Dear Middlebury Community,
We are writing today with essential information about the following issues:
- J-Term, Spring Arrivals, and Class Schedule
- J-Term and Internships
- Spring Semester
- Return to Campus Guide, Spring Version
- Wage Continuity
- Monitoring Conditions
- Student Survey
- Winter and Spring Sports
- Schools Abroad
- End of In-Person Fall Semester and Thanksgiving Break
- Late Fall and Winter Activities
- Snow Bowl and Rikert
- Language Schools and Bread Loaf Programs
This is a comprehensive letter with many details—we want you to have all of this information at once so you know what the remainder of the academic year will look like.
During the past several weeks, the Senior Leadership Group, Crisis Management Team, and Emergency Management Team have worked with stakeholders across the College to examine scenarios for J-term and the spring semester. We have considered the factors that contributed to our current low prevalence of COVID-19, the experiences of other colleges and universities, state of Vermont guidance, and the circumstances that we know will change once winter weather arrives in Vermont.
One of the biggest challenges for the coming months is the availability of indoor spaces for classrooms, dining, and other activities. That is why, after careful consideration and guidance from the state of Vermont, we have decided on the following changes to the College calendar:
- J-Term: J-term will be conducted remotely, starting Tuesday, January 19, and continuing through February 12. Students who are approved to conduct research on campus will return on January 21 and begin their research on February 1.
- February Break: Following J-term, students will have a two-week break from classes, from February 13 to 28.
- February Graduation: A decision about February graduation is forthcoming, but we are considering options for a celebration before the end of the fall semester.
- Spring Arrivals: Students will arrive on campus February 24 and 25.
- Spring Classes: Classes will begin March 1 and continue through May 21, forgoing the usual spring break to minimize comings and goings from campus. Similar to the fall, classes will be offered in a combination of remote, hybrid, and in-person formats. The first week of classes will be conducted remotely so all students studying on campus can complete, on arrival, a week of COVID-19 testing.
- Finals and Commencement: Finals week will begin May 23 and Commencement will be held on May 30, either virtually or in person, depending on the conditions at the time. We regret that we will have to forgo Senior Week as we know it, but we will plan special activities to celebrate the Class of 2021.
- Winter Sports: As announced by the NESCAC presidents today, there will be no NESCAC winter sports competitions this winter. While the NESCAC decision allows for institutions to schedule competitions on their own, we will not do so at Middlebury.
- Spring Sports: The NESCAC has not yet made a decision about spring sport competitions, but spring athletes should be aware that current conditions would not allow us to engage in competition.
A separate communication about plans for the year was sent by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey on Wednesday.
The state of Vermont has recommended that colleges and universities eliminate January terms or convert them to remote instruction to decrease instances of COVID-19 exposure due to travel from parts of the United States that have a higher prevalence of the virus. At Middlebury, we are making a number of changes to J-term this year to enhance the remote format and to allow students to complete internships either remotely or in person.
Because of this change in schedule, internship dates do not need to coincide with the dates of J-term, provided students receive permission ahead of time. Students must be mindful, however, of Middlebury’s mandatory 14-day prearrival quarantine requirement for returning to campus when setting internship dates. Students who are pursuing internships in Vermont must comply with state travel and quarantine restrictions.
Middlebury has never assessed tuition or room and board charges for J-term on the Vermont campus, and therefore there will be no separate bill or refunds for these experiences.
The spring semester will begin March 1 after a two-week break in February. There will be two arrival days, on February 24 and 25, followed by one day for late arrivals due to unanticipated travel delays, on February 26. No other exceptions will be made for in-person learners, regardless of whether they live on or off campus. All students must complete a two-week prearrival quarantine and sign a spring Health Pledge before returning to campus.
As in the fall, students will immediately report to Virtue Field House for Day 0 COVID-19 testing upon arrival, followed by room quarantine until they receive a negative test result. They then will commence campus quarantine and report for Day 7 follow-up testing. Campus quarantine will continue at least through the completion of the testing and results period. During this time, classes will be conducted remotely.
We urge all students who are traveling by plane or other public transportation to purchase refundable tickets as weather conditions may warrant a change in arrival dates. We anticipate that students will be assigned an arrival date in December.
Orientation for February arrivals will be conducted remotely. The offices of Admissions and Student Activities will provide more information to Febs once it becomes available.
Students living in Vermont who are studying remotely or are on leave must follow Vermont guidelines for quarantine and abide by the College’s applicable COVID-19 conduct policies as well.
We expect to publish an updated Return to Campus Guide in December, with instructions and requirements for the spring. We will also review and update, as necessary, all of our policies and health pledges to reflect the latest health advice.
Given our J-term and spring semester plans, we remain committed to wage continuity for all employees at this time. As has been our practice to date, we will continue to limit the number of people on campus, and those staff who can work remotely should continue to do so. Human Resources will work with department managers to reassign to alternate jobs and projects any employees who are not able to complete their current work on campus.
As always, our decisions are and will be guided by the latest scientific research and advice from federal, state, and local health officials. While we expect that Vermont will maintain a low prevalence of COVID-19 into the spring, the Vermont Department of Health predicts there will be some uptick in cases. We also do not yet know what conditions will be like across the United States, and winter will present some new challenges that will require us to be even more vigilant. The colder weather will mean that all of us will have to spend more time indoors, where it is more difficult to maintain physical distancing and where the virus can spread more easily. We must do everything we can to keep our campus de-densified and limit transmission, and we absolutely cannot let down our guard.
Offering an in-person residential and educational experience is central to our mission, and we are committed to offering these experiences as long as we can proceed safely. If necessary, we are prepared to convert to entirely remote instruction.
Please keep in mind that Middlebury’s guidelines and requirements represent the minimum guidelines students must adhere to. We know that many students, faculty, and staff are making choices in their lives that are more restrictive in order to align with their health and relationship goals. We support students making the choices that are best for them and their circumstances.
We understand that continually adapting to our current environment can be stressful and bring a range of emotions, including excitement, anxiety, fear, and relief. Sometimes all of those emotions are experienced by a single person in a single hour or day. As always, enrolled students are encouraged to reach out to College Counseling to TalkNow (available 24/7) and Scheduled Counseling via MiddTelehealth.
Beginning Friday, we will be conducting a student survey to gauge interest in living and learning on campus in the spring. Though not binding, we are asking all students to complete the survey within a week. We expect that some students may choose to continue their studies fully remotely in the spring, and others will wish to return to campus in what certainly will be a different kind of spring.
A form for students to officially declare their intention to study remotely or in person will be emailed to students in the coming weeks. Final decisions about J-term and the spring semester must be declared by November 10.
Earlier today, the NESCAC presidents announced that all conference competition for the 2020–21 winter season has been canceled. Given this decision, and the continuing need to prioritize the health and safety of our community, Middlebury will not hold any athletic competitions during the winter season. As they did in the fall, our coaches will continue to hold team practices, workouts, and/or other activities for winter athletes when they return to campus in the spring as conditions allow.
A decision about spring sports will be made in coming months in coordination with the NCAA and NESCAC. While the NESCAC has not yet addressed spring sport competitions, spring athletes should be aware that current conditions would not allow us to engage in competition. If a decision is made to move forward with spring NESCAC competition, we will announce a separate February return date for spring athletes.
On October 30, we will announce whether we are able to operate most of our Schools Abroad this spring. We are optimistic that some of our programs will continue, but this will depend on travel restrictions and conditions in our host countries. Our schools are based in 16 countries with sites in 37 distinct locations. We will make a decision about our schools in Germany, Japan, and Russia closer to their start dates, which are later than our other programs. If you are a student who is planning to study abroad, you will receive more information about your options directly.
As previously stated, in-person classes will end on November 20. Residence halls will close on November 21, and students will complete the fall semester remotely. To provide a much-needed break to our staff, who have been working in new and innovative ways since our spring evacuation of campus, we will be closed for the entire week of Thanksgiving, adding three additional regular paid holidays for benefits-eligible staff. This will extend the Thanksgiving holidays to include November 23 through 27. Any hourly (nonexempt) staff who must work due to operational needs during this time—including those in Student Life, Public Safety, Facilities Services, Parton Health Center, and Dining Services—will be compensated with holiday premium pay. Students who are approved to stay on campus due to circumstances of extreme hardship will be provided with meals during this time. Additional information and instruction for entering time during a regular holiday can be found here.
We have been exploring a number of options for creating inviting outdoor spaces on campus once the colder weather arrives. The Student Activities team continues to work with the College’s 175 student organizations to reimagine programming. A list of activities can be found on Presence. Students are encouraged to propose ideas and register their events with the Middlebury College Activities Board. It is recommended that students reach out at least three weeks in advance for in-person events to ensure plenty of time for planning. Virtual events are also encouraged.
We are excited to report that we will open the Snow Bowl and Rikert Nordic Center to Vermont residents and those who meet state travel guidelines starting on December 1. Reservations will be required, and COVID-19 protocols will be in place. While students will not be on campus during the majority of the ski season, those who meet Vermont travel guidelines may visit the ski areas during breaks. Students will not be allowed on campus during that time. Faculty and staff also are welcome to visit Rikert and the Snow Bowl and to take advantage of our regular discounts and equipment rental. Visit the Rikert and Snow Bowl websites for more information.
Looking ahead, we hope we will be able to conduct many of the activities that are a tradition at Middlebury during the summer. We will share more information about that once it becomes available.
You have our gratitude and appreciation for all you have done this semester, and for all the effort that we know goes into preparing for J-term and the spring semester. It has been a one-of-a-kind year for us all. Be well, and we will be back in touch soon with further updates.
Provost and Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration