August 9, 2021

Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,

Last year, the Provost and Dean of Faculty and the Vice President for Campus Life reported to the campus community through regular emails when new information emerged or the Colleges’ policies changed as a result of COVID-19. This email is the first of similar, regular communications that we hope will provide clarity and transparency throughout the fall semester. In addition, should there be any major shift in policy or COVID-19 transmission rate, we will immediately email all faculty, staff, students and parents with details. We understand how necessary this open communication will continue to be as the nation weathers the emergence of new variants of the virus. Although we acknowledge that not everyone will agree with the Colleges’ policies and approach, we hope that should you have any questions or concerns between communications that you reach out to us personally or by responding to this email. We will do our best to answer you as quickly as possible.

COVID-19 Dashboard
Tomorrow, when we have testing data to report, we will launch a new webpage linked from the main page of that will include the same COVID-19 dashboard information we had last year, including the number of confirmed positive cases, new cases, negative tests, quarantines and isolations, and number of recovered students. New this fall will be a badge that will show the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current assessment of COVID-19 transmission rates in Ontario County and our subsequent, campus-wide masking requirements. This webpage will serve as the centralized hub for all COVID-19 information, including copies of emails to the community, a link to the COVID-19 Feedback Form, information regarding vaccination clinics, and links to submit vaccination proof.

Ontario County Transmission Rate
As of last night, the CDC determined that Ontario County’s transmission rate is currently at a “moderate” level. As a result, the Colleges are no longer requiring vaccinated faculty, staff, students or visitors to wear masks in indoor public spaces. The only exception to this is during move-in (details below).

Face Coverings
After listening to the thoughtful feedback of faculty, we have made a significant change in our approach to face coverings. Until further notice, faculty and staff members may require their students and colleagues to wear masks within their classrooms or their private offices as they deem necessary, independent of the CDC’s guidance and the county transmission rate. As a result, all members of the community should carry a mask with them.

Unvaccinated students, faculty, staff and visitors are still required to wear face coverings at all times in indoor public spaces. Mask wearing should not, however, be assumed to be correlated with vaccination status and can be a prudent step for vaccinated individuals to take based on circumstances and comfort levels.

Fall Move-In
Students are already arriving on campus to participate in athletics programming and Orientation activities. Because of the high volume of visitors to campus, we are continuing to ask that any family member assisting with move-in wear a mask while in residence halls, regardless of vaccination status.

In order to receive keys for student housing, all students must update their vaccination status using the Student COVID-19 Vaccination Portal, even if they previously alerted the Colleges to their status via another process. Directions have been sent to all students and the Portal can be found on the Hubbs Health Center website. Any student who does not submit proof of vaccination will be considered non-vaccinated and will be tested upon arrival on campus and regularly thereafter until vaccination has been documented.

We all share the end goal of creating a safe environment for the HWS community (as well as for the world). A high level of vaccination is the means to that end, and vaccination remains the best option to protect oneself and the community against COVID-19. U.S. vaccines are available, safe and highly effective, and it is the Colleges’ approach that setting up a system at HWS to encourage employees and students to become vaccinated, including creating an incentive structure wherein it is to their advantage to be vaccinated as well as providing every opportunity for them to be vaccinated, will yield the same or a higher rate of vaccination as if we had created a mandated system with exemptions. HWS will continue to encourage and assist our community members in accessing vaccines and will continue to work to get as close as possible to universal vaccination for our campus community.

Students who cannot be vaccinated before arrival on campus can do so through one of the following free vaccination clinics. Registration is now open for the Aug. 16 clinic and we will send details as soon as registration is open for the Sept. 7 and Sept. 27 clinics. These clinics are also open to HWS faculty and staff, and to Sodexo employees. 

  • Aug. 16: First Dose Clinic of the Pfizer Vaccine, 1 – 5 p.m. in Bristol Field House
  • For early arrivals to campus, athletes, student staff and international students, as well as faculty, staff and Sodexo employees.
  • For more information and registration, please click here
  • Sept. 7: First and Second Dose Clinic of the Pfizer Vaccine, 1 – 5 p.m. in Bristol Field House
  • Second dose for those who received the first dose on Aug. 16.
  • First dose for any returning students still requiring a vaccine, as well as HWS faculty, staff and Sodexo employees.
  • Sept. 27: Second Dose Clinic of the Pfizer Vaccine, 1 – 5 p.m. in Bristol Field House
  • Second dose for those who received the first dose on Sept. 7

We are working on documenting the vaccination status of our faculty and staff as we had a number of new hires this summer, and will report that out to the community as soon as possible. We encourage any remaining faculty and staff who have not already done so to become vaccinated and to submit proof of vaccination to the Colleges using the Employee COVID-19 Vaccine Confirmation Form.

Earlier this summer, we reported that approximately 90% of students had informed us that they were vaccinated. Because reports had come through a number of offices/sources, we have launched the Student COVID-19 Vaccination Portal that compiles all vaccination information into one database so that we have absolute clarity regarding our percentage going forward. As of last week, 62% of students had uploaded documentation to this portal with 98% of those students providing proof of vaccination. Personal outreach by the Campus Life team is on-going to encourage students to submit their documentation before arrival on campus, and the Office of Campus Life is reviewing submitted documentation to verify the information provided.

We are working equally hard with our colleagues at Sodexo to achieve a 90% or greater vaccination rate for their employees in food services and Buildings & Grounds. Until that occurs, all Sodexo staff are required to wear a mask while indoors regardless of vaccination status.

We hope this letter provides each member of our community with the information they need to make informed and intelligent decisions about their own behavior. We also sincerely hope that by getting vaccinated and respecting the mask-wearing requests of others, we can create a community of care and compassion that protects the health and well-being of each one of us, including our valued neighbors in Geneva.

With great pride in the Hobart and William Smith community,


Sarah Kirk
Provost and Dean of Faculty

Becca B. Barile
Associate Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students