activities, will be extended in format. Commencement for the Classes of 2021 will occur, in person, as scheduled on Sunday, May 16. Depending on what New York State restrictions may be in place at that time regarding size limits on gatherings, it may not be in the standard format and there may be a limit on the number of guests. Delayed senior activities and in-person Commencement for the Classes of 2020 will occur as scheduled on Sunday, June 6 and the days preceding that, again potentially adapted to gathering size restrictions.
While life on campus this fall has been altered to support the health and safety of the overall population, I have been so heartened to see how our students, faculty and staff have preserved, and worked to enhance, the Colleges’ spirit of community and collaboration. We will continue to maintain that spirit throughout the months ahead and on through the spring. I thank all of you for standing by the Colleges and each other during these challenging times and hope that you all stay well and safe.
Joyce P. Jacobsen
Hobart & William Smith Colleges