As we all now fully realize, the College may have to be in Operational Level 3 at some point during the spring semester, and perhaps even Operational Level 4. At the moment, the campus remains at Operational Level 3 through Sunday evening. We certainly hope that the ongoing testing of students who have been here during Winterim and those who are arriving signal that we can return to Operational Level 2 on Monday, allowing in-person classes to meet in their regularly assigned rooms. While the recent snow has been something of a magical distraction, at least for me, it has also brought with it a delay in our testing of arriving students, and so I regret that we will not be able to determine if we can return to Level 2 operations until Saturday at the earliest. I realize that this is quite disruptive for everyone who is scheduled to teach in-person classes this “spring,” and for many this will mean the best course of action is to have the first class meeting be remote in order to avoid any miscommunication over the weekend.
While it is still possible that much if not all of the semester will be conducted at Level 2 and possibly even Level 1, we clearly can’t ignore the possibility that we might have to be in Level 3 or 4. This is why it is so important to communicate with your classes about how you expect to proceed in those circumstances. Similarly, as has always been clear, there is a very real possibility of having students in quarantine on particularly important days for your class, for example on days when there are laboratories or exams. As was mentioned in an earlier note, it is important to communicate to your classes about how such situations will be managed. And finally, there is the possibility that any one of us may have to go into quarantine at some point this semester, including a person teaching an in-person course, adding another form of disruption that we have to plan for.
Should Lafayette need to be in Operational Level 3 during the semester, the protocols for the associated “soft quarantine” do constrict student activities. In that situation, in-person classes are scaled back to those approved by me. The associated protocols are described on the Additional Details page. In short, faculty members who think it is important to continue meeting with their classes in person while in Level 3 should consult with their department head or program chair, and if both agree that a class should continue to meet in person, then they should send me an email briefly describing the reasons for the exception. In considering such requests I will have the community’s health and safety as the primary concern, and after that the degree to which in-person instruction in the course is critical for that course in the particular moment of the semester.
Faculty members who are teaching remotely but using campus facilities, such as their office or a classroom, can continue to do so during Operational Level 3 but should inform their head or chair. Similarly, faculty members can continue to work with individual students on research projects as long as multiple people do not need to be working in shared space for any significant length of time. (This adjustment is consistent with the recently amended protocols for Level 3.) As always, the appropriate department head or program chair should be informed and physical distancing practiced.
As you can read in the description of Operational Level 4, there is no room for exceptions should we need that level of quarantine across the campus.
While the health and safety of the community always come first, I do apologize for the necessity of the late notice about the Operational Level for the start of the semester.
John Meier, Provost
P.S. Here are links to the previous emails about preparing for the spring semester:
Communications related to students in quarantine
Safety protocols for on-campus instruction
Preparing for the spring semester