Dear WWU Community,
Last month, I shared with you my anticipation of bringing our Western community back together for fall quarter as the introduction of vaccines and a continued focus on prevention measures in our state and across the country gave us reason to believe that conditions will improve as we approach fall quarter.
I continue to be optimistic that as the vaccine rollout accelerates, and as infection rates decline, we will return to a more robust presence on campus. While details are still being sorted out, we hope that around two-thirds of classes will be in-person, while providing opportunities for those who want to continue to teach, learn, and work remotely. Also, we expect the return of many more students to our university residences, and the resumption of more normal in-person services and activities. We are committed to providing Western’s high-quality educational and living experience for our students, even if some students are not able to take all their courses face-to-face in the fall term. Our aim is to progressively transition to a normal face-to-face operation over the course of the next academic year.
As a reminder, we plan to begin Phase I fall registration for continuing students on May 25. Information about course modalities will be displayed in ClassFinder as those details are determined by academic departments. For students and employees at WWU locations outside of the main Bellingham campus, we will continue to follow the guidance and protocols established by our university partners as it relates to access to facilities and modality of instruction.
I thank those of you who took the time to share your concerns and needs on the recently distributed campus surveys. It has given us a better understanding of your level of comfort with COVID-19 risks and helped us to identify what would need to be in place for our students and employees to feel comfortable being on campus. I am particularly gratified to learn that 88% of students who responded to the survey felt that all appropriate measures have been taken to protect their safety on campus this academic year.
Throughout this pandemic we have put the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff as our top priority. We're approaching reopening campus with the same care and planning that we have employed with our testing, quarantine, contact tracing, cleaning and building ventilation strategies over the past year.
We are carefully following CDC and state guidelines for higher education reopening and following the data and advice of our regional health partners. Based on the current guidance and planning predictions, there will be a need for continued compliance with physical distancing and mask requirements as they might apply at the time, and we will likely continue to engage in a testing regimen depending on vaccination rates and the prevalence of the virus in our communities.
We also know that getting vaccinated is a major step forward in protecting our community and in creating an environment where more faculty, staff and students feel comfortable returning to campus. With the Governor’s recent announcement that all Washingtonians ages 16 and up will be eligible for a vaccine starting on May 1, I encourage all of you to get vaccinated by the start of the fall quarter, as you feel comfortable doing so, recognizing that there are religious, physical and/or philosophical reasons that some people may not wish to get vaccinated.
I am enormously grateful for your hard work and understanding over the past year as we have had to navigate many difficult decisions to keep our community healthy and safe. This is especially true for the people, deemed critical employees, who have been working on our campus sites throughout the pandemic and who are vital to our operations.
I have been inspired by the many innovative ways that Western’s faculty and staff have supported our students’ learning, wellness and success, and by the understanding and care that our students have demonstrated. That commitment will be even more important as we begin the transition to more in-person courses and services this fall, especially as we continue to navigate the potential spread of new virus variants.
We’ll continue to communicate important news and post updates and resources on WWU’s coronavirus website over the next several months.
I thank you again for your dedication to WWU, especially during these unpredictable and often trying days. I wish you and your loved ones the best of health, and I greatly look forward to the time we can all be together in the same place again.