On March 23, just over a year after Haverford students attended their first Zoom classes, Haverford President Wendy Raymond and Bryn Mawr President Kimberly Cassidy informed the Bi-Co community that both colleges are planning to hold all classes in person for the fall 2021 semester.
The announcement came just two weeks before Haverford launched its effort to vaccinate all students, faculty and staff against COVID-19 by the end of this semester. Bryn Mawr began a similar initiative later in April.
President Raymond began by thanking the community for its efforts over the last year to keep COVID-19 off campus. She then wrote, “Next year, we expect that classes will be held in person, and students will again enjoy access to our wide range of facilities, experiences, and connections.” She added that she feels optimistic about the upcoming year, and even envisions the return of “classrooms and teach-ins, athletic competitions, arts performances, [and] shared meals…”
However, she did note that the pandemic has been unpredictable, and that the college community may have to continue with some of the safety precautions of this year. This may include masking in various situations, some degree of regular testing, and certain levels of social distancing. The college also plans to maintain their quick and adaptable approach to changing public health guidelines. President Raymond mentioned that given an emergency, she expects the community to rapidly adjust to protect everyone’s safety.
Additional details about the fall semester came into focus during an interview conducted by The Clerk with President Raymond and Vice President and Chief of Staff Jesse Lytle on April 9. During this conversation, Lytle explained the College is hoping to function on a “Level 0” of the familiar Bi-Co Mitigation Plan for fall 2021: “Imagine a level below Level 1 […] that’s sort of like normal except we’re masked. But we’ll probably keep the option to move up to a Level 1 or a Level 2.”
Haverford also plans to require vaccination among students, and perhaps staff, as a condition of continued in-person involvement with the college. Standard exemptions will be made for religious and medical purposes, and President Raymond shared that before vaccines will be required, they must obtain formal FDA approval (as they are currently authorized for emergency use). While this interview provided some clarity, both Raymond and Lytle emphasized that much about the fall semester remains to be determined.
In an April 9 email, Kristen Vitacco, Assistant Director of Housing Operations and Student Life, added to the optimism about fall 2021. In a message regarding move-out and room draw, she noted that “the College has decided to return to both single and double occupancy in the residence halls for the 2021–2022 academic year.” This reflects the college’s plan to bring all students back to campus, which will require an end to the pandemic-imposed policy of all single rooms. She added that there are no plans currently to change the layouts of the HCA bedrooms. Room draw is tentatively scheduled for the last week in May, according to Vitacco.
President Raymond indicated that more information would be shared in the coming weeks regarding other aspects of the fall 2021 semester, including news about athletics, Customs, and course offerings. While the capacity for disruption from the pandemic should never be underestimated, it appears that Haverford students can expect some level of normalcy to return to campus in the fall.