Dear UVM Off-Campus Students,
As we prepare for the start of the fall semester—a semester that will be unlike any other in our 230-year history—it’s important to emphasize the role you have to play in maintaining the integrity and respect of this great institution. The COVID-19 pandemic has swept our nation and world, bringing with it enormous challenges.
We recognize that many of you may have been directly impacted by these challenges. Your employment may have been disrupted, resulting in financial issues around rent, food, and utilities. Some of you may be struggling with isolation, have fallen ill or have a loved one who is sick. Please know we care about you and want to ensure you have access to useful information and resources. Our dedicated web presence is a good place to start.
We also understand that you want to socialize with your friends and peers—being able to develop connections, engage in healthy relationships, and build leadership opportunities are among the many things that make a college experience so special. We know that socializing reduces feelings of isolation, loneliness and anxiety. And yet, we all need to find different ways to make and keep these kinds of important social connections and do so safely.
These are difficult times, for sure, and we thank you for rising to the occasion and following UVM’s, Vermont's and Burlington's COVID-19 regulations. There are several reasons Vermont is in a relatively better place than many of our neighboring states who are experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases. Prime among them is the way Vermonters care about their neighbors and comply with the expectations for ensuring a safe community. They also care about the energy, vitality and new ideas that young people bring to the state. This is where we need your help— and your commitment.
Several of our Burlington neighbors, including faculty who live in the local area, have brought to our attention that their neighborhoods became more vulnerable after the turnover of rentals in June. They saw people socializing without social distancing, not wearing masks in public areas like sidewalks, hosting large gatherings, and having late-night parties. This is concerning and disappointing to hear. We need to do better—for your health and safety and for the health and safety of our community. Vermonters, and especially Catamounts, can—and need to—lead the way in the fight against COVID-19 by showing great care and respect for our neighbors and our communities.
Some of us have seen, first-hand, the devastating effect of the virus when guidelines are not followed. We do not want to see cases increase and more people suffering. Our neighbors are nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff, including UVM students, who are risking their own health to help others. Witnessing social activities that do not follow health and safety guidelines is devastating to those who are doing so much to care for our community. It is especially concerning for those with young children.
Every student and every community member has the right to feel safe and has the responsibility to care for others, that is why we sign the Green and Gold Promise. It is on all of us to check our behavior and to step up and do the right thing.
This is a matter of critical importance—and respect. As such, the University will use the Student Code of Conduct process to follow up on reports from neighbors, students, and Burlington Police regarding any and all violations and potential violations of the health and safety guidelines. Sanctions will be aligned and enforced with each situation but could include suspension from the University. We know you want to keep the campus open, to be part of a thriving community and to progress successfully in your academic program. But you need to keep in mind that you are responsible for the decisions you make and you have the power to influence the positive behavior of others.
You are also responsible for the health and safety guidelines when you are at someone else’s apartment or house. Many of you may be following the health and safety guidelines, but your roommates or guests may not be. If that is the case, we hope the Talking to Your Roommates About COVID-19 Safety tips will be useful to you as you engage in discussions with your peers and neighbors. You can also contact the Office of Student and Community Relations (firstname.lastname@example.org) and they can help you create a plan for your household and provide COVID-19 signs for you to post.
As other students move back into the community, we invite you to be role models for them. If they see you doing the right thing, they will be more apt to follow. If they see late-night or other activities at your home, they may want to join in, increasing the potential exposure to the virus and compromising the health and well-being of yourselves and your neighbors.
We need you to be in this with us. And we need you to be Catamounts who care. Let us know your challenges and we will work together to address them. We know there is not one of us who would want to feel the responsibility of negatively impacting another's life. So let’s not forget we are in an unprecedented international crisis that has taken over 600,000 lives and infected almost 17,000,000 people. We are privileged to live in Vermont, the safest and one of the healthiest states in the nation. Let’s not compromise this privilege or take it for granted.
We look forward to seeing you on campus or in virtual settings soon and we thank you for listening and for contributing to our community’s health and safety. This is a moment in time where you can impact change that you will be proud of for years to come.
Stay well, make healthy choices and appreciate being a Vermont Catamount with pride!
Patricia A. Prelock, Provost and Senior Vice President
Annie Stevens, Vice Provost for Student Affairs.