Skip to contentSkip to site navigation Menu Menuglobal navigation Menu Menu

Employees (Faculty, Staff and Administrators)

Introduction and Values Statement

Campus Testing and Cases

This planning and guidance is subject to change in response to local public health conditions and local, state, and federal guidelines.

Vassar invites students to return to campus for the Fall 2020 semester. Developed by the VassarTogether committee (a broad campus-wide group of faculty, administrators, staff, and students), this report describes practices and protocols to safely return to campus, while ensuring that students and faculty who do not return to campus can continue to learn and teach. Central components of this plan involve face masks, physical distance, and sanitation; testing, contact tracing, and protocols for isolation; and self-quarantine. In addition, we identify community standards that will support a safe learning community.

Key Values

We start by identifying key values that are the foundation of our planning for a safe resumption of in-person classes in Fall 2020:

  • We are committed to creating and sustaining an ethical learning community;
  • We will prioritize the health of our community, paying explicit attention to the inequalities that contribute to vulnerabilities during this pandemic;
  • The Vassar community is global and we are enriched by the multiplicity of experience and culture that constitute our global campus;
  • Our living and learning practices must emphasize and create modes of cooperation, mutual care, and interdependence.

Teaching, learning, and living together under our current conditions means embracing a spirit of experimentation, which is to say a willingness to try, revise, and try again. This will be a collaborative effort between faculty, students, administrators and staff. We encourage the entire Vassar community to embrace a spirit of collaboration, openness, curiosity, and inquiry as a way of helping us understand what it means to collectively create a learning community in this historical moment. No student or faculty members will be required to return to in-person teaching or learning as a condition of enrollment, financial aid, or employment.  Human Resources will extend Vassar’s temporary Telework program, so that employees whose roles and responsibilities allow may continue working from off campus.

In recognizing that we cannot all share the same physical learning spaces in ways we are accustomed, we affirm these commitments to the Vassar community: We will learn where we are and with what we have. We will teach where we are and with what we have. We will work where we are and with what we have. We will offer our support and compassion to each other in these endeavors.

SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus first identified in 2019, causes the potentially life-threatening disease COVID-19. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), its primary mode of transmission is through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks; spread is most likely when people are in close contact with each other. This is why wearing masks and maintaining physical distance from others are currently among the most effective methods of preventing the spread. The protocols we outline below are anchored in the emerging scientific understanding of the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and are informed by the CDC, New York State Department of Health, and the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health. As knowledge of the disease changes, these protocols will change as needed. This planning and guidance is also subject to change in response to local public health conditions and local, state, and federal guidelines.

In the midst of a global pandemic, with its devastating effects on society’s most vulnerable, Vassar College affirms our commitments to both our educational mission and to prioritizing the health and safety of our community and the larger communities within which we live and with whom we have valued relationships. With the pandemic likely to persist beyond Fall 2020, the College must adapt to these new conditions that unsettle many of the longstanding practices of the residential liberal arts. Under these challenging circumstances, the value of a liberal arts education seems more important than ever, so we as a community must discern our way forward together, developing new pedagogies, practices, and protocols to support our enduring commitment to learning together.

Four Phases of the Fall 2020 Campus Experience

To maximize community health and safety, we are planning a four-phase campus experience in Fall 2020, with target dates for each phase. The specific implementation dates for the different phases will be responsive to public health conditions on campus and in Dutchess County, as well as New York State guidelines. These phases are subject to change at any time and we will only advance to the next phase if campus and local health conditions permit.

Phase 1

Return to Campus (August 8–September 7)

Students will return to campus gradually during the three week period beginning August 8, although some students may be approved to return earlier. Estimated return dates for each student are provided. Each student will have a specific window to move into their campus housing. Please pack light for the Fall 2020 semester. This will facilitate an easy move-in process and swift move-out, if public health conditions require students to leave campus prematurely. Within the first three days of arrival, all students will be required to take a COVID-19 test provided and administered by the College.

Phase 1 on Campus

Many have been concerned how they will complete the 14-day quarantine required by New York State for many travelers. Following the latest guidance from local health officials, we will be quarantining as a campus together from August 8 to August 31. Please note that all students will be under these same requirements, regardless of your previous geographic location (including international locations and states with New York travel advisories).

  • During this time, the campus will be closed to non-essential visitors.
  • Students will be assigned to “family units” for picking up grab and go food at specified times to reduce density.
  • Students will be asked to stay largely in their dormitories or off-campus houses, and when leaving their residence to go outside for exercise or fresh air, activities must minimize contact with others.
  • Students will be required to maintain 6 feet of distance from others at all times and wear masks except when alone or with roommates in their room or sitting outside with 6 feet of distance to the next person.
  • Students will have two COVID-19 tests in their first 10-14 days on campus.
  • Students will be required to complete a daily self-assessment of symptoms.

Upon successful completion of Phase I and with the ongoing guidance of public health officials, we plan to continue into Phase II of our Fall 2020 campus experience.

Regarding Vulnerable Populations

All students who may not feel comfortable returning will be invited to participate in academic and co-curricular activities remotely. When needed, we will provide internet connection capability to their home to ensure they have access to remote learning. Furthermore, students who are residing on campus but need accommodations to feel safe will be guided by the Office of Accessibility and Educational Opportunities (AEO) on campus. Services for accommodation include, but are not limited to, note takers, extra time on assignments and tests, and academic coaches.

Phase 1 Campus Protocols
  • Masks/Face Coverings Required
  • Maintain 6ft Distance
    • Physical distance everywhere indoors and outdoors
    • Roommates in doubles, triples, suites, and apartments are encouraged to maintain 6ft distance as possible
  • Campus Closed to Visitors
  • Students Remain On-Campus
  • Grab-n-Go Dining Only
    • Limited outdoor seating, seats marked for distancing
  • Access to Only Your Residence
  • Assigned Bathrooms (Houses)
  • No registered parties in apartment areas
  • No In-Person/Outdoor Programming (virtual/passive programming only)
  • Public Facility Temporary Closures
    • Athletic Fitness Center, Academic Lounges, House Parlors and Multipurpose Rooms, Community Centers, etc.
  • Classrooms spaced for physical distance
  • Any informal gatherings are virtual or outside only
    • Masks and 6ft distance required
    • Any in-person gatherings should be infrequent. Virtual gatherings encouraged.
    • Outdoor exercise/recreation with phsyical distancing
  • Food and grocery deliveries to campus
    • Delivery drivers may not enter building, students meet driver outside
  • Testing
    • Pre-arrival Test
    • 1st on-campus test upon arrival
    • 2nd on campus test 7-10 days after arrival

Phase 2

Confirming Community Standards (September 8–September 25)

Phase 2 is a period to establish routines that affirm safe community standards. We will all need to support each other in practicing social distancing, wearing masks (and appreciating reminders to wear masks), and navigating campus in a way that promotes lower density. Students living in campus housing will be expected to remain on campus during the academic semester. With very limited exceptions, such as medical care, off-campus student travel is not permitted. In addition, all meetings beyond formal classroom, lab, or research sessions should be held outdoors or via videoconference technology (Zoom) until September 7. After September 7, pending an assessment of health conditions on campus, student organizations may register to use specific meeting rooms for low-density activities; any gatherings must be pre-scheduled and will require social distancing, masks, and adherence to occupancy limits based on room size and New York State guidelines.

Phase 2 Campus Protocols
  • Masks/Face Coverings Required
  • Maintain 6ft Distance
    • Physical distance continues indoors and outdoors outside of bedroom, suite, or apartment
    • Roommates in doubles, triples, suites, and apartments have achieved status as pod-unit
  • Limited Visitor Access (grounds open to visitors; no building access)
  • Students Remain On-Campus
  • Grab-n-Go Dining and Outdoor Seating Expanded
    • Marked 6ft distance at tables continues
  • Access to Only Your Residence
  • Assigned Bathrooms (Houses)
  • No registered parties in apartment areas
  • Approved (Limited) Outdoor Programs
  • Select public facilities re-open with reduced maximum capacity
    • Including: Lounges, Parlors, Community Centers
    • Some facilities remain closed (i.e. AFC)
  • Classrooms spaced for physical distance
  • Informal Gatherings outdoors; Indoor gatherings permitted with Reduced Maximum Capacities
    • Masks and 6ft distance required
    • Virtual Gatherings Continue
    • Outdoor exercise/recreation with pod-units
  • Food and grocery deliveries to campus
    • Delivery drivers may not enter building, students meet driver outside
  • Testing
    Regular Community testing

Phase 3

Structured Group Student Off-Campus Travel Permitted (September 26–November 20)

In Phase 3, structured student travel will be permitted according to specific guidelines to promote community safety. Examples of such structured group student off-campus travel include: athletics contests, class-based research or site visit activities, and College-sponsored performances.

Phase 3 Campus Protocols
  • Masks/Face Coverings Required
  • Maintain 6ft Distance
    • Physical distance continues indoors and outdoors outside of bedroom, suite, or apartment Pod-units sustained
  • Limited Visitor Access (grounds open to visitors; no building access)
  • Structured Student Travel Off Campus (e.g. class trip, class performance)
  • Indoor Dining and Grab-n-go Options
    • Marked distance seating indoors and outdoors
  • Access to Only Your Residence
  • Assigned Bathrooms (Houses)
  • No registered parties in apartment areas
  • Approved Outdoor Events
  • Select public facilities remain open with reduced maximum capacity
    • Including: Lounges, Parlors, Community Centers
    • Some facilities remain closed (i.e. AFC)
  • Classrooms spaced for physical distance
  • Informal Gatherings outdoors; Indoor gatherings permitted with Reduced Maximum Capacities
    • Masks and 6ft distance required
    • Virtual Gatherings Continue
    • Outdoor exercise/recreation with pod-units
  • Food and grocery deliveries to campus
    • Delivery drivers may not enter building, students meet driver outside
  • Testing
    • Regular community Testing

Phase 4

Students Depart Campus (November 20–22)

The last day of in-person classes is Friday, November 20. Classes will be in recess the week of November 23, resuming online only on Monday, November 30 through Wednesday, December 9 (the final day of classes). Please see the revised academic calendar for the Fall 2020 Semester at Students will be expected to depart campus housing for the semester by 10:00pm on Sunday, November 22. We expect that campus housing will reopen for the Spring Semester in January 2021.

Campus Access

VassarTogether, the planning team that developed these protocols, focused on reimagining a return to on-campus learning that prioritizes campus community members and the larger Poughkeepsie/Arlington community’s health and wellness during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We concentrated on establishing basic physical health and wellness safety measures that will ensure compliance with both the New York State Governor's executive orders, the New York State Higher Education Guidelines, and The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York guidelines for Creating Safe and Resilient Campuses. This Community Care Approach emphasizes making Vassar a safe campus community that provides a robust on-campus educational experience.

In order for this community care approach to succeed, students must remain on campus at all times in order to help minimize any potential spread of COVID-19. This restriction will be in place when students arrive on campus and will be reassessed as we make progress and head into Phase 3. All campus buildings will be closed to outside visitors (local vendors will need to participate in health screening like employees, and other restrictions will apply).

Employees who can perform their jobs off-site will continue to do so, and those who travel to campus will comply with new testing, health screening, and PPE requirements. We know these measures err on the side of caution, but they provide some access to our campus to the broader community, help protect employees, and give our students the on-campus college experience they long for and deserve.

Campus Boundary and Community Responsibility

VassarTogether discussed in detail the need to weigh the safety needs of our campus with our institutional values and commitments to the broader Poughkeepsie community. The community care approach described below strikes a balanced and measured approach for the Fall 2020 semester. The campus grounds, including the Ecological Preserve, will be closed to visitors from August 8 through at least September 7, pending consultation with county health officials. Signage will remind everyone to follow the campus mask-wearing policy and other health and safety protocols. Access to college buildings will be limited by card swipe to students and employees only.

This approach, emphasizing the health and safety of both the campus community and the broader Poughkeepsie community, requires that students not travel off campus, including short trips into town. As we limit access to our campus for the Fall semester please be aware of the following guidelines:

Campus Entry Guidelines


Students, faculty/faculty families, and employees/employee families should have their IDs at all times while on campus. IDs are the only way that you will be able to access buildings on campus. Signage regarding ID requirements will be prominently displayed at campus entries (sidewalk and roadway) throughout the campus, and a written message to the Vassar community will reinforce this policy.

Card Reader

All buildings will have card readers. Additional card readers will be placed at residence halls and other locations. Maps will show card reader locations throughout campus for easier access.

Masks and Hand Sanitizer

All departments will have masks and hand sanitizer available to give out as needed. High-traffic areas will also have hand sanitizing wipes available.


Touchless deliveries will be allowed on Main Campus through 11:00 pm. Delivery guidelines (masks, no entry into buildings, etc.,) and campus entrance/exit instructions will be distributed to local businesses. Vendors will be expected to utilize touchless delivery methods, wear protective masks, and not enter campus buildings.

Supply deliveries will be directed to purchasing. Special arrangements will be made for science and food deliveries.


  • Vendors must pre-register through Procurement, which will include signing a community contract and providing a main person of contact for the College.
  • Appointments are required seven days in advance of coming to campus.
  • The College will keep a daily log of any vendors on campus should they be required for contact tracing.
  • Vendors should limit the number of their personnel on campus to no more than 2.

Vendors will follow all safety requirements of the College, including but not limited to wearing PPE and following appropriate social- distancing guidelines.

Emeriti and Household Family Members of Faculty and Employees

Emeriti faculty and family members of employees may access campus buildings with an appropriate ID, but they may be limited to specific buildings during specific time periods. Emeriti, household members of faculty, employees, and students will follow employee/student guidelines upon entering a building.

Other Constituencies

The College will provide further guidance regarding protocols related to the following campus constituencies.

    • Admissions
    • ROTC
    • Military Reservist

Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve

The Poughkeepsie Farm Project and Community Gardens will remain open as usual, but cordoned off from the rest of campus, while the Ecological Preserve will be closed to non-essential visitors. The Field Station and Barn will remain locked and off-limits to all but Vassar community members. Masks must be worn by all visitors, except when stationary and six feet from other individuals; or when performing grounds maintenance while social distancing from all other workers. All visitors and employees must have a mask close at hand to don when coming into close proximity with others. We have formulated this plan in consultation with county health officials, who believe it is best for the safety of both the community and the students. Signage will reinforce these new restrictions.

Health and Safety

Testing, Tracing, Self-Quarantine and Isolation Policies

The College will conduct COVID-19 testing for the Fall 2020 Semester. We plan to implement Community Care Testing of all students and some employees based on a risk-based model of occupational exposure to students and other employees. The screening process will be conducted by authorized laboratory personnel. The College will also provide diagnostic COVID-19 testing at Health Services for students. On-site Community Care COVID-19 sampling and testing of students and employees will start in early August 2020 and continue through the end of the Fall 2020 Semester.

Employee Testing

Given the increased employee and student density that will occur on campus in the fall, all employees who will be working on campus are encouraged to have a COVID-19 test prior to students’ return to campus in mid-August. However, only employees in certain categories will be required to undergo testing.

COVID-19 testing is available on campus for all employees who live on campus, or who work in dining, safety and security, residential life, health services, sports medicine, and facilities operations. All other employees are also encouraged to be tested regularly. Rite Aid on 709 Main Street in Poughkeepsie offers a fast, easy, and free option. Sign up for an appointment online at their website. Many pharmacies and other locations locally offer fast, easy and free options.

Information about scheduling on campus tests will be forthcoming.

Contact Tracing

The College will assess the symptoms of the student population regularly and employees daily to identify emerging health concerns. Technology will be available to help individuals recall their previous movements to assist with contact tracing and will be used on a voluntary basis.

Vassar College recognizes the importance of having a robust case investigation and contact tracing plan to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 on our campus and provide support to our Vassar Community. Contact tracing prevents further transmission of disease by confidentially identifying people who have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Contact tracing will work in tandem with efforts to increase testing, practice effective strategies to reduce transmission, and implement isolation and self-quarantine protocols.

Two contact tracers are needed to carry out this plan for our employees and students (30 contact tracers per 100,000). The Nursing Coordinator in the Vassar College Health Service is the team lead contact tracing supervisor. Utilization and training of the on-call nurses in the Health Service is an optimal plan as they have the knowledge needed and are already employed by Vassar College. The College will also have employees in the Office of Residential Life and the Office of Health Promotion and Education trained in contact tracing. In combination with the nurses in the Health Service, the College will surpass the recommended number of contact tracers needed for our campus populations (1.2 contact tracers).

The Nursing Coordinator will ensure that all contact tracers have completed the 5-hour Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Contact Tracing Course. Contact tracers will be knowledgeable of best practices, empathetic, professional, organized, and handle confidential information with discretion and professionalism. Contact tracers will regularly check in with the team supervisor and report high-risk situations that require immediate notification and coordination with the local health department.

Self-Quarantine and Isolation

The College will provide separate residential space for the isolation of any student who is suspected or determined to be COVID-19 positive. In addition, the College will provide self-quarantine spaces for close contacts of known or suspected COVID-19 positive students. Any employee who is suspected or determined to be COVID-19 positive or a close contact of a known or suspected COVID-19 positive individual is required to immediately leave work and follow the directives of the local/state health department.

The NYS Department of Health has issued guidance regarding isolation and self-quarantine. Students who consistently fail to follow these guidelines may be required to depart campus for the remainder of the semester. Current guidance defines the following terms:

  • Mandatory isolation: Person has tested positive for COVID-19, whether or not displaying symptoms of COVID-19
  • Self-quarantine: Person has been in close contact (within 6 ft, for over 15 minutes) with someone who is positive, whether or not displaying symptoms of COVID-19
  • Precautionary self-quarantine: Person is known to have proximate exposure to a positive person but has not had direct contact with a positive person and is not displaying symptoms  
The NYS Department of Health has also defined shelter requirements for isolation and self-quarantine spaces:
  • separate bathroom for each individual (see below)
  • access to sink with soap and water and paper towels
  • cleaning supplies
  • delivery of food
  • supply of face masks
  • garbage pickup outside room
  • symptom monitoring
  • nearby medical facilities
  • secured from unauthorized access
  • appropriate signage

The College has reviewed its proposed isolation and self-quarantine spaces with Dutchess County Behavioral and Community Health, which has approved the use of spaces on campus without private bathrooms, specifically the apartments, Terrace Apartments, Brewers Lane Townhouses, and South Commons units, as well as the Residential Quad annex spaces. Each of these spaces has a ratio of bedrooms to bathrooms of between 3:1 and 6:1. The spaces are acceptable with the acknowledgement that if a person in mandatory or precautionary self-quarantine shows symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, any students in the apartment or annex cohort would then extend their quarantine period for at least another 14 days after the individual has symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test.

Self-quarantine rooms are set aside for students who arrive without a negative COVID-19 test or who have been exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 case. As of July 20, students in these rooms will share bathrooms with others in self-quarantine; in small groups, may be able to get grab-and-go food (or else it will be delivered) and may be able to walk outside. But generally, they are to remain in their rooms until their test comes back negative.

Additionally, isolation rooms have been set aside for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but whose symptoms are mild. Any student with serious symptoms will be asked to call their family and would be taken to the hospital. While in isolation rooms, students must stay inside until they are recovered and will be checked by our health professionals and the local health department daily.

Self-quarantine and isolation rooms available throughout the semester for any students who have been exposed to another person with COVID-19 or who has COVID-19 themselves. Self-quarantine and isolation rooms have a microwave and refrigerator. We recommend that you pack a separate bag consisting of travel size toiletries, hand sanitizer, medications, pajamas, 2 sets of clothes, and charging cords for your devices in the event that you need to move to an isolation or quarantine room.

All of the student’s physical, wellness, nutritional, and health care needs will be supported while in self-quarantine or isolation. Vassar Health Services will check in on students daily and provide guidance. Vassar Health Services has medications available for a fee, and the local Rite Aid on 238 Hooker Avenue ((845) 486-6166) will deliver medications to the campus. The student will electronically submit a food order form daily to the Dining Services.

Enhanced Cleaning Protocols

Facilities Operations will undertake a rigorous cleaning schedule that pays special attention to cleaning high-touch and high-traffic areas on a regular cleaning schedule. The following cleaning protocols will also be implemented:

  • All high-touch surfaces in public rooms, hallways, common spaces, and bathrooms will be cleaned and disinfected at the start of each day. There will be a second round of disinfecting of these spaces at mid-afternoon each day.
  • All toilets will have chlorinated tablets to disinfect with each flush. All toilet stalls will also have signage reminding users to flush after each use.
  • Every bathroom will have occupancy number signage to optimize social distancing. In most cases, this will be based on 50% fixture capacity. Bathroom exhaust fans will be functional to optimize airflow.
  • Student rooms and common-use bathrooms will also be disinfected upon notification to Facilities Operations by the Health Service or the Office of Residential Life after a student has been relocated to isolation or self-quarantine.
  • Students are responsible for cleaning their rooms on a regular basis during the semester. Exceptions will be made in cases of illness or exposure whereby a student’s room will be cleaned by Facilities Operations. The College will supply disinfecting supplies for all student residents through the Office of Residential Life.

As noted above, while Facilities Operations will take on the bulk of cleaning responsibilities, employees and students are encouraged to see cleaning as a collective enterprise that helps enrich our notions of community care and responsibility. Employees and students are especially encouraged to clean their workspaces and living spaces on a regular basis.

If there is an area of concern that you would like to see addressed or if you have questions about cleaning you are encouraged to put in a work ticket through Facilities Operations as soon as possible by visiting or calling (845) 437-7270 (8:30am5:00pm; MF)

Reducing Density and Return to Work Protocols

Vassar will implement return-to-work protocols on July 12 for those employeesprimarily Safety & Security, Facilities, Administrators, and Faculty—who are required or permitted to work on campus. Over the course of the summer, the number of employees working on campus will slowly increase. Following New York State guidelines, we expect to have fewer than 50% of employees on campus at any one time for the foreseeable future.

By implementing these return-to-work protocols in July, College employees will be prepared to support continuing compliance with these protocols when students return for the Fall Semester. These protocols include three key components—Telework, Daily Health Screening, and a Campus Mask Policy—designed to maximize community health and safety, in accordance with New York State guidelines.


In order to maintain low density and social distancing within campus buildings, many employees will continue to have the opportunity to telework during the fall semester. Therefore, some student services will be available primarily (or exclusively) online this fall, and appointments will take place via videoconference (Zoom). Offices that are physically open on campus will generally not be available for drop-in appointments; in-person meetings must be scheduled in advance and follow the protocols limiting in-person meetings described in this document.

Daily Health Screening

Employees working on campus will complete a daily self-care assessment before the start of their work day, reporting any COVID-19 symptoms, close contact with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, and whether they have had a positive COVID-19 test in the past 14 days. New York State requires the College to review these assessments daily. Any employee who experiences COVID-19 symptoms must stay home from work, and will be contacted by human resources or health services to provide support as needed.

Once students return, they will follow a similar protocol, completing a regular health self-assessment. Any student experiencing COVID-19 symptoms must not attend classes and should contact Health Services for support and advice on proper care and whether testing and/or self-quarantine are warranted.

Campus Mask Policy

Everyone on campus—students, employees, and visitors—is required to wear a mask or face covering, except: when in private/unshared rooms or offices; when stationary outdoors and able to maintain a 6-foot social distance from others; or if running or biking for exercise, and able to maintain a 6-foot social distance from others. Masks are required while in transit (walking from place to place indoors or outdoors). The College will provide masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) as needed for employees to safely conduct their job activities on campus.

Community Care Standards

Rather than establishing a set of specific behavioral guidelines, VassarTogether has developed community care standards around an ethos of looking out for one another—of bringing meaning to the phrase “we precedes me.” This ethos calls for all students and employees not only to be in community but also to act in community. Community care means that we think both about the individual and the communal impacts of the things we do and how they contribute to minimizing the potential for the spread of COVID-19.

While these norms are written to the attention of students, we expect these standards to be followed by every member of our campus community, including but not limited to faculty, administrators, and staff. In particular, we look to employees as models for this behavior. Finally, we’d like to note that these standards are constructed to prioritize readability and accessibility: We envision these standards as living, breathing practices that both reflect and guide the heart of the community at Vassar.

Even more, community care asks us to think deeply about the ways we talk with and help each other uphold these norms and standards. Curiosity, education, and empathy should be at the center of these encounters as we continue to build a community that values and protects the health of all members, including those on campus and throughout the greater Poughkeepsie area.

Depending on the continued evolution of COVID-19 and the science of it, we may need to update these norms. In some instances, this might mean that some expectations can be loosened. In other cases, this could mean that we will have to enhance the norms and standards listed below. VassarTogether will communicate updates to the community as they become available.

Individual and Community Norms

All students returning to campus are required to sign the VassarTogether Commitment, as follows:

By returning to campus to be part of “VassarTogether,” I commit to bring meaning to the phrase, “We precedes me.” I take this opportunity to not just “be” in community but also to “act” in community. I understand that the College may have to shift its practices based on guidelines set forth by New York State and/or federal, regional, and local public health guidelines.

As a member of the Vassar community, I agree to the following Commitments:

  • I commit to remaining on campus from my arrival date in August until I leave campus for the semester on/around November 20. I understand that compliance with this is crucial to the health and safety of the entire community. I understand that leaving campus will be permissible in the case of emergencies and in limited situations that require prior approval from the Dean of the College office and that those who are approved to leave campus will be subject to additional COVID-19 testing upon return. *For students living off-campus, you may not invite students living on campus to your residence. You must complete the on-line health screen daily.

  • I commit to following all campus access policies, including the guest policy. I understand that no non-Vassar community member may enter campus buildings, including my house and dorm.

  • I commit to wearing a mask in compliance with the campus mask policy.

  • I commit to always maintaining at least six feet between myself and others when possible.

  • I commit to navigating spaces on campus safely, including using hand sanitizer frequently, wiping down surfaces when deemed necessary to do so, and following all building signage regarding capacity limits, traffic flow, and other safety measures.

  • I commit to undergoing COVID-19 PCR testing within seven days prior to arriving on campus, twice within 14 days of arriving on campus, and additional testing as required.

  • I commit to cooperating with contact tracing initiatives, including, but not limited to, self-attesting to my health through the mobile app as required, potentially daily. I understand that I am encouraged to self-monitor for symptoms every morning.

  • I commit to self-quarantine and isolation if it is deemed necessary for me to do so. I understand that the College will provide a separate residential space for students who are symptomatic or determined to have COVID-19, as well as a separate space for close contacts or individuals who might be positive.

  • I commit to processes connected to the Community Care Team (CCT), including engaging in restorative conversations when invited to participate in such. If I notice a behavior that is concerning, I will follow the intervention guidelines as laid out by the CCT.

  • I understand that public health conditions might require the College to shift to remote learning on very short notice and that I will be responsible for my transportation and removal and/or storage of my personal belongings if the closure of residence halls is required.

Other General Norms

  • All community members will follow guidelines set by the Health Service regarding PPE, social distancing, and the like—recognizing that such benefit the community by keeping everyone safe.
  • All community members will assume best intent: When someone is not following safety precautions, assume first that there may be a valid reason or unintentional oversight. Offer to assist others in following the standard (ask if they need help acquiring/making a face covering, finding an optimal space for their gathering, etc.), and when reminded yourself, respond with “thank you for reminding me.”
  • Remain up to date on standards. These standards will be updated and changed over time. It is expected that all community members will stay educated in order to follow all norms.

Use of Physical Spaces on Campus:

  • Classroom spaces have been furnished to accommodate social distancing; no new furniture should be brought into classrooms.
  • Employees will have access to the academic buildings during the workday (offices, classrooms, labs, etc.). Card access in the evenings/weekends to academic buildings will be restricted to those who apply for that access because of specific needs/requirements.
  • Avoid having multiple individuals in narrow halls or rooms where a six-foot distance is not possible. Please look for and respect the traffic/directional and distancing markings for entry, exit, and movement down hallways.
  • Use sanitizing wipes to clean all chairs, tables, and surfaces upon entry into a classroom or shared space. If possible, wipe again before leaving.
  • Avoid sharing office water coolers and coffee machines across offices.
  • Please leave doors open and, if possible, open windows to maximize air circulation in classrooms and other meeting spaces.
  • Use hand sanitizer before entering and upon exiting elevators. There should be no more than one person in small elevators and no more than two people in freight-sized elevators. Limit touching buttons with bare hands when possible.
  • In stairwells, use hand sanitizer prior to entry and avoid touching handrails. Use sanitizer upon exit, after opening crash bar doors.
  • All buildings will be card-access only. In order to limit density in buildings, people should keep their entry into buildings on campus to a minimum.
  • Bathrooms in academic and administrative buildings are limited to one occupant at a time. Before leaving the bathroom, please be sure to clean up any mess and wash your hands . Individuals waiting to use the restroom should stand at least six feet from the door so that others can safely exit.

Social Interactions on Campus:

  • Through September 7, 2020, gatherings may occur so long as they are kept under 10 individuals. These gatherings must occur outdoors with appropriate distance norms and masks; larger meetings, other than classes, must take place remotely via Zoom or another remote tool. We encourage community members to avoid gathering as much as possible.
  • Faculty and other employees should refrain from having students in their homes.

Accountability: Responding to Instances Where Community Standards Are Violated

Our safety protocols are multilayered, encompassing testing, social distancing, mask-wearing, and enhanced cleaning. We recognize that there will be instances when a member of the community does not adhere to a community norm, either intentionally or inadvertently. In these cases, we ask that members in the community serve as the first “carefront” in responding to these violations. For example, if an individual is not wearing a mask you might approach them and offer solutions to where they might acquire one.

Accountability for these standards is supported through the Community Care Team. The Community Care Team (CCT) is a highly collaborative group of students and employees, chaired by Dean Wendy Maragh Taylor of Student Growth and Engagement and having organizational support from Sarah Garijo-Garde, Community Care Program Associate. Members of the CCT receive training in bystander intervention, restorative practices, and unconscious bias work. Members of the CCT meet with individuals who have been identified as potentially causing harm to the community to engage in a restorative conversation. All actions taken by the CCT are non-punitive in nature, and we offer coaching to those who are willing to “carefront” their peers or colleagues.

If you notice instances of harm being done to the community, please reach out to the CCT by filling out this form. In particular instances, it may be appropriate to call the Campus Response Center (845) 437-5221) prior to/in addition to filling out a Community Care Assist form. These situations specifically include large gatherings or situations where there may be impaired judgement, which could put the community at greater risk. Please contact Safety & Security (CRC) at (845) 437-5221 for matters involving immediate harm or danger. As per the standard process, Safety & Security may refer students to Student Conduct if they respond to an incident that had college violations.

Adherence to community standards is expected to be taken seriously by all members of the campus. If a student continues to interfere with the living and learning environment of others or their behavior is egregious in causing harm to the community, they might be referred to Student Conduct. A final step will be to forward the case to a core team who will assess the level of risk to self and others and can result in a student being sent home. Similarly, employees who repeatedly violate safety expectations may have corrective action up to and including termination. The CCT refers those cases to Human Resources for further consideration.

Teaching and Learning

At the June 24, 2020 faculty meeting, the Vassar faculty approved a revised academic calendar for the Fall 2020 Semester. The entire calendar is located on The key features of the revised calendar are:

  • Classes begin on August 31, and will meet in person for those students and faculty who are on campus.
  • There will be no October break.
  • In addition to Labor Day (Monday, September 7), there will be two Community Care Days without classes or scheduled meetings: Wednesday, October 7 and Tuesday, November 3.
  • The final day of in-person classes is Friday, November 20.
  • Students will leave campus for the semester when in-person classes end.
  • Thanksgiving break will be a full week; there will be no classes the week of November 23.
  • Classes will resume online only on Monday, November 30 and will continue through December 9. Study period and final exams will be remote only.
  • We expect students will return to campus for the Spring Semester in January.

Guiding Principles for Fall 2020

Since 1865, Vassar faculty have worked together in support of the innovative and high-quality teaching and learning experiences that are the core of Vassar’s educational mission. While COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected our lives and will continue to do so, we also recognize that a legacy of racism “continues to manifest daily in acts that range from the micro to the horrific.” [1] We are mindful that our students are being asked to learn in conditions that make it difficult to succeed without support and care, and thus our teaching needs to be intentional and oriented toward building and sustaining community, trust, and a culture of mutual care. As we prepare for the Fall Semester and the challenges it presents, our goal cannot be to replicate teaching models with which we are familiar and practiced. Neither should the present circumstances result in diminished or less meaningful learning experiences. We need to work together—with colleagues and students alike—to be present, productive, inclusive, innovative, and ethically engaged.

For various reasons, some faculty members will opt to teach their courses entirely online this fall. Likewise, travel restrictions, chronic illnesses, the need to self-quarantine, or the restrictions on the number of individuals who can be present at one time in any given classroom mean that not all students will be physically on campus or able to attend all classes in person. As a result, all Fall 2020 classes will necessarily be drawing upon remote and hybrid modes of teaching and learning at different times and in varying degrees.

Because online and hybrid teaching may be unfamiliar to both faculty members and students, a multidisciplinary faculty committee has identified the following set of guiding pedagogical principles. Many of the guiding principles overlap. Efforts undertaken in one area, such as using accessible design principles, also support the realization of other principles, such as building community, promoting student participation, and making our pedagogy more inclusive and responsive. Similarly, articulating learning goals and building efficient and effective forms of faculty presence and engagement not only support student learning but also facilitate faculty self-care.

We recognize that adapting to the new conditions of teaching and learning will not be easy. Nevertheless, we encourage faculty to embrace the challenge as an opportunity to develop practices and sensibilities that can improve teaching and learning in any setting. Now, more than ever, faculty are called to demonstrate the value of a liberal arts education by engaging students in the rich, personalized, robust, relevant, responsive, and creative learning that is the hallmark of a Vassar education. With restrictions on physical presence in the classroom, we will need to encourage self-guided learning to empower students to achieve academic success.

1 From Edward J. Maloney and Joshua Kim, “How Can we Talk about the Fall Right Now?” Inside Higher Ed, May 31, 2020. //

Finally, we encourage faculty and students to embrace a spirit of experimentation, which is to say a willingness to try, reflect, revise, try again. Finding ways to engage students in this process not only ensures a more positive experience for all, but also helps us all to understand what it means to participate in a learning community at this moment.

Below is a brief overview of these guiding principles. A more comprehensive document, with specific suggestions and resources, has been shared with Vassar faculty members.

  • Inclusive, accessible, and responsive teaching and learning: Faculty will use inclusive pedagogies that value difference, foster a culture of access, and respond to issues of systemic racism, our public health crisis, and other barriers to learning and education. Mindful of students with varied abilities, learning styles, and situations, faculty will develop their in-class and online materials and assignments and have access to tools and technology that they need to teach their classes in a pedagogically appropriate manner.
  • Student engagement and community building. Faculty will intentionally structure student-to-student interactions that foster a learning community, both online and in person. Faculty will maintain scheduled class times for all synchronous teaching to minimize time conflicts with students’ other classes. Faculty will use courses as a basis of support, reinforcing a sense that we are all in this together.
  • Faculty presence and engagement.  A key component of a Vassar education is close faculty-student interaction in the classroom and the opportunity for students to meet with faculty outside of class. Faculty will continue to create opportunities for such engagements. Faculty will provide regular feedback on student work. Vassar’s regular grading policy will be in effect in Fall 2020, with extended deadlines for electing NRO and initiating WD.
  • Self-care. Because these new conditions for teaching and learning are disruptive of traditional practices and require a variety of intellectual and pedagogical risks, faculty should commit to integrating practices of self-care.

Faculty Support and Preparation

Due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, some students will be in-person and some will be remote (either synchronously or asynchronously), or a fully online model may be necessary for their courses. In addition, if conditions require the college to return to remote teaching and learning, the courses will need to be flexible and prepared to go rapidly to a fully online format of instruction.

In this context, the Vassar faculty are working hard to prepare in new ways for the Fall 2020 Semester. These preparations extend beyond the need to respond to a crisis, providing an opportunity for us to reimagine how we teach and engage with students. Learning experiences can be more accessible and more flexible, and faculty and students can explore new approaches to teaching and learning together.

Faculty preparation activities, opportunities, and initiatives include:

  • Eight Pedagogy in Action workshops across many disciplines and types of learning (experiential, performance, laboratory, language, writing)
  • The creation and curation of a regularly updated Faculty Resources Moodle site, which serves as a central location for pedagogical materials on hybrid teaching, online teaching, and how to use technology in teaching in ways that work for hybrid/online instruction
  • Ongoing workshops and events sponsored by the Liberal Arts Collaborative for Digital Innovation (LACOL), of which Vassar is a member
  • A continuing series of faculty conversations as spaces for faculty to ask questions and offer ideas
  • Strategies and ideas for faculty to use to reach out to their students and involve them in the preparations for the fall. For example, students might engage in aspects of co-creation of course format and even content
  • Earlier New Faculty Orientation via a website with tutorials, videos, and links to the Moodle site
  • Organizing a Zoom workshop with an instructional design expert for faculty who would prefer explicit training in online/hybrid pedagogy and course design
  • Developing an ongoing faculty “orientation” to the new practices and expectations of hybrid teaching and learning
  • Exploring potential winter half-unit intensives that would provide teaching and learning opportunities during the month-long winter break in January. These intensives would be conducted remotely, with potential opportunities for community-engaged learning where health conditions permit. Potential winter intensives would provide innovative learning opportunities, and would support students (and faculty) who need to think about taking a lighter load during the semester, due to the stresses of the pandemic.


In planning for the Fall 2020 Semester, we seek to provide a classroom experience that prioritizes the health and safety of all members of the community, in what continues to be a highly uncertain and evolving environment. We recognize that all classes may have remote participants at some time during the semester, and that our faculty will be teaching in new ways, which will change classroom needs and design.

In response to public health conditions and New York State guidelines, we will reconfigure our classrooms for the Fall 2020 Semester. Specifically, classrooms will be configured to minimize density and to follow social distancing requirements, so that students and faculty maintain six feet of distance apart. As a result, classroom capacity will be 20% to 50% of normal capacity, depending on the specific size, shape, and furniture in each room.

We will supplement traditional classrooms by creating new teaching spaces in conference rooms, assembly spaces, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and outdoor tent classrooms.

Even with these new spaces, room capacity will be limited. As such, faculty and students will need to be prepared for classes that use a combination of in-person and remote instruction, which will reduce the number of students meeting in person at any given time. Some examples of how the classroom experience will reflect these new limits are:

  • Some students learn from a remote location (self-quarantine, remain home, international students) while others are in-person
  • Large lecture is recorded with regularly scheduled class time used for small group work (a version of a “flipped classroom”)
  • Half of the students are remote and half are in-person, alternating each class session, to reduce occupancy in classrooms

Many classrooms will include new technology to support remote learning/teaching and online pedagogy, including: adding microphones and high definition video cameras to allow for both in-person and synchronous remote teaching/learning as well as support for asynchronous learning activities made possible through recorded lessons/classes.

Classroom preparation also requires planning to manage the flow of people in academic buildings and maintaining clean classrooms during the busy school day. When classes resume in the fall, we will have in place building circulation plans to minimize “bunching” of people and new classroom cleaning routines.

Vassar Libraries

The Vassar Libraries will continue their vital role in academic life at Vassar. In addition to the robust remote resources available at, the libraries will provide circulation services (check-out of books), course-reserved materials for online use, and research support for students and faculty, primarily through scheduled online meetings. Librarians are available to provide online instruction through Zoom, the creation of research guides or brief videos, or other methods as appropriate. We encourage faculty to contact liaison librarians to discuss resources available for their courses, as well as other ways that the Libraries can support student research and coursework.

In addition, library facilities will continue to be accessible for students, with furniture reconfigured to facilitate social distancing. Students will be expected to follow mask-wearing protocols and six-foot social distancing guidelines when working in the libraries. Physical access to the libraries will follow a phased access approach, with limited hours in the early weeks of the semester, extending to longer hours if health conditions permit. The libraries will not be open to the public in Fall 2020; entrance to the libraries will be by card access only. Specific library hours and policies governing use of the libraries will be announced when students return to campus at the start of the Fall Semester. Students and faculty are encouraged to visit for information on changes to library services as well as options for supporting hybrid teaching and learning using the libraries’ resources.

Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

The Lehman Loeb galleries will be open to students and accompanying faculty on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 10:00am to 5:00pm, as well as Thursday evenings from 5:00pm to 8:00pm. Accommodations may be made for occasional curricular access on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The Lehman Loeb will open to the public only on Saturdays (10:00am to 5:00pm) and Sundays (1:00pm to 5:00pm). Access will be only via Raymond Avenue and the sculpture court; admission will be limited to no more than 25 percent of full capacity, a maximum of 75 visitors at a time.


Students, Student Organizations, and Campus Programming

  • Students should utilize community spaces responsibly and safely. Identity and community gathering spaces will remain open (including house parlors), as well as large gathering spaces (such as the Villard Room). Students are expected to abide by health and safety guidelines and respect the limited space. Students using the space will follow guidelines set by the College (including cleaning and social distancing) and other relevant offices in formal and informal gatherings.
  • Spaces will be used equitably: When physical spaces are limited, it is imperative that everyone has equal access and opportunities to use spaces. This includes spaces that are typically designated for a specific activity or group of students. The College will also work to “flex” spaces not in use to serve as casual and informal gathering spaces. For example, when not in use, the Villard Room might double as a gathering space with socially distant seating.
  • Virtual Student Activities Resource Center (eSARC) - will facilitate and support both virtual and in-person student events (in person when we have clearance.) Students will have access to host and attend virtual gatherings via Zoom. VSA student organizations will be able to acquire a license for individual Zoom webinars or panels through the eSARC event approval process.
  • VSA/Student Activities: Indoor student activities can begin after September 7, 2020, if health conditions permit, and as institutional and governmental guidelines allow. Event sponsors must follow policies and procedures for staffing support, social distancing, PPE, and cleaning measures. Prior to September 7, students are welcome to meet outside following appropriate mask and social distancing protocols. The VSA programming committee in conjunction with Campus Activities has planned a series of virtual and socially distant programs for the first few weeks of the semester, to model successful and re-imagined student engagement and community building.
  • Off-campus vendors and performers will be permitted on campus following specific health and safety protocols. Event sponsors will be required to notify the Campus Activities Office/eSARC of the performer at least 2 weeks prior to the event to allow for proper protocols such as health screenings, contractual needs, on/off-campus travel
    plans, on-campus social distancing logistics, and other safety precautions as needed. This might include purchasing COVID-specific items to support safe programming and COVID-guideline-specific performer contracts and vendor contracts.  
  • Fall Leadership Conference will be a hybrid/virtual model. Student leaders and event sponsors will receive extensive training and have access to continued education and support through the eSARC and the VSA to manage a variety of different engagement opportunities—virtual programs, in-person programs with restricted capacity, campus/community initiatives, and passive programs.   
  • Programming will include a hybrid of appropriate in-person programming as well as online programming to ensure that students/community members who are unable to return to campus can still remain a part of these endeavors.
  • The College will create formal channels for students to interact with the Poughkeepsie community, including but not limited to Poughkeepsie restaurants/businesses and Poughkeepsie schools, remotely and on a limited in-person basis (e.g., community vendors).
  • Students who need to travel away from campus for a family emergency, medical procedure, etc. will have to work with the Office of Student Living and Wellness for approval. Students may be required to self-quarantine and/or be tested upon their return to campus.   
  • Tasty Tuesday: This long-standing Vassar tradition will continue, under two large tents in Noyes Circle and with significant PPE and structural safeguards such as plexiglass food coverings.

Campus Activities

Aaron Sorkin (lower right) talks drama, TV, and movies with students in a class co-taught by Professor of Drama Shona Tucker (top left) and Associate Professor of English Tyrone Simpson (top row, second from right). Photo: Screenshot courtesy of Bryan Smith ’23
  • Fall Families Weekend will be a virtual event on October 2-4.
  • EMS room reservation system: Departments and student organizations will be invited to host/advertise their virtual events on the Campus Calendar using our virtual rooms. They will be able to use EMS (the room reservation system) the same way it is used for requesting a room and we will provide instruction and directions for advertising. The CAO will have access to 100-person webinar capabilities for any department or student organization who needs it.
  • In-person meetings, gatherings, and events will be permitted as aligned with institutional and county guidelines beginning on Monday, September 7.
  • Masks, six feet of social distance, and following the capacity limits for each meeting room will be required for all gatherings. Students will be reminded of these expectations at the time of EMS reservation, along with room adjustments and decreased capacity to meet social distancing guidelines, and required cleaning measures between meetings and events.
  • Only individually pre-packaged food is permitted at any gatherings. Catering may be coordinated later in the semester through the CAO and as guidelines allow.
  • We are not accepting requests for use of facilities by off-campus groups during the Fall Semester. Groups interested in using College facilities for gatherings, conferences, fund-raisers, and summer programs to be scheduled after January 4, 2021 may submit their proposal for consideration. The Campus Activities Office will respond to all proposals within 7-10 days. Current state and national guidelines will be followed at the time of your proposed event.
  • Given its utilization as an auxiliary college store, the Palmer Gallery has canceled all exhibitions this fall. All shows and exhibits will be rescheduled for a later time frame when guests and visitors are invited back to campus.
  • The Tea Program will continue as health and safety guidelines permit.
  • Lost and Found is currently being re-imagined to be a virtual system to eliminate unnecessary in-person contact. Through the online platform Crowdfind, found items will be placed in an online catalog that people can browse to look for lost property.
  • Rockefeller Hall and Sanders Classroom student building managers will monitor capacity in these facilities. Cleaning and disinfecting rooms and equipment will be included in job responsibilities.
  • Tabling: Use the EMS room reservation system to request space for tabling. There can only be one person per table, and you cannot sell or provide any food, snacks, or drinks. The new locations for tabling are all outside, rain or shine; College Center Circle and Students’ Building walkway for a total of six tables per day: four at College Center and two at Students’ Building. There will be no exceptions for additional tables outside and no inside tabling. For the health and safety of the Vassar community, the guidelines for tabling may be adjusted to meet necessary measures including (but not limited to) proper social distancing, personal protective equipment, and sanitation.

College Center

The College Center will continue to serve as the hub for the campus community by providing essential services, meeting space, and programs within the guidelines and protocols established by the College.

North Atrium:

  • The North Atrium will serve as the primary entrance area to the College Center.
  • The SARC office will be a virtual work space for the duration of the Fall 2020 semester.
  • The Express food service will be closed for the Fall Semester given its limited size.
  • CIS Help Desk will be open during regular business hours. Traffic flows from east to west with floor decals and a queuing system for entering.
  • Post Office will be open during normal business hours. Traffic flows from west to east with stanchions and floor decals.
  • Palmer Gallery will be closed for exhibitions for the Fall Semester and will serve as an auxiliary space for the College store.
  • All seating areas in the College Center have been temporarily removed to limit density.
  • Lost and Found will be re-imagined into a virtual system to eliminate unnecessary in-person contact. Through the online platform Crowdfind, found items will be placed in an online catalog that people can browse for lost property.

South Atrium:

  • The Retreat will be open for food service for students and employees. There will be one-way entrance with check-in, floor decals for social distancing, and a one-way exit at the cash register.
  • Seating areas adjacent to the Retreat area will be adjusted to social distance and will be limited to one chair and table per person.

Campus Dining

The plan for reopening dining locations on Vassar’s campus was developed by utilizing information provided by the CDC, the NYS Department of Health “Interim Guidance for Food Services During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency,” Bon Appetit Management Company, and local authorities.

Returning to dining operations during and after the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be as simple as a setting a date and carrying on business as usual. Not only will our operations be altered initially, some changes may be long term. The plans below are especially sensitive to the following concerns:

  • Physical distancing worries
  • Avoiding heavily populated marketplaces and seating areas
  • Avoiding shared condiments (ketchup, hot sauce, milk for coffee)
  • Guests looking for more packaged and prepared foods
  • Avoiding self-serve food

By relying on the guidance of our resources and reviewing daily the changes in the guidelines, we have developed a plan that addresses the reopening of dining on campus.

The first phase of dining will begin in early August with restrictive self-serve (prepackaged items) in the Gordon Commons. All other locations will also reopen in early August. If possible, the College will provide additional information on the second stage of dining options at a later date. 

Service Style

  • Inside seating areas will be closed.
  • There will be seating available outside the Gordon Commons in Noyes Circle.
  • All food will be taken out in disposable containers:
    • Hot food served into containers
    • Cold food prepackaged
    • Bottled beverages available at open food platforms and on Food Truck
    • Prepackaged service ware and individual condiments will be available at food platforms.
  • Diners should be mindful of stanchions and directional floor decals throughout all dining locations to help minimize bi-directional foot traffic. These will direct students on how to enter and exit dining locations.
  • Masks/face coverings will be required at all times in all dining locations.
  • Students will be required to maintain six feet of distance whenever possible and especially when you are in line to pick up your grab and go meal. 
  • Students should also make sure to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before eating. 
  • Cashier stations will be equipped with appropriate plexiglass guards to protect employees and students.
  • Signage will be provided in all dining locations to ensure that employees and students are maintaining the appropriate six feet of social distancing.
  • Menus of daily food options will be made available online, via the Vassar App, in the vestibule, the lobby, and at food platforms.

Hours of Operation

Gordon Commons

  • Monday–Friday, 7:00am–9:00pm
  • Saturday, 8:00am–9:00pm & Sunday, 9:00am–9:00pm

Street Eats (located in front of Gordon Commons–East Side)

  • Monday–Friday, 7:00am–9:00pm
  • Saturday, 8:00am–9:00pm & Sunday, 9:00am–9:00pm

The Retreat

  • Monday–Friday, 8:30am–4:00pm

The Bridge Café

  • Monday–Friday, 8:30am–3:30pm

The Express will be closed until further notice due to limitations on social distancing within this space and to help control traffic in the College Center atrium. 

Food Platforms

Gordon Commons

  • Grill, Deli/Kettle, Oasis, Home/Root, Brick, Kosher, Global, Coffee & Sweets (prepackaged), and Farmers (prepackaged)
  • Street Eats—serving hot beverages, assorted milks, assorted juices, and assorted carbonated beverages

The Retreat

  • Open-air coolers with cold prepackaged foods, beverages, sides, and whole fruit.

The following are closed: hot food platforms and the salad bar.

Monitoring Density

  • The number of students allowed in the operation(s) will be determined by CDC, state, and local guidelines. This will not include dining staff as per the NYS guidelines.
  • CIS is currently exploring a reservation system, which could be utilized in dining for students to pick up their takeout meal in 15 minute increments.
  • There will be a concierge located in the designated entrance area greeting students and directing them to the different platforms that are opened. Students should direct any questions or needs to the concierge. 
  • Managers will help monitor counts through the reservation system, POS, and being mindful of designated entrances and exits.

Dining Staff

Dining staff and management will be trained in appropriate COVID-19 and college protocols prior to opening. These trainings and planning will include:

  • Pandemic and COVID-19 training (social distancing, service style, proper use of PPE, personal hygiene, handwashing)
  • Food safety during COVID-19
  • Safety and sanitation in the workplace
  • Food allergens & celiac disease
  • Hazard communication

Like other employees at the College, dining staff and management will be required to complete a pre-shift health screening questionnaire, wear appropriate PPE (masks, face coverings, gloves, shields, etc.), and maintain six feet of social distancing whenever possible.

Physical Education and Recreation

Physical Education Classes

All physical education classes that require off-campus activities will be cancelled (two sections of bowling). All other courses will be offered with enrollment levels to be reduced as necessary based on physical distancing requirements within available athletic facilities.

Fitness Center

Use of the Fitness Center will be governed by new health and safety protocols. The Fitness Center will be reconfigured to permit social distancing and to limit population density. All activity in the Fitness Center will be pre-scheduled, by appointment only. In order to maintain social distancing and allow appropriate cleaning protocols, drop-in workouts will not be permitted. Locker room access will not be provided to individuals utilizing the Fitness Center.

This plan for the Fitness Center is a framework, pending further guidance from New York State on the operation of gyms. The Athletics Department will provide guidelines for access to the Fitness Center when students return to campus in August.


Use of the pool will be governed by new health and safety protocols. All activity in the pool, including open swim, will be pre-scheduled, by appointment only. In order to maintain social distancing and allow appropriate cleaning protocols, drop-in workouts will not be permitted.  Locker room access will only be provided to individuals after they complete their time in the pool and will be limited to a maximum capacity of three people in each locker room.

The Athletics Department will provide guidelines for access to the Pool when students return to campus in August.

Update: New York State released guidelines to govern re-opening of indoor athletic facilities (excluding the pool) on August 17th. We are in the process of reviewing the guidelines and adjusting our guidelines and re-opening plans accordingly. More information to come soon.

Life Fitness Classes/Intramurals/General Recreation

Use of all other athletic facilities and participation in Life Fitness classes, intramurals, and general recreation will be governed by new health and safety protocols. High contact risk activities will follow the same phase-in protocol as intercollegiate athletics and will not be permitted to begin for at least the first four weeks after the arrival of all students on campus. Where possible, many Life Fitness classes will be offered online in the fall.

Scheduling Principles

Use of athletic facilities and participation in Life Fitness classes, intramurals, and general recreation are typically shared activities that bring together students, faculty, staff, administrators, emeriti, and family of employees in the same physical location. This sharing of space among different segments of the College community represents increased risk as well as a potential source of anxiety for different subsets of our community. In light of these concerns, schedules/appointments will be adjusted as necessary to provide opportunities for individuals to opt in or opt out of activities that include a cross-section of different campus populations.

Shutdown Plan

The county health department may advise the College to shut down during the semester if there is a surge of positive COVID-19 cases in the local community or on our campus. In the event that the College is unable to control the spread of COVID-19, the College will collaborate with the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health (DBCH) to consider a variety of mitigation strategies that can help contain the spread of the virus on campus or, if needed, to close the College.

Mitigation strategies could include some combination of the following:

  • Requiring self-quarantine for an entire residential house or part of campus
  • Having a class or athletics team self-quarantine
  • Cancelling some or all in-person classes and gatherings
  • Limiting access to campus only to those with a Vassar ID
  • Requiring some or all non-essential employees to work from home
  • Increased Community Care testing
  • Re-implementing grab-and-go takeout food options in dining
  • Closing some or all academic buildings

Currently, isolation and self-quarantine remain among the most effective responses to helping slow the spread of COVID-19. Per CDC guidance, students who are sick or who may have been exposed are advised to isolate and self-quarantine and avoid travelling. Given this, our campus would be the best place for a student to complete their period of isolation or self-quarantine if they have tested positive or have been exposed to disease.

In the event of a shutdown, students who are not sick and who have not been exposed would be advised to leave campus. In order to minimize campus density and control the spread of disease, the College will use the following phased approach for emptying the campus:

  • Students will be limited to no more than one guest to help them move out.
  • Students with permanent residences within 3 hours of driving distance will leave first within the first days after announcement.
  • Students with permanent residences within 6 hours of driving distance will leave within the next few days after.
  • Students taking domestic flights will have the opportunity to leave any time within the week after the announcement.
  • Students taking international flights will also have a week from the announcement and may seek flexibility after that as needed and dependent on conditions at the College and in their countries of origin.
  • Students who are unable to return home or for whom it is unsafe to do so may be allowed to remain on campus if it is safe to do so.

In the event that the College is required to shut down, classes may be cancelled for a short period of time before resuming remotely.