Skip to content

VideoPresident Bradley: Educating in a Pandemic Takes Collaboration and Caring

A close working relationship with county officials and a culture of caring on campus have enabled Vassar to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was the message President Elizabeth Bradley delivered October 1 at an online training session for county officials throughout New York State.

Vassar College President Elizabeth BradleyPhoto: John Abbot

Bradley was one of three panelists at the event, hosted by the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC). She was joined by Mary Beth Labate, President of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU), a coalition of more than 100 private higher education institutions in the state; and Cathleen McColgin, President of Herkimer County Community College. The training session was titled, “New York Colleges: Educating During a Pandemic.”

NYSAC Counsel Patrick Cummings told Bradley he had heard glowing reports from Dutchess County officials about Vassar’s collaboration with the county. “They have told me about the tremendous working relationship they have had with you and others at your school,” Cummings said.

Bradley said she and others at Vassar understood that while the COVID-19 crisis was a global problem, the solutions for combating it on the Vassar campus would hinge on the College’s working relationship with county health officials. “It is the counties that set many of the regulations, and we feel lucky to have worked with (Dutchess County Executive) Marc Molinaro” and county health officials, she said. “They have been tremendous partners.”

Bradley said the College had also benefited from the planning efforts undertaken by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, which helped shape Vassar’s own response to the pandemic. She said the College drew on some of these planning efforts as it formed two key committees, Vassar Together, which created the protocols and procedures to keep the campus safe, and the Community Care Team, which monitors compliance. “As a result of this from-the-bottom-up approach, we’ve been acting together as we learn how to care for each other,” the President said. “As we like to say on campus,  ‘We’ precedes ‘me.’”

Bradley said she believes that the collaborative approach Vassar has taken, with local government officials and with each other on campus, had led to the success the College has had in preventing any major outbreaks of the virus. And, she added, all of these efforts have been worthwhile. “The students are joyful to be with each other, as are the faculty,” Bradley said.

Labate said the member institutions of CICU agreed that combating the effects of the pandemic would require robust testing, a reduction in the density of campus populations, strict adherence to social distancing and limitations on travel by students in and out of the state. She noted this was a particularly daunting challenge for New York institutions because more students travel here from elsewhere to attend college than those in any other state in the country.

Labate said state officials have issued a requirement that any college that experiences an outbreak of 100 cases of the virus will have to suspend in-person instruction for at least 14 days. “So far, thanks to all of the procedures we have in place, we haven’t had any instances that approach 100,” she said.