Update on Spring Semester (Faculty/Staff)

Dear Faculty and Staff Members,

As the year very rapidly draws to a close, I commend all of you on an extraordinary fall semester that truly is one for the record books. Thanks to your efforts, we have been able to fulfill our mission and serve our students in the midst of this historic pandemic. While I know many of you have obligations over the winter break, I do hope it is a time of rest, relaxation and reflection for all.

With the benefit of our experience from the fall, the advice of public health experts, and the strong mitigation efforts in place—including a new and robust coronavirus campus testing program—we will move ahead with our plans for spring. This includes welcoming more students into our residence halls; offering our previously announced combination of in-person, remote and hybrid courses; and resuming a limited schedule of athletic competition.

I realize these plans may sound counterintuitive as Pierce County and the rest of the country are managing a surge in COVID-19 cases—and even though a vaccine has been approved for use and is beginning to be administered across the nation, it likely won’t reach most of the population until later in the spring. The virus will clearly be with us for some time, but as a campus community we have demonstrated that we can move forward as safely as possible when we adhere to the rigorous safety protocols we have in place. 

One of the main reasons that we feel prepared to move forward as planned this spring is the introduction of the new testing protocol that Counseling, Health and Wellness Services shared with us last month. Please look for more details on this protocol from Dr. Kelly Brown soon, and if you are able, please join us for a town hall meeting on testing for faculty and staff members tomorrow at 10 a.m. By offering convenient, self-administered PCR saliva testing on a frequency that aligns with the amount of time you spend on campus and the degree to which you have in-person interactions with others, we will catch more asymptomatic cases and be better prepared to prevent an outbreak. 

Other mitigations that are in place for spring include:

  • Quarantining residential students for one week following winter break. All faculty should be prepared to deliver their courses remotely for the first week of the spring semester, and at other points in the semester if needed.
  • Reserving the entirety of Todd/Phibbs for quarantine and isolation spaces as needed. As in the fall, we will be able to appropriately quarantine and isolate students living on campus, as well as those who live in residences close to campus.
  • Continuing with our onsite respiratory clinic and partnership with MultiCare.
  • Limiting residence hall occupancy. Most students will have access to single rooms, but after careful study and planning, we are also making doubles available. We know that isolation carries increased risks of anxiety and depression that are detrimental to both mental and physical health. We currently anticipate about 900 students (53% occupancy rate) living on campus this spring, up from just under 300 this fall. (Full occupancy is 1700.) All students will be charged the standard room rate; there will not be premium charges for single rooms this spring.
  • Limiting classroom occupancy. About half of courses are being offered fully remotely, and about half of the courses are being offered with some in-person component, either fully in-person or hybrid (some components delivered in-person and some online). All in-person courses and labs require masks and social distancing, and are sanitized between each class period. 
  • Properly sanitizing and social-distancing classrooms, laboratory and other campus spaces. The leading source of outbreaks on college campuses is related to off-campus gatherings—not class attendance. Many students have academic programs that require completion of activities that can only be conducted in person. Having a limited number of students in a limited number of properly ventilated and sanitized academic settings for limited periods of time will allow for timely progress toward degree completion, especially for graduate and undergraduate students planning to complete their studies this spring or summer. (Note: We are moving forward with planning for outdoor Commencement ceremonies on May 16, 2021. More information will be shared with students and families after the first of the year.)
  • Offering a variety of dining options. This includes the GET app for online ordering, an online Diner counter to track occupancy and plan visits accordingly, more pre-packaged food options, enhanced menu items at the Fieldhouse for lunch and dinner, contactless pay systems, and physical modifications to our dining facilities to promote the safety of our staff and students.
  • Continuing to limit the presence of staff on campus in situations where they are able to work from home and continue to meet university needs.
  • Other mitigations. Masks will be required in both indoor and outdoor spaces on campus for students, faculty and staff; building access will continue to be limited; and we are working with neighbors to appropriately limit access to campus and to ensure that neighbors who do visit campus follow our protocols.
  • Athletics. Information about spring athletic competition is expected to be released by the Northwest Conference shortly.

All of the aforementioned information will be shared with students and families later this afternoon.

Please continue to visit pugetsound.edu/spring2021 for the latest information about the spring semester. The site also includes a link to the COVID-19 dashboard, where you can track test results and monitor the presence of the virus in our community, both on and off campus.

The spring semester will challenge us and will require both flexibility and perseverance, but our community has proven, time and time again, that we are able to come together and meet the moment presented to us.  As I have expressed before, that’s who we are and that’s how we roll. I look forward to seeing you soon and invite you to mark the following dates on your calendar: 

Update on Coronavirus Testing Protocol for Spring 2021 Semester for Faculty and Staff
Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, 10 a.m.

Spring 2021 Update Town Hall for Faculty and Staff
Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, noon

35th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration
Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, 6:30 p.m. (first day of spring semester)

State of the University
Update on Budget and Financial Planning
Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, noon

Information on accessing these Zoom meetings is available at pugetsound.edu/covid19internal.

As always, I look forward to your questions and comments, and appreciate your colleagueship and partnership, as we wrap up fall 2020 and look forward to the new year.

With appreciation,

Isiaah
Isiaah Crawford, Ph.D. | President