Fall Update #5: Message from President Akande
As I have noted in past communications to our Champlain community, my goal is to reopen the Champlain College campus for the Fall 2020 semester, including in-person classes, only if it can be accomplished in a safe manner consistent with CDC and State of Vermont guidelines. We are all aware of the pandemic crisis unfolding in our country that is impacting decisions in literally all aspects of daily life. It is logical for you to ask if the pandemic flare up in other states, as well as the increase in cases in southern Vermont, is likely to impact my decision making process on reopening.
My decision to reopen the college is based on the best science and timely and accurate data available to me. I rely on guidance from experts from the Vermont Department of Health (VDH), including Dr. Mark Levine, whose mission is to protect Vermont’s public health. Today I had a conversation with Governor Phil Scott, who has led Vermont’s response to the COVID-19 crisis admirably. He has been recognized as one of the most trusted governors in the nation by his constituents in managing the pandemic.
I asked Governor Scott if he was modifying his Safe and Healthy Return to Campus guidance based on current information. The Governor made it clear that, absent a clear science-based threat, it remains critical for institutions of higher education and schools to reopen. The State will continue to work closely with the CDC on the national implications of the pandemic and the Vermont Department of Health will continue its aggressive health surveillance activities in our state.
There is no reason at this time for me to change our direction on reopening the campus to include in-person classroom options. The steps we have taken to ensure the safety of the Champlain community comply with, or in many cases exceed, federal, state and local health guidance. We must not allow fear to disrupt our fall semester and the opportunities we have to bring life back to our campus.
One of the steps we are taking is to ensure we are conducting weekly COVID-19 testing on campus, organized and paid for by the College. This regimen of testing is beyond CDC and VDH guidance and will provide a snapshot in time each week of how we are mitigating COVID-19 on our campus. It will validate the efforts we will all take, such as physical distancing, wearing of masks, proper hygiene, and decreasing density in residence halls through the use of primarily single occupancy rooms. We will require each member of our interconnected community on campus to participate in the weekly testing. Students, faculty and staff must all contribute to create the safe and healthy environment on campus we strive for.
I will continue to keep you well informed on our reopening plans based on the information and data I receive, all predicated with the understanding that the health and safety of the entire Champlain community is my first priority. I am looking forward to the upcoming semester and the future opportunities we will have at Champlain College.
Benjamin Ola. Akande, Ph.D.