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Dickinson College updates on Spring 2021

Week of November 9, 2020

Campus Update

Sent: November 13th, 2020

To the Dickinson community:
I hope you are staying safe and healthy in these difficult times. As we continue our planning for the spring semester, I know many of you have questions about how our plans will impact you.

Please check our Campus Reopening webpage regularly for updated information and answers to frequently asked questions. We will also hold two informational sessions for students and parents to ask questions:

  • Tuesday, November 17 at 5 p.m. (EST) for first-year and sophomore students and parents. (Login information is at the end of the email.)
  • Thursday, November 19 at 5 p.m. (EST) for junior and senior students and parents. (Login information is at the end of the email.)

If you have questions you’d like us to cover in these sessions, please send them to by 10 a.m. on Monday, November 16.

We are eager to welcome students back to campus next semester, but I want all our students to understand that the campus experience will be very different from what it was prior to the pandemic. All community members must wear face coverings, practice social distancing guidelines, avoid large gatherings and wash hands frequently. Classes, too, will look different, with some a mix of remote and in-person, and others fully remote. We all must act responsibly to keep our community safe.

We must remember that COVID continues to spread. In Pennsylvania cases have doubled in the last two weeks and the positivity rate in our county is now, for the first time, higher than the state. In the past week, three staff members have notified the college of their positive COVID tests and will not return to campus until cleared by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in accordance with CDC guidelines. This morning, we learned that one student, who was tested and has been in isolation for several days, also tested positive. The student’s apartment-mates had been in quarantine and will be tested too. Fortunately, all those testing positive are doing well.

It is imperative that any student, faculty or staff member who is on campus or who comes to campus, even occasionally, continues to complete the daily symptoms tracker. The information provided triggers outreach from the college in order to prevent exposure on campus and to assist the state with its contact tracing process.


As you plan for next semester, I wanted to share the following information with you:

  • Course Request Period will take place from 9 a.m. EST on Friday, November 20, through 4 p.m. EST on Tuesday, November 24. Students should meet with their academic advisors prior to Course Request to discuss how their emerging intellectual interests align with course selections for the spring term. Advisors are eager to talk with students about their experiences and to help tailor a plan for the spring to the individual student.
  • Given the pandemic, some faculty will choose to teach fully remote while others will provide an in-class and remote mix. Even faculty who teach fully remote will regularly meet with students by Zoom or on Teams. There will be no courses in which students have no contact with the instructor or with each other. Regardless of whether a student chooses to be on campus or not, all courses—the ones identified as remote as well as the ones identified as a classroom and remote mix—are open to all students.
  • Residence Life & Housing staff will be sending detailed emails to students today with information about how to let us know your plans for the spring semester, including how room selection will work. All students will need to act on instructions provided by Residence Life & Housing so that we know who plans and hopes to come to campus and who will be studying remotely. Students will have the choice to live in a room alone or to share a room.
  • We will follow the following timeline:
    • November 13: Details released for housing and process for letting Dickinson know your plans
    • November 29 by 11:59 p.m.: Deadline for all students to submit their plans to Residence Life & Housing
    • December 7: Students who petition will know if their petition was approved and room selection information will be shared with students who are approved to be on campus starting January 25. (First-year assignments will be made by Residence Life & Housing staff based on information previously received.)
    • Week of December 14: Room selection for sophomores, juniors and seniors approved to be on campus for classes on January 25
    • January (TBD): Room selection for students coming to campus for classes starting March 22
    • January 20-21: First years move in by appointment for testing (more info coming about scheduling)
    • January 22-23: Sophomores and others approved move in by appointment for testing (more info coming about scheduling)
    • March 13 by 7 p.m.: First years and sophomores move out of residential facilities
    • March 19-20: Juniors and seniors move in by appointment for testing (more info coming about scheduling)
  • Students are strongly encouraged to take time to make your decision before submitting your plans to Residence Life & Housing. We encourage you to talk with your family or important people in your life, and make sure you are as firm as possible on your decision before submitting your form by November 29. This information will inform the space available to grant petitions and other important planning at the college.
  • There will be a limited amount of spaces available for those petitioning. Details about the process will be included in information sent by Residence Life & Housing, and petitions will be due November 29. Students may petition to be on campus for the full semester if one or more of the following circumstances apply:
    • Students with specific basic needs that are not met at home, such as secure housing, food, internet or computer access, or students who have learning environments that make remote learning unsafe or difficult (many students in these circumstances successfully petitioned for the fall semester, those currently on campus will automatically be granted permission to remain on campus for the full semester)
    • International students
    • Student employees performing essential functions required for the full semester as approved by the divisional vice president
    • Students whose academic or extracurricular activities will be compromised by not returning for the full semester and cannot be compensated for at a later point in their college careers. Students petitioning in this category should name a faculty or staff member who would support their petition meeting these requirements. A supporting person could be an academic advisor, a professor with whom you plan to do research, a coach, etc. Consideration for this exemption may include students who are:
      • Senior arts students requiring access to performance spaces or studios for advanced work
      • Senior science majors needing key lab courses and/or engaging in advanced work that requires lab access
      • Student athletes
      • Students with other academic experiences for which there is no remote substitute
      • Other situations believed to meet the circumstances described above


As a reminder, Cumberland County remains in the Green Phase of COVID recovery with restrictions. Not all employees will return to campus even as we welcome a significant number of students back. If you are working effectively remotely, we will ask you to continue to work remotely as much as possible. Only those who have permission should return to campus. Additional details will be provided in the coming weeks. If you believe you cannot return safely to work when contacted by the college, you are asked to complete the Request to Not Return to Work form.

Particularly as we prepare for more staff on campus, daily reporting via the Daily Symptoms Tracker—even for those coming to campus only intermittently—is vital and helps us manage the risk of exposure within our community. Completion takes about a minute, and simple directions for using the tool can be found here.

The health and safety of Dickinson community members is our shared responsibility. To that end, we all must accept personal responsibility to protect each other. Our individual actions will have a direct impact on everyone in our community. Face coverings are required, and physical distancing must be maintained on campus. Proper handwashing, of course, is also critical. If you feel sick, you must stay away from others.

While we all wish our community could return to pre-COVID normal, we must remember that this pandemic still poses a threat to health and safety. We must work together to meet these challenges. Stay safe, stay healthy and stay Dickinson strong.


Margee M. Ensign