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By Jillian Riches

President’s Address to Community

Susan West Engelkemeyer, Ph.D. on July 9, 2020

Dear Nichols College Community,  

I am so excited to share our plans to welcome students back to the Hill in August!  A safe and healthy campus is our utmost concern, and we are devoting time and resources to ensure all students, faculty and staff return to a safe campus community.  

At Nichols College, we believe our size and close relationships are what make us a unique place to learn and work. In this time of COVID uncertainty, we absolutely believe that small schools can – and will – still thrive and we intend to be one that does. Through a mutual understanding and respect for our shared responsibility in making it so, we plan to lead the way through this critical time and emerge stronger than ever before. It will mean some sacrifice now. It will mean a new definition of what is “normal” for the time being. And it will take a great deal of compassion and patience as well as determination and fortitude.  

The small school difference means we are poised to deliver on our promise to learn, lead, and succeed. But we can only do so if each member of our Herd understands and embraces their role and responsibilities in a return to campus plan of action. Below are details about how we are modifying campus spaces and processes and what we expect of all community members.  

Residence Halls  

  • Face coverings must always be worn when outside personal living spaces.  
  • Move-in will occur in phases to reduce contact and density at any one time.  
  • No visitors will be allowed into residence halls; only those who live in a specific residence hall can enter that building. 
  • To minimize virus transmission, bathroom guidelines will require that no personal items can be stored in the bathroom, and bathrooms should be wiped down by each individual after their use. Cleaning and disinfecting supplies will be provided for each private bathroom, and community bathrooms will be cleaned twice daily at a minimum.  
  • Students who live locally, close enough to commute to campus, or those who live with an already compromised immune system or with an underlying health issue are asked to strongly consider remaining at home during the fall semester. In the case of a quarantine, this will allow us to isolate resident students who are unable to return home. 

Campus Life and Student Organizations

  • Student organizations will be allowed to meet virtually or in very small groups. 
  • Large-scale events and actively engaging programs such as dances, pub nights, concerts, intramurals, club sports and wellness classes, etc., will be temporarily paused until College guidelines permit them to begin again. 
  • Campus Activities Board (CAB) will continue to provide quality programming, delivered with social distancing measures and safety considerations in place. 
  • The Campus Shuttle will not be operational to begin the semester. 
  • Students will be asked to avoid large, off-campus events and to practice all necessary health and safety behaviors while off campus. 
  • Drop-in service will be temporarily discontinued at Health Services in South Hall – and students will be asked to call ahead of arriving at the center to seek medical attention.  

Nichols Dining Services 

  • Alterations to the dining hall will include limiting capacity at any given time and the temporary loss of self-serve stations. 
  • Tent seating will be available behind Lombard and at the Auditorium. 
  • Grab and Go options will be readily available. 
  • Davis Café and Becker Market will be closed for the fall semester. 
  • Some alterations to the hours of operation in Lombard, WOW and Jazzman’s will be implemented to allow proper time for cleaning between meal service.  

Classrooms and Campus Buildings  

  • Layouts will be reconfigured to allow physical distancing in academic and common spaces, including entry/exit procedures. 
  • HVAC systems will be adjusted to optimize fresh air intake. 
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols will be implemented. 
  • Classrooms, office areas and other spaces throughout the campus will be limited to 50% capacity. 
  • All courses will be delivered HyFlex, and students will alternate between in-class and synchronous participation via Zoom to reduce density in classrooms.  

Athletics 

  • The Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) is finalizing their “Return to Play” plan that details safety measures and protocols for varsity sports. We are working with CCC and the NCAA on guidelines for practice and competition for fall and winter sports. We will share decisions with you as they become finalized in the coming weeks. It is highly likely that spectators will not be permitted for any varsity sports in the fall.    

COVID-19 Protocol 

  • All students (residential and non-residential) as well as faculty and staff will be tested before classes begin and on a pre-determined frequency thereafter. This will be a self-administered minimally invasive nasal swab PCR test for COVID-19 . We are contracting with the Broad Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts for testing services, as are a majority of private colleges and universities in Massachusetts. All campus-based COVID-19 testing costs will be the responsibility of the College.  
  • Any student showing symptoms of COVID-19 will be tested immediately and quarantined until test results are returned. The College has set aside several rooms for quarantine, but students who reside within a 6-hour radius of campus will be required to quarantine at home with few exceptions. Contact tracing procedures will identify individuals who have been exposed to a positive COVID-19 case. 

Individual Responsibilities 

  • All students, faculty and staff are required to wear face coverings when outside their living spaces and offices. 
  • Nichols will provide every community member with one branded washable cloth face mask, and each individual should bring their own additional face coverings. 
  • Daily, self-guided symptom checking is expected of all students, faculty and staff.  

We are asking that all members of our community adopt and embrace the Healthy Herd Pledge. In doing so we always agree collectively to act in the best interest of the Herd, and to look out for every other member of our respected community – even those we may never meet or know. By placing our personal interests second to the needs of the greater community, we will embody our individual role in our College’s overall successes. Together we can ensure that we will finish our semester in person, be successful in our academic endeavors, and, most importantly, safeguard each valued member of our Nichols Family so that we may all continue on our chosen pathways to personal and professional achievement. 

The Healthy Herd Pledge 

As a valued member of the Nichols College and Dudley communities, we are asking you to protect yourself and others by pledging to:   

  • Participate regularly in the testing and contact tracing protocols established by the College. 
  • Practice physical/social distancing while on and off campus and outside of your personal living and workspace. 
  • Wear a mask anytime you are outside of your personal living and workspace; this includes both on and off campus. 
  • Regularly practice a high degree of personal hygiene and wellness and thereby minimize the transfer of the virus to yourself and others. 
  • Self-monitor daily and report to the proper staff when you are not feeling well or if you have come into close contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive or who is exhibiting any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19.
  • Willingly participate in isolation or quarantining for the medically required amount of days following close contact with an effected person or a positive test result. 
  • Abide by all campus specific regulations and policies developed to safeguard our community during this critical time.  

While we have taken great strides to protect the Nichols College community; we trust that all members – students, faculty and staff – will ultimately take responsibility for their own health and safety and act in a manner that demonstrates respect and consideration for those around them and consistent with the Healthy Herd Pledge. Those who act in defiance of or indifferently toward this level of responsibility may face disciplinary action through Human Resources or Student Affairs 

We must recognize that no matter where one lives, there is risk of contagion within our communities. Our responsibility to the Nichols Family, and to the communities surrounding us, is to maintain the strictest health and safety standards to reduce to a minimum the likelihood of transmitting COVD-19. While a complete absence of the virus within our campus community is unlikely, with the extraordinary measures we are taking – and if each of us follows these guidelines – we can maintain a safe environment while giving our students the on-ground learning, leadership, athletic and social experiences they love and expect at Nichols. 

Operating our campus in times of COVID-19 is perhaps the greatest challenge Nichols has ever faced. But we are Bison. We are strong, dedicated and resilient. We have engaged people from across the campus and beyond to develop a comprehensive plan that adapts our courses, work and residential life, athletics, dining, and clubs and activities so that we are able to reopen our campus in a safety-focused, socially distanced manner. COVID-19 will affect many of our daily routines this fall, but it won’t diminish our intense dedication to the well-being of our community and to the learning and leadership development of our students.  

We have worked diligently so that we are as ready as we can be for fall semester, but we must also recognize that things could change between now and late August. We will be ready to adjust based upon factors both within and beyond our control. This includes shifting state guidelines, trending public health measures, testing protocols and results, and whether we, as a community, are able to work together to keep the campus open while working to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. I am confident that the Nichols community can embrace this moment and will succeed. Thank you for your continued support and dedication.  

I hope this overview of the back-to-school protocol provides helpful information. Please visit  https://covid19.nichols.edu/ regularly to learn more about expected campus life in the fall of 2020. If you have further questions, please email me directly or covid19questions@nichols.edu. 


Sincerely, 

Susan  

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