As William & Mary prepares for the start of the academic year during a pandemic, the university released Monday a statement of expectations – and a commitment to each other – for everyone planning to live, work and study together on campus this fall.
The Healthy Together Community Commitment outlines a set of community-wide actions that will be required to comply with COVID-19 related health and safety regulations. The commitment, required of all faculty, staff and students, mandates observance of “all stated expectations for living, learning, gathering and working on campus and in the Williamsburg community.” Provost Peggy Agouris, Chief Operating Officer Amy Sebring and Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler announced the commitment in a campus-wide message.
“We have acknowledged from the beginning that our best hope for success this fall is to create a culture of care and compliance,” Ambler said. “As an institution, community is a vital part of who we are and what we value. This commitment is asking us all to lean in to those values.”
In a recent text message survey administered through the W&M&You Climate App, current students identified their most significant COVID-19 related concerns for the fall. The top concern about getting sick was “getting others sick” (34.2%) followed by “my health” (31.5%).
“We’ve heard consistently from students, faculty and staff how important it is to be part of a culture where people around us show they have our best interests at heart,” Ambler added. “This sense of community and shared purpose improves not only our physical well-being, but our emotional well-being. The extent to which we show care and concern for others reduces collective strain, helps us manage stress and reminds us we’re not alone.”
The Community Commitment contains three simple tenets, Ambler explained, mitigation of risk, concern for others and support for the university’s mission. The principles are as follows:
- Mitigate risk of transmitting COVID-19, including by wearing a mask, by observing an appropriate social distance from others, by washing hands frequently, by participating in testing protocols and by staying home when sick.
- Demonstrate care and concern for the physical and psychological well-being of others and create a supportive environment for hallmates, classmates, colleagues, teachers, students, staff members, neighbors and members of the wider Williamsburg community.
- Support W&M’s mission by making it possible to “convene great minds and hearts to meet the most pressing needs of our time.”
By signing on to the Healthy Together Community Commitment, members of the W&M community acknowledge that there will be consequences for non-compliance, which may impact their ability to remain on campus and/or participate as a member of the community, Ambler explained.
“Let me be clear, these expectations are non-negotiable,” Ambler said. “We are in the middle of a pandemic. If we are truly going to protect the health and safety of everyone in our community, we all need to do this without fail. Yes, it will be challenging, but it is essential.”
Students will be asked to review and affirm the Community Commitment through a Personal Information Questionnaire, which was deployed Monday. All employees will receive a copy of the commitment along with their PPE kits, and they will be asked to affirm it as part of the required on-line COVID-19 training that will be made available by Human Resources.
The need to set clear expectations and develop shared norms was a motivating factor in creating the Community Commitment, said Sebring.
“It’s important to be clear about what is expected and have everyone agree to it together,” she said. “And we also need to equip people to be successful in meeting those expectations.”
That’s why the university will be mandating safety training and education for all faculty, staff and students, Sebring explained. The online training modules, developed by William & Mary’s Office of Health Promotion and members of the COVID Response Team, will cover everything from best practices for physical distancing to strategies for how to talk with someone whose behavior might be concerning.
“With this commitment, we’re empowering the community, everybody in the community, to be actively engaged in the health, safety and wellness of their classmates and colleagues,” Agouris said. “This provides us a real opportunity to strengthen the already strong sense of community that defines William & Mary.”
Adrienne Berard is a research communications specialist at William & Mary.
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