This message was sent to the Bryn Mawr College community from Jennifer Walters, Dean of the Undergraduate College, on Oct. 14, 2020.
Dear Bryn Mawr community,
Now, in the sixth week of classes, we’ve had opportunities to test our planning assumptions and make changes as needed. I am writing today to share some information about how the community has responded to our processes and to announce a change to the Community Health and Safety Concern Form. Overall, there has been a high level of adherence to precautions by the entire community, which has created a low rate of campus Covid-19 cases.
I have been heartened to learn that more people are engaging in conversations with each other when they see masks down, or a gathering that’s getting too big. We want everyone to help each other to keep the community safe, and we also want community members to be comfortable having social interactions where guidelines are being followed.
During planning for the return to campus this summer, we had anticipated that it would not always be possible for conversations about safety to occur. The College thus established the Community Health and Safety Concern Form to gather information about adherence to health and safety precautions and to guide interventions when confrontation was not possible or didn’t work. The first report was made on August 31, 2020. Since then, there have been 193 submissions; 129 incident reports and 64 general concerns. Most reports concern social distancing, visitors, mask-wearing, travel off-campus, gatherings and questions about policies or other concerns. Each of these is reviewed with care. We have seen that the report form has a valuable role to play in keeping the campus safe by providing information we may not get in other ways and (in some cases) heading off risky situations before they happen.
Relevant information from a report is shared with appropriate supervisors or administrators for a response. In the case of an employee, a supervisor or other administrator will offer additional education or correction. Thus far, most reports have involved students. Thirty-eight students have been contacted by my office about reported violations of the Health and Safety Agreement. Most have received warning letters or participated in conversations with me about adhering to precautions. The Covid-19 Health and Safety Hearing Board (an extension of a Dean’s Panel) has heard fifteen student cases where the alleged violations posed a significant risk to themselves or the community. I serve as chair of the panel, which also includes Kathy Tierney, Director of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation, and deans Raima Evan, Mary Beth Horvath, Reggie Jones, and Tonja Nixon as panel members.
A hearing is — first of all — a conversation. The Board wants to understand the facts of a situation and the extent to which individuals were or were not adhering to health and safety rules. The Board reviews the precautions with the intention of providing additional education and reinforcement of our rules. The consequences for violations have ranged from educational requirements, reflective conversations with members of the community, and rarely, loss of housing and/or access to campus.
In this pandemic, many people are watchful and nervous about other people's behavior and choices. This can have the unintended consequence of creating distrust, of not seeing other Mawrters or fellow employees as part of your community, but as a potential threat. I have seen that anonymous reporting has made it difficult to gather more information about a situation or to correct misperceptions. After consulting with both student and administrative leaders, I have determined that it will serve our community to make a change in the report form. Going forward, the form requires reporters to add their name and email address. If you report a concern, your name will be shared only with the Operations Planning Group to follow up with you to address the problem more effectively.
Thank you for all the ways you are working to keep the campus community safe.
Dean of the Undergraduate College
Undergraduate Dean's Office
Bryn Mawr College
101 N Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010-2899