The following message was sent from President Bateman to the Randolph community on Jan. 22:
Dear members of the Randolph community,
I write you today with a sense of optimism about the upcoming year. Despite the challenges continuing to face our college, nation, and world—and there are many—there are also many reasons for hope. And as we prepare to welcome our students back to campus, I feel compelled to reach out to our community. Normally, I address our faculty and staff as a group before students return. But given the pandemic and our careful efforts to protect the health of our campus community, that was not possible this year. We have much happening here at Randolph, therefore, I am choosing to share some important updates and thoughts to our entire community in this message.
A Week of Milestones
This has been a historic week for our nation. On Monday, we celebrated the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.—a day of remembrance and a renewed commitment to racial equity. In addition, I recently shared the exciting news of the appointment of Keesha Burke Henderson, our new chief diversity officer and director of the Office of Identity, Culture, and Inclusion. She was chosen after a competitive, months-long national search, and we are proud to welcome her to the Randolph community. She will begin February 1. You can read my announcement here.
On Wednesday, we were able to celebrate a peaceful transition of power, a significant event in itself made even more powerful since it occurred just two weeks after an insurrection at the Capitol. To witness history as Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first female, first Black, and first Asian-American vice president was a moment I will never forget, and it brings me hope that we are taking steps forward as a nation in our equality and inclusion efforts.
Task Force on the African-American Student Experience at Randolph College
We have also continued this work on our own campus. This fall, we joined a group of institutions as an inaugural member of the new Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance, and our Task Force on the African-American Student Experience at Randolph College is meeting regularly to explore the lived experience of the Black and African-American students, staff and faculty at the College. Now that students are back on campus, we are also preparing to administer a campus climate survey examining race issues on campus. The results of this survey will help us in our efforts to create a community that is more inclusive, equitable, and diverse.
Task Force on Campus Culture
Much work has also been done in regards to our examination of how we deal with sexual assault on campus. The Task Force on Campus Culture continues to meet regularly, and members have been tasked with examining our current programming and recommending additional work we can do to improve campus culture on consent and respect. The task force’s charge is to compile recommendations that take into account best practices for student life and campus culture while reflecting the community values of the College’s Honor Code and the uniqueness of the Randolph College learning experience. It is the College’s goal to take firm, decisive, and evidence-based measures to reduce incidents of assault and harassment, while continuing to provide a broad range of support services for our students, faculty, and staff, and cultivating a culture of respect for the Randolph College community. Currently, the task force is working on a lengthy set of recommendations that deal with issues ranging from education and training to messaging both on and off campus. I anticipate receiving these recommendations in late spring. In addition, we are also developing a campus climate survey on sexual assault and Title IX issues that will be conducted in the spring once students are on campus.
Another vital part of this work is the external review of our Title IX practices that was begun in the fall. The law firm of Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP is now in the third phase of a review of our handling of reports of sexual misconduct. Specifically, this review examines our compliance with the legal obligations of Title IX, including a retrospective review of the College’s Title IX practices to identify any long-standing issues of non-compliance. Phase one and phase two of this external review have been completed. Phase one included a look at the policies put into place to respond to the change in federal regulations that went into effect in August 2020. Phase two involved a complete review of all the College’s Title IX case files. Phase three has now begun and will include interviews with the College community, including employees, as well as current and former students. The external review will provide a valuable resource to the College in strengthening and improving its Title IX practices. You can find out more information about our Task Force on Campus Culture and other related updates here.
The COVID-19 Pandemic and Return to In-Person Learning
Tragically, the nation marked a somber milestone this week with more than 400,000 deaths from COVID-19. Nationwide, statewide, and locally, we are experiencing dramatic increases in the number of positive cases. Our COVID-19 Task Force has met daily since the beginning of the pandemic when we first moved to online learning. Little did we know that we would still be grappling with these issues 10 months later. As you know, we remained online in the fall, namely due to the lack of availability of testing. Now that we have testing available, we are more confident in our ability to manage the spread of the virus on campus and are reopening campus for the spring. We also made the decision before winter break to delay the beginning of our spring semester by two weeks. Classes will start February 1.
In order to protect our community and allow our students to feel comfortable in their learning environment, we have provided them with the choice to return to campus for in-person learning or stay with online learning off campus. Our faculty have also been provided the option to teach in-person or online only, and many staff are working from home in an effort to reduce the density on campus. Classes for the spring will be a mix of online, hybrid, and in-person. We have a detailed and carefully developed plan in place and have been encouraged by how serious our students have been taking the situation. In addition to requiring a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival, we will also be testing our entire on-campus community in the first weeks of the semester. We will continue randomized testing of our students and employees each week during the spring.
On-Campus Efforts to Reduce the Spread
Part of our effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on our campus includes strict rules about visitors, gatherings, behavior, and events. Face coverings are required, and all students have single rooms. Events that would normally be open to the public will now be held virtually, and spectators are not allowed at athletic events, performances, etc. In addition, no social gatherings are allowed on public or private spaces on campus. We have received questions from alumnae and alumni over the past few months asking whether they are able to visit campus. We are committed and intent on protecting the health of our community members, therefore, we are not allowing visitors or gatherings (except those conducting approved College business) on campus at this time. This includes outside and inside spaces. We do look forward to the time when we can welcome our alumnae and alumni back on campus with us. Our COVID-19 website includes our reopening plan, as well as other information.
I realize this email is lengthy, but I felt it important to update our community about the many happenings here at Randolph. These are challenging times, but throughout the past months, I’ve been encouraged and proud of how our students, faculty, and staff have come together to make the most out of a difficult situation. It is this dedication and commitment to protecting one another that will help make us successful this spring. And it will take each one of us adhering to the guidelines and making good decisions if we are to remain open for the entire semester. I have confidence in our community, and I join everyone else in welcoming our students back behind the Red Brick Wall.
Stay safe and well.Tags: COVID-19, COVID19