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Statement on Loosening Restrictions for Founder’s Day

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FROM: The Fifth Senate of the Vassar Student Association (VSA)

TO: President Bradley, Students, Vassar College

We are reaching out on behalf of the student body and the senior class graduating this semester. As time has gone on this semester the number of students partially and fully vaccinated and has increased greatly. Currently, 86% of the student body has self-reported receiving either one or two vaccine doses. Furthermore, the CDC has just released many new guidelines for fully vaccinated people including that they can gather together indoors and outdoors without masks. For these reasons we are asking for a more normal Founder’s Day, less policing by safety and security, and more lenient mask restrictions.

During a committee meeting last month, when you asked how to incentivize the student body to get vaccinated, a representative from VSA told you that loosening restrictions for Founder’s Day, and providing specifics to the student body as to how these restrictions would be loosened, would greatly motivate the students to get vaccinated. This is where the 90% vaccination rate came from, as you suggested this is the number you would feel comfortable to loosen restrictions since we would have reached herd immunity. We were blindsided when you emailed the student body saying that loosening restrictions were just a rumor and that Founder’s Day would be continuing as planned. Before VSA started sending out information about uploading the vaccine records to Coverified we were at 62% vaccinated, and now we are nearing 90%.

This is one of the last times seniors will be around their non-senior friends (since all non-seniors need to leave for senior week). These are supposed to be the most memorable days of our college experience however we cannot fully enjoy them. If the pandemic was still in full force and there was no vaccine in sight we would be more than willing to comply with the college’s regulations, as we did last semester. However, we are frustrated that despite the more lenient guidelines announced by the CDC, and the extremely high vaccination rate we are all stuck here living mostly like we did before we were at 86% vaccinated students. At this point, many of us feel that we would be better living off-campus. It is so hard to be stuck on campus following these guidelines when the CDC is telling us we can have a freer lifestyle.

Below are some specific guidelines we would like to see changed.

  1. Allowing unrestricted gathering of vaccinated students – We believe this could be really helpful for Founder’s Day specifically. Currently on Coverified students can show if they have a vaccine badge. We propose allowing larger gatherings if all of the participants are vaccinated. This is easy to implement because the vaccine badge is right on the app! We propose having spaces for vaccinated students to gather without social distancing, such as on Balentine Field. Just as there is a bouncer at the entrance checking IDs for events on campus serving alcohol, there could be a member from safety and security checking vaccination records.
  2. Less policing – Currently security lurks and parks next to possible gatherings or places where gatherings can take place. This makes everyone, even those following the guidelines, very stressed and unable to enjoy themselves since the enforcement of the covid guidelines feels very arbitrary with severe consequences. For reasons in conjunction with the vaccine passes we believe a quick sweep of vaccine badges could be the solution. Then just let people exist.
  3. More lenient mask restrictions – The CDC said that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks around each other or outside. We propose that the current college regulations on mask wearing be adjusted accordingly.

Please take these ideas into consideration. Far too often the response we have heard from the administration is that ‘these events take time to plan’ and that ‘it is too late to change anything.’ We disagree, and the programming and traditions committee, which has been planning Founder’s Day all year, believes that these changes would not be difficult to implement by next weekend. It is really hard to see that things are getting better but we still see very little change on campus. The whole purpose of the bubble and not allowing us to leave campus was so that we could have a more open campus environment. For many of us, we have spent almost half (3/8 semesters) of our college experience in the pandemic, and seniors, in particular, would like to enjoy their last moments at Vassar.

Sincerely,

The Fifth Senate of the Vassar Student Association

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