August 9, 2021
Dear Staff and Faculty Colleagues,
It has been great to see many of you on campus in the past week. We hope you have had some time to recharge during this eventful summer and are now looking forward, as we are, to the start of a new academic year. Even as we look ahead, we are reflecting back with renewed gratitude and appreciation on all you did to make the last school year both possible and successful.
We are writing today to bring you up to date on our plans for a safe and productive Fall semester.
The persistence of COVID-19 is at the center of those plans. Living with the virus is no longer new for any of us, and yet the next phase of this pandemic is bringing different challenges and concerns, ones that we will have to navigate carefully as a community. Our priority, as always, will be to create the conditions for all of you to thrive. This letter outlines our latest thinking on three critical areas—vaccination, masking, and testing—in order to clarify our path forward.
When we announced our goal of living and working together in person this Fall, we did so with the understanding that a high vaccination rate would be necessary to return to normal density in our residential, academic, and administrative spaces. As you know, we are requiring all enrolled students to get the vaccine. And up to now we have been urging our employees to do the same. However, with rising infection rates caused by the Delta variant, and with new guidance just released by the Department of Justice on vaccination mandates, our thinking has recently evolved.
In short, we have decided that all employees, like our students, must be fully vaccinated if they intend to work at the College this Fall. We had the chance to speak on Friday with leaders of FSCC and Staff Council, who agreed that this course of action is not only prudent but also honorable, respectful, and in keeping with our values as a civic-minded community of care.
Fortunately, we are nearly there. The majority of you have now shared your vaccination status with the College, and 97.5% of those reporting are fully vaccinated. So, we are simply asking the remainder who have not yet received the vaccine to do so as soon as possible. And we are requiring all vaccinated employees to report your status to the College no later than August 23.
Unvaccinated individuals, then, must start the process of getting a vaccine within the next two weeks. Use the CT Vaccine Portal to find a site. You will have until September 20 to receive your full dosage. If you are unable to complete this schedule, you will have to take a limited unpaid leave of absence.
We recognize that some of you may have medical circumstances or sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent you from getting a vaccine. In that case, you must request a confidential medical or religious exemption through the office of Human Resources, also by August 23. Additional COVID safety protocols will be required of exempt employees, including participation in the College’s weekly testing program.
If you have not yet reported your vaccination to Human Resources or reported that you are unvaccinated, you can expect to receive a separate email this week with more information about the new requirement.
To reduce the possibility of breakthrough infections, we will be following the guidance of our partners at Hartford HealthCare in requiring all students, faculty, and staff to wear a mask while working together indoors. More details about mask expectations can be found on the new Staff and Faculty Guidance page on the Path Forward website. Because masks are known to help prevent the spread of infection, we believe this is the most effective way to further protect the health of our campus, our families, and our neighbors in the region.
With the vaccination, employees will no longer have to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. Only those who have received a vaccine exemption will be required to continue our testing protocol throughout the Fall. Test Center location and days/hours will be posted on the Staff and Faculty Guidance page.
Vaccinated employees, however, will have the opportunity to avail themselves of three “peace-of-mind” tests during the semester whenever they are free of symptoms and want to confirm their COVID-19 negative status. Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms is asked to stay at home and contact their healthcare provider.
The Path Forward
This and other guidance for the Fall will continue to be published on the Path Forward website, our ongoing repository for all COVID-19 information. Again, we ask you to refer to the Staff and Faculty Guidance page for more details about the start of this year. It will be updated regularly as circumstances change.
The Path Forward site also offers new information about the College’s Alert Levels. The conditions associated with Alert Level Green, for example, have already been adjusted to reflect the reality of a largely vaccinated campus. As before, we will change our mode of operation, and our alert levels, whenever circumstances on campus or in the region warrant it.
If you have any questions about these materials, please contact the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, the Office of Human Resources, or simply email COVID19ResponseTeam@conncoll.
One final note: The pandemic has brought unprecedented stress for all of us, whether working on campus or remotely. As we return to a fully residential experience this Fall, we acknowledge that life at the College will be different from last year, and different again from what it was before the pandemic. Adjusting to continual change can be difficult. But one thing these past two years have shown is that this community will prevail, and that is because of your strength.
We are grateful for that, and for your continued commitment and compassion for each other. We look forward to a successful Fall semester together.
Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development