Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:
We hope you are enjoying a restful and joyous holiday break and extend our very best wishes to you for the new year.
As the Spring 2022 semester approaches, we want to share with you our plans for welcoming our community back to campus with sufficient time for you to make necessary preparations.
We will enter Clark University’s spring semester without any changes to the current academic calendar: early student arrivals begin on January 13 and require prior approval from Residential Life; new students may begin to move into residence halls on January 15; returning students may move back in beginning on January 16; and in-person classes will begin on January 18 — all as planned. However, given regional and national COVID-19 trends, including the differing impacts of the Omicron variant, we are shifting the way in which we will assess and manage risk. One thing that has not changed is our commitment to maintaining the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff; that remains a top priority.
At the same time, we also are committed to carrying out our educational mission as an institution and providing the very best experience on campus for our students. After careful consideration and consultation with Clark’s Health Advisory Board, the COVID Advisory Group, Clark’s senior leaders, and local health officials, we expect to be able to offer and support in-person teaching and work as well as on-campus living with adjustments to our health safety protocols to start the semester and an openness to making changes if needed to address evolving conditions. Clark’s approach to fulfilling our mission has always featured and relied upon direct and meaningful student-faculty interaction, and we have striven to maintain that throughout this public health crisis. This means that we expect the vast majority of our courses this spring to be conducted in person, but will work with individual faculty and students to address any specific circumstances or concerns, as we did this past semester.
What does today’s announcement mean for you?
Returning to campus: All students enrolled for spring semester and planning to live on campus are welcome to return to residence on the dates noted above, provided you have complied fully with the requirements listed here.
Vaccine booster: There is clear and compelling scientific data that a COVID-19 vaccination booster decreases the transmission and health effects of COVID. Therefore, everyone who has been vaccinated – students, faculty, and staff – will be required to receive a booster if you plan to be on campus for the spring semester. The CDC offers guidance on determining your eligibility and you must receive your booster as soon as possible after becoming eligible but in no case later than 30 days. Once you comply, please update your booster status through our secure portal.
Pre-arrival testing: Students must take a COVID-19 test and receive a negative test result 24-48 hours before traveling to campus. This could be an at-home rapid test or a test taken at a pharmacy, physician’s office, or other health care setting. Proof of a negative test will be required. Students will receive additional information about this requirement via email from the Dean of Students office by Friday, January 7, 2022. All individuals within driving distance are urged to get their prearrival test done at Clark’s Testing Center. If you test positive, you should not come to campus (even if you are already living in Worcester) until you are cleared to do so by the Dean of Students office or by your supervisor.
Regular testing: Students will be required to get tested upon arrival to campus, and then every three days until February 1. Students who test positive should immediately isolate themselves as best they can, including by using Clark’s designated isolation space as available, returning home, or staying off campus.
Following the holiday break, faculty and staff must immediately resume testing and then test regularly at least every seven days. Faculty and staff are strongly urged to get tested more frequently.
Masking: We have tightened our masking policy. Everyone in a public space and/or when interacting with others in private offices on campus must wear a mask. The policy applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. We strongly recommend use of KN95 or N95 masks as cloth masks have proven less effective at preventing the spread of the Omicron variant.
Vaccine exemption: Individuals who had a vaccination exemption in the fall semester must reapply for an exemption by January 7. Those seeking an exemption for the first time also must apply by that date through our secure portal. Unvaccinated students without approved exceptions will be unenrolled from their spring semester classes after January 7.
Remote work: As we transition into the new semester, in order to help reduce density while providing as robust a student experience on campus as possible, employees in certain functions will be asked to work remotely. Guidance for specific areas will be provided through supervisors.
We strongly encourage students and families to join members of our leadership team for a virtual town hall on Tuesday, January 11, at 6:00 p.m. A Town Hall for staff and faculty will be held on January 7, at 2:00 p.m. Links to access these town halls will be sent under separate cover.
Given our current vaccination rate of 97%, our rigorous testing protocol, and our mitigation policies, we are well-positioned for the spring semester. Nonetheless, we can predict neither the path nor the impact of COVID and will have to be open to different approaches in both preparations and response. We will continue to process and adapt to relevant data and expert advice from the CDC and other sources, and, if necessary, we will pivot our strategies to meet any dramatically changing conditions.
Nationally, we have entered a different phase of this pandemic. Data shows that vaccination, particularly with timely booster shots, greatly reduces the risk of severe disease. At Clark, we are addressing the current reality of this pandemic in the most proactive manner possible, placing less emphasis on positive case counts and focusing more intensively on preventing severe illness and hospitalizations. We are moving forward with the understanding we are likely to see a persistent presence of some levels of infection on campus, but there are things we can and must do to make our campus a far less hospitable home for the virus.
Thank you in advance for continuing to do all you can to keep yourself and our community healthy and safe. With your help we can look forward to another successful semester at Clark.
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer