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A Message to Students from Dr. Matha Thornton

August 22, 2020

As we return to the Fisher campus, never have I had such anticipation for the beginning of a semester. There is no doubt this fall will be unlike any other semester you or I have ever experienced.

Matha Thornton

After numerous conversations and surveys, we know you want to be together on campus with your friends, enjoying the dining hall, learning with your faculty, and leading your clubs and organizations. And we have never worked harder to prepare for your return.

As we always say, we are a community with a shared responsibility to keep each other safe, and that sentiment has never been more important. It is now up to all of us to ensure that we can stay on campus together.

No doubt you are seeing on social media and in the news what is occurring on campuses across the country. Students are being selfish and reckless, threatening their classmates’ health and safety, and placing their ability to remain on campus in serious jeopardy. We believe being part of our community is a special privilege. We understand you will need to learn new habits and routines, and we will help each other as we adjust. But, if students show they are unwilling or unable to be responsible and care for one another, they will quickly lose their privilege to remain on our campus.

We have asked every member of the community to affirm their commitment to the Cardinal Health and Safety Pledge. By doing so, you agree to follow our new policies and protocols – all of which are in place for your health and safety. Attached is a Guide for Return to Campus which also includes a summary of what to expect this semester.

In response to the current circumstances, students will find some revisions to the Code of Conduct that reflect concern for public health directives and the health and safety of the community. Particularly for COVID-19 related issues or concerns, the Code of Conduct is a last resort for addressing non-compliance with College policies. Ultimately, we hope that you will self-monitor and intervene on an individual level to mitigate risky behaviors. This means that members of our community will remind each other to wear a mask, socially distance, and practice good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

However, if situations occur where an individual or gathering is unusually disruptive, or is putting others’ health and safety at risk, we will respond quickly. To address these situations, students will find updates to the Code of Conduct in two ways: 1. The addition of “compliance with public health directives” to existing prohibited conduct (e.g. failure to comply). This is to make it clear that in evaluating these potential violations of the Code of Conduct, we will consider the regulations and guidance from public health authorities; and 2. The addition of several College policies that pertain to practices that support the health and safety of our community. These policies are available on the Fall 2020 at Fisher website.

If you need to report disruptive or non-compliant situations, please contact the Office of Safety and Security at (585) 385-8025. You may also submit information online using the Confidential COVID Concern Report.

I believe this year, while different than what you initially expected, will have a profound impact on you and your learning. You will need to practice greater responsibility and show more empathy than students before you. Your decisions will impact others significantly.

I have shared in numerous campus discussions with my colleagues both at Fisher and at other institutions throughout our summer planning that I am proud to be your dean of students and that I believe Fisher has the best student body with whom to face such a challenging time. There are many in our country who believe college students are not capable of the level of responsibility that will be required of you to take care of our community, but I do.

As I have shared with you throughout the summer, I promise to navigate this time beside you. Let’s come together to do the right thing, and to afford all the opportunity to learn and live on this campus. It’s what you asked for, it’s what we planned for, and it’s our collective goal.

I will have open office hours in FisherLink weekly. Please let me know how I can support you. I look forward to seeing you soon!

Take good care,

Matha Thornton, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Donald E. Bain Campus Center (585) 385-8229