A vaccination requirement, indoor masking, limitations on visitors to campus, and parameters for special guests and speakers are among the key guidelines Hollins University is instituting for the 2021-22 academic year in response to the evolving challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hollins’ Culture of Care 2.0 builds upon the Culture of Care approach the university initiated during the 2020-21 academic year that ensured a vast majority of students and employees were able to enjoy an in-person learning experience. Hollins saw just 21 positive cases of COVID-19 last year (13 in the fall; eight in the spring), which were detected through the school’s weekly randomized testing protocol or self-reported.
“In keeping with our mission, our campus community is entering the new year with a continued focus on mutual accountability, collective responsibility, hope, and optimism,” said Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton. “By requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all who will learn and work on campus, we committed to the first and most effective means of reducing the possibility of contracting and/or transmitting this disease. As research continues, and as our understanding shifts over time about the highly contagious Delta variant and other risks, we will remain flexible and responsive to this changing landscape, all while privileging the well-being of our community.”
Established on the baseline of being a fully vaccinated community, Culture of Care 2.0 is designed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and will be reevaluated regularly. “We will seek input from within and outside the the community, and updates will be shared as soon as any change in protocol is made,” Hinton explained. Reevaluation criteria include regional COVID-19 cases, hospitalization trends, and vaccination rates in the Roanoke Valley region, as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Virginia governor’s office. Hinton also recently announced the six guiding principles Hollins will use in its decision-making process regarding its Culture of Care 2.0 approach this year.
University officials consulted with regional VDH officials about the CDC guidance encouraging masks indoors for vaccinated individuals. “Based upon the significant increase in and high transmission rates of COVID-19 in the Roanoke Valley region, VDH recommended that Hollins require masks for all campus community members in all indoor areas,” Hinton said. “The only exception is in private spaces, such as residence hall rooms or individual offices. Masks should be worn when students are gathered in common areas of residence halls. In the dining hall masks will be required while standing in line but may be removed while eating or drinking at a table.”
Students may have up to two off-campus visitors at a time to their residence halls or outdoors on campus at any given time. Hinton emphasized that “these visitors are required to be fully vaccinated in order to visit campus. Current Hollins students are responsible for affirmatively verifying the vaccination status of guests. During their time on campus, guests are expected to adhere to our Culture of Care. In addition, a residential students must obtain the expressed permission of their roommate or roommates for a visitor to be in their shared residence hall room or apartment space.”
Hollins, Hinton stated, welcomes the opportunity to invite guest speakers, authors, and artists to campus to enrich the university’s academic programs, but “no more than two guest speakers, authors, or artists should be invited to campus for the same event. All guests of academic programs must provide proof of vaccination before coming to campus and must wear a mask at all times while visiting indoor spaces on campus.”
Hinton concluded, “We know that we learn and grow best as individuals when we are together, for and with one another in community, and we continue to take steps to support that experience. Nurturing the best community we can create, within a Culture of Care for one another, has been and must continue to be our overarching priority.”
Fall classes begin at Hollins on September 1.