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Dickinson College updates on Spring 2021

Week of March 1, 2021

Athletics and Other COVID-19 Updates

Sent: March 5, 2021

To the Dickinson community: 

I have many updates to provide this week, and I am pleased to share news that we are cautiously optimistic that athletics and field research/teaching opportunities will resume in the next several weeks. As you likely have seen, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf this week lifted out-of-state travel restrictions and revised occupancy limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings. In addition, we now have three vaccines approved for use in the United States. The light is getting brighter, but we have not yet reached the end of the tunnel. We must remember to wear a mask, wash hands, stay physically distant and avoid crowds for now so that we can protect our community.


The Centennial Conference has voted to permit schools to compete in spring sports, and so our coaches and teams will prepare to play in accordance with the conference’s strict health and safety protocols.

The conference today issued a statement that says, in part:

The Centennial Conference Presidents Council has endorsed a plan for spring seasons in the sports of baseball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s outdoor track & field. A return to play will be contingent on the Conference and its member institutions being able to conduct competitions in ways that protect the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches, staff members and their communities.

“Health and safety remains paramount to our Conference,” said Centennial Conference Executive Director Portia Hoeg. “While we are pleased our Presidents Council has endorsed the spring sports plan, we will proceed with cautious optimism in providing competition opportunities to our membership. I am grateful to our many constituents across the conference who have put in countless hours and worked tirelessly over the past several months to help devise a plan that will hopefully allow our student-athletes the opportunity to return to competition.”

The full statement from the Centennial Conference is available here. While we plan to resume athletics, we will do so without spectators. Our athletics department will ensure that as many contests as possible are livestreamed.

Other Updates

Health and safety conditions permitting, we will consider the possibility of faculty and student fieldwork, both in classes and for research. We will review requests, including provisions for meeting safety expectations in place at the time of the activity, on an individual basis. Such requests should be forward to Provost Weissman or Associate Provost Hamilton-Drager.

The college will also explore additional engagement opportunities for all resident students. As the weather improves, we will take advantage of our outdoor space to enhance our programmatic offerings. Information about specific programming ideas will be provided in the coming weeks.

Because state travel restrictions are no longer in place, employees traveling domestically outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are no longer required to quarantine and/or complete a COVID-19 test prior to or after returning to Pennsylvania. Employees traveling internationally should consult the CDC’s website for guidance.

However, as described in our FAQstravel for students living on campus is still prohibited, students who travel outside of the 50-mile radius may be required to quarantine upon their return to campus and requests for travel from faculty and staff will still need to be approved by their divisional vice-president. 

All travelers should still practice appropriate public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, such as masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene.

We know that with the weather improving, our students will want to gather outdoors. We are planning to set up event tents that will allow individuals to come together in small groups, with physical distancing observed.

Spring break begins Friday, March 12 and runs through March 21, with classes resuming Monday, March 22. Students who have been approved to remain on campus for the full semester must remain on campus during the spring break period.

Study Abroad Changes

Dickinson is a global campus committed to the value of education abroad. As we launched this semester, we created the Globally Integrated Semester (GIS) to provide opportunities for students to engage with our faculty and staff abroad and to make connections between local and global even if travel was not possible. Unfortunately, we made the decision to cancel the GIS study abroad travel in May due to ongoing global travel restrictions on entry, quarantine requirements, limited mobility in-country and concerns about the health of our students and host communities around the world. Students who are in the GIS program continue to participate in a global learning, cohort experience through their globally integrated courses connected to a Dickinson program abroad and globally themed specialized workshops during March and April of this semester.

The Center for Global Study & Engagement is looking into providing new GIS opportunities for fall and spring 2022, with travel in January and May 2022 to accommodate students. Please stay tuned as more information will be shared in the coming months.

We have also made the difficult decision to cancel the summer food studies course in Italy as it is a program that relies heavily on travel to different regions and that travel is not possible at this time given Italy’s COVID restrictions.

We are exploring moving the summer Spain program to a July start date, and more information will be forthcoming on that. Our summer program in Moscow is not scheduled to start until July and so a decision will not be made on the ability for travel until the beginning of April.

While we are optimistic that a majority of fall 2021 programs will be able to proceed, we have made the difficult decision to definitively suspend four fall programs at this time. The reasons vary by location, but we considered travel restrictions on entry and concerns about the health and safety of our students and host communities. The suspended programs are:

  • Dickinson in Australia 
  • Dickinson in Argentina
  • Dickinson in Brazil
  • University of Otago partner program in New Zealand

Given projections for these four programs and their mid-summer start dates, the call to suspend was made at this time in order to allow students affected by this decision a chance to choose alternate programs for the fall and to reduce stress related to the uncertainty that would accompany a delay in the decision. 

I know these changes are disappointing, and I want to assure you that we are committed to resuming all our programs as soon as it is safe to do so. You can stay up to date with the latest messages on global programs on this page.

Vaccination Updates

Our Community Action Network (CAN) continues to work with local leaders to prepare to support widespread vaccinations in our area. Cumberland County has partnered with Quality Care Pharmacy to establish a large vaccination site at the former K-Mart building at 1180 Walnut Bottom Road. Approximately 1,000 vaccinations will be given per week and this will be expanded as the supply increases. While currently available appointments are booked, the county expects availability to expand in the next few weeks. Interested individuals should regularly check for appointments and information on the current vaccine phase. While some confusion continues, Pennsylvania currently does not include higher education in the 1A category. We will keep you updated.

We know there are many individuals in our community who are having challenges making appointments for vaccinations. CAN is working with the United Way’s local 211 network, which allows local residents to call 211 to connect with a caring individual, to expand its volunteer base so that it can assist with setting up vaccinations.

Thank you for your attention to the many updates in this email. I appreciate your flexibility and resilience during this pandemic, and I am hopeful that we are reaching the final chapter of this challenging time.


Margee M. Ensign