By Dana Cadey
“We’re keeping up the plexiglass, and we’re asking you to wash your hands,” said College President John Williams at a virtual Town Hall on Friday, Aug. 20.
And, like last semester, students, staff, and faculty are still required to wear masks in “shared spaces,” which the administration defines as any indoor space occupied by two or more unrelated people. A few COVID-19 safety measures from the last couple of semesters will also remain in place.
Joined by other members of the administration to discuss details of the fall semester with the Principia community, Williams announced that the campus is open in the most basic sense, which means that visitors and students can come and go from campus from the outset of classes on Monday, Aug. 30. Williams also said that the college will not require vaccinations, and testing will only be mandatory for student varsity athletes.
At the conclusion of Blue Phase on Saturday, Sept. 4, student houses will become family cohorts, meaning that members of the same house will not need to be masked when interacting with each other from then on. Like the last two semesters, roommates will not be required to socially distance from each other at any point.
Williams said that masking regulations may not last all semester depending on the situation with the Delta variant of COVID-19 in the region and beyond.
“I think we’re expecting that, at some point, we can remove the masks,” he said. “We are optimistic about that.”
Nicole Gervais, interim director of admissions, revealed that the term will open with 96 brand-new students, including freshmen and transfers. Sixty-one of these are domestic students, while 35 are international.
“It’s a wonderful group…of young individuals who are eager to contribute in the classroom, in clubs, in leaderships, in sports, and in the spiritual development of our community,” said Gervais.
A number of prospective students could not get their visas in time for this semester, Gervais said, which means that next spring will see a large influx of international students as well.
“Over 35% of our entering class is international,” Williams said. “That’s getting close to double of what we’ve done historically…It may be amongst the highest we’ve ever had in the history of the institution.”
The pilot admissions program is underway, and just under two dozen new market students – mostly from the St. Louis region – are enrolled for the fall.
Williams said that the college’s search for a chief executive is moving forward as scheduled, based on information from the chair of the search committee. The president also announced that the Student Code of Conduct is set to be approved by October.
Dean of Students Maya Dietz and Dean of Academics Meggan Madden recapped some of the faculty workshops that have taken place in the past few weeks to prepare for the semester. They both expressed gratitude for the hosts and participants, and said that they are looking forward to the arrival of new students tomorrow.
“We’re happy for people to be back,” Dietz said.
Featured photo by Denis Umpleby on Unsplash.