Dear Students and Ursinus Families,
We are about to embark on a long-standing tradition at Ursinus: “Welcome Week.” It’s the time of year when students arrive on campus ready to begin the new academic year. Our faculty and staff have been hard at work preparing for this semester, and the next few days are particularly special for the community as they give us the opportunity to reflect on our mission as a residential, liberal arts institution that puts the well-being of our students above all else.
While our region continues to confront the uncertainties of the pandemic, Ursinus remains agile. Our task force meets daily to review the environment and monitor the health of our campus. So, as we turn our attention to the fall and the safe return of our students, we wanted to take a moment to clearly outline our updated guidelines and the behaviors we should expect from one another here on campus. Please know that we are committed to communicating with you in a timely manner and will continue to regularly update both our dashboard and the Defend the Den pages with important information.
The new guidelines for the fall semester include:
Every student should have received communications about our upcoming check-in days, August 26 for our first-year students and August 29 for returning students. If you are under 18, please complete and bring with you a testing consent form that can found on our Defend the Den webpages. Every student, including our commuter students, will be required to participate in the check-in process, which includes on-site COVID-19 testing. We ask that you download the NAVICA app for testing results and complete your user profile in advance to help expedite the check-in process. Instructions were sent to you via email last week.
The limitations on gathering sizes that we implemented last year have been lifted, including in residence hall rooms. We are no longer organizing around “family units,” so we ask that all students be especially respectful when discussing expectations with one another within our living communities.
Registered events will be permitted if our weekly positive cases fall under the CDC’s “Low” to “Moderate” transmission levels. The dashboard will be updated weekly to reflect our campus totals. And to make sure we’re creating an environment as safe as possible, participating students should expect to get tested the Thursday before the event. Remember: Our data models indicate that a 95% vaccination level among our students, coupled with regular testing, will likely keep infections below this threshold.
Given the increased transmission of the Delta variant, masks are now generally required for shared indoor settings and indoor academic spaces, regardless of your vaccination status. Please always have a mask available when you are on campus and be mindful of others. Masks do not have to be worn outdoors.
Nothing helps us monitor the health of our community better than testing–it can provide a nearly real-time snapshot of possible transmission among students. Generally, students who received vaccine exemptions will be tested weekly, while fully vaccinated students will be tested every three weeks; student-athletes may have additional testing requirements. Furthermore, students must download the NAVICA app prior to their arrival on campus, which will help quicken the testing process and allow students to confirm their results soon after their tests. Additional information about testing will be provided during check-in later this week, as well as on the college’s Defend the Den webpages.
ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE
Unlike last year, the college has very limited housing options to accommodate those who need to isolate or quarantine. Regardless of their vaccination status, all students should have a personal plan to isolate off campus should they test positive. In a change to our quarantine guidelines, students who are fully vaccinated and are named as contacts will not be required to quarantine but will instead participate in daily testing for five days. More details about these guidelines are outlined on the Defend the Den webpages.
It is important we assess the health of our campus, especially as students become acclimated to their residential communities. For this reason, guests will not be permitted in residence halls for the first two weeks of the semester. That will change beginning Monday, September 13, if our campus maintains its general health. However, with the exception of our residence halls and academic buildings, including Myrin Library, visitors are currently welcome on campus. They can attend athletic events and performances, and enter other social venues, such as the Schellhase Commons, if they remain masked indoors.
We are once again offering full eat-in, self-service dining in Upper Wismer, with no restrictions on venue capacity. Take-out options are available, as is outdoor seating around campus. Please note that masks are required in dining facilities unless you are actively eating or drinking. Alternative options, such as Café 2020, Natural, the C-Store, and the Lower Wismer food court, remain open as well!
As we start the semester, it is our intention to offer as robust a residential experience as possible for our students. The college has created a campus operations webpage that lists regular hours for key dining locations, athletic facilities, the mail room, and other popular offices. We will update that page in real time and communicate those operational changes on our “What’s Up, Ursinus?” Instagram feed. As for our fitness center, we be using our online reservation software again, but with some enhancements that will allow for a greater number of reservation times.
This depends on transmission rates within Montgomery County, Pa., but we begin the semester having lifted all off-campus travel restrictions. Students may travel off campus without requesting permission. We ask that you stay mindful of community health and carefully consider your decision to visit any locations designated as pandemic “hot spots” by the CDC if you plan to return directly to campus.
CODE OF CONDUCT
Finally, but perhaps most importantly: We are a community of learners. Our community values guide how we live and work with one another. An email about the college’s code of conduct will be sent soon but remember: Every student is expected to respect one another, regardless of vaccination status, test results, or personal beliefs.
We’re grateful for your cooperation in helping to keep our campus as healthy and safe as possible. Thank you for familiarizing yourself with these guidelines. On behalf of all faculty and staff, we look forward to your arrival to campus.
It’s a great time to be a Bear!
Jill Marsteller ’78 P’18, Interim President-Elect
Mark Schneider, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chair of the Virus Task Force
Dear Students and Ursinus Families,