To the Lafayette Community:

We all recognize what an enormous challenge it has been for an educational community built on proximity, conversation, and relationships to function in the remote environment we entered last spring. I am proud of the way in which our community has managed to keep conversations going and relationships thriving in spite of being apart. We are now entering a new phase in which most students, and many faculty and staff, are finally back together on campus. 

This is an exciting turning point, but it is important to remember that with many still working or studying from home, all of us will need to continue to reach across the boundaries of distance to sustain our community. Even more crucially, those on campus will need to be tolerant of the many ways in which this semester will be different from “normal” college life and adhere rigorously to the protocols we have put in place in order to keep our community safe.

In spite of last week’s snowstorm, we welcomed 2,000-plus students back to campus over the last several days, thanks to heroic efforts on the part of staff across the College. Students completed pre-arrival testing, were tested on arrival, and were asked to follow Operational Level 3 guidance.  I know that I am not alone in feeling great joy at seeing our campus filled with students again. Faculty members have been busy preparing for both remote and in-person classes. While most of our staff continue to work remotely, others have been busy making the campus and its operations as safe as possible. 

As announced previously, the College’s COVID-safety protocols fall into four operational levels determined by the infection rates on campus. Each level’s restrictions are related to academics, dining, housing, campus gatherings, and transportation. We are beginning the semester at Operational Level 2, with about 30% of our courses being offered in person. We will provide a daily indication of the current operational level in Lafayette Today

I want to remind every student coming to campus that you have signed the Pard Pledge, promising to follow all requirements pertaining to face coverings and physical distancing, testing and contact tracing, the need for isolation or quarantine, and restrictions on travel. You are responsible for staying up to date on current guidelines, which may change throughout the semester. I am sorry to say that several students are now studying from home as a result of alleged violations of our campus safety protocols. In order for us to have a safe and successful semester, everybody needs to do their part. That means following all the necessary guidelines and asking those around you to do the same.

While much of our energy has been devoted to preparations for the spring semester, this has been a busy time on other fronts as well.

Our efforts to combat racism on campus continued during the semester break. A new Anti-Racism at Lafayette website outlines our commitments, progress, and plans. About two weeks ago, we held a virtual town hall conversation about Public Safety’s role on campus in light of national and local concerns pertaining to policing and racial justice. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to provide feedback to Public Safety, including complaints, compliments, and general observations.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council has resumed its open meetings, held every other Wednesday at 1 p.m. and listed on the College calendar. Agenda topics include allyship (Feb. 10); religious tolerance (Feb. 24); gender, sexuality, and pronouns (March 10); accessibility (March 24); and the NAACP (April 7). All are invited to share ideas, concerns, and experiences as we explore strategies and solutions for a more equitable and inclusive campus community.  Additionally, a recent open letter to Lafayette’s administration from the student organization Pards Against Sexual Assault offered a number of recommendations for improving the climate with regard to gender equity on campus and strengthening our support for sexual assault survivors. We will be meeting with PASA and communicating further with the community on these issues.

The Board of Trustees, along with faculty and administrative leadership, held a virtual retreat in mid-January on “Institutional Resilience: Strengthening Lafayette for the Future.” In breakout sessions, we discussed such topics as what is needed to make progress on our goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion; how we might develop additional sources of revenue for the College; and changes we have made in this crisis that we might want to maintain in the future. The board expressed great appreciation for the participation and engagement of faculty and staff colleagues who attended. We hope to follow up on these productive discussions in a variety of venues throughout the spring.

Best wishes to all for a good start to the semester. Whether you are on campus, or studying, teaching, or working from home, it is great to have you with us. 

President Alison Byerly

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