WASHINGTON, PA (Dec. 11, 2020) – College campuses are often seen as a microcosm of society at large, but during the Fall 2020 semester that analogy didn’t apply at Washington & Jefferson College in one main area: Coronavirus cases.
While positive cases spiked in Washington and Allegheny counties throughout the semester, W&J logged only six positive student cases between August and November, amounting to less than one percent of the on-campus population.
“We took every precaution to ensure that campus was a safe and healthy environment for students to return to,” said President John C. Knapp, Ph.D. “We recognized that this safety was, in large part, dependent on our students, faculty and staff to follow state mandates for social distancing and wearing masks. We trusted these members of our community to keep themselves and others safe, and they did just that.”
About half of W&J’s total student population lived on campus this fall, and the College implemented a number of new protocols to keep them, as well as faculty and staff, safe. Residential students were given a PCR test upon move-in and asked to quarantine in their rooms for 10 days. Random sample testing was conducted throughout the semester, with results posted to W&J’s COVID-19 Response webpage: www.washjeff.edu/coronavirus. Classes were offered remotely for the first two weeks of the semester, and then transitioned to a remote/in person hybrid. All returning students, faculty, and staff members signed a Pledge to Promote Safety at the start of the semester, promising to uphold safety protocols, including mask-wearing and social distancing.
Additionally, the College had support from its alumni community. The Clinical Advisory Panel, a group of W&J alumni in the medical field, met frequently with W&J staff throughout the fall to advise W&J on Coronavirus topics.
Fall 2020 was a challenging semester beyond health and safety, as faculty adjusted courses for an online environment and many students adjusted to remote learning. Staff also worked – mostly remotely – to implement new technologies and programming to keep personal connections strong despite distance. The diligence and responsibility of W&J’s community, and especially the students, was the greatest contribution in keeping campus safe.
Student Government Association President Hallie Hess ’20 said students were a large part of College’s success in managing COVID-19 this fall.
“The accountability students were showing for themselves, their peers, and even the staff and faculty, was tremendous,” she said. “Students were incredibly vigilant on following the guidelines laid out by the College and were dedicated to upholding them so we could remain on campus in the best capacity we could. When students saw anyone in the campus community not adhering to the guidelines, they spoke up which allowed for the College to ensure maximum safety. I am very proud of this success and I believe it is truly representative of the spirit of the student body and the dedication they take to upholding our college standards.”
President Knapp agreed, noting that he expects students will again commit to keeping campus safe during the Spring 2021 semester.
“We have seen our students act responsibly in a number of situations, from their academic classes and internship appointments to their interactions with each other and with community members,” Knapp said. “We have no reason to doubt that our students won’t continue to behave responsibly when they’re on campus. Our expectations of our students are high, and we have confidence in them to continue doing the right thing.”
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.