Presidential Perspective - July 1, 2021
Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:
I don’t know about you, but the summer is really beginning to accelerate. Looking at my calendar, we are only 53 days from the first day of classes (Aug. 23) on the Baylor University campus! The energy and enthusiasm from incoming students attending in-person Orientation and Line Camp has been exhilarating, and I could not be more excited to welcome everyone back to the Baylor campus – and see smiling faces again – for what we anticipate will be a normal fall.
I imagine that’s the No. 1 question you may be asking: What will the fall semester look like at Baylor?
First, let me again acknowledge that we have been through a long, difficult and disruptive period with COVID-19, but we stayed the course in our commitment to providing a Baylor-quality educational experience on our campus in the midst of the pandemic. I am deeply appreciative of God’s continued grace and mercy and for the patience, resilience and resourcefulness shown by our students, faculty and staff. Baylor is indeed a special place as a caring Christian community.
As we continue to work through the recovery phase of COVID-19 and prepare for a normal fall semester, I’m happy to provide a brief update on our plans beginning Aug. 1, based on the most current information we have about the virus:
- Capacity: Baylor will be at 100% capacity indoors and outdoors. This includes all campus facilities and athletic venues such as McLane Stadium and the Ferrell Center.
- Classrooms: We will return to our in-person instructional model with no social distancing in classrooms.
- Student experiences: We will return to normal, in-person student experiences, such as campus events and student organizations being able to meet in person, students having the opportunity to run the Baylor Line and attend sporting events, and the return of in-person University traditions including Family Weekend, Homecoming, Thanksgiving Dinner and Sing!. Our Student Life team also is planning unique opportunities specifically for rising sophomores. More information will be shared this fall.
- Masks/face coverings: Masks/face coverings are no longer required on campus (effective today). However, we do recommend that those who are unvaccinated wear a face covering indoors, as well as for individuals working within labs and other settings that require this level of protection.
- Testing: We plan to conduct weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated students, faculty and staff for at least the first four weeks of the fall semester. The beginning of the semester is a critical time for us as we have 19,000 students from all over the country and various parts of the globe returning to campus, as well as our faculty and staff, including some who may be in high-risk categories. As of today, our reported vaccination rate campus-wide is nearing 40%.
With new and more contagious variants emerging that we just don’t know much about yet, it will be important for us to continue weekly testing for our unvaccinated populations in early fall. The good news is that the current COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use by the FDA are effective against the virus, including the variants. Provided we have a great start to the fall semester – which we anticipate – we will revisit the testing policy early in the semester and make adjustments based on how effectively we are containing the spread of the virus.
- Vaccination: We will not require COVID vaccinations for attendance this fall. However, to keep COVID-19 at bay on our campus, we continue to encourage vaccination, which protects against severe illness and exempts you from weekly testing and quarantine if exposed to a positive case, which we know is very disruptive to the academic experience.
If you have not been vaccinated yet but plan to do so, our Health Services team recommends that you complete your vaccination wherever you are this summer prior to arriving to campus. If you are not able to do so, you are encouraged to start your vaccine where you are and then receive your second dose on campus. You can find a vaccine site in your area at vaccines.gov or schedule an appointment at the Health Center in the McLane Student Life Center at baylor.edu/vaccine.
If you are a fully vaccinated student, faculty or staff member, please upload a photo of your completed vaccine card through the HIPAA-protected form at baylor.edu/vaccine. This process will provide exemption from weekly testing and quarantine and will help us know how well protected Baylor is as a community as we get ready for a normal fall.
We will continue to keep you updated, but please know that as much as I look forward to your return to campus, my prayers are with you for a healthy summer – physically, mentally and spiritually.
I hope everyone has a great Independence Day weekend, as we celebrate the many freedoms we enjoy as Americans and spend time together with our families, friends and communities. A reminder that the University will be closed on Monday in recognition of the July 4 holiday.
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.