Dear Seattle University Community,
I hope this finds you well and enjoying the last few days of summer. It is hard to believe that we are less than two weeks away from the start of fall quarter. While I’ve found that every academic year is distinctive in its own right, 2021–2022 promises to be a year unlike any other. I have looked forward to this fall—and I suspect many of you have as well—excited about the opportunity to once again be together in person as a university community. A great deal of effort, particularly on the part of our faculty and staff, has gone into making that possible and I am grateful for all the work so many of you have undertaken to ready us for the year ahead.
And yet, as we all know, we are beginning this academic year in a far different situation than we hoped for or expected. The Delta variant has thrown us a curveball and the COVID pandemic is not yet something we can relegate to the rearview mirror. We continue to live with this evolving reality. And, for many of us, the excitement we felt in June has given way to new anxieties, which have only been compounded by the recent floods and wildfires that are impacting the lives of so many, including some in our own Seattle University family. This is not where any of us hoped to be in September. And yet, this is where we find ourselves—back to masking indoors and scanning the daily COVID-19 statistics.
As a university, we are committed to our educational mission and to the safety of all of our community members. As a university, we are also committed to sound science. And as such we are constantly monitoring the latest public health guidance and adjusting our plans in response to it.
Here are some reminders and information that are critical to our COVID response and to our continued health and safety as a campus community.
By committing ourselves to being a fully vaccinated campus as detailed in Governor Inslee’s proclamation on higher education, we are taking an important step in promoting the health and safety of our community. Currently, slightly more than 87 percent of our students and about 90 percent of our full-time faculty and staff have registered as fully vaccinated. (A dashboard showing the latest vaccination registration information can now be seen on the COVID-19 Response page.)
All the available data confirms that vaccination is critical to our community’s safety and to our ability to be as fully in-person as possible. Vaccinated individuals are much less likely to be infected with COVID or to suffer serious illness. And highly vaccinated communities—like ours—are the safest places to be. If you have yet to do so, please register your vaccination with documentation as soon as possible to ensure compliance before the fall quarter begins. The university is also actively contacting those community members who have not yet registered to ensure they do so.
Consistent with public health guidance, the university is requiring that all community members and visitors wear properly fitting face coverings while indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. In addition, the university is following last week’s King County directive that face coverings be worn at all outdoor events with 500 or more people.
Safe Start Health Check
All students, faculty, staff and visitors who wish to visit campus in-person must complete the Safe Start Health Check screening form daily, prior to arriving on campus. If you live on campus, you must complete the form each day before leaving your residence.
Testing protocols for the fall quarter are being finalized and will be shared very soon. The plan will include pre-arrival testing for students, post-arrival testing for residential students and ongoing surveillance testing for students, faculty and staff. In addition, there will be frequent and ongoing testing of unvaccinated community members who receive an exemption.
Confirmed Cases and Notifications
The university continues to closely track and report confirmed COVID-19 cases. Fortunately, we have high vaccination rates at Seattle U and in King County and the number of cases within our community has been relatively few and isolated during the pandemic. Please report confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our public safety team will continue to notify close contacts of confirmed positives.
Ventilation and Cleaning
Facilities Services has upgraded all instructional spaces and conference rooms in use for fall term to “Tier 1”—meaning they have at least three air changes per hour of outside air or MERV-13 filtered air. In some spaces with HVAC systems not capable of providing three air changes—including classrooms as well as work spaces that serve large numbers of students, faculty and staff—portable filtration units are being deployed to meet Tier 1 criteria. Provost Martin shared this information and other details with faculty and academic affairs staff in a message last week. More information on ventilation and filtration, including a list of all campus spaces and their corresponding tiers, is available at Facilities’ COVID-19 Response Plan. On this page you will also find a link to the cleaning schedule for each building.
Staff Flexwork Program
As we move to being more fully in-person, many are experiencing a period of adjustment. Our Staff Flexwork Program is designed to ease the transition by providing workplace flexibility options on a pilot basis. Whether work is being done while on campus or virtually, it is most important that we deliver an excellent and vibrant campus experience that meets the expectations of our students and creates a strong sense of inclusion and belonging for all.
Caring for One Another
From my first interactions with Seattle University—during the presidential search and during this transition—the one thing that has been clear to me is that this is a community where people truly care for one another. Vaccinations, face coverings and other protocols and practices will be critical in the weeks and months ahead. But even more important will be our ability to maintain a spirit of compassion in the face of uncertainty and anxiety. As we prepare to return to in-person instruction, please take the time to care for one another, especially those who are struggling.
Remember that not everyone is experiencing this pandemic the same way. As you interact with one another, please remember the Jesuit value of “presupposition,” which challenges us to understand the motives of our fellow community members in the most generous light possible. We are all doing the best we can.
I am grateful for the warm welcome I have received from so many of you during these past few months, despite the circumstances. I look forward to seeing you in person as we begin this new academic year at Seattle U. As always—but in a special way this year—it promises to be unlike any other.
Eduardo M. Peñalver