2021-2022 Academic Year – Return-to-Campus Planning

August 13, 2021
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Institute Professor, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy, Professor of Engineering Sciences

Many members of our community have been eager to hear additional details about our plans for the upcoming 2021-2022 academic year. We are planning on a full return to campus. 

Our plan to return to campus-based operations is based on New York State guidance and our assessment of what we can and must do to enhance the safety of all members of the Rensselaer community. We are in an ongoing pandemic, and the situation could change rapidly and cause us to alter our campus-based operations, based on New York State prohibition and our own judgment about the overall public health situation affecting Rensselaer. Accordingly, our plan and associated protocols are also subject to change. 

Central to the plan, which is aimed at lessening risk and mitigating consequences, is a focus on the safety of the entire Rensselaer community, as well as those who may interact with our campus community. This plan provides guidance on returning to full campus-based operations in a deliberate series of steps. These steps reflect our best understanding of the contagion of COVID-19, its community spread, and our ability to manage its appearance among members of the Rensselaer community, understanding that all risk cannot be eliminated in a pandemic.

A Few Highlights of the Plan

While all of these points have been communicated to the campus community over the past few months, they are important to reiterate here:

  1. We intend to have full on-campus operations, including instruction and research activities, during the 2022 academic year. 

  2. The plan for instruction for the 2021-2022 academic year revolves around in-person instruction. All in-person instruction will be aligned with CDC guidelines regarding the maximum allowed number of students in a classroom. 

  3. All research activities, including undergraduate research, will return to normal operations. The Institute health and safety protocols will be observed as outlined in the T3SQ℠ process. Research personnel will use personal protective equipment (PPE) with full training and will be required to do repeated daily cleaning and disinfecting of all contacted surfaces. Each principal investigator (PI) will be responsible for the weekly cleaning and disinfecting of their research spaces, including the laboratories and all other research facilities.

  4. All faculty and staff are expected to return to their regular in-office work schedule no later than Monday, August 23, 2021.

  5. As a requirement to be present on the campus and participate in any campus-based activity, Rensselaer community members, and anyone granted access to the campus, will be required to be vaccinated, except with an authorized exemption. 

  6. Everyone must observe and abide by health and safety protocols based on existing national and state health advisories, guidelines issued by local authorities, and Institute health and safety protocols. 

  7. All members of the campus community, including visitors, will be informed of the new protocols. Before returning to campus, all individuals will be required to successfully complete an online training module related to the Institute's health and safety protocols, and agree to abide by them. 

  8. All academic operations, including all research activities, will resume at "normal" capacity.

  9. Cloth and disposable masks are required to be worn by all individuals in public spaces on campus. Bandanas and gators are not acceptable.

  10. Environmental and Site Services staff will continue their daily cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing of our buildings and personal office spaces. These precautionary measures are required to support you, the health of our colleagues, visitors, and the community at large.

  11. To be present on the campus, the health protocol requires that all members of the community be tested upon return, and on a recurrent basis (weekly for vaccinated individuals, and twice weekly for unvaccinated individuals). 

  12. Rensselaer has not lifted travel restrictions; however, required sponsored research-related travel will be permitted if consistent with federal, state, and CDC regulations and guidelines, and requires approval as delineated in the return to campus plan.

  13. A comprehensive approach will be adopted to address the use of all venues and facilities by different campus constituents. Other than classes and dining, all campus gatherings and events will be limited based on venue capacity according to New York State guidance. Event spaces will be cleaned and disinfected after each use. 

  14. New event protocols will be implemented to approve and monitor all campus gatherings. To further reduce risks for the campus community, no external visitors who have not been approved will be permitted to attend any campus gathering or event.

  15. Institute athletic teams will participate in intercollegiate athletics for NCAA programs during the 2021-2022 academic year. External spectators will not be permitted at this time. The Institute will continue to confer with the NCAA, the ECAC, and the Liberty League regarding subsequent decisions. Our recreation and intramural programs will be in complete alignment with federal, state, county, and institutional health and safety policies and protocols for testing, tracing, tracking, treatment, and quarantine or isolation as necessary. 

The full Return-to-Campus plan is available on the Rensselaer COVID-19 website, which serves as the central portal for communications, information, updates, forms, and guidance. The website is a primary source of information for students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and the general public.

We all are eager to return to campus life and remain committed to making the required decisions, with careful planning and a focus on safeguarding individuals and the community. The steps we are taking are intended to preserve the health, safety, and well-being of all members of the Rensselaer community. We are fully committed to delivering the curriculum, and carrying out our research mission at the highest level. 


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